For some, Johannesburg is nothing more than a gateway city for Cape Town and the wonders of Kruger National Park. But to simply land and leave does a disservice to the neighbourhoods rebranding as centres of cool, like Braamfontein and Melville. It is possible to experience all the things Jo’burg has to offer – good food, live music, incredible nature and fascinating history – while staying safe. Once you arrive in Johannesburg, your only regret will be that you’re not staying longer.
Don’t stop in Johannesburg for just a few hours.
Instead, allow enough time. In the inner-city alone there are several attractions that require at least a couple of hours each, including the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill (the former prison where Nelson Mandela was once held), and the Carlton Centre, the city’s tallest building with views from the 50th floor.
Then, there are the half- and full-day activities. Take a guided tour of Soweto, a township south of the city centre which is both one of the city’s most impoverished areas and one of the most historically and culturally important. Most tours include a visit to Mandela House, a museum in Nelson Mandela’s former home dedicated to the life of the revolutionary and peace activist, and Hector Pieterson Museum, dedicated to the anti-Apartheid Soweto Uprising.
Other must-dos about an hour’s drive from the city include the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site that holds around 40 per cent of the world’s hominid fossils, and the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve in Krugersdorp where you can see the big five.
Don’t forget to explore the city’s beautiful green spaces.
Instead, spend a day exploring the manicured grounds of the Johannesburg Botanical Garden, free to enter, are ideal for a picnic or afternoon soaking up the sun. Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, a 30-minute drive north of the city, is a peaceful place to spend a few hours hiking the trails past waterfalls.
Don’t don't make yourself an easy target for thieves. Crimes affecting tourists are generally opportunistic.
Instead, plan the route to your destination before you leave your hotel so you can stride confidently in the right direction. Don’t stare at your phone while ignoring what’s happening around you, don’t walk alone at night, leave expensive jewellery at home and keep gadgets like cameras tucked out of site when not in use.
Don’t explore iffy neighbourhoods alone.
Instead, spend time in trendy neighbourhoods such as Melville, Braamfontein, Craighall, Linden and Parkhurst. Braamfontein is where you’ll find the Wits Art Museum showcasing historic and contemporary African art and Neighbourgoods Market, an open-air food and design market. In Melville, the block where 3rd and 4th avenues intersect with 7th Street is the place to be: don’t miss Six Cocktail Bar, Ant Café, Bread & Roses, or the shopping at Bounty Hunters and Rock, Paper, No Scissors.
Don’t miss Johannesburg’s live music scene. On Friday and Saturday nights, the city comes alive with tunes from every genre you can imagine.
Instead, after dinner in the hip up-and-coming Maboneng district – try Little Addis Cafe for Ethiopian cuisine or The Blackanese for African-Asian fusion – head to nearby Living Room for live DJ sets with a view. Or head to Braamfontein, home of The Orbit, widely recognised as Johannesburg’s best jazz bar. Kick on around the corner at Kitchener’s Carvery Bar, a lively, unpretentious drinking den in a former colonial hotel.
Don’t bother hiring a car – Johannesburg traffic is notoriously bad – and don’t take the confusing public mini-bus system.
Instead, take the world-class Gautrain to and from the airport. Get around the city using Uber, which is popular in Jo’burg, metered taxis or the Rea Vaya public bus system, which is clean and relatively safe.