Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city and commercial hub, is a hive of activity and vibrancy. It is not often considered a tourist destination due to its reputation of being dangerous. However, Johannesburg is fascinating, complex and diverse, and it is certainly well worth getting to know this city differently.

Once Joburg works her way into your heart, it is difficult to say goodbye. Many expatriates, who we’ve relocated, have shared with us their story of an incredibly rich and rewarding assignment in Johannesburg, experiencing personal growth as a result.

We are all for intrepid exploration and open-minded adventuring, but we do advise you proceed with a pinch of caution and be sure to research and plan ahead, travel in groups and make use of reputable tour companies. Here are our tips for where to start and some things you may not know about this enigmatic city.

  • Sunday lunch at Katy’s Palace Bar: on the first Sunday of every month, head over to Katy’s Palace Bar in Kramerville for a shared ‘harvest table’ lunch. There’s something quite special about spending Sunday afternoon sharing a meal with friends, family (and even strangers), while listening to live music, and watching the clouds build up over the Sandton skyline.
  • Soweto Cycle Tours at Lebo’s Soweto Backpacker: slow down the pace of urban life, saddle up and join a bicycle tour through the famous South Western Township – Soweto. A unique way to experience the vibrant culture of Soweto and interact with residents to learn about Soweto’s rich history while enjoying a traditional beer at a shebeen.
  • Picnic in the sky: This urban picnic starts at Market on Main, in Maboneng, where you are provided with a basket. Start by perusing the market to buy delicious food from a wide variety of stalls. Then, you will be transported to your picnic spot on the 50th floor at the top of the Carlton Centre building.
  • Dinner and Jazz at The Marabi Club: The exterior, in Doornfontein, downtown Johannesburg is unassuming but once you enter, the careful details of the club’s interior evoke a history of the hardships of the 1920s & 30s, which prompted a lifestyle of illegal shebeens, where fierce talk of politics was accompanied by the equally disruptive soundtrack of jazz. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail, excellent food, and live jazz and you’ll get why most people who visit this Maboneng landmark remark on the electric atmosphere and are bound to return again and again.
  • First Thursdays of every month: galleries in the Rosebank art district remain open until 9 pm for art lovers to explore the Joburg art scene, followed by a meal at one of the many hip restaurants in the area such as Bolton Road Collection, Coalition Pizza, Sin+Tax, Bar Ber Black Sheep, Saigon Suzy as well as a number of great bars.
  • The Cookery by The Secret Jozi Chef: Restauranteur and blogger Paul Maciel, otherwise known as ‘The Secret Jozi Chef’ hosts social, themed cooking classes at his venue The Cookery designed for small and large groups.
  • Dining Experience at Chez Fong: Chef Su-yen Thornhill, is part South African, part Chinese (via Hong Kong), part chef, part comedian, part yoga guru. She runs a ‘dining-room’ restaurant attached to her sprawling Houghton home, where she whips up eight courses of pan-Asian taste bud excitement every Wednesday evening. It’s not a restaurant but rather a mixture of a kitchen theatre and a party. Follow her on Facebook
  • Ponte City Tour: take a tour of the tallest residential building in Africa. This unsettling Brutalist monolith, with a fascinating history, identifies the Joburg skyline because of its sheer size, shape and location. Today it has become a model for the regeneration and revitalisation of the inner city that is going on and profits from the tours are used to fund a creche on the ground floor of Ponte, as well as other programmes to benefit the community.
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