A South African tourism executive shares her favourite places in South Africa’s biggest city.
THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE JOBURG is by hop-on, hop-off bus. Buy a ticket for the day so that you can use it as many times as you want. You can hop off and spend as much time at an attraction then hop on again when the bus is scheduled to come around. This gives you the opportunity to decide which landmarks you want to explore at your own pace.
THE BEST WAY TO START A DAY is “from the top.” Joburg is the brunch capital of the world and it has rooftop restaurants and hotels that offer brunch. And because it’s a flat and big industrial city, you can see the whole of Johannesburg over breakfast. It’s so beautiful. You won’t believe you’re in such a big city that’s just so green and peaceful.
ANOTHER GOOD SPOT TO ADMIRE THE JOBURG SKYLINE is from the decks of Sandton Sun.
ONE LOCAL ACTIVITY I NEVER MISS is the bungee jump in Joburg. It’s only 100 meters but it’s in the middle of the city. You jump off a water tower. After I did it the first time, I had such an adrenaline high. I got a sense of empowerment, I said to myself, “I made such a good decision.” That’s the kind of city Joburg is – it’s got so much color and vibrancy. It’s loud and has a very continental Africa feel to it. It’s very “in your face.”
THE MOST UNUSUAL PLACE TO SEE is Maboneng which they call “The Inner City Revival Project.” They’ve revived this area after all the big businesses moved out. Entrepreneurs and young designers are given access to markets here. Even if you’ve only got four or five clothing items, you can put these on a rail that has your name.
Maboneng has everything from clothes, shoes, and handbags to furniture and household items. There are also restaurants and food stalls as well.
It’s the greatest place to shop in Johannesburg because of all these unique things nobody else has. It has a cool temperament because the interior design is interesting, and there’s good food and music spilling out.
TOURISTS SHOULD ALSO NOT MISS little-known Liliesleaf Farm in northern Johannesburg for a bit of history and mystery. The farm was secretly used by African National Congress activists in the 1960s. It’s where many prominent African National Congress leaders were arrested. Today it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
FOR AN UNFORGETTABLE NIGHT OUT, go to Teatro where international performances are showcased in its massive theaters. Or to the Back O’ the Moon in the Gold Reef City. This is one of the best jazz clubs.
AFTER A LONG DAY, I LIKE TO UNWIND AT the Four Seasons in Westcliff which is up on the hill in Joburg. When you sit at the Four Seasons, you actually look over the Joburg Zoo.
I LIKE LISTENING TO LIVE MUSICAL PERFORMANCES at Tanz Café. It has an electric atmosphere every night. Its gig guide features the South Africa’s best musical talent. This venue has hosted artists such as Jesse Clegg, Arno Carstens, and Civil Twilight.
AFTER TOURING THE TRADITIONAL ART MUSEUMS, I TELL MY FRIENDS TO GO TO the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Joubert Park. It is the largest gallery on the subcontinent with a collection larger than that of the Iziko South African National Art Gallery in Cape Town.
I book an early morning meditative session in the garden of Satyagraha House in Orchards TO CONNECT WITH MY INNER SELF.
The MOST STRIKING ARCHITECTURE IN JOBURG IS CIRCA on Jellicoe in Rosebank, a gallery renowned for featuring the works of top South African artists like Dylan Lewis and Zwelethu Mthethwa.
MY SECRET SPOT FOR A PICNIC IN JOBURG is across the road from the Johannesburg Zoo. It’s right next to the lake, on one of the massive lawns. It’s really quiet, but since you’ve got the zoo literally in front of you. You can hear the animals from a distance. On weekends, amateur artists, sculptors, and painters display and sell their works there.
The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens is also an inspiring mix of open spaces. It includes marshlands, grasslands, trees, and cultivated gardens. It’s the world’s biggest man-made forest, with over 10 million trees.
MY FAVORITE BOUTIQUE HOTEL is 10 Bompas Hotel, because all the rooms look different and special. Even their menu changes daily as they only serve what’s in season.
WHERE TO GO OUTSIDE JOHANNESBURG
Maropeng is the site of the Cradle of Humankind. This is where you’ll discover the bones of our ancestors. It’s the place where we all come from. If you want an anthropological adventure, you can actually go to the caves themselves. It’s still an active dig, so visitors put on hard hats and everything to go further.
At the Maropeng Visitor’s Center, there are interactive exhibits and programs for kids that show the animals that lived in each particular period. They’ve taken paleoanthropoligism and made it into a science. It’s such a special way of explaining where we come from. Kids will also learn how much damage we’ve done to the earth and how we need to be careful and change the way we do certain things. They’ve taken science and made it human.
WHAT TO EAT IN JOBURG
One must indulge in boerewors. This is a traditional South African sausage made from beef mixed with either pork or lamb and a mixture of spices. Also, traditional Joburg street food is a must try. It’s healthy, fresh, and yummy.
For a traditional meal, don’t miss going to an African restaurant like Moyo. Or you can try a traditional Soweto township restaurant. Or, better yet, get yourself invited to a braai (barbecue).
WHAT’S THE BEST SOUVENIR A VISITOR MUST BRING HOME FROM SOUTH AFRICA?
Sidewalk art made from recycled items. You can get these at the Art Market in Zoo Lake, full of stunning local artifacts and craft work.