Johannesburg isn’t your conventional travel destination. The city is landlocked, lacking the sea as a drawcard, and doesn’t have a prominent natural wonder like Cape Town’s Table Mountain. What the city does have though is its stunning skyline.
Jo’burg sits atop one of the world’s largest gold deposits, and the city above the ground was built to match the riches below it. At the height of the gold boom, in the mid-to-late 20th century, skyscrapers sprouted like weeds across the city. To this day, all of Africa’s tallest buildings stand in Jo’burg.
And since the city is surrounded by ridges, the skyline takes on different configurations depending on which part of the city you’re standing in. Here’s a quick tour of Joburg’s most prominent skyscrapers.
Undoubtedly the most recognisable tower in Joburg, the Hillbrow Tower, also known as the Telkom Tower, has been closed to the public for the past 40 years. Although not technically a building, this telephone tower is the tallest structure in Africa at 269 metres (883ft). The Hillbrow Tower once had a revolving restaurant at the top, but the restaurant was closed in 1981 due to safety concerns and has never re-opened. Today, the Hillbrow Tower can only be admired from the outside as part of the iconic Joburg skyline.
The brand-new Leonardo – a skyscraper consisting of hotel rooms, offices, apartments, shops and a posh restaurant called Aurum – surpassed the Carlton Centre as Africa’s tallest building in 2019. At 55 storeys and 234 metres (768ft) tall, the Leonardo looms far above all the other surrounding buildings in Sandton – a northern suburb that has become the centre of Joburg’s financial and high-end retail industries. While the view from the top of the Leonardo is impressive, it doesn’t have the same drama as the views from the Carlton and Ponte City, which are surrounded by a sea of other tall buildings. Nonetheless, if you score an invitation to one of the Leonardo’s ridiculously luxurious penthouse apartments, you should absolutely accept.