Contrary to what you may think, Johannesburg (Jo’burg or Jozi to the locals) is one of the greenest cities in the world. With an estimated 6 million trees throughout, this place is certainly not a dull concrete jungle. It is, however, an enormous metropolis and the gateway to the rest of the country.
Amid the ever-growing number of tall buildings and urban developments, you’ll find plenty to do in the city’s creative hubs, trendy areas and cultural districts. Set out to explore theatres, gardens, galleries, cafés and markets, and learn the sobering history of the city at its museums. The key is to dive in, be adventurous and enjoy the Jo’burg ride.
Gaining an understanding of the history of oppression and apartheid in South Africa is a must when visiting Johannesburg. Start your emotional journey at the Apartheid Museum, a sprawling complex with a variety of engaging exhibitions and mediums that will take you through South Africa’s startling 20th century history.
Take a much bigger step back in time with a visit to the World Heritage-listed Cradle of Humankind. Located around 50 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg, this is a place of immense cultural and historical significance. Around 40 percent of the world’s human ancestor fossils have been discovered here, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years. This place will intrigue those interested in human evolution and human origins.
Back in the city, art lovers should make a beeline for the Wits Art Museum in trendy Braamfontein, which houses the best range of historic and contemporary African art in the nation.
Eat and Drink
Finding a good place to eat in Johannesburg certainly won’t be a struggle. Locals simply love eating out so if you’re overwhelmed by choice, just ask around for some insider tips. The Melrose Arch precinct does up-market cuisine superbly well, while other key eating areas include Parkhurst, Greenside, Melville and Sandton.
Johannesburg is a proud multicultural city, so expect all types of international cuisine along with African flavours from Ethiopia to Morocco. Fancy a drink after dinner? Experience Jo’burg’s nightlife on Melville’s Seventh Street, a definite hotspot. If that proves a bit too energetic the Newtown cultural precinct may be more your style – bars, theatres, clubs and an artsy vibe are the order of the day.
Where to Stay
Overall, the northern suburbs of the city are the accommodation hotspots – Melville and Norwood have boutique hotels and guesthouses offering a cool vibe with cafés, restaurants and bars all within easy reach. For a luxury experience the place to stay is Sandton, where 5-star hotels offer plush accommodations and gorgeous bed and breakfasts are popping up in up-market private homes.
Johannesburg is a great shopping destination, especially if you’re interested in taking home unique African arts and authentic handicrafts. Markets are the way to go, with notable mentions including the African Craft Market and Mai Mai, the oldest flea market in the city where you can browse traditional healing herbs and folk remedies.
There’s no shortage of shopping malls around town that all offer high street fashion, food halls and cinemas. Rosebank Mall is the perfect place for an all-in-one retail and market shopping experience on a Sunday, with an excellent flea market hosted on the complex rooftop (city views from up top also make it a winner).
Johannesburg Like a Local
We might just be giving away a local secret here, but for beautiful panoramic views of the city without the tourists, head up to Northcliff Ridge and enjoy a stunning look out over the sprawling surrounds. Want to get the adrenalin pumping? Head to the ultra-cool Orlando Towers in Soweto, which are painted with colourful murals. But it’s not the art that draws people here – take a 100-metre bungee jump off the top or high-octane swing between the towers.