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My home town: A local's guide to what to see and where to eat in Johannesburg

Forget anything bad you’ve heard and embrace this South African city’s splendour

The Four Seasons in Westcliff offers stunning views over Johannesburg. Courtesy Four Seasons
The Four Seasons in Westcliff offers stunning views over Johannesburg. Courtesy Four Seasons

This bustling city comes with an abundance of culture, cuisine and “gees” – that’s a local word for “spirit”. In 2018, Jozi, as many of us locals refer to it, was named one of the greenest cities in the world, thanks to the abundance of trees in and around the city. Home to about four million people, it has loads to offer and is definitely worth a visit if you’re en route to Cape Town or going on safari in Kruger National Park.

My favourite sights and smells

The Southern Sun hotel in Hyde Park, The Four Seasons in Westcliff and Munro Drive (Houghton) offer some of the best views of the stunning Highveld sunset. If you’re lucky, you will experience an afternoon summer storm and, while it can be frightening to newbies, it’s quite something to witness. What’s even better is when the sun comes out after the rain. The smell, the fresh air and the lighting is magical. This time of year is lovely, too, as the heat isn’t as intense. In September – the beginning of spring – the streets are blanketed in a haze of purple, as the jacaranda trees start to bloom.

A few great sites

T7Y8WK Murals on Orlando Towers, the cooling towers of a decommissioned power station, Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa. Alamy
Soweto is one of Johannesburg's most historical areas to visit. Alamy

For something historical, Soweto is a must-visit. Home to some of the country’s most prolific freedom fighters, including Nelson Mandela, there’s a lot to see and do, such as visiting Mandela’s house, checking out the Apartheid Museum or bungee-jumping or swinging between the Soweto Towers. Enjoy a delicious shisa nyama (barbecue or braai) on Vilikazi Street. A trip to the paleoanthropological site Cradle of Humankind in the Gauteng province should also be on your itinerary. If you’re an early riser and ready for a bout of exercise, there’s a great, safe loop to run or cycle around. The lion park is nearby, so pop in and see a few of them. And for something more leisurely, take a trip in a hot-air balloon and enjoy the sunrise over the Magaliesberg mountains. You should also make a pit stop at a delightful cheese farm called Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij.

My top eats

4th Avenue in Parkhurst is the best place to eat. With an array of pavement cafes and small stalls, you’ll be spoiled for choice as to where to enjoy a great breakfast or long, casual weekend lunch. 2B Cafe in Bryanston is also a gem, with the staff friendly and accommodating. Another must-try is Neighbourgoods Market, which opens on Saturdays and offers a bit of inner-city fun that’s very Instagrammable. For a vibrant evening, I’d suggest Illovo. If high tea is your thing, 54 on Bath in Rosebank is a good choice and is close to Sandton City (South Africa’s economic hub).

My best advice

It might sound generic, but the hop-on-hop-off bus tour is good for a whirlwind trip around the City of Gold. If you prefer moving around on foot, do the Dlala Nje walk. The guided tour explores the neighbourhood of Hillbrow. Generally, the city is always alive with plenty of great events, too, so bookmark this site before your trip: www.inyourpocket.com/johannesburg.

Updated: February 22, 2020 11:36 AM

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