Vibrant, ever-changing, multi-faceted Johannesburg flings contrasts at you from every angle. Trees line streets where houses hide their manicured gardens and pristine blue swimming pools behind high white walls, miles of shacks tell of the effects of the apartheid years – still to be overcome. The air of Africa’s most dynamic city vibrates with music and buzzes with business while its stylish restaurants, elegant shops, art galleries and theatres delight the international visitor.
1 Rand (ZAR) = 100 cents
+27 11 375 5911 (Accidents, Fire, Medical, Crime)
The Star (Johannesburg’s oldest English-language daily newspaper, has a Tonight listings supplement.)
The weekly (Friday) Mail & Guardian has extensive What’s On listings.)
Mall shopping hours are generally 09.00-17.00 from Monday to Saturday, and 09.00-14.00 on Sundays. Most museums and galleries are closed on Mondays.
4,434,827 (2011 census)
Gauteng Tourism Authority
124 Main Street, Johannesburg
+27 11 085 2500
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Cosmopolitan Johannesburg (also known as Jo’burg or Jozi) sprawls for miles, sprouting upper-income suburbs like satellite towns – one of them, sophisticated Sandton, is the business and economic capital of South Africa. Soweto, home to most of Johannesburg’s black population, lies to the southwest, a 20 square km conglomeration of townships with homes that range from millionaire mansions and neat middle-income housing to the tin shacks of squatter camps.
The city built on gold has seen its landmark yellow mine dumps recycled and replaced by skyrise buildings and glitzy shopping malls, and its recent apartheid history remembered in superb new museums. Soaring chrome and glass buildings, housing opulent international hotels and corporate giants, pepper the leafy streets of a string of exclusive northern suburbs – among them, rich Rosebank, elite Sandhurst, bohemian Melrose Village and foody Greenside. Across a canopy of green, the horizon is spiked by the outline of downtown Johannesburg, slowly stirring from its no-go dilapidation. Six-lane highways and swirling freeways indicate the importance of the car.
The city built on gold has seen its yellow mine dumps recycled, and replaced by towering skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls. The history of the not too distant apartheid history is remembered in superb new museums.
This cosmopolitan city will spoil you for choice: Greek, Italian, Indian, Chinese, Argentinean, just to pick a few. South Africans are great meat eaters, so steak houses abound. Greenside is packed with smart restaurants, but all the northern suburbs have their stars. Melville, Parktown North, Melrose Arch and trendy Parkhurst are particularly good locations.
From the sleek bars of top-notch hotels to shebeens (informal drinking places, usually in someone’s front room) in Soweto, Jozi boasts a very lively nightlife. Melville’s Seventh Street is popular with night owls, while Rosebank, Rivonia, Norwood and Orange Grove attract the more affluent party crowd. Soweto has crowded bars and live jazz, but it is only advisable to go there on an organised tour.
From upmarket malls to street markets, via designer fashion, crafts, curios and lovely things for the home, Johannesburg is a paradise for shoppers. Mall culture distinguishes this city of dedicated shoppers. Sandton City and its adjacent Nelson Mandela Square is one of the largest shopping centres in the southern hemisphere. The packed African Crafts Market lies next to the stylish Mall of Rosebank, which takes on new vibes on Sundays and public holidays when the lively Rooftop Market is in full swing.
Norwood’s Grant Avenue is good for antiques and Parkhurst’s Fourth Avenue for collectables and interior design. Go to The African Toyshop on Stanley Avenue, Milpark, for toys as works of art Art Africa on Tyrone Avenue in Parkview for a dazzling array of ethnic arts and crafts and Kim Sacks Gallery in Parkwood for excellent tribal African art.
Keep all the receipts of your shop purchases, as visitors can reclaim the tax paid on departure at the airport.
O.R. Tambo International Airport is Africa’s busiest airport with 24-hour facilities. It lies 25km east of the city.
The cheapest way to reach town is use the public transportation: buses and minibuses depart from just outside the international and domestic terminals. Please mind, however, that these may not be either convenient or easy to navigate for first-time visitors.
Another way to reach the city is by rail: the Gautrain system connects the airport to multiple suburbs (Sandton, Rosebank, Pretoria, Hatfield and Rhodesfield). Travel time between the airport and Sandton is 12 minutes.
Minibus shuttles and metered taxis can be booked in the baggage claim area. The hotels of Rosebank and Sandton are a 30-45 minute drive from the airport. Most hotels offer shuttle services (inquire with your hotel in advance).
Train service now runs between the suburbs of Sandton and Pretoria and the airport.
Address: O.R. Tambo International Airport
Phone: +27 11 921 6262
While most locals use minibuses to get around the city, flagging one down and figuring out its final destination may prove daunting to first-time visitors.
Instead, make use of the public buses (Rea Vaya buses were introduced during the 2010 World Cup and remain in operation to-date; they are a relatively reliable means of transport).
Another convenient, safe way of getting around are the trains of the Gautrain system. They connect the stations of Sandton, Rosebank, Pretoria, Hatfield, Rhodesfield and the airport. There is a bus service run by Gautrain from some stations onward. Buy and top-up the Gold Card to use Gautrain.
Metered taxis are the safest way to travel if you are not hiring a car, they are available at major hotels, otherwise you have to phone for pickup. The fare should be confirmed with the driver at the outset (inquire with a local what an average fare for you drive distance would be).
One reliable taxi company is Rose Taxis:
Phone: +27 11 403 0000
Post boxes are red in colour. There are multiple post offices around the city.
Address: 150 Commissioner St, Marshalltown, Johannesburg
Phone: +27 11 331 1057
Pharmacies have a rota system for out-of-hours service. Most hospitals and clinics with an ER will also have a 24/7 pharmacy on-site.
Netcare Olivedale Hospital
Tel: +27 11 777 2000
Corner President Fouche & Windsor Way, Olivedale, Randburg
Netcare Linksfield Hospital
Tel: + 27 11 647 3400
24 12th Avenue, Linksfield West
220/240v, 50Hz. Round three-pin plugs are standard.
Country code: +27
Area code: 11