A Hedonist's Guide to Johannesburg
|WHAT LIES BENEATH?: Johannesburg cityscape at dusk (Walter Knirr/South Africa Tourism)|
Jo'burgmore commonly referred to as 'Jozi'is finally shedding its fierce reputation as a notorious no-go area and attracting a new breed of adventurous visitors by the planeload. Nowadays visitors aren't just using the city as a transfer point to other parts of South Africa, but are actually leaving the confines of the airport, checking into hotels and experiencing Jo'burg as a destination in itself. As they should, since Jo'burgthe largest city in South Africa and the provincial capital of Gauteng, South Africa's richest provinceis truly worthy some exploration.
Having long played a beauty and the beast-type role in the worldwide mediasadly known more for its crime rate than its cityscapeJo'burg is, in fact, a city you should see before you die rather than a city you go to die in. Crime is indeed high herewe're not going to beat around the African bushbut armed with knowledge and common sense (as opposed to AK-47s), visitors should feel as safe here as they do in any other major city. It's simple; don't carry valuables around with you; don't walk about alone or at night, particularly in the CBD; and don't leave car doors unlocked, especially at traffic lights. You can't plan everything, of course, but by sticking to a few simple rules you can minimise the risk to yourself and get the very best out of Jo'burg. Experiencing the beauty rather than the beast, as it were.
Despite being large and sprawling, Jo'burg's makeup isn't that hard to work out. Old gold and diamond mines make up the outskirts, while the inner-city area of the CBD is characterised by buildings that punctuate the sky like daggers; its many-faceted suburbs, from Sandton to Fourways, make up the rest of this beating, buzzing metropolis. Many of Jo'burg's more affluent residents live in Sandton, with the city's population a melting pot of cultures this makes for a cosmopolitan, diverse environment. The majority of the city's four- and five-star hotels are located in Sandton, which is where most people stay when in town; visitors are unlikely to travel far through unchartered, seemingly hostile territory, and for this reason many of the recommendations in this guide are based in and around this busy area. Here, Jo'burg's elite lives behind in gated communities behind high walls, while the majority live in less salubrious settlements dotted around the city. Luxury cars jostle against bangers on the streets, while designer shops and trendy restaurants jar against stalls and street vendors.
Sights, too, can be found in the area, with Jo'burg's colourful history traced through its landscape and cultural offerings. Highly recommended is a tour of Jo'burg's various townships and museums, ensuring that culture vultures are kept safe while soaking it all up.
Sport is big business here, too, with cricket and golf something of national treasures. Football and rugby are also enjoyed, while horse racing is beloved among those who can afford to hedge their bets. For the more extreme, the city also offers adrenaline-pumping sports such as bungee jumping and "kloofing"making your way down a waterway without a boat. As active or as laid-back as you are, Jo'burg has things to do for all types of travellers.
Formerly a city that only received press when something bad was going on, it's comforting to know that good things occur in Jo'burg, too. Regeneration is sweeping away urban decay suburb by suburb, while Jo'burg's many scarsphysical, social and economicare healing. Slowly, perhaps, but surely.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication