My favorite 10 Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Understand
Johannesburg is the capital of South Africa and it's industrial and financial center. Johannesburg feels more gritty than you'd expect for a middle income capital. It certainly is not a beautiful city.
However entrepreneurship and interior design runs strong with South Africans and there are plenty an oasis created by the city's entrepreneurs. These may take a while to find and are certainly not obvious. You will have to give the city some time.
South Africa is great value currently as the South African Rand has depreciated steeply in recent years (but local inflation hasn't matched it fully).
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Safety
Johannesburg is a dangerous city. Many of the inner city neighborhoods have a reputation (and the statistics to go along with it) for violent crime and carjackings.
Most of these neighborhoods are rather easy to spot (and there are plenty for safe neighborhoods).
Avoid walking during the day and night in the more dangerous neighborhoods- avoid stopping at intersections that are deserted. In all other neighborhoods you are fine driving at most times and walks during the day should be ok too.
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Get Around
Uber is in town and rides are pretty cheap. So are car rentals and parking isn't a big problem. I would advise to avoid walking long stretches of unfamiliar areas because of the safety situation (even during the day). It is also a good idea to not drive in an unfamiliar neighborhood after dark.
Drivers are typically aggressive in town (though traffic is typically light). It is a good idea but be an experienced driver (on the left side of the road)
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Pollution
Fortunately (air) pollution isn't a major issue in the city. Some roads suffer from heavy pollution but it is an exception.
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Connectivity
South Africa has recently improved their Internet connectivity a lot. However still expect Internet speeds to be slower than Antananarivo or Nairobi but WiFi in coffee shops is often around 4 Mbit. Some hotels have fast Internet exceeding 20 Mbit.
I bought a Telkom SIM card for LTE data access which worked quite well. One GB of data is priced at $7 typically (you get one more GB for night time use for free).
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Sights
This small neighborhood has taken a dangerous, beaten down inner city neighborhood and rejuvenated it. It's just a couple of city blocks in total, but there are new apartments (inside old industrial buildings), coffee shops and restaurants.
The Apartheid Museum details South Africa's travel through the time of apartheid. It's very well done with a number of high quality exhibitions and largely avoids the lecturing Social Justice tone that you may expect there.
44 Stanley is a rejuvenated warehouse complex in Johannesburg. It has been done very well and comes with a number of small galleries and non-chain shops.
Johannesburg Botanical Gardens
The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens are a peaceful retreat from Johannesburg city life.
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Eat and Drink
Father Coffee is proper third gen coffee shop in the busy Rosebank mall. It comes with fast WiFi, trendy interiors and yummy desserts. The coffee itself could have more taste but it's cheap and a great place to people watch.
The Schwarma Co
This longstanding establishment for great Middle Eastern food will make sure you can never finish what your ordered. The portions are enormous and you can get unlimited add-on salads for the schawarma and kebab sandwiches. The restaurant spans two floors and the upper floor is the nicer of the two. I was surprised by much I liked it.
Bean There Coffee Company
Right at 44 Stanley is this third gen coffee shop with good coffee and lovely interior design to admire.
This little neighborhood coffee shop has a beautiful outdoor patio, friendly staff and owners and fast WiFi. The coffee and food options are just ok - come here for an outdoor work space on a hot Johannesburg summer day.
My favorite Things To Do in Johannesburg, South Africa - Daytrips & Safaris
The Pilanesberg Park is just two hours away from Johannesburg towards Botswana. The private game reserve allows you to drive your own vehicle while you see the wildlife.
The park entrance fee is just 110 ZAR per person plus a 40 ZAR vehicle fee. The park is malaria free (and indeed had very few mosquitoes).
However the roads just outside and inside the park are in bad shape. You can do it with rental car if you are an experienced driver but a 4WD or pickup truck will be the much better choice.
Kruger National Park
The Kruger National park is located at the border with Mozambique about 5 hours driving from Johannesburg. It is a magnificent place and allows you to ram a huge part of Africa in your vehicle.
I detailed my experience at Kruger National park here.