Johannesburg, Jozi, or Jo’burg, was a city that I was told to avoid. Every person I knew from South Africa told me to stay away from Jozi. The largest city in South Africa was slowly falling apart twenty years ago now has successfully started rebuilding itself. Jozi offers my favorite South African experience than any other place I found. Here I was able to experience a new found culture overcoming a dark historie’s past.
Learning Where Johannesburg Was
To properly learn the history of the city and see how it made the great changes you see today, you must learn the history. South Africa’s history has a very recent dark past known as Apartheid. Understanding Apartheid will give you the background knowledge to understand why Jozi had such a bad reputation and how much it has improved.
No better place to learn as much as you can about a subject than a museum dedicated to the subject. Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum does just that in giving you a timeline of South African history. You will also gain a better understanding of why Nelson Mandela was such an important figure and incredible human being.
During the Apartheid era, Soweto, stands for south-western townships – was the neighborhoods where the National Party forced most of the black population to live. The township today has evolved into a vibrant section that overflows with South African Culture. This township is home to many historical sites that provide Soweto’s significant role in overcoming a horrific past. Things I couldn’t bring myself to do was actually do a tour of the township outskirts where you will be immersed in the poverty. Paying to go see poverty just seemed a bit twisted to me.
Enjoying Joahnessburg Now
Jozi is a city that I could have spent more than the two weeks I did exploring something new every day. I made friends with locals at my hostel and ventured out with them often. I was fortunate enough to have locals show me a day in the life and let me experience different neighborhoods of Johannesburg.
Melville – has been one of the top suburbs of Jozi. Here you’ll find a bit of a younger university crowd that frequents the local restaurants and bars. Make sure to go check out 7th street if you want to see what makes Melville such a popular area.
Moboneng – this was the area I spent most of my time in. Maboneng, meaning the place of light in Zulu, is an absolutely stunning neighborhood. Here is where you will find the local trendy locals who call Jozi their home. They are more than eager to show you around the bars, restaurants, galleries, shops, and museums of South African new age culture hub. For the younger travelers coming to Jozi, this is where you’ll want to stay.I wrote an entire guide to Moboneng here.
Braamfontein – similar to Maboneng with the hip crowd but more a college vibe here vs Maboneng which is artsier. You’ll find plenty of places to eat, cafes to have coffee, and clubs to dance here.
Sandton – here is where the wealthy live in Jozi. Really, the only thing I personally recommend is checking out Nelson Mandela Square to see the 20-foot bronze statue.
Places to Eat in Johannesburg
These were some of my favorite spots I was able to check out while in town. I picked some from different neighborhoods.
- Chaf Pozi – Soweto braai resturant
- Coobs – a bit more upscale, farm to table restaurant in Parkhurst
- Che Argentine Grill – located in Maboneng
- Little Addis Cafe – Ethiopian food in Maboneng
- The Markets – The Neighbourgoods and Arts on Main both have food stands that offer some delicious food
Going Out in Johannesburg
- Kitcheners – locals favorite club.
- Randlords – a great rooftop bar.
- Zebra – a very laid back bar in Maboneng filled with hundreds of taxodermy aniamls
- Shakers – an outdoor club located in the heart of Maboneng
- Litchaba – an authetntic township braai expierence in Soweto
Things to do in Johannesburg
- Collectors Treasury – a cluttered book store full of hidden treasures.
- Neighbourgoods Market – a market every Saturday in Braamfontein
- Market on Main – large market that takes up a couple blocks with the street vendors every Sunday
- Carlton Centre – Eye of Africa – panamoric view of Johanessburg form the 50th floor
- Kwa Mai Mai Market – traditional healers market
- Melville Rooftop Night Market – every Wednesday evening