Many mistake Johannesburg as being the capital of South Africa. Although it’s not politically the capital, culturally it is. It is redeveloping itself after 20 hard years of decay and is now rapidly changing its appearance and attitude. The wealth divide is still glaring obvious in certain neighbours however don’t let this put you off. The city centre skyline could rival any other city in the world with modern apartment buildings and office skyscrapers.
Where to start
If you are looking for the full Jo’burg experience start off in the city centre – there are tourist excursions and walking tours which will let you see the real architectural gems up front. Then, head on down to the districts of Newtown and Braamfontein you’ll be overwhelmed at the vibrant atmosphere – there’s restaurants for every cuisine, cafes, theatres, museums and bars. If you have time, stop in Maboneng – it’s a really cool, hip neighbourhood which has been documented as being one of the most successful urban-renewal projects in the world.
You’ll instantly notice that the people are so friendly and welcoming – they’ve not really ever had a tourist trade so they welcome each and every visitor with open arms. Now, that the city is more accessible to tourists and has better infrastructure they hope to leave a lasting impression.
Things to do
- Top of the list has to be a visit to the Apartheid Museum. It uses text, audio and film to give a chilling insight into the apartheid system as well as live stories to give first-hand accounts of the chilling struggle the country had towards democracy. The Apartheid Museum illustrates the rise and fall of South Africa’s era of segregation and oppression, and is an absolute must-see. It uses film, text, audio and live accounts to provide a chilling insight into the architecture and implementation of the apartheid system, as well as inspiring stories of the struggle towards democracy. You can’t travel all the way to Johannesburg and not visit this remarkable museum.
- If you are down in the Melville area try a bar called Lucky Bean. It showcases what modern Africa has to offer – and it’s great! A full funky cocktail bar greets you, slick songs and low lighting create an amazing atmosphere. People also come here for the food. From light snacks to stews, local cuisine such as Ostrich and options for those with food intolerances, the chefs can cook up a storm for any appetite.
- Liliesleaf farm museum is a hidden gem in Johannesburg and doesn’t really get the recognition it deserves. The farm itself was the secret headquarters of the African National Congress in the 60s and only reopened as a museum in 2008. It’s a fascinating site that uses technology and interactive pieces to tell the story of the country’s struggle and liberation over the past 50 years.
- A new concept has travelled up the country from Cape Town and is now an institution in Braamfontein. Neighbourgoods is like a pop up market in an old brick warehouse which becomes alive with food specialists who put out artisan handmade produce to be enjoyed up on the roof terrace. Expect to see barrels of coffee, beer, meats and breads all made fresh locally.
Value for money
Johannesburg has firmly put itself on the map for being the best city economically and culturally in South Africa. The value for currency against the pound sterling is fantastic and you will easily be able to cover all expenses plus a few trips and leave yourself some left over for souvenirs at the many shopping malls. If you do your research there are plenty of value-for-money opportunities to experience the culture and have fun. Jo’burg is hotly tipped to be one of the biggest and cities in the world over the coming years due to investment and regeneration – make now the time to visit. I found this Expedia discount voucher on Groupon and you can use it too for an extra saving off the cost of your booking.