Johannesburg-the forest city
A city of astonishing contrasts, a huge metropolis where opulent wealth and desperate poverty live side by side, Johannesburg is the intriguing, dynamic heart of this turbulent country. If you want to see the real South Africa-and try to understand it-Jo'burg has to be on your itinerary.
I lived in South Africa all my life, and Johannesburg is the city I called home, until 2009, when I packed my bags for a little international adventure. I have always loved my country and this City in particular, but it was only on returning with an Italian guest in tow, that I saw it with fresh eyes and explored the jewels on offer to anyone who takes the time to look.
It's best to visit in summer, though anytime from October to March, you'll find great weather (Summer IS rainy season though, so while it's super green and hot, you may get caught in the likely afternoon THUNDER STORM).
Johannesburg is the economic capital of SA, and the energy is tangible on arrival. For a first stop, we may not have the sea, but we have the big five, so head out to one of many game reserves, some less than an hours drive of the city. While you're out there, stop in at The Cradle of Human Kind, a national heritage site, and home to the oldest homonid fossil- Mrs Ples.
If more recent history is of interest visit the Apartheid museum, a fascinating portrayal of South African history dating back to the first European settlers. If lighter entertainment is more of interest, right next door is Gold Reef City a them park- with rollercoasters overlooking the City to the North. A township tour is also an interestinf way to spend your day, meeting residents, eating local food and getting an idea of the what makes this city tick.
For retail therapy, the current CBD of Sandton has all of the international big names, but for a truly unique taste of contemporary Jo'burg and what local designers have on offer, head to New Town and on Saturday catch the neighbourgoods market and walk through the streets of the original CBD. Local craftsmen of one sort or another can be found on most street corners, some truly talented guys will bargain playfully, through your car window- Or head to the Rosebank African Craft Market for a full display of African talent from curios, to fabrics and jewellery.
The highlight of Johannesburg for any visitor is largely subjective, however the easiest way to discover the appeal is to talk to a local. A Jo'burgers friendliness and willingness to share, is for me, what truly sets this city apart, and they'll be able to advise on your next stop...