Flying into Johannesburg brought with it a rush of adrenaline – namely due to the excitement of the unknown, being that it would be my first visit to South Africa.
South Africa has long been on my list of must visit countries, admittedly mostly for the safari factor. For the following 12 days I will be seeing and experiencing more than I could imagine on my first trip to South Africa with South African Tourism to tick off as much as possible from my South African Bucketlist.
Day 1 – 48 hours in Johannesburg
After arriving at O.R. Tambo International Airport I made my way through customs and immigration and met with my driver from Kgokare Tours. Though not the smoothest transition (my bags were trailing behind me elsewhere in Africa), I was eager to experience Johannesburg (Joburg to the locals) in the short 48 hours I would be visiting. After being transferred to my hotel, Southern Sun Hyde Park, I reluctantly gave into jetlag and took a brief nap to ensure I was in top shape for the afternoon and evening activities that were scheduled.
Joburg has sadly failed to shake the perception of being a dangerous city. Unfortunately many foreigners and even South Africans hold on to the perception of this city as an unsafe part of the country, but the reality if that crime is everywhere and Joburg is, for the majority, exceptionally safe for tourists. There are merely a few areas that are advisable not to visit, but elsewhere in Joburg visitors can enjoy a unique city vibe, not dissimilar to the likes of Melbourne or a watered down version of Brooklyn. Yes, the street vibe here is alive and happening.
With just 48 hours in Johannesburg, there was much to see and do in such a short space of time. Below are my selected highlights in and around Joburg!
Undoubtedly my favourite part of the city was the neighbourgoods markets open on Saturday mornings from 8am – 3pm. Here you will find an endless array of quality food, ranging from French crepes through to Spanish Paella and everything in between. On the floor above there is also a great outdoor bar area, accompanied by a small selection of handmade goods. I would strongly recommend arriving around 10am before the crowds pickup from 11am onwards.
Dinner at Butcher Shop
Located in Mandela Square, Butcher Shop restaurant and grill was the perfect initiation into South African and African cuisine. Being a vegetarian of eight years, I was quite apprehensive about the dining options that would be made available to me in South Africa – especially at a restaurant with such a clear advocacy for meat-heavy cuisine. As it turns out, South Africa is in fact very vegetarian friendly, with most restaurants offering a handful of veggie options. At Butchershop I was spoiled for choice, but ultimately opted for the black mushrooms with grilled blue cheese and a side of spinach and spring onion. Feeling as though I had ordered quite a healthy and hearty main meal, I decided to try the apple and berry crumble for dessert – sinful but delicious! Beware of the huge portion sizes.
Sundowners at Sandton Sun Deck (Rooftop Bar)
For an early evening to unwind, a great place to visit is the Sandton Sun Deck. This hidden gem is located in the Intercontinental and has a great vibe on Friday and Saturday evenings. The reasonably younger crowd are in their 20s and 30s. Come here for: a great range of cocktails and light snacks.
Dinner at Signature Restaurant
The second restaurant we visited in Johannesburg was a more formal affair, offering fine dining in a comfortable yet classy setting. The room was filled with predominantly couples as this was quite a romantic setting with a live music duo providing ambiance for the evening. While my chosen main dish (vegetable stack consisting of potato rosti, peppers, tofu and mushrooms) failed to impress me, the desserts at Signature Restaurant saved the day. My toffee pudding was cooked to perfection and accompanied by a delicious butterscotch sauce as well as homemade nut ice cream (yum!)
World of Wanderlust visited South Africa as a guest of South African Tourism, however my opinion is as always, my own.