Friends, are you looking for something young, tall and wild? Then look no further than Johannesburg, South Africa. This city fits the entire bill! Johannesburg is one of the largest cities in the world with more than 2300 km2 within its limits. That’s larger than Sydney, London or New York and only rivalled by the size of Los Angeles! With more than 8 Million residents, it’s a vibrant and energetic hub of commerce.
Nelson Mandela looms large for all of us!
Johannesburg was originally a mining camp for nearby gold fields. When gold was found on a local farm in 1886, Johannesburg quickly grew from a campsite into a full-fledged settlement. However, the area has been inhabited since well before that time. In fact, the region has been home to humankind since the beginning… I mean the very beginning! Hominid fossils found in the area around Johannesburg have been dated to more than 2.3 million years ago. So, that makes Johannesburg the oldest human inhabited place on the earth! After a difficult apartheid era, Johannesburg has blossomed since 1994 into a thriving, young and vibrant metropolis that is a shining example of multi-culturalism. It is also a great base for exploration of the great game reserves of South Africa; especially Kruger Park.
Here’s a Pro-tip: The currency used is the South African Rand. About 20 South African Rand is equal to one British Pound, though the rate regularly fluctuates.
Oranges are ‘Rand’ and they’ll be ‘A-Rand foreva’!
Here’s Another Pro Tip: You’ll hear the word ‘howzit’ thrown around a lot by the locals. This is just a fun way to say ‘how are you’/’how’s it going’/what’s new’. I’ve adopted this into my everyday vocabulary here on the Cloud!
The Apartheid Museum – lest we forget
- Apartheid Museum – This historical exhibit space is an absolute must-see when visiting Joburg. Not only does the museum carefully explain the 20th-century history of the city, but it also showcases life after Apartheid ended.
- Nelson Mandela’s House – The former residence of Nelson Mandela is located on Vilakazi Street and now operates as a public museum. Mandela lived here from 1946 to 1962, and inside you’ll find artefacts denoting his life’s work.
- Maboneng – Explore the Maboneng precinct and discover Johannesburg’s hipster edge! This urban development area is home to some of the city’s best art galleries, bars, and bookshops.
- Cradle of Humankind – The first-ever hominid fossil was discovered on the site of the Cradle of Humankind in 1924, and as such the area has been listed as the place where humankind began! Explore the excavation sites with a guide and brush up on thousands of years of ancient history.
- Gold Reef City – If you enjoy a little action and adventure, check out Gold Reef City. Johannesburg’s amusement park and casino is home to thrilling rides, educational museums, and a 4D cinema. I particularly enjoyed the gold mine theme and the accompanying gold mine exhibits.
- Soweto Towers – for the adventurous souls, try out base jumping at these former powerplant cooling towers!
Who decided Straightjacket Base-jumping was a good idea??!!
- Johannesburg Zoo – because of the nearby game reserves, it is easy to forget that the Johannesburg Zoo is one of the best in the world. The zoo holds the only Polar Bears in Sub-Saharan Africa!
Johannesburg is bursting with flavour and one day you can be tucking into local South African delicacies and the next enjoying a taste of the Middle East or India. Below are some of my favourite places to dine in the city:
I know my limits… I’m not eating barbecued chicken feet!
- Breezeblock – If you’ve got a big day of exploring to enjoy, you’re going to need a hearty or healthy breakfast. Head to Breezeblock and enjoy Eggs Mirza (poached eggs with aubergine), fresh-baked croissants, or Huevos Rancheros. The menu features plenty of vegan and vegetarian delights too.
- Che Argentine Grill – Che Argentina might just be Johannesburg’s best steak restaurant. A bold claim, I know, but once you’ve tried their Aranita steak with a side of chimichurri sauce you’ll be agreeing with me! If you’re up for the challenge, order the empanadas to start. They’re delicious, but you’re going to be stuffed by dessert!
- DW Eleven – 13 – This contemporary restaurant is one of the city’s most talked-about fine-dining restaurants and owner, Marthinus Ferreira, honours his South African roots by presenting local dishes with a flare.
Nightlife in the city spans from rooftop bars to hidden watering holes and urban breweries. Check out my three favourite Joburg nightspots below:
- Mad Giant – This craft brewery sits in Jozi’s 1 Fox precinct and draws crowds night after night to its urban brewhouse bar. For the full experience, book a tour of the taproom and explore with a beer in hand!
- Copper Bar – This rooftop establishment offers spectacular views over the city and is as affordable as it is welcoming. The rooftop is only open to the public on Thursdays and Sunday’s, and you must pre-book a ticket online, but it’s worth it. You’ll find it tucked away in the Bryanston neighbourhood.
- Katzy’s Live Rosebank – this is my favourite spot for music, dancing and carousing in Joburg! Different nights feature live bands and DJ sets. You’ll have a great time there!
Johannesburg has excellent accommodations, as you would expect for a metropolis of its size. Here are my favourites that offer a bit of difference:
- The Saxon Hotel Villa & Spa – Splurge in luxury at the Saxon, a 5-star hotel found in the northern suburb of Sandhurst. This gated compound is as chic as hotels come, and guests enjoy the use of in-room laptops and high-speed internet. Over the years, the likes of Nelson Mandela and the royal family have resided at the Saxon.
- Hallmark House – This trendy hotel sits in the Maboneng precinct, just a short walk from the city’s Fashion District. If you have a keen eye for taste, but you’re on a budget, Hallmark is the perfect accommodation option.
- The Peech – This boutique hotel is one of Johannesburg’s best inner-city retreats! Tucked in amongst two acres of lush gardens, the hotel boasts 32 spacious rooms, two luxury villas, and an onsite pool.
Johannesburg is a vibrant, exciting and young metropolis that is fun for a short or extended visit. Visit the homeland of all of us!