Johannesburg may not be the first South African city you think of when planning a trip to South Africa, but Africa’s second-largest city is fast shedding its less glamorous reputation and becoming a cosmopolitan hotspot for people looking to discover the real heart of the country. While poverty is still clearly apparent, there is an optimistic vibe to the city as new buildings and urban renewal projects are giving Johannesburg an exciting new lease of life.
Among the warm, friendly buzz of the city you will discover vestiges of a traumatic past, coupled with rapid growth that promises to make your trip to Johannesburg truly unforgettable.
Direct flights to Johannesburg will bring you to Johannesburg Airport (JNB), 14 miles east of the city centre.
Situated just south of the equator, Johannesburg’s summer is December – February, with winter June – August. However, because of its proximity to the equator, Johannesburg is temperate all year round, with temperatures over 25°C in summer and dropping to around 20°C during the winter months. Evenings can be cooler, dropping as low as 15°C in summer and 4°C in winter. Despite occasional heavy downpours in the summer and chilly evenings in winter, these are the busiest months for tourism in Johannesburg. If you are looking for cheap flights to Johannesburg, aim to go in spring or autumn, when the temperatures hover around the mid-twenties and the city is less crowded.
Although they may be distressing, a trip to some of Johannesburg’s many museums will give you a valuable insight into South Africa’s past, and its future.
The Apartheid Museum is considered the world’s premier museum addressing 20th Century South Africa. Opened in 2001, the museum illustrates the rise and fall of the Apartheid regime. Today, the museum pays the country’s respect to those who suffered under the Apartheid. It upholds the tenets of democracy, diversity and freedom, and shines as a symbol of hope for a country coming to terms with its past and working towards a brighter future.
At the Origins Centre, you can discover the history of mankind. South Africa is believed by many to be the birthplace of the human race – the Origins Centre is home to exhibitions which chart the evolution of mankind. Incredible displays exhibit ancient artefacts, which take visitors on an 80,000-year journey through the history of man.
Many of Johannesburg’s museums and art galleries are located in the Newtown Cultural District – a day in this area will allow you to delve into the ancient and modern history of Johannesburg and discover the many tribal cultures that combine to create the city of today. Joining Newtown to the Central Business District is the Nelson Mandela Bridge, southern Africa’s largest cable-stayed bridge. Spanning 295 metres, the bridge is especially beautiful at night, when it is illuminated in a kaleidoscope of colours – a contemporary symbol of unity and diversity.
Of course, your trip to Johannesburg would not be complete without exploring some of South Africa’s iconic flora and fauna. With its tranquil natural springs and breath-taking views, the Mountain Sanctuary Park is the perfect place to go to discover South Africa’s beautiful natural landscape. There are plenty of hiking trails and on arrival, you will be given maps and advice on routes lasting from 20 minutes to 8 hours, depending on your energy levels! The crystal-clear pools are simply beautiful and safe to drink from and swim in; the perfect way to become one with nature. There is a restaurant and small barbeque facility, but book in advance: the 1,000-hectare park only allows 180 visitors in at any time. If hiking and climbing aren’t to your taste, take a trip to Johannesburg Botanical Gardens or Emmarentia Dam. Here, you can choose from a range of water-based activities and enjoy the beautiful scenery from the water.
For a close encounter with friends of the feathered variety, spend a day at Montecasino Bird Gardens. A simply magical experience, the gardens feature a series of walkways where you will find hundreds of species of birds, iguanas, frogs, tamarins, marmosets and even small antelope.
The disparity in wealth in South Africa is, at best, uncomfortable, but a trip to a township will give you an insight into the challenges and changes faced by South Africans over the past decades. Situated in the south-west of Johannesburg, Soweto is one of the country’s most famous townships, having been home to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It was here that South Africa’s Freedom Charter was signed in 1955, and here that one of the first victims of the Apartheid, 12-year-old Hector Pieterson, was killed. Today, there are a number of organised tours that will guide you through Soweto, pointing out places of significance. Go with respect and mindfulness of the incredible hardship and tragedies experienced by this township’s brave inhabitants. The experience may be emotional, but it will also be uplifting, empowering and inspirational.
As Johannesburg continues to develop, so does its nightlife. In stark contrast to the poverty, there is a burgeoning industry catering for corporate visitors and tourists. You can party the night away in sleek nightclubs, visit world-class casinos, and shop until you drop. Choose from contemporary malls packed with the latest designer fashions, or visit the African Craft Market, where you can pick up beautiful arts and crafts from all over southern Africa. If you are looking for a memento of your trip to Johannesburg, head to Bruma Lake Flea Market, where you will find everything from traditional crafts to clothes. The bustling, buzzing market features snack stalls and entertainment, making it a uniquely African shopping experience.
Traditional South Africa food is cooked over an open fire, which means that most meals take the form of grilled or barbequed meat (braai), or stews. The stewed or braaied meat is usually accompanied by potatoes, rice or mielepap (pap for short) - a porridge made of maize. Plenty of seasonal vegetables are on offer, too – in short, a typical South African meal is meat, carbs, and two veg! Meat specialities include biltong - a dried, cured beef (not unlike chewing on a heavily salted bit of leather), boerewors – a traditional South African sausage, which is packed with flavour, and ostrich. If you are feeling brave, try walkie-talkies- a dish of grilled chicken head and feet popular in the more rural areas. If, however, barbequed ostrich or crocodile aren’t quite to your taste, Johannesburg has a broad choice of international restaurants, thanks to its burgeoning economy. You can choose from Congolese, Greek, Indian, Italian and more…. The culinary world is your oyster.
Johannesburg is a city full of contrasts, simply waiting to be discovered. A trip to Johannesburg promises to be exhilarating, surprising and enchanting, helping you to make memories you will treasure for a lifetime.
Are you planning the trip of a lifetime to South Africa? Travangelo can help you find cheap flights to Johannesburg.