Otherwise known as Jo’burg, or lovingly termed Jozi by the young and trendy, Johannesburg is the business hub of not just South Africa, but Africa as a whole. The city is home to the head offices of the majority of the major South African corporations, and offices of many international and pan-African companies.
What was in the 19th century a gold mining settlement, is a city steeped in history. During the Apartheid years it was a staunch 「whites」 stronghold, and street names relating to apartheid figures running through central Johannesburg are a constant reminder of that past.
However Johannesburg was hailed by the New York Times as the most transformed city in Africa, it certainly has evolved in recent years to become one of the most exciting, energetic and culturally vibrant cities on the planet.
According to Mastercard Cities index Johannesburg is the most visited city in Africa, and in fact the second most visited city in the Middle East too, after Dubai.
However many of these visitors arrive in Jo’burg, conduct or attend their meetings, have a few meals in their hotel, and never leave the confines of the uptown corporate district of Sandton. Or similarly fly into Jo’burg on the way to Kruger National Park on safari and do not explore the city. Hip Africa believes this to be a colossal shame.
Between uptown Sandton, with its shiny hotel, shopping malls, lavish mansions, and Johannesburg’s run down downtown areas there are many colourful shades.
Urban transformation in Johannesburg has manifested into areas such as Braamfontein, with its trendy boutiques, minimalist coffee shops and Saturday global food market. The Maboneng Precinct, Maboneng meaning “place of light”, where former crime ridden streets and derelict warehouse spaces have been transformed into East London style conversions, creative restaurants, hip hotels, and Africa’s first design museum.
Midtown suburbs, such as Melville, Rosebank, Parkhurst, are full of trendy enclaves with shopping malls, restaurants, and an abundance of cute boutique hotels. Parkhurst’s 4th Avenue is a particularly aesthetically pleasing and chic hangout spot, and a great place to brunch, or have a relaxed drink in the evening.
Past Parkhurst you move into more Afrikaans territory. Randburg is an Afrikaans suburb with some emerging hip spots.
Even in Soweto, the famous township which was home to Mandela, Desmond Tutu and some of the worst race riots of the anti apartheid movement, you will find seriously chic pockets, where tourists and locals alike can enjoy great food, music, and feel totally safe.
The city of Johannesburg is built on a plain 5,700 feet above sea level, meaning that its climate remains bearably cool even in the summer months.
While most of urban Johannesburg could not, with a straight face, be described as beautiful, from a number of vantage points you can catch views in the distance of the surrounding country: hills and open plains, greenery, nature reserves and wonderful natural light. Great beauty is but a stones from the city – and if you are not heading as far as Kruger, or one of the other natural parks, a mere hour’s drive and you’ll reach the stunning Magaliesburg area as well as the UNESCO World heritage site, the Cradle of Humankind.
From Jo’burg you can also drive both to Maputo, Mozambique’s buzzing capital, and to Lesotho, in half a day.
While Johannesburg does not make up one of South Africa’s three capital cities (Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloemfontein), it is in fact the most populous city in the country.
It may be a little gritty in parts, but it is a city full of hope, great foodie markets, trendy outfits, fresh music collaborations and feverish entrepreneurialism.