You can’t travel anywhere (not even between provinces) at the moment, but soon you’ll be able to be a tourist in your own city. When we’re allowed more freedom of movement, why not add these historic and iconic staircases to your bucket list if you’re a Joburg resident? (Some are great places to get fitter too!)
Gauteng is filled with old, historic staircases as well as funky new ones. These five caught my attention:
The Westcliff Stairs
The legendary Westcliff stairs known as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ are no joke. Standing at the foot on what was probably the coldest day of our Joburg winter, I could feel the sweat dripping from my brow as I watched various people training up and down the 210 stairs.
The stairs were constructed in 1922 by unemployed miners using rock from the surrounding area. Famous Comrades marathon runner Bruce Fordyce would train here his Border Collie.
When I had finished admiring their beauty, I turned around to leave and that’s when I bumped into 67 year-old Sam, who climbs the stairs twice a day, and has been doing it for the last 17 years because he lives at the top. After our chat he set off with a big smile on his face to start his casual ascent. I sheepishly walked away, quietly vowing to walk the stairs next time I returned.
Found on Wexford Avenue in the affluent suburb of Westcliff, these stairs are popular with joggers and dog walkers. In springtime the surrounding neighbourhood is breathtaking as the Jacarandas bloom. The best way to enter is at the corner of Westcliff and Kildare.
The Scottish Horse War Memorial
One of Johannesburg’s oldest war memorials can be found on Caledonia Hill, which is one of the koppies along Kensington Ridge. Erected in 1905 in the shape of an Iona Cross with a superimposed sword, the memorial proudly bears the Scottish shield of lion rampant and royal treasure.
The panels named the men who were killed in action and died of wounds in the South African Boer War between 1901 and 1902.
Climbing the stone steps to the top of the hill rewards you with not only being able to stand and admire this memorial to the mounted infantry regiment, but also gives beautiful views of the Bez Valley below, Kensington and the city centre of Johannesburg in the distance. Not an exercise that will leave you breathless, this 40-50 stair climb offers an historical appreciation and view of the city.
Mandela 100 Centenary Stairs
2018 marked the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. This gave South Africans the opportunity to reflect on his life and times and to promote his legacy.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, Eastgate Shopping Centre adorned their staircase with an image of Nelson Mandel leading up the large flight of stairs. Not an historic staircase in terms of years, but a staircase with a strong message as thousands of feet pass over it each week reminding them of the change that took place in our country for all South Africans.
Ponte City Apartments
Built in 1975 and known as the tallest residential building in Jozi with 467 flats and 54 floors, and 900 plus stairs! be the building with the most stairs in Johannesburg ? The Ponte challenge is held here and you are encouraged to beat the current record time of 7 minutes and 7 seconds running up the 900-plus stairs. This is a challenge for anyone planning to run the Comrades or to do the Iron Man or even just compete with themselves. Imagine running from the core of this building and ending up in the clouds with views as far as UNISA on a clear day.
Ponte was designed by architect Rodney Grosskopff who was 29 years old at the time. He went on to design the Johannesburg Civic Theatre, Randburg Waterfront and Sandton’s Emperor Apartments. In 1998 there were plans to turn Ponte into a prison, but this never materialised. Now a wel- managed building with full occupancy, it is one of Joburg’s iconic landmarks.
The Wedding Collective
A modern bohemian wedding dress boutique for a bride in a league of her own. The free-spirited experience starts on the stairs: eye-catching with their free-hand style writing, and leading to a haven of endless fun where a bride’s dreams are made a reality in a relaxed, non-traditional, modern space. The vintage-inspired styles support local designers and provide endless possibilities to make that big day really special.
The worn look on the stairs adds to the creative look of The Duncan Yard with the stone walls, cobbled walkways and castle turrets. The alfresco centre provides a relaxed experienced and is reminiscent of a rustic Italian village. These are not exhausting stairs but rather stairs that will open an entire new chapter a women life.