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Welcome to Johannesburg!
Locals know the, “unknown spots” to hang out, best meals to have, hidden art galleries, and best shows to attend. Johannesburg is a local’s haven. This guide will provide some local secrets that will prepare you to enjoy your trip as a worldwide local.
The largest city of South Africa, and the economic center of the country, Johannesburg has so much to offer, including shopping, food, and nature. This world-class African city is worth a visit. Also known as Jozi, Joburg, or Egoli (City of Gold), Johannesburg came to be during the discovery of gold in 1884. This discovery started the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and attracted thousands of early settlers, which grew to a hundred thousand in a matter of only ten years--giving Johannesburg a vibrant history and a diverse cultural scene.
Worldwide Local Tip: Ask your hosts or the managers at any of the hotels in Johannesburg about the latest security concerns, and heed their advice.
While the city has progressed immensely from its dark history, safety is still a significant concern at the current time in Johannesburg, especially for visitors. Getting around Joburg is better done with a car as most of the roads are well maintained and easy to navigate. You can either hire a driver, call a taxi, or get an Uber.
Visiting the Neighbourgoods Market is a great way to start a weekend in Jozi. Its parking lot transforms into a market every Saturday from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm; this trendy place attracts a fu,m mixed crowd. Order a meal at any of the pop-up stalls and chat with a student from the University of Johannesburg, or grab a beer and go to the rooftop to soak in the sun.
Johannesburg played a critical role in ending the Apartheid, making it an essential part of your trip to visit the Apartheid Museum. To lift your spirits after learning how much inhumanity and discrimination took place there, you can head over to the Gold Reef City. Built on an old gold mine which closed in 1971, the theme park is a fun way to revisit history. This park is entirely based around the gold rush of 1886.
Worldwide Local Tip: Soweto is no longer a shanty town but a popular area of residence in Joburg. Take a bike and cycle around Soweto, enjoying the sunny Johannesburg weather, to get an authentic connection with the district. You may even interact with the town dwellers.
The Highlights of Soweto, a Vibrant District
A must-see during your trip is the colorful and vibrant District of Soweto. While in Soweto, you can visit the famous Vilakazi Street. This is the only street in the world to have two Nobel peace prize winners (Archbishop Desmond Tutu and ex-president Nelson Mandela) reside.
If you are looking for a more adventurous time in Johannesburg, the adrenaline rush of bungee jumping at the Orlando Towers is perfect for you. What was, formerly, the site of a coal-fired power station, now is the most distinctive landmark in Soweto. Covered in murals depicting the town’s culture and way of life, this site is hard to miss.
Worldwide Local Tip: If an adrenaline-filled bungee is not for you, you can still have a good time by the towers, enjoying Soweto’s cheap beer.
Speaking of beer, learn about and taste the famous African beer, umqombothi, as you tour the South African Brewery.
A “Green” City
Johannesburg has been referred to as one of the largest man-made forests in the world. Locals and some others might even claim that it is, in fact, THE “largest human-made forests” in the world. After further digging (no pun intended), we learned that it is more of a popular myth, which many actually believe or “know” to be true. A better and more accurate description, however, might be to refer to it as the “largest man-made urban forest in the world.” The difference between the two comes down to a dictionary definition of the word “forest.” This distinction is not meant to lessen the greatness of the multitude of trees--you’ll get an idea of the grand scope as you land in the Johannesburg airport--and we recommend you not tell any locals anything other than what they believe. You want to become a worldwide local, not a pesky tourist who goes around disproving the local’s popular beliefs.
Worldwide Local Tip: Visit in October or November to witness the Jacaranda in full bloom, appreciating the bright and beautiful colors.
Nature in Johannesburg
To get an excellent aerial view, head out to Northcliff Ridge. While this lookout point may not appear in many guide books, you don’t want to miss out on the 360-degree view of the city. If you’re a nature lover, visit the Cradle of Humankind and learn about the “missing link” in human evolution. You can either stay at one of the hotels overnight to explore different aspects of this UNESCO heritage site, or you can take a day trip visiting, both the Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves.
If shopping is your jam, Johannesburg has plenty of shopping centers to choose from, including major malls, like Sandton and Rosebank Mall.
Worldwide Local Tip: Wander off the beaten path of touristy spots and shop at Main Street Bazaar, located on Main Street between Maritzburg and Kruger Streets. Here you can buy jewelry, clothing, and art made by local artisans.
Enjoy Johannesburg as a Worldwide Local
Enjoy the various, exciting things to do in Johannesburg and discover the local experiences that make it so memorable to visit.