Johannesburg Travel Guide
Big, bad Johannesburg, or Jo’burg as it’s called, is South South Africa|Africa’s largest city and a rather disturbing mix of serious crime and amazing cultural venues. Tourists willing to risk the streets of this bustling metropolis will find excellent museums, exciting restaurants and plenty of shopping to round out the days spent exploring the incredible nature preserves just outside the city.
The real paradox of Jo’burg is that despite its deserved reputation as a dangerous city, there’s a real joy of life evident in many of its three million residents. Yet this is also the home of Soweto township, whose legacy of apartheid is never far from memory. Check out the sobering Apartheid Museum and Hector Pieterson Museum to get the lowdown.
The main problem with visiting Jo’burg is that most of the neighborhoods are simply too dangerous too explore by yourself. Some are truly off-limits, while districts like the downtown area, where most of the cultural attractions are located, warrant hiring a guide for the day. The Rivonia district is one of the few spots in town where you can hit the bars and clubs in relative safety. Although fear may be a big factor in Jo’burg, visitors who approach the city with a lens of realism will come away with a powerful memory of how much of Africa struggles to survive.
Apartheid Museum: this world-class wake-up to the horrors of apartheid is a must-see, especially since Jo’burg and Soweto were at the frontline of this racial struggle for equality.
Constitution Hill: once a notorious prison where the likes of Mandela and Gandhi were detained and tortured, this hill is now a tribute to freedom and human rights.
Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum: if you make the worthwhile trip to Soweto, don’t miss this provocative museum dedicated to the 1976 student uprising against apartheid.
Johannesburg Civic Theater: one of South Africa’s largest and most technologically advanced theaters keeps a steady schedule of performances by some of the country’s best.
Lesedi Cultural Village: this living village is home to four separate tribes: Zulu, Pedi, Xhosa and Basotho, who go about their traditional lives while visitors learn about their cultures via guided tours.
Soweto Township: bring a guide to experience the ghosts of apartheid as you explore Nelson Mandela’s home, the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Freedom square in the friendly but potentially dangerous Soweto.