Founded in the 19th-century as a gold rush town, Johannesburg feels like it hasn’t stopped moving since. Frenetic, energetic and intense, it’s the perfect city destination for travellers who want to feel the raw energy of Africa.
Jo’burg is South Africa‘s economic powerhouse, a vast metropolis where Zulus rub shoulders with Cape Malays and Afrikaners. It’s never been the capital or seat of government, and it shows; even with its fast-paced lifestyle, the city is down to earth and friendly. Despite its regional importance as a transport and financial hub, a bad rap for crime means Jo’burg hasn’t always received the positive attention it deserves, and it’s relatively recently that visitors have started to discover the city. Those who come, however, find their efforts richly rewarded.
Start by exploring hip, up-and-coming Maboneng precinct, which showcases fresh, homegrown art and design talent. Soak up the creative vibes as you wander past striking murals and eclectic boutiques. On Sundays, local entrepreneurs come together to flaunt their latest creations at the stylish Market on Main. This is also a great place to try African street food!
South-west of the city is the huge Soweto township, which has its roots in the Apartheid system. Nelson Mandela lived here, and the township has a deep history of black empowerment. Despite the undeniable poverty, these vibrant communities exude an energy that’s warm and real. There are plenty of agencies offering guided visits – look for a local-run outfit that gives back to the community.
It’s not all hustle, either: to take a step back and make sense of it all, visit some of Jo’burg’s excellent museums. The striking Apartheid Museum is an important monument to South African history, key for anyone who has an interest in understanding the social history of the nation. Wits Art Museum is also worth a visit and displays a stunning variety of African art.
If you really want to escape the crowds, Johannesburg has some gorgeous escapes into South Africa‘s natural side. Accessible from the city centre, Melville Koppies Nature Reserve is home to some well-known national flowers such as proteas and wild orchids.
Exhausting and exhilarating in equal measures, Johannesburg is a burgeoning, bustling city that rewards the adventurous traveller with a rich and uniquely African culture.
Plan your trip to Johannesburg today.