Visiting Johannesburg - A City Guide
Joburg, Jozi, Johannesburg - call it what you will, this African hotspot is now the heart of South Africa. From humble beginnings as a mining town in the late-19th century, it’s now grown up to become the eclectic, electrifying home to a mix of cultures.
Johannesburg: city layout and top attractions
Joburg is quite large, its major sites sprawled out, so renting a car (or using Uber) is imperative. To the north and east of the city center, artists and creatives have set up galleries, studios and creative retail spaces to create new neighbourhoods and movements. The heartbeat of the city is in Sandton, the financial capital. Further north, swathes of residential estates and shopping malls are bound by busy motorways.
Soweto's Apartheid Museum offers a glimpse into life during the Apartheid era. A short 20-minute drive away is the Mandela House where Nelson Mandela lived prior to his arrest. The Old Fort Prison complex on Constitution Hill in Braamfontein is a must for history lovers. A visit to nearby Maboneng with its trendy galleries, fashion stores and coffee shops will bring you up to date with Jozi culture.
The concierge recommends…
- Explore the mix of shops at 44 Stanley, from handwoven linen to vintage finds.
- Tuck into breakfast at Salvation Cafe, including the moreish creamy mushrooms on toast.
- Browse the Neighbourgoods market. This hip gathering takes place every Saturday in Braamfontein, a suburb at the heart of Joburg's regeneration.
- Visit the galleries Kalishnakov and Micheal Stevenson, showing contemporary African artists, and the 70 Juta complex in Braam (as it's affectionately known), a playground for Joburg's youth.
Eating Out in Johannesburg
South Africans love meat, especially local beef cooked on an open fire, and most good restaurants are likely to offer a selection of meat dishes. Global dishes like curries, pasta and sushi are also very popular in most bistros. Portions are large and you’re sure to find top South African wines and craft beers on offer.
Celebrated South African chef David Higgs has opened Marble in Rosebank, cooking traditional South African dishes on an open fire. A neighbourhood favourite, the Local Grill in Parktown North offers grass-fed, free roaming, local beef. The Leopard in Melville serves creative food beyond the ordinary, with specials like Ethiopian-style beef tartare and halva with rose syrup. Closer to town, Urbanologi in the Fox Precinct shares a space with the Mad Giant Brewery.
The chef recommends...
- Boerewors is a somewhat spicy local sausage cooked on an open fire and often served as a hot dog or “Boerie Roll”.
- Mielie Pap is a savoury porridge, not unlike polenta, served with a tomato and onion relish.
- Melktert or “milk tart” is a sweet custard pie sprinkled with cinnamon.
- Biltong is a popular snack amongst South Africans, consisting of dried and salted strips of meat.
Shopping in Johannesburg
Joburg is a shopper’s paradise and the city’s busy inhabitants spend a lot of time in malls. Bartering is expected at the city’s many informal markets, where you will find African crafts and souvenirs.
- For an authentic African shopping experience head to the craft section of Rosebank Mall, where a large group of informal traders sell handmade crafts including beaded animals, wood carvings and traditional fabrics.
- Amatuli in Kramerville offers a more formal retail experience with a curated selection of African artefacts and luxury decor items.
- 44 Stanley in Millpark has a diverse offering of South African crafts including handwoven linen, local fashion and handmade toys.
- The Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank hosts distinctive boutiques including the Southern Guild gallery, selling high-design pieces by leading African creatives.
- Sandton City mall has an impressive selection of stores offering a wide range of international brands and luxury products. Look out for the ultra-luxury section, aptly named “The Diamond Walk”.
- Nearby Hyde Park Corner shopping mall is smaller and more exclusive, where ladies who lunch stock up at stores like Burberry, Thomas Pink and small multi-brand boutiques like 2A.
Culture & Nightlife in Johannesburg
There’s always something happening in Jozi. In fact, the city is known to turn quite chic after dark. Joburgers are a friendly bunch and mostly happy to mingle with visitors. If you want a real Joburg experience, make sure to join them while you’re there – at least for one night.
- For a front row seat to Joburg's booming jazz scene, try The Orbit in Braamfontein, where visiting continental musicians play. Another favorite, legendary Bassline in Newtown hosts prominent South African musicians.
- The Jolly Roger in Parkhurst is a safe bet for a laid-back beer in a pub-like setting.
- Nearby Greenside attracts a younger crowd and makes for a fun evening of pub crawling.
- If you’re looking to dance, join the rest of Sandton's young and sip vodka around the pool to a house music soundtrack at The Sands in Wierda Valley.
- Hush in Rosebank attracts an equally groomed and glamorous tribe who dance the night away in style.
- The rooftop bar above Hyde Park Corner is always a sound bet, with views stretching as far as Magaliesberg in the distant west.
Leisure in Johannesburg
You could spend weeks in Joburg without running out of interesting things to see and do. The city offers countless exhibitions, galleries, theatres and parks. From the buzz of the inner city to the natural splendor of its surrounding areas, Joburg’s leisure list has something for everyone.
- Johannesburg has lots of green spaces, like Zoo Lake in Saxonwold, where you can stroll the shores or hire a colourful boat.
- Lush Delta Park in Blairgowrie is the perfect place for a picnic or stroll.
- At the Origins Centre at Wits (University of the Witwatersrand) you can learn more about the early inhabitants of southern Africa, known as the “San”.
- Feeling brave? Bungee jump from Orlando Towers in Soweto.
- Bill Harrops balloon tours in The Cradle run for an hour around sunrise. The dramatic views of the Highveld are well worth setting your alarm for.