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.
Transport in Johannesburg is reliable and efficient, thanks to its well developed public transport system. The Gautrain is the most popular way to get around, with stations conveniently located across the city. It runs on an elevated track, so you’ll be able to catch great views of the city as it whizzes by! For those travelling longer distances, there are regular buses that are run by The South African National Transport Agency (SANTA). These buses are comfortable, safe and reliable. If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, then check out ZipZap City Tours – they offer hop-on/hop-off bus tours around the city, as well as some customised tours for those looking to get a deeper understanding of the city’s culture and history.
Johannesburg has plenty of shopping options for all budgets. Sandton City is one of the largest shopping centres in Africa, with over 300 stores ranging from high-end designer labels to budget stores. There are also plenty of smaller shopping plazas dotted around Joburg – here you can find unique African artworks and souvenirs such as beadwork and handicrafts. For bargain hunters, try visiting the flea markets at Rosebank or Newtown – here you can pick up some real bargains on traditional African clothing and trinkets!
If you’re looking for a vibrant nightlife scene then Johannesburg won’t disappoint. Braamfontein is home to some of Joburg’s hippest clubs and bars – from small cosy pubs to large clubs with live music acts playing every night. There’s always something going on here – whether it’s stand-up comedy nights or open mic nights where aspiring musicians can show off their talents! You could also check out Melville or Maboneng if you’re looking for a more chilled out atmosphere – here you’ll find jazz bars, craft breweries and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine.
Johannesburg is a vibrant and exciting city with plenty of activities to keep you busy. From the Apartheid Museum which provides insight into South Africa’s struggle for democracy, to shopping malls and markets full of unique African artworks and souvenirs, there’s something for everyone in Jo’burg. With reliable public transport systems like Gautrain as well as ZipZap City Tours available, getting around Johannesburg has never been easier. And if that isn’t enough, it’s also very economical – travelers will be able to make their money last while still getting great value out of their experiences! So grab your Expedia discount voucher on Groupon now and start planning your trip today – you won’t regret it!