5 Things You Must Do In Johannesburg
Joburg gets a bad rap when it comes to places to visit in South Africa. With the picturesque Mother City just a 2 hour flight away and sunny Durbs just 6 hours down the road; many skip the “City of Gold” in favour of Table Mountain, the Drakensberg and beaches. But Johannesburg is actually the biggest inland city in the world, home to around 7 million people and an African renaissance culture that is second to none!
Consequently, Joburg has a lot to offer if you’re prepared to dig a little deeper than the somewhat stale attractions and activities the city is already recognized for. In no particular order, here’s my pick for Joburg’s top 5.
1. 44 Stanley
44 Stanley is a creative hub occupying a bunch of revamped industrial buildings close to Johannesburg’s inner city. It has fast become a favourite meeting place for Joburg’s ‘hipster’ crowd looking to kick back with their Apple Macs and a coffee at Bean There Fair Trade Coffee during the week, or chill with a cocktail at Salvation Café over the weekend.
Aside from coffee and cocktails, 44 Stanley is an excellent place to find unique, locally produced trinkets and accessories from one of the cool shops. See Religion for fashion, Sirkel for jewelry and Tin Table for some locally crafted items.
2. Nirox Sculpture Park
Situated on Kromdraai Road in the direction of Maropeng (Cradle of Humankind), Nirox is a 40 minute drive outside Johannesburg. The focus of the Nirox Foundation is to advance Africa in global contemporary arts. The foundation is set on 15 hectares of lush land, filled with trees, wildlife and burbling streams. In addition to the outdoor sculpture park, Nirox also provides accommodation for resident artists.
Nirox is only open to the public when there’s an exhibition on so check with them before you make the trek. And if your Joburg visit happens to coincide with a Nirox opening be sure to check them out.
3. Attend a Craft Beer Fest
For the uninitiated, craft beer is the new name for “microbrew” – or rather beer that has been brewed in a microbrewery. The result is still the same as it was “back then” – beer swilling fans get to enjoy an innovative and exciting brew that is independent and traditional.
There’s definitely a Cape Town influence on Joburg’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Though without worrying about “who got there first”, it’s nice to see the Mother City isn’t the only city where craft beer festivals are springing up all over the place. The aptly named Jozi Craft Beer Fest is the big one and it takes place in May every year. Get ready to wrap your lips around a Devil’s Peak brew, Citizens Ale, Everson’s Cider and many more.
4. Browse around Parkhurst
Parkhurst is a Joburg hot spot if you’re looking for trendy shopping and equally hip restaurants. It’s a small suburb home to many up and coming 30 something’s so it’s guaranteed there’ll be some kind of buzz no matter when you visit.
What I really like about this area is that it flies in the face of Joburg’s reputation for glitzy malls and attitude. Simply arrive, park the car on 4th Avenue and browse your way up and down the streets. Aside from the many boutique shops, check out the Jolly Roger and/or The Attic for drinks and George’s on Fourth for the best lamb shank in Joburg if you want to experience Parkhurst’s vibrant village atmosphere.
5. Apartheid Museum
While the Apartheid Museum can’t be classified under “Joburg’s lesser known attractions”, that doesn’t make it any less worth it if you’re in the city. Offering an enlightening glimpse into South Africa’s turbulent history, the Apartheid Museum is a must-see destination for local and foreign tourists alike.
The Museum opened in Johannesburg in 2001 with the mission to educate visitors about the inhumanity of Apartheid and to increase awareness about the heroic movement that ended it. The result is not only an informative and moving must-see, but an architecturally interesting museum complex that cost about R80 million to build.
Russell Jarvis is a content strategist for Travel Start, an airline tickets and booking travel agency for South Africa.