Johannesburg is a place set to surprise even the most experienced travellers. Despite a troubled past, the city has some excellent cultural attractions, amazing sites and a diverse population. Although you will still need to be careful when visiting, there are many places where it is quite safe.
To get straight into the action, visit the slowly rejuvenating central business district. Certain parts should still be avoided, but others offer a good glimpse of life in the metropolis. For great views of the city, check out the Carlton Centre’s Top of Africa viewing area.
Take a guided tour of Soweto to see how many poorer locals live. It’s a series of townships comprised of cheap or make-shift housing and infrastructure. The area might be shocking for some, but most visitors are pleasantly surprised by the lively atmosphere and fascinating culture. It can be rough in places, so don't venture there on your own. Experience Vilakazi Street's unique atmosphere or visit the house where Nelson Mandela once lived. See other important sites such as the Hector Pieterson Memorial and the Regina Mundi Church.
For a look at some of the older districts in the city, check out Parktown and Newtown. You’ll find historic buildings, a diverse crowd and sidewalks lined with cafés, restaurants and shops. Make your way out to the northern suburbs to see where many of the city’s wealthier residents live. There are upmarket boutiques, bars and restaurants.
History buffs will definitely want to visit a selection of Johannesburg’s museums. Explore the Apartheid Museum and learn about South Africa’s turbulent history. Take a tour of Constitution Hill to see more evidence of the capital's troubled history at the prison museums. Those with more of an eye for art should visit the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) for a great selection of local and international art.
To escape the hustle and bustle of the city, stroll through the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. If you would like to go a bit further, go for a hike in the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve or organise a trip to Lion Park to see Africa’s most famous wild animal.