Johannesburg (or Joburg and Jozi as it is locally referred to), has become one of Africa’s most vibrant creative hubs and largest point of entries for newbies to the continent. While some may choose to bypass it in favor of coastal holidays and undisturbed beach sand, I always urge anyone passing through South Africa to take some time to explore Johannesburg. Even after visiting at least five times now, I still think it has quite a lot to offer; especially for those who want to indulge in well curated mix of history and culture, paired with a cosmopolitan edge.
So read ahead for my quick local guide to know the best neighborhoods to explore, where to eat, what to do, and how to get around, read ahead for the guide put together in partnership with Uber as part of a three piece series.
While there are a few different ways to get around the city, Uber is definitely the safest. Once I touchdown at the airport, I typically grab a local SIM card, update my phone number in my profile settings, then request an uberX to get me where I'm going. Things can be a little overwhelming in a new country you're not familiar with, so I find that being able to rely on the convenience of an app I already know and trust makes life a lot easier. In my experience, Uber drivers also tend to be the best local guides, so be sure to ask for their recommendations and use the Saved Places feature to bookmark them.
explore MABONENG PRECINCT FOR CREATIVITY + ART
Maboneng means city of light, and has been developed extensively in recent years. Once overlooked, this neighborhood now stands as a series of Art galleries, restaurants, stores, and even a niche movie theatre. It's Sunday food market, Market on Main, also boasts a host of homemade goods and eateries from around the world and is not to be missed.
To See: Main Street Market (the Sunday staple at Arts on Main), The Bioscope Independent Cinema, Museum of Modern Art
To Eat: PathaPatha Restaurant, Souvlaki, Blackenese
To Hang Out: Living Room, Poolside, The Cosmopolitan
visit SOWETO for culture + history
Soweto is an abbreviation for South Western Township, one of the many areas to which non-white people were relocated to during the time of apartheid. During this time, Soweto was a hotbed of political activity, and resistance to the minority government. Soweto was home to a series of famous residences, and is also the location of the only street in the world to house two Nobel peace prize laureates – Nelson Mandela and Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu.
To See: Vilakazi Street, Nelson Mandela’s House, Hector Pieterson Museum
To Do: Walk the historic streets, Orlando Towers to bungee jump off the bridge between the towers.
Braamfontein has been student central for many years. Capitalizing on this, developers saw this area as prime for redevelopment. A select area of Braamfontein, around Juta Street is now home a collection of boutiques, nice bars and restaurants, and the home of Neighbourgoods – a weekly Saturday morning market.
Eat and Drink: Anything, and I mean anything from the Neighbourgoods market. 86 Public for some gourmet pizza or Kitchners Bar, the oldest bar in the city of Johannesburg.
APARTHEID MUSEUM & GOLD REEF CITY
To See: The Apartheid Museum is a must see, for anyone wishing to have an informed glimpse into the racially divided history of South Africa. Walk through exhibitions of the prisoners of apartheid, mock ups of political protests, solitary confinement cells, and hours of testaments from political prisoners, and affected people of the struggle alike.
To Do: Gold Reef City Casino and Theme Park. Funding for the museum came through this entertainment complex, and if you find yourself in the area, it definitely is worth a visit, for some lighthearted fun.
To Stay: While you can stay at Gold Reef City Hotel, it is situation a distance away from central Johannesburg, and is great for a day trip.
HONORABLE MENTION: SANDTON CITY
Johannesburg, to South Africans, is also known as mall city. Enter Sandton City, which is one of the best malls on the African continent. With a mix of high end designer labels, along side more affordable global chain store brands, this is the place to pick up just about anything you'd find in a typical Western mall. There's also a wide selection of restaurants, cafes, and a movie theater, so if mall shopping is your kind of thing, then I would recommend doing a few laps around Santon City. You'll definitely pick up some good items.
Photography by yours truly
Photos of me taken by Eplleseed