By Zara Lewis
Most tourists in South Africa usually go straight to safari spots or Cape Town and leave Johannesburg off their itinerary. However, not only is Johannesburg the biggest economic city in the country, it is also a great place to learn about South Africa’s history and have a glance at its bright future! The entire city is so optimistic, lively and diverse, and it really is the best place to visit if you want to see the modern and progressive Africa. So, if you’re new to African tourism and Johannesburg, here’s what you mustn’t miss.
How is the safety?
Most people travelling from Australia and from other places outside Africa are quite concerned about safety. However, Johannesburg (or Jo’burg for short) is a pretty safe city, especially if you use your common sense! Sure, some neighbourhoods are safer than others, but that’s true for every city in the world. Northern suburbs are super-safe, but even downtown areas that were once quite dangerous are becoming beautiful centres of diversity, artistic expression, and modern African lifestyle. Be smart and you’ll be safe!
How to get there?
If you come from Australia, USA and most European countries you don’t need a visa to enter South Africa—a valid passport will give you a 30 to 90-day stay! Getting to Johannesburg is also quite easy. There is an international airport in Jo’burg: OR Tambo airport, which gets most international flights, so finding a ticket shouldn’t be too hard. Plus, if you’re a budget traveller from Australia always looking to save a few dollars, you can get a loyalty card and collect miles on your flight. For instance, a practical HSBC Platinum Qantas Credit Card allows you to get points on your flights, which you can later turn into new plane tickets! This card also covers your travel insurance and gives you great discounts at certain restaurants, markets, cinemas and hotels.
Where to stay?
If you want to taste the high-end life, you must find a hotel somewhere in the lux northern suburbs like Sandton, Melrose or Rosebank. These places are full of shopping malls, restaurants, museums, theatres, plus most top city’s attractions will be only 20 minutes from your hotel. Stay at Hyatt Regency or Four Seasons, or opt for more private boutique hotels like The Peech or The Residence. Of course, there are also budget-friendly hotels a bit further away from the centre, but they still offer great service and clean rooms, and some even come with a refreshing outdoor pool!
Learn about the history
Once you get to Johannesburg, it’s time to get to know the city and there’s no better way to get familiar with something than to learn about its history! So, make sure to visit the Apartheid Museum, which will teach you all about the rise and fall of the apartheid system. There are many interesting footages, photos, documents, and other artefacts telling the story of people and events involved in the system.
Have a blast at Gold Reef City
If you want to have some adrenaline-fueled fun, make sure to visit Gold Reef City amusement park. It is located right over a goldmine (closed in the 70s,) and it offers a variety of fun rides and interesting information about the mines and miners’ life. Don’t miss the chance to ride the giant wheel that will reward you with a beautiful panorama of Johannesburg’s suburbs!
Stroll through the Maboneng Precinct
In order to get the most authentic taste of Jo’burg, you must visit Maboneng. This precinct was once a no-go area for tourists, but today it’s one of the liveliest areas in the whole city. Maboneng of today is full of picturesque restaurants, bars, cafes, shops and small art galleries and studios, but don’t you dare miss the weekly Market of Main! There you can find foods from all parts of Africa, interesting art and craft projects. Maboneng is really a great area for exploring, people-watching, and feeling the heartbeat of the city.
Catch an earworm
To experience the rhythm of Africa, go visit Alexandra Township. This fun and chaotic neighbourhood is the home to Kings Cinema that regularly hosts local musicians. Its amazing vibe, art-deco and great music will leave you with a lot of love for humanity in your heart!
Eat your heart out
You’ll not find many traditional African foods in Joburg – it’s just too cosmopolitan! However, be prepared to try some amazing world-wide street food from Turkish shawarma to Somalian samosas and Chinese jellyfish salad! Also, leave some place for shisa hyama!
Broaden your horizons
If you have a day to spare, make sure to travel to Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa. It’s only some 60km from Johannesburg and full of amazing historical buildings, museums and monuments paying homage to their national heritage and heroes. Pretoria is also known as “Jacarandas City” thanks to its thousands of purple jacaranda trees that look amazing in the spring.
Don’t leave out Johannesburg from your South African trip, but visit this beautiful and diverse city for an unforgettable adventure and many new authentic experiences Africa is known for!