- Towers and townships
- City Life
- Two worlds together
This 'City of Gold' has suffered from a tarnished image in recent years but Johannesburg, built on the fabulous mineral wealth beneath the veld, is beginning to recapture its glitter.
Once the city at the heart of the apartheid regime, the chaotic sprawl of Soweto and Alexandra, and the manicured suburbs of Sandton and Dunkeld, are rich with the history, contrasts and contradictions of modern South Africa. It's the place where Europe and Africa meet, if not entirely mix. Since its frantic birth in the gold rush of the 1880s, Johannesburg has been subject to relentless change and friction, producing a highly-charged energy and excitement than can be felt as much in the city’s stylish clubs and bars as in the dusty streets of the townships.
Justifiably JohannesburgThe township of Soweto is home to 3.5 million people and was once the centre of the anti-apartheid movement. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu lived on Vilakazi Street, and it’s possible to visit Mandela’s former home, maintained as it was when he lived there. Today it provides a fascinating insight into one side of modern South Africa. Another highlight is the Hector Pieterson Memorial, a museum detailing the events of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. Take an organised tour arranged by your hotel.
- It’s wise to be safety conscious: always use a taxi ordered by your hotel; don’t just pick them up in the street. Get the taxi driver’s phone number and have him pick you up at an agreed time and place.
- Tipping culture
- Generally 15 per cent, but check that a service charge has not already been added to your bill.
- Packing tips
- At an altitude of almost 2,000 metres, Johannesburg can be chilly at night. Some warm layers are a good idea, particularly in winter months.
- Recommended reads
- Waiting for the Barbarians by J.M. Coetzee; A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; Gold Mine by Wilbur Smith. My Mother's Lovers by Christopher Hope.
- South African cooking reflects the myriad of indigenous and migrant peoples who have settled there. Indian-influenced dishes include achaar and chakalaka salads and samoosas. Bobotie – a spicy dish of baked minced meat – has Malay origins. European introductions include boerewors (spicy sausages), frikkadel (meatballs) and the highly addictive biltong – salted and dried beef…or any other red meat, from antelope to ostrich. Johannesburg is not a wine producing area but there are always excellent South African wines available to accompany your meal.
- The Rand.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for South Africa: 27. Johannesburg: 11.
- Do go/don't go
- October is when the city’s purple jacaranda trees are in full bloom. The Southern Hemisphere summer from November to February is hot, with late afternoon thunderstorms. Autumn, from late February till April is pleasantly warm and a good time to see the city. June, July and August are winter months with dry, cool weather. Temperatures can fall below freezing at night.