If you want a bird’s-eye view of Johannesburg, the 50-storey Carlton Centre is the place to go. Visitors to the centre can enjoy a panoramic view of the City of Gold from the Top of Africa, as the topmost floor of the building is known.The tallest building in Africa and once the tallest building in the southern hemisphere, the Carlton Centre stands 223m high – about 40m shy of featuring on the world’s top 100 skyscrapers list. Construction was a lengthy process, beginning in 1967 and ending in 1974, though the centre officially opened in 1973.
The centre complex was once home to the five-star, 30-storey Carlton Hotel, which was popular with the rich and famous. Former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger, former president of France François Mitterand, current US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and singers Whitney Houston and Mick Jagger count among the hotel’s famous guests. Urban decay in the inner city in the 1990s took its toll on the hotel, which shut its doors in 1997 after nearly 25 years of operation.
The Carlton Centre, which was bought by state-owned freight company Transnet in 1999, remains a popular shopping destination in central Johannesburg. It has a mix of the major retail outlets found in most shopping malls, as well as several office suites. Top of Africa remains open to those seeking an uninterrupted view of Johannesburg.