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Johannesburg in South Africa is the second largest city in Africa, with so much to offer with wonderful restaurants, relaxed sidewalk cafes, laughter-filled shebeens, glitzy shopping malls, tranquil parks, unique emotive museums and monuments, thrilling casinos, busy townships, stunning galleries, funky nightclubs, and more.
Maboneng Precinct is an urban renewal space that showcases the best of Joburg’s cultural life. Many galleries are free to the public and give a unique glimpse into South Africa's contemporary art scene. Every Sunday, Arts on Main hosts the Market on Main, where you can enjoy delicious food and drink, dance salsa on the rooftop and shop at the marketplace. If you’re spending no money, simply walk the area and enjoy the vibes.
The Joburg Neighbourgoods Market is a vibrant mix of the coolest of Joburg cool. For visitors wanting to hang out where South African hipsters and cool kids go, this is the place to get your street-style Instagram pics. Food, organic goods, cocktails, music and more—what else could you ask for on a Saturday morning. As per most Joburg jols, this is a rooftop city experience like nowhere else in the world.
Joburg is massive – the city itself is 1644m2 (New York City, for example, is 790m2) so there is a huge amount of space available, especially on the commutes. The city has recognised this and invests a percentage of the business development budget in public art. The results have been spectacular. Take a guided walking tour in Braamfontein and Hillbrow to see the metal trees and Angel of the North; in Newtown, the graffiti tour is a must-do, the artworks are some of the best anywhere.
The Joburg art scene is internationally lauded. Profound, energetic, and often socio-political, it is also a brilliant investment. In Rosebank, visit the Keyes Art Mile, climb the curved entrance of Circa, and marvel at the view of the tree canopy from the top. Across the road, you will also find the Goodman Gallery. Other art districts include Braamfontein, Maboneng, and in town, the JAG gallery, Standard Bank and ABSA towers are must-sees.
Joburg is the biggest man-made forest in the world. As it was only built in 1886, the trees, lawns and flowers are a unique combination of English, Dutch, Northern European and African varietals. Under the tree canopies, between skyscrapers and suburbs, green spaces are abundant. Of these, Zoo Lake is a favourite. The park is a haven for relaxation, but it’s also an excellent place to run, walk or stroll. The Zoo Lake Swimming Pool is an art deco gem (entrance fee to the pool is R12 for adults and R9 for children).
Although Johannesburg is one of the youngest metropolises in the world, there are plenty of monuments that remind visitors of its history. Ranging from the Oudstryders Monument honouring Boer soldiers, to Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela’s law firm in Newtown, the city has plenty to offer interested visitors and history buffs. Ask your local hotel or B&B owner for local recommendations.
Dating back to 1886, the beautifully landscaped garden boasts 2500 succulents and over 20 000 indigenous trees. It’s a popular site for weddings and wedding photographers, so head to the rose garden if you’d like to watch people in love. The dam and surrounding Botanical Garden are popular with runners, cyclists and dog walkers. On the weekend, the grassy slopes are dotted with picnics and braais.
KKlipriviersberg Nature Reserve
This 680 hectare nature reserve is a natural wonderland. Popular with hikers, walkers and birdwatchers, there are six trails to choose from. As in many open-air areas in South Africa, be prepared to see wildlife such as zebra, red hartebeest, black wildebeest and springbok. Birdwatchers will be delighted with the birds they see.
Kliptown Open-Air Museum
When in Soweto, head to the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication to visit the Kliptown Open-Air Museum. Here you’ll learn about the Freedom Charter. Written in 1955, the Freedom Charter informed our present-day Constitution, which is the cornerstone of South Africa’s democracy and human rights in post-apartheid South Africa. Our Constitution is considered one of the most progressive in the world.
James Hall Museum of Transport
This is a huge favourite with everyone from toddlers to veterans. The collection is made up of 2500 pieces including rickshaws, WWII aeroplanes, motorcycles, and even a 1959 Rolls Royce. You can also find related memorabilia and an incredible steam-vehicle collection. As most of the display is interactive, it’s a great outing for children.