Travel: The Best of Johannesburg
Expect the unexpected in Johannesburg – Joburg or Jozi as many locals call this surprisingly vibrant and beautiful city is making a comeback in a big way. Did you know that Joburg has over 6 million trees within its city limits? Barclay’s Bank, BMW, General Electric and Cisco Systems are some of the major international brands investing in South Africa’s future. The suburb of Sandton has become the financial capital for southern Africa as well as the shopping and entertainment hub. With over 70 coffee roasting houses ranging from rustic cafés to trendy espresso bars, the coffee culture is huge in Jozi. You can easily spend the better part of a day strolling along the main street of Parkhurst’s upscale private label boutiques, quaint coffee houses and quintessentially British pubs.
Where to Stay
Morrells Boutique Estate is the perfect place to begin a holiday in Joburg. Guests can unwind and shake off the jetlag with a therapeutic massage at the spa or relax by the pool while getting acclimated to the time change. Dine en plein air in an atmosphere reminiscent of the French countryside, or indoors by the roaring fire surrounded by antiques and animal skins in winter. Vintage movie nights on the lawn and live musical entertainment are a huge hit. Hospitality is their signature trademark where the chef greets all the guests each morning with a brimming smile. Charm oozes out of every nook and cranny in the former 1800’s dairy farmhouse accommodations and a gentile spirit is present in the stately Manor House’s seven suites across the street.
Using Morrells as a home base, it is easy to explore Johannesburg’s historical roots and modern galleries or shop till your heart’s content at upscale boutiques.
Four Seasons Johannesburg has invested its first footprint in southern Africa with its location in the uber-chic Westcliff area. While most would expect their premiere location to be in Cape Town or Kruger National Park, General Manager Sebastien Carre says, “It was natural to open in Jozi because over 20 million people fly in and out of the international airport each year for business and on their way to leisure destinations. The property makes for a wonderful introduction or farewell to South Africa.”
I would have to agree with him 100%. During last two days of a three-week journey, I was pampered at the Westcliff Spa, worked out in the fitness center to stretch my back and prepare for the long flights ahead, and dined outdoors on the multi level terrace with gorgeous views of the Johannesburg Zoo. For dinner, I chose one laid back night of dining at Flame (famous for its brick oven pizzas and grilled meats) and one business casual evening at View (contemporary cuisine). Both restaurants served great South African wines and killer cocktails thanks to award winning barmen Warren and Takunda who have each created their own signature concoctions that taste as great as they look. Sipping a colorful Esther’s Touch or Summer Splash by the pool as the bright red African sun sets over the Westcliff hills is the perfect way to toast the end of an amazing expedition to Africa.
What to Do
Explore Johannesburg’s heritage. Soweto, the birthplace of the Apartheid Movement, has become a major tourist attraction with the addition of the emotionally moving Nelson Mandela Museum. Pop up markets and festive restaurants with live music have been growing to meet the demand of tourism. Learn the journey to democracy at Lilliesleaf, an award-winning heritage site. Located in the suburb of Rivonia, this living museum is dedicated to preserving and maintaining conversations about a free and equal South Africa.
How to Get Around
Uber is very convenient, and works the same as in any other major international city with options for Uber X or black car private car service.
Gautrain, a mass rapid transit system conveniently connects Johannesburg, Pretoria, the OR Tambo International Airport, and many other stations. It is fast, safe, and reliable making it a practical method of travel for commuters in South Africa.