This writer spent a couple of months in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the sights and sounds of the bustling city totally blew his mind.
Four months ago, I undertook a twenty-hour journey from Kuala Lumpur to Johannesburg. Prior to leaving KL, the constant reaction that I received was: “What? Why? Are you serious? Are you even aware of the crime rate?”
However, having spent an entire semester over here, I’m still very well alive and kicking.
Along the way, I was captivated by the sights and sounds the city has to offer. So, here’s some of the very best that Jo’burg has to offer.
Get in touch with South Africa’s history
Opened in 2001, this is one of the most visited museums in South Africa. This museum showcases the nation’s struggle with Apartheid, which only ended in 1994. Many South Africans were victims of severe injustice, racism and oppression during the dark days of Apartheid. This iconic site accommodates 22 individual exhibitions which enables visitors to reconnect with the nation’s turbulent history. Opened daily from 9am – 5am, it somewhat feels like a moral duty for every visitor in Joburg to hear the stories of the oppressed.
Cradle of Humankind
Located approximately an hour away from Johannesburg, this is one of the eight world heritage sites in South Africa. Cradle of Humankind takes us back to our origins and offers an opportunity to walk where our ancestors did. Here, scientists have discovered fossils that date to the birth of humanity.
Situated on the south-west of Joburg, this township was formerly home to two Nobel Prize winners, including Nelson Mandela himself. Similar to Joburg, this township was developed due to the gold rush. However, Soweto came to life as black South Africans were forced out of ‘white areas’ during the dark days of Apartheid. A tour here enables visitors to experience the vibrant energy of this township, while reconnecting with another piece of South Africa’s legacy.
This was once a site of abuse and incarceration as the Constitution Hill served as a prison complex during Joburg’s infamous past. A visit here enables tourists to grasp how far this city has moved on and evolved with time.
Out and about in Joburg
Following the success of Neighbourgoods market in Cape Town, downtown Joburg now plays host to the city’s very own version of this. Occupying two floors in Braamfontein, this market accommodates an assemblage of vendors selling everything from vintage denim jackets and local crafts, to delightful paella’s and satisfying fruit smoothies. This food and lifestyle market, which opens on Saturdays from 9am – 3pm, is the place to be to experience the diversity of this city.
Also located in downtown Joburg, this once off-limits part of the city, pays homage to the city’s upcoming arts scene. Maboeng is now dotted with pop-up stores and cafes, as well as plenty of art galleries. In addition to that, this precinct plays host to jazz gigs and comedy shows, along with its Thursday night markets. However, Maboneng is arguably best known for its Market on Main. Held on Sundays, from 10am – 3pm, the market promises to offer a treat for every palate and wallet.
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
Be it sitting back and taking in the scenery which is echoed by the impressive waterfalls, or admiring the breeding pair of the majestic Verraux’s Eagles (black eagles), this 300-hectare natural reserve offers the best respite to the city’s bustling vibe. Furthermore, you could opt to put your Man vs Wild
skills to the test with the two/three-hour hike. However, if things fail to go according to plan, you do not have to look to creepy crawlers for lunch. The in-house restaurant serves up hearty meals, and mobile network coverage would get you home with Uber.
This mammoth 87, 436 seater stadium is the largest venue in South Africa. The stadium plays host to a series of concerts, international rugby tests, and the local football derby between giants Kaiser Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, as well as international football matches for the Bafana Bafana. So, if you are in town, head over to experience one of the sporting events. Also, do not forget your vuvuzela.
If you’re up for the drive
A two-hour drive from Joburg, it is fair to say that Sun City is a combination of Sunway Lagoon resort and Genting Highlands. With activities and entertainment such as golfing, bowling, water theme parks, casinos, quad biking in the adventure park and a nightclub, Sun City is the ideal getaway for overworked parents, thrill-seeking teens, and carefree kids.
Kruger National Park
The best of the very best, this Nat Geo-approved game reserve is a six-hour drive from Joburg. However, it certainly is worth minute of the trip. Nearly two million hectares of land is home to Africa’s Big Five: the lion, elephant, rhino, hippo and leopard. Dubbed the Big Five as these are the most difficult to hunt, Kruger offers its visitors a once in a lifetime opportunity get up close and personal with these beasts, as well as zebras and giraffes. In all honesty, would anyone want to miss out on the opportunity to wake up to the roar of the lions?
Well there you have it, the very best of Joburg and its surroundings. Also, if you were wondering, I have yet to come across people who have ‘clicks’ in their names.