Johannesburg Destination Guide
Johannesburg is South Africa's most populous city and the country's commercial hub. However a holiday in Johannesburg doesn't have to revolve around business; there are plenty of opportunities to soak up some South African culture and enjoy the city's unique entertainment. While it once had a reputation for lawlessness, Johannesburg underwent a process of rapid regeneration in the build-up to soccer's World Cup in 2010. Now home to a plethora of absorbing museums, vibrant restaurants and world-class sporting venues, Jo'Burg is rapidly becoming one of southern Africa's must-see destinations.
As the hub of South African banking and commerce, Johannesburg is a strikingly modern city. Taking the lift to the 50th-floor observation deck in the Carlton Centre is one of the most obvious things to do in Johannesburg if you want to get a bearing of the glittering cityscape. Despite its reputation as a working city, several high-class museums have also emerged in recent years. One of the most popular is the Nelson Mandela Museum in Soweto – the 'South Western Township' you can explore on a guided tour. For an up-close encounter with some of South Africa's unique wildlife head to Lion Park on the northwestern outskirts of the city, where you can pat one of the park's adorable lion cubs.
Restaurants in Johannesburg were once clustered around the bohemian suburb of Melville, a favourite haunt for students from nearby universities. However many of the more upscale establishments have decamped and the best eating can now be found around the suburbs of Norwood, Greenside and Parkhurst. Melville still boasts some of the city's liveliest drinking establishments, particularly along popular 7th Street. Braamfontein and Rosebank are also home to a number of popular watering holes but if it's upscale cocktail bars and trendy nightclubs you're after, set off in the direction of Sandton and Rivonia.
Where to Stay
As a burgeoning world city, Johannesburg naturally has a wide variety of accommodation options available. Johannesburg hotels range from cheap backpacker hostels to luxury 5-star resorts. One of the more popular budget options is Johannesburg Backpackers in the upcoming suburb of Emmarentia, which welcomes visitors from across the globe. Many of the city's more luxurious hotels are situated in the northern suburbs around Sandton, including the Hilton Sandton and the Sandton Sun. The Residence Boutique Hotel in leafy Houghton combines upscale opulence with boutique attention to detail and features regularly on the list of Johannesburg's top hotels.
Shopping in Johannesburg is a way of life for the locals and the city counts numerous modern shopping centres among its amenities. Some of the most popular are Sandton City and Cresta Mall, where you can shop for the latest fashions at several upscale clothing stores. For more authentic South African souvenirs the city boasts countless open air markets, including the sprawling Bruma Market. If pounding the pavement in search of a bargain doesn't sound too enticing then Rosebank Rooftop Flea Market is a smaller alternative with a large range of authentic African arts and crafts.
Johannesburg like a Local
When gold was discovered in the hills surrounding the city in the 1880s, it transformed Johannesburg from a dusty rural outpost to a booming mining town. Today there are numerous gold mine tours and even a popular theme park – Gold Reef City. At the park you can see how gold is extracted and smelted to be poured into barrels, as well as enjoy some less traditional gold mining pursuits like the famed Tower of Terror and Anaconda rollercoasters.