Johannesburg City Guide
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa. The city is popularly called Jo’burg and is also often referred to by its African name, Egoli which translates as ‘place of gold’. A name considered to be fitting for this capital city of the Gauteng province, which is world renowned as a center of gold and diamond trade.
In fact the development of Johannesburg has for years been linked to the fortunes of the Witwatersrand (White Water Reef), the rich gold-bearing rock reef that stretches across the area of central South Africa where Johannesburg is situated. The gold rush of Johannesburg began in the early 1880s and has continued since.
Today the sky-scrapper littered city of Johannesburg is the economic powerhouse of South Africa and a popular vacation destination, which is often used by visitors as a main gateway to the world famous safari parks and the vineyards of South Africa.
Where to stay in Johannesburg
Johannesburg has historically been associated with some of the highest incidences of crime in the world and incidences of carjacking, muggings and other kinds of robbery have frequently marred its reputation as a center of business. Hotels and other businesses in Johannesburg are often guarded by private security agencies. Even though crime rates in Johannesburg have come down in recent years, the location of a hotel in a safe neighborhood is a major determining factor for choosing where to stay in Johannesburg.
The high rates of crime in the 1990’s led many corporate to move from Johannesburg’s Central Business District in downtown Johannesburg to the neighborhood of Sandton which is located in the north western suburbs of the city. Sandton soon went on to become the new financial centre of South Africa and Johannesburg's premier business centre.
Investment banks, retail banks, the Johannesburg stock exchange have all relocated to Sandton in recent years. This northern suburb of the city is now considered to be a prime accommodation location for visitors to Johannesburg for apart from a wide array of hotels, Sandton also hosts establishments like the Sandton Convention Center, the Wanderers Stadium, the Bedford Centre Shopping Mall and the Sandton City shopping center all, of which are points of interest for the many visitors who plan a business trip or book a vacation to Johannesburg every year.
Places to see in Johannesburg
Johannesburg is often used as a pit stop by tourists, en route to the renowned game reserves of Mpumalanga though the city does offer a few noteworthy attractions which are worth exploring on any business trip or vacation.
Tours of Soweto Township
Johannesburg is surrounded by the townships of Soweto, which are home to many of the native African workers who work in the city’s many gold and diamond mines. These townships were once the epicenter of protests against the brutal apartheid (racial segregation) regime which shaped the structure of South African society for nearly fifty years until it was ended in 1994 when the African National Congress under the legendary leader Nelson Mandela came to power.
The tours of Soweto are marketed as heritage tours or the Shebeen crawl and offer a valuable insight into South Africa’s turbulent history. These tours are best undertaken with an organized tour company or in the company of a professional travel guide.
The Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum provides a peek into life under racial segregation that dominated South Africa’s society for nearly fifty turbulent years. The museum chronicles this tumultuous and distressing period of South Africa’s history by way of various disturbing installations ( a hangman’s noose, a recreation of a solitary confinement cell) graphic photographs, textual displays and vivid video footage. A visit to the Apartheid Museum should be considered a must-do on any visit to Johannesburg.
Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum
This museum commemorates the memory of the many Soweto school children who died in 1976 while peacefully protesting against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in their schools. The museum is named after 12 year old Hector Pieterson who was one of the first students to be shot dead that fateful day.
The museum contains displays of video footage of the shocking event and numerous photographs taken by such brave and talented photographers as Peter Mangubane and Sam Nzima, which were transmitted around the globe.
Walteer Sisulu National Botanic Gardens
If you are a gardening enthusiast on a vacation in Johannesburg then these verdant gardens should be included in your sight-seeing in Johannesburg itinerary. These lush gardens, which are located in the western part of the city cover 741 acres and feature hiking trails along with 600 species of native flora and fauna. The gardens are also home to 200 species of birds. Another attraction of these gardens is the spectacular Witpoortjie waterfall whose environs are especially popular with picnickers.
Cradle of Human kind
The UNESCO listed World Heritage site of the Cradle of Human Kind which features the ancient dolomite Sterkfontein Caves is situated a few miles north of Johannesburg. These caves are considered to be one of the world’s most important paleontological sites, which have yielded fossil deposits that date back to three and a half million years. Among the most famous finds that were discovered here are the ‘Taung Child’, ‘Little Foot’ and ‘Mrs Ples’ fossils. If you have any interest in archaeology then the Cradle of Human Kind should be considered as a must-do on any visit to Johannesburg.
Best time to visit Johannesburg
Johannesburg is a year round destination that is equipped with an agreeable climate, which is dry and sunny all year round. The city is located in the southern hemisphere and experiences its summer between the months of November to March. These months are perhaps the best months to visit Johannesburg, though the city often receives much precipitation in the form of afternoon downpours during these months.
Winters in Johannesburg are usually experienced during the months of June and July when daytime temperatures generally register average highs of around 16 °C (61 °F) and nighttime temperatures periodically plummet to below freezing and frost is a common occurrence.
Getting around in Johannesburg
Johannesburg is equipped with two international airports, namely the O.R. Tambo International and the Lanseria International Airport. However, the bulk of the international traffic still comes into the O.R. Tambo International airport, which is connected via bus services and taxis to the city.
The presence of two international airports makes Johannesburg easily accessible from all parts of the world and Fare Buzz periodically announces tempting flight deals to Johannesburg. So if you are currently in the market for cheap air tickets to Johannesburg you should check back with Fare Buzz often in order to receive information about cheap air flights to Johannesburg.
Travel within the Johannesburg is a bit trickier as the city doesn’t have much of a public transport system. The best way to get around Johannesburg is via metered taxis, which are quite expensive but offer a relatively convenient and safe mode of transport within the city.
Most visitors who vacation in Johannesburg or visit on business don’t usually rent a car to traverse the city. Johannesburg is quite flat and spread out and has few major landmarks. This greatly increases the chances of getting lost while driving in a city like Johannesburg. However if you know the city well, and are comfortable with driving in Johannesburg and need to rent a car for the duration of your stay in Johannesburg, then Fare Buzz can be of assistance for it offers a wide array of affordable car rentals for Johannesburg, which can be accessed via its usual travel booking platforms.
Where to shop in Johannesburg
Johannesburg offers ample shopping opportunities for the shopping enthusiast on a vacation in Johannesburg. The city offers more than 20 malls like the Rosebank Mall, the Bedford shopping Center, the Sandton City shopping mall and the 44 Stanley Avenue complex, all of which offer a wide range of stores. Also worth exploring, is the African Craft Market where you can shop for artworks and handicrafts sourced from all over Africa.
Where to eat in Johannesburg
Johannesburg is equipped with a numerous restaurants that serve a wide array of global cuisines. Many of Johannesburg’s best restaurants are concentrated within its neighborhoods like Parkhurst and Parktown North which are especially known for their many varied restaurants. Some of the best restaurants in Johannesburg according to recent surveys include establishments like Afrodisiac Restaurant, Assagi, DW Eleven-13, 8 @the Towers, Ami Restaurant and Champagne Bar and Roots.
Nightlife in Johannesburg
Johannesburg offers a seemingly endless variety of bars, pubs, jazz music and dance clubs which are increasingly concentrated in the city’s central neighborhoods of Melville(on 7th Avenue) and the new hip and happening area of Newton.