Arriving in Johannesburg

Johannesburg or Joburg is the main hub for flights into Southern Africa’s safari destinations. Major airlines fly from all the European & Arabian Gulf hubs, and there are direct flights to New York, DC and Atlanta.

But don’t just treat it as a transit point – it’s a fascinating city to explore, but not that easy to navigate – you need to do your homework first. I’m a passionate explorer of the city and use it a lot in my artworks. British GQ even now calls it “the new cool capital of the Southern Hemisphere”.

How long to stay? I recommend a minimum 2 night stay at the start of your trip – 3 nights is even better to experience both Soweto and downtown, and have some chill time to get over jetlag before your safari.

My favourite areas to stay

Rosebank ticks the most boxes – in the northern suburbs but not too far from  downtown, pedestrian-friendly, great shopping & art galleries, and a Gautrain metro station for quick links to the airport. Clico, 54 on Bath, Monarch or Winston are all good choices.

In the suburbs but not too far from Rosebank are The Saxon, Athol Place, The Munro and The Peech. The Four Seasons Westcliff has a great location between Rosebank and the CBD, with awesome views.

If you’re an adventurer then urban Maboneng may be more your style – choose from cool AirBnBs or the new Hallmark Hotel. But skip Sandton – lots of big hotels but it’s a business hub with shiny buildings and giant malls, and little soul.

What to do in 1-3 days, in order…

Hot tips:

  • inyourpocket.com/Johannesburg Laurice gets to all the best places first
  • 2summers.com Heather is a fabulously adventurous American living in Joburg
  • eatout.co.za for restaurant reviews
  • Looking for beautifully curated local craft? Call in at the gorgeous Piece studio near Maboneng.

1. First a walking tour of downtown – it’s like a museum of great architecture with hidden food, art & coffee gems everywhere – but you’ll need a good guide to find them (drop me a line, i can recommend many). Some things to head for – Maboneng’s hip street culture; Braamfontein’s galleries; the historic mining district; Newtown’s street art; great food at Urbanologi, Che, Sphere Monk or on the street at Soul Souvlaki; coffee at Craft, Origin, Father, Post, Flight or Doubleshot. On the edge of downtown is the amazing Victoria Yards, century-old industrial buildings being converted into artist studios (I work here).

Constitution Hill is a great museum complex in Braamfontein to give you an understanding of Apartheid history and see the fabulous Constitutional Court. If you want to go into that history in more depth, make time for the Apartheid Museum.

2. The magic of Soweto is in the interaction with residents, so organise a cycle or quad bike tour with a local guide and meet people, while catching some of the famous sites.

Afterwards, take some chill time on Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank with its galleries and and the chic bar at Marble for sundowner. Eat at  café-style restaurants on the streets of the leafy suburbs of Parkhurst, Parktown North and Melville which are all close to here.

3. A day out in the Cradle of Humankind will get you into the countryside, learn about our ancestral origins in the Maropeng interpretation centre, and eat well at Roots at Forum Homini.