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Your guide to Johannesburg
All About Johannesburg
One of the largest cities in the world, Johannesburg — affectionately called Jozi or Joburg by South Africans — is going through a cultural reawakening. Sleek, new high-rise buildings are popping up constantly, and from the observation deck on the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre you can take in the city’s unique and ever-shifting skyline. In Braamfontein, Johannesburg’s oldest district, you’ll find pop-up shops, gourmet food markets, and clubs sitting side by-side. Public art is omnipresent in the hipster-friendly Maboneng Arts District, known for its up-and-coming gallery scene and craft cocktail bars set in repurposed industrial buildings.
If you’re looking for a quieter experience, hit up a cozy cafe in the suburb of Craighall, or hunt in Linden’s boutiques and shops for mid-century furniture, antiques, and crafts. Anyone who visits this city should spend some time to learn about Johannesburg’s complex history at one of the many museums, such as the Apartheid Museum or the Nelson Mandela Museum.
How do I get around Johannesburg?
Most international travelers arrive at O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), which is a 15-minute drive from most Johannesburg house rentals. You can rent a car at the airport. Driving might be the most direct way to navigate the city because, although Joburg is actively modernizing its infrastructure, its public transportation system is not extensive or frequent. You can take the Gautrain commuter rail express from the airport to downtown in 15 minutes; the train also runs to nearby cities like Pretoria. Dozens of bus routes connect Johannesburg’s neighborhoods, as well as plenty of taxis and ride-hailing options.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Johannesburg?
Visitors from the U.S. should be aware that Johannesburg’s location in the Southern Hemisphere means the seasons are opposite to what you’re used to. Winter lasts from June to August, and though the weather never gets too cold, this time of year sees the fewest visitors. The city is busiest during summer (December to February), although it also sees the most rain during this time. If you’re looking to avoid peak travel season while still enjoying good weather, spring and fall are ideal.
With the city being such a major cultural hub, there will be something going on no matter when you visit. The year kicks off with January’s Johannesburg International Mozart Festival, celebrating the composer’s birthday with a week of symphonic concerts and opera performances. In March, Hobby-X draws a wide array of craft and hobby communities.
What are the top things to do in Johannesburg?
This self-described “lifestyle market to break all markets” is held on the first Sunday of every month in the southwestern suburb of Soweto. Hyper-local artisans sell craft beer, organic food and beauty products, and hand-made designer clothes. You’ll have your pick of food trucks to choose from before enjoying some live music, a poetry reading, or simply some people watching.
Melville Koppies Reserve
With geological findings dating back three billion years, this nature reserve and City Heritage Site is the sole conserved piece of land from before the discovery of gold near here in 1884. Hiking through the reserve’s 370 acres of indigenous grasses and wildflowers, you might forget you’re in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world — until you take in the spectacular panoramic views of Johannesburg from the top of the koppies (small hills).
Wits University Origins Centre
Located on the west campus of the University of the Witwatersrand in Braamfontein, this museum showcases the history of the region’s peoples, going back nearly 80,000 years, as well as the emergence of modern humans in southern Africa. You’ll see ancient hominid fossils, rock art and indigenous artifacts, dinosaur reconstructions, and a garden with native plants.