Johannesburg has a huge reputation, from its beginnings as a 19th-century gold-mining settlement to its reputation as a centre of resistance in the Apartheid era led by heroic figures such as Nelson Mandela - and of course its physical presence as the largest city in South Africa. Often a necessary stop on the way to safari adventures or too far away to tag on to the visual delights of Cape Town and the Garden Route, the city tends to get overlooked - a regrettable mistake, given there are many exceptional things to do in Johannesburg.

It'd be wrong to visit Joburg and not learn more about the era of brutal control during apartheid – and how it shaped life in South Africa – at the Apartheid Museum. Nelson Mandela is a huge presence in the city's past, and you can also visit The Nelson Mandela National Museum, or Nelson House, in Soweto where he lived from 1946 to 1962. Soweto might be famous because of Mandela, but it's a compelling place to explore in its own right.

Johannesburg is also a great contradiction of gritty remnants and new buildings, and it's well worth discovering both aspects of the city. Take a tour of the inner city, from bustling Newtown and revitalized Central Business District to the cool culture hub of Maboneng. Once no-go zones, they're now full of character and best seen with the help of a local guide. Then explore the new Joburg, from craft breweries like Mad Giant to First Thursday's street parties at Keyes Art Mile and the art project spaces of Victoria Yards.

All of this, as well as the city's close proximity to day-trip safaris in places such as Pilanesburg National Park, makes Johannesburg a city on the up that is sure to be a global leader in music, art, style and creativity.

Top image:  Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg © Ariadne Van Zandbergen/APA Digital

 

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