The baggage carousel at the Johannesburg airport is decorated with rhinos and zebras, a nod to the natural wonders that South Africa’s zoos have to offer. But although many a visitor has passed through the road on the way to a safari without stepping foot on the ground, the city of Gold – so called because of its rich history of gold mines and treasure seekers – is the only one not to be missed.
Although it may not be a place you should wander around carelessly, a trip to Johannesburg is an unforgettable experience. To help you plan accordingly, we’ve put together a guide with museums, neighborhoods, restaurants and cafes, and the best hotels to stay in (and, of course, a trip to Kruger).
what to do
When you buy your ticket to the Museum of Apartheid, you will be given one of two slips, each showing a different color symbol that distinguishes the entrance – white (white) or non-white (non-white) – you enter the building. For a few minutes, separated by a gate in the first paragraph, you are immersed in the vague thoughts of South African apartheid, the apartheid regime that plagued the country at the end of the 20th century.Th a hundred years. Reunited with your fellow guests, 22 different exhibits – featuring collages, archived photos and videos – guide you through the rise of the National Party, the brutal system of oppression, the racial leadership and expropriation that quickly emerged, and the long struggle for freedom that culminated in 1991. three if you want to know all that the Museum of Apartheid has to offer.
For a long time, Johannesburg’s tallest building – a hollow cylinder of brick and glass – stood as a monument to 500 years of conflict, struggle and neglect. When it was built in the mid-Seventies, all of the space in the 54-story skyscraper was reserved for white residents under zoning laws. But when the political system began to struggle with the pressure of protests and gangs, the ruling party reacted to the rise of ethnic mixing within the tower by letting it fall into disrepair; The poor maintenance and subsequent decay – the first five stories are said to be littered with fallen debris – made it a fertile ground for thieves. The restoration work of the building in the 2000s helped to improve the building and its history, turning it into an important place on the map of Jozi (where the Black community is said to make up 80% of the tower houses) and through all these changes, it has remained one. An impressive symbol of brutalist architecture.
A third of the city’s population lives in Soweto, a large township on the outskirts of Johannesburg that was the site of protests and anti-apartheid riots in the mid-seventies. On Vilakazi Street you will find Mandela House, the red brick house that the late South African freedom fighter and former President Nelson Mandela lived in from 1946 until it was built in 1962; now it plays in a small museum, which is a must-see for visitors to the city. The town – created as a Black ghetto by the white apartheid government of the 30s – has changed dramatically since Mandela took office, and while it still suffers from inequality, it has also seen remarkable progress, full of thriving businesses and a vibrant cultural scene. They host a wine festival every August, and bars abound, including the petrolhead paradise that is Konka Day Club, a party spot that welcomes the city’s cool kids every weekend.
Where to Eat
Little Addis Café
Johannesburg is home to many immigrants and the food served in the city reflects this. Take Little Addis, a small open-air restaurant located near the town of Melville that serves delicious Ethiopian food, all piled on a traditional “pancake” that is designed to be torn apart and served as a scoop. This affordable and sustainable place, surrounded by clothing stores, shops and bars, is an excellent choice for vegetarians and vegans.
41 Stanley Ave, Milpark, Johannesburg
This cozy restaurant is located atop the glass building Trumpet on the Keyes Art Mile, a popular area for art fairs, galleries and art galleries that line the revitalized streets of Rosebank. Executive chef David Higgs’ menu is all about fine cuts of locally sourced meat and seafood cooked on a wood-burning fire, served in a modern and casual setting, with a fine selection of South African wines on offer.
Trumpet on Keyes, Corner Keyes & Jellicoe Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg
Where you can be
Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa
This beautifully designed hotel, located in a quiet area of Sandton, is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. A self-proclaimed “urban oasis”, it offers manicured lawns, outdoor and indoor pools, fine dining, and a Balinese retreat.
It’s also a great place for day trips – Fairlawns staff will happily assist you with transportation to and from your destination. Just 10 minutes away is the shopping center of Nelson Mandela Square, while a 20-minute walk will take you to the Museum of Apartheid.
Of course, there’s more to do if you stay: walk through the small forest to the outdoor heated pool, with its rain features and rimflow jacuzzi, and have lunch there. Over and over again.
1 Alma Rd, Morningside, Sandton
They don’t know
Of course, you should take the opportunity to go on a safari while you’re here. A short flight from Johannesburg, Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park has 65,000 hectares of thriving wildlife along with luxury accommodation. The big five – lions, tigers, rhinos, buffaloes and elephants – are all found here, and the park’s knowledgeable and experienced guides go to great lengths to ensure you have your pick of both morning and afternoon game drives and bush walks (amazingly, the drivers memorize the names (of every dusty, windy road they cross in training, allowing them to warn each other of the exact location of, say, a tiger cub.)
At night, on the short walk from the restaurant to the lodge at Sabi Sabi’s Selati Camp, you need a guide – or rather, a guard. The railway camp is not surrounded by fences or walls, which means that curious animals can roam (watch out for monkeys near the pond). During the day, you may be greeted by a beautiful kudu when you close your lodge to rest – but at night, you may encounter hyenas, so an escort is required.
Dinner is held under the stars at the camp’s government (outdoor restaurant). Although Selati’s thatched-roof suites are decorated to respect the history, they are equipped with amenities, including powerful air conditioning and indoor and alfresco outdoor showers.
“Welcome home,” your guide will tell you when you first arrive at Sabi Sabi Airport. Included in the 4×4, they will let you know that “your safari starts here” – but there is nothing to prepare for driving. The next few days will be full of 5am wake-ups for morning game drives, but the journey from the airport offers quick access to the fearsome animals; you might see an impala or a giraffe, maybe. When you settle in Sabi Sabi, you will find that natural wonders are seamlessly integrated with the comfort of modern life.
The Luxury Safari Company, which you can call on (+44) 1666 880 111, offers tours from £5,000 GBP per person including return travel within the UK.