Johannesburg has a reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. People say drinking tap water is the safest thing you can do in the city. We agree. We drank it and survived.
South Africa’s biggest city is probably not on top of tourist’s agendas. We’re not saying it should be but below are six reasons why the city is worth seeing and exploring.
EXPLORE THE NO-GO ZONE
Johannesburg is also known as the City of Gold because of its beginnings as a gold-mining town but the city centre is not that shiny nowadays. After apartheid white residents and big businesses moved from the central business district (CBD) to the new centre in Sandton and surrounding leaving their buildings empty. Disadvantaged black people moved into the formerly ‘whites-only’ area. The neglected buildings were squatted and are still cramped with thousands of mostly illegal immigrants from all over the continent. A crime wave swept through the city centre which made it very dangerous. By the late 1990s the city centre was a no-go zone and all its former glory was lost.
There are still a lot of occupied or even empty buildings but the situation is improving. Big corporations are slowly returning to the area, reclaiming and revamping their buildings. Joburg’s CBD is well worth exploring by day please but do it with a local guide.
Visiting local markets is always a great way to spend your weekend. Joburg has a plethora of markets which makes it hard to choose from. Here are the ones we liked best:
– Market on Main in trendy Maboneng for its designer market,
– Rosebank’s rooftop market for the car boot sale and
– Cape Towns little sister Neighbourgoods market in Braamfontein for its atmosphere.
Wherever you go promise not to miss out on the super tasty Bunny Chow.
Stroll around, shop or eat out in shopping centers. If you like to go for a short walk after dinner this is the only place in the whole city you can do so. Joburg’s safest areas are the big shopping malls. We choose the following as our favourites: the recently opened Mall of Africa, the continents largest mall Sandton City or the luxurious Hyde Park.
CATCH SOME URBAN VIBES
Get the vibe of the place that was the heart of South Africa’s long way to freedom. After the apartheid regime founded South Western Township (in short SoWeTo) by law no black people were allowed to live in Johannesburg anymore. Over the years Soweto became focal point of black urban culture and the struggle for freedom. The informal settlements expanded rapidly and what was once the country’s largest township has become a city. Nowadays about 3.5 Million people call Soweto home.
Guided tours give insight into the community of extremes- from informal settlements to the wealthy Vilakazi Street where the so-called black diamonds show off their flash cars.
RUN WITH THE LOCALS
As said most streets in Joburg aren’t safe. You might think you’re in a nice area but just around the corner you’ll find yourself in a place where you definitely don’t want to be. Running in groups is therefore a common thing to do. We joined the Maboneng running group who combine running with kickass street boxing.
HEAR THE LIONS ROAAAR
Rugby is one of South Africa’s big three sports, alongside football and cricket. For the many fans of the game, rugby is a serious matter, a reason for braai, a religion.
We were lucky enough to witness the Lions roar in Ellis Park stadium. Joburgs rugby team rocked the Super Rugby quarter and semi finals and gained two new fans.
Did you know: There is only one other city on the African continent that is bigger than Joburg and that is Cario in Egypt. The bustling metropolis Johannesburg is the largest city in the world not built on a coastline, lake or river.