Commonly referred to as Joburg or Jozi, Johannesburg may very well be the city most representative of South Africa on the whole. Its neighborhoods are diverse, its cultural institutions are relevant and distinguished, and you're never far from cultivated greenery or uncivilized expanses dominated by varied wilderness and exotic mammals. Add to this its distinction as the country's economic capital, the gentrification of numerous districts that have occurred since hosting the World Cup, and unique traditions like street-side barbers and traffic-light vendors and you've got the recipe for a truly enjoyable adventure.
In life, there's always the flip side of the coin, the bad news that must invariably follow any positive development. With Johannesburg, there's that dastardly crime rate, that well-documented dichotomy between the high-security White neighborhoods and the crumbling hopes and conditions of predominantly Black neighborhoods, both of which have cast a dark cloud over the city's reputation for generations. The truth is that there are some places you'll not want to go and they're often quite close to districts where you'll want to be spending much of your time. Affluent townships like Sandton and Rivonia, where even the shopping malls are extravagant, sidle up alongside townships like Alexandra, notable for tenement blocks and boarded up buildings. Travelers need not worry; keep to areas like Newtown, Melville, Rosebank, Norwood, or even downtown Joburg and you'll be as safe as if you were visiting any other part of the world. Large, Black middle-class suburbs like Soweto are also generally secure and have benefited from the tourism surrounding theNelson Mandela House and traditional experiences like the Credo Mutwa Village.
Speaking of, Johannesburg isa haven of cultural standouts, from the aforementioned homes-turned-museums in Soweto to the Apartheid-centric attractions spread throughout the city. The heart-wrenchingWorkers Museum in Newtown, the Apartheid Museum in Ormonde, and the tour through highly-influential Sophiatown all provide necessary perspective on historic Joburg. Another facet of culture that deserves recognition is the gold mining that drove industry in this neck of the woods for over a century. Although new technologies have rendered many of the old mines obsolete, there are a few, including the Old Kromdraai Gold Mine
The city also benefits from being near a number of South Africa's most adventurous locations, as well as a natural stopping point on the way to international highlights like Kruger National Park or Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls. The Cradle of Humankind, one of the world's premiere sites for hominid fossils, is just to the southwest, while breathtaking Blyde River Canyon is just one of a number of attractions on theMpumalanga Escarpment. Then again, South Africa's biggest draw has often been its big game parks and reserves, and there are plenty to choose from here. Whether you want to explore massive Kruger (or any of the smaller reserves like Sabi Sands that surround it), Pilanesberg, or even Mapungubwe National Park to the far north, the environments in which you can interact with creatures like lions, elephants, zebras, rhinos, giraffes, and moreare quite numerous.
So, to recap. Despite the few places that you'll need to stay away from and the few usual precautions you'd take anywhere in your world travels, Johannesburg is pretty awesome. There are few places where the ongoing struggles for equality and human decency are as consistently chronicled, where the desire to be among some of the most majestic creatures on earth can be as easily realized, and where a true representation of South Africa in its adventures,nightlife, culture, andcuisine awaits the dauntless traveler.