Usually when I travel to a country for a month I do not come with lots of plans because I like making spontaneous itineraries. But before coming to South Africa, a safari drive in Kruger, a trip to Cape town and a rendezvous with Joburg’s skyline was definitely on my mind. Luckily, the capital of Gauteng province and the largest city in South Africa happens to be my temporary abode these days and therefore keeping close to the skyscrapers came out to be really easy.
Top of Africa!
As the curious one, I googled for the highest building in Johannesburg. Ever since the results popped up, I was itching to do this- ‘Top of Africa’ on the 50th floor of the 223m-high Carlton Centre. In the last two weeks in Johannesburg, I was happily catching up with the trendy and major attractions of the city but ever since I crossed Nelson Mandela Bridge while finding my way to Fordsburg, the old, dense and historical parts of the city aroused my curiosity. Trust me, if I could do my way, I would have loved to explore the significant areas of the city on foot but the local verdict says the city is not very safe to walk around randomly. Therefore, hubby and I prefer to drive around the city. Hop on Hop off City sightseeing redbus is another way of visiting this place with travelers around the world.
Last weekend when I told my husband that we must do the Carlton Center, he was not very eager to explore that pocket of the city. I am not sure what was on his mind (I suspect the reviews which said its run down and poorly maintained) but I really had to make efforts to convince him for this. If it would not have been my knack for taking in those bird’s-eye view experiences of the cities that claim to have a beautiful skyline, he wouldn’t have complied at all. Thanks to him, I could get an entirely different perspective of the city through the pictures below. Thanks to his friends/colleagues too who agreed to do this trip with us. And special thanks to South Africa Tourism for supporting me in my trip to Johannesburg in return of travelogues.
Pictures from the ‘Roof of Africa’, the 50th floor of Carlton Center.
We started driving from Sandton and reached 150 Commissioner Street in around 20 minutes. The last five minutes were thrilling when we took that one turn through the crowded lanes of the downtown. The roads were choc a bloc with taxis all around and I could see my husband uncomfortable with the drive. Therefore I suggest keep to the highways and work out your route before starting. Thankfully, the building was visible from far away and as soon as we reached closer, a board helped us with the way to the parking. Coming from the side of Gandhi Square will help you to locate it more easily. When we entered the parking area, there was pin drop silence. My husband actually looked at me giving me that look, ‘Are you the only one who is excited about this building?’ I gave him a nervous smile to keep him going. Thankfully the parking attendant was standing at his position and finally when we parked the car, we could see that a huge section of the area was already occupied. Of course, it had to be as Carlton Center is a shopping center. But trust me, it did look old and run-down to me too.
The building is owned by Transnet these days and even from a distance, one can easily read its logo right on top.
As our friends parked their cars, I was happy to see my husband back to his cheerful self. So I would like to suggest here that those who are not very comfortable traveling around these crowded places with expensive cameras, traveling in groups is a better idea. In Johannesburg, everyone warns you to be cautious. Next, we looked for the lift and pressed for the upper floor. The moment the gate opened, that feeling of ‘abandoned building’ was lost in the buzz of a shopping plaza, mostly dominated by African shops and eateries.
We reached out to a security guard and he directed us to the ticket window for the 50 floor lift service. He said,‘Look for the Polo shop and the ticket window next to it’. Within five minutes we were right there where a map of Africa read ‘Top of Africa’ with the absent ‘T’. 15 Rand per person was the cost we paid for each adult ticket. Without any waiting line or queue we made our way to the lift. Here is the video from the high speed lift that took only 45 second to take us on the 50th floor. Due to background noise and our conversations, I added this music score- Up on the house top…
And there stood the city of Jozi right in front of our eyes.The view from the top was definitely pleasing. I love these panoramic views. As always, it was a different experience to see the city from the top. Everything turned into a miniature model. The people on the streets and the cars looked small and cute. We started looking for every significant building and were happy to spot the stadium, the clock tower, the famous streets, the highways, the Sentec tower, the Nelson Mandela Bridge, the gold mine dumps and more.
The moment my eyes fell on the roof of Carlton Hotel, I was reminded of this five star, one of its kinds, a luxury symbol in Africa that had to close in 1997. It has a sad story for sure.
It was fun to take-in all of Jo-burg and look down to the African vibe on the streets. I couldn’t help but notice that there are houses and building of all shapes and sizes in Jozi. I mean there is no set pattern and no color co-ordination. Nelson Mandela Bridge over the railways tracks definitely got my eye and I curiously looked around for the gold mine dumps on the other side. We did go around and read the little pictures on the walls too. There are two wall displays too which talk about Heroes of Satyagraha.
Here, I must tell you that the top floor is not well-kempt. The highest cafe is no more functional, the glass panes are not very clean and overall it feels too dull to be there. As a traveler, I definitely wanted to see a better version of it. Looking at the crowd, it is easy to sense that not many people come here. But if you love history, the neighborhood will get your attention. Also there are some interesting old pictures to catch up here. Every building and street around Carlton center has a story to tell. The struggle to equality, apartheid, non-violence have a deep connect to this part of the city.
The famous Nelson Mandela Bridge
We stayed on the top for more than an hour. Everyone did a complete full circle. Soaking in both near and far away views kept us all busy and happy. I made a good use of my camera and clicked these pictures. I would say ‘don’t stay away from this part of the city just because its neglected, not well maintained, crowded or because the rest of the center is less exciting. Do visit this building for the amazing city views for sure.’
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