29 September 2016 | Libby Peacock
Boasting some of South Africa’s most interesting cultural and historical attractions, trendy markets, great restaurants and almost consistently fantastic weather, Joburg is no longer just a stopover destination. Here are five reasons why you should linger longer than 24 hours before jetting off to Cape Town or the game parks and make the most of all this modern African metropolis has to offer.
The inner-city vibe
Ever wanted "morish" of something delicious? A stand at Market on Main (Image: Fiverlocker)
Time your visit to Joburg over a weekend, so you can absorb the energy of the regenerated Maboneng Precinct. On Sundays, the Market on Main at 264 Fox Street offers artisanal dishes, great coffee and craft beers, sweet treats and other delights. The greater Arts on Main market features exciting art, design and fashion. This part of town has a distinctively laid-back and multicultural atmosphere, with hip outdoor (and indoor) eateries, cool bars and galleries, safe streets, an independent cinema, shops, a quirky hotel and backpackers. You’ll want to spend the best part of a day here.
It’s hospitable and child-friendly
This colourful and aptly painted Atlas Cheetah E fighter aircraft is on display at Sci-Bono (Image: Alan Wilson)
In Johannesburg, every social interaction starts with a greeting – whether you’re checking in to your hotel, buying a ticket for an attraction or simply paying for groceries. Strangers often chat in lifts and shops (in a variety of languages), and locals are generally warm and welcoming. Despite its gritty reputation, Johannesburg embraces children: expect kiddies’ menus, lots of smiles and a fuss made of your little ones. Top family-friendly attractions include the 55ha Joburg Zoo, with well-cared-for animals and plenty of picnic and running-around space, and the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown, Southern Africa’s largest and most-visited science centre with more than 350 interactive maths, science and technology exhibits and a wide range of educational activities.
Hop-on, hop-off bus tours
The view from the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre (Image: City Sightseeing)
City Sightseeing’s red bus city tours with informative audio commentary in 15 languages – plus a special channel for children – offer one of the best ways to see the city’s top attractions. The bus is also a good way to get around Johannesburg without having to drive. Simply buy a ticket and choose at which stops – including the Carlton Centre (Africa’s tallest building since 1973), the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill – you’d like to hop on or off for the period that your ticket is valid. Ideally, choose the City Tour and Soweto Combo to get a comprehensive picture of Johannesburg’s history and culture – a good reason why you need more than a day in Jozi!
The birthplace of humanity
The exit of the Sterkfontein Caves (Image: Flow Communications)
Well, it’s about an hour’s drive from the city, but you can’t come to Johannesburg and miss out on the world-class Cradle of Humankind, where our ancestors have lived for more than three million years. One of South Africa’s eight World Heritage Sites, the 47 000ha Cradle is widely recognised as the place from which all of humankind originated. This is where a new ancient human relative, Homo naledi, was discovered and introduced to the world in September 2015. The famous pre-human skull dubbed Mrs Ples and almost complete hominid skeleton called Little Foot were also both found at the site’s Sterkfontein Caves, and the thought-provoking exhibition at the Maropeng Visitor Centre focuses on the development of humans over the past few million years.
Fun and games
The FNB Stadium, also known as Soccer City (Image: City Sightseeing)
South Africans are sports mad and a visit to Joburg offers the perfect opportunity to get into the spirit and mix with the locals at big game, whether it’s a cricket Test at the Wanderers in Illovo, a big rugby match at the famous Ellis Park stadium, or one of the most exciting and fiercely contested sports fixtures of the year, the Soweto Derby between the Premier Soccer League’s Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates at the impressive FNB Stadium, upgraded and redesigned for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the form of a calabash (African pot). If you prefer a game of golf, head to one of about 15 courses within 10km from Sandton or choose from the many estates further afield.