Jburg me!
May 16, 2014 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I will be spending three days in Johannesburg, South Africa at the end of June. I don't know a thing about South Africa or Johannesburg, so what should I do with myself?

I will be in town for work-related reasons, but will then be taking a few extra days with a coworker to just hang out and explore. Since this isn't really a "planned" vacation to a place I've always wanted to see, I haven't really even thought about what I'll do when I'm there!

I have little international travel experience in general, and have never been to Africa. I will be with my more well-traveled coworker, though, and all of the logistics around transportation and accommodation are being covered by work. So I'm really just after ideas about what to do for fun!

I am open to absolutely all suggestions for what we should do with ourselves, but especially:

-I'm very, very into food, and will try anything. Food suggestions welcome!
-If possible, I'd love to find some locally-made affordable art while I'm there.
-Any useful websites or other required reading about the city for before I go would be awesome!
posted by showbiz_liz to Travel & Transportation around Johannesburg, South Africa (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Apartheid Museum
Neighbourgoods Market
Cradle of Humanity UNESCO site, which isn't that far away.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:57 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I might encourage you to hop a flight to Cape Town to be brutally honest.
posted by JPD at 11:05 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Haven't been myself, but in addition to the Apartheid Museum (and Constitution Hill), my dad liked seeing the Mandela museum at his former home in Soweto Township in Johannesburg (there are also township tours). While the wine-growing area is around Cape Town, there's plenty of places to try good South African wine in J'burg (and buy some to bring home!). The zoo is supposed to be pretty good if you don't have time to go out to one of the big wildlife parks.

There's definitely a ton of art galleries and shops in the city, in all kinds of styles at all kinds of price points. My dad has had good luck with South African wood carvings ... they're easy to carry home, characteristic of the area, and not too expensive, and there are a lot of artists working in both traditional and modern styles. (Actually his favorite thing is a bread basket carved with animals (sorta like this one); his is rather touristy-looking compared to other things he's picked up, but we actually USE it all the time and get to admire it every time we use it and he reminisces about his trips there, whereas the statues stand there and eventually fade into the background when you see them every day.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:24 AM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding the suggestion that you consider a side trip to Cape Town. It's a short flight (and there are lots of flights between the cities) and a beautiful place to visit.

When I was in South Africa a few years ago, it was possible to do a day-long safari trip from Joburg, although most of the people I talked to recommended taking at least 2 days.
posted by EvaDestruction at 1:54 PM on May 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm going to join the crowd saying "fly to CT" - there is SO much to see there, and it's FAR safer and FAR better for food. Even if only for a day or two, it's worth it.
posted by guster4lovers at 3:07 PM on May 16, 2014

Capetonian here. The one advantage Jozi has over CT is it's access to wildlife. The Kruger National Park is within easy driving distance.
posted by PenDevil at 5:02 AM on May 27, 2014

Response by poster: Thought I'd check back in here and say what I wound up doing, in case anyone else finds themselves in Joburg!

On the first day we had free, we hired a driver to take us to Pilanesburg National Park, and we had an amazing day in which we saw basically every animal my heart could desire, including almost running smack into a rhino in the middle of the road. Memail me for the driver's name, if you like!

Then we moved to the Bannister Hotel in the very hip neighborhood of Braamfontein, which was within walking distance of Neighborgoods Market (thanks Ideefixe, it was a highlight!) and a GREAT jazz club called The Orbit. I am totally indifferent to jazz, but I'm so glad we went. The food and music were both so worth it.

We did the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, and honestly if I had to pick just one I'd go with Constitution Hill, though both were great. It was a major punch in the gut to tour those old prisons, and then majorly inspiring to go see the beautiful Constitutional Court building.

We also went to Lion Park, which to be honest didn't really blow me away, but I got to pet a baby lion so it was worth it in the end.

(If I'd had more time, I would have done a tour of Soweto, plus visited one of the many art museums and the Origins Centre.)

We stuck close to the hotel unless we were in a hired car, especially at night. Following these precautions, we never felt unsafe.

Oh, and we drank a ton of excellent wine.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:08 PM on July 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

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