There aren’t many big cities in the world that I would suggest stopping in for only one day, but Johannesburg would be one of them. In fact, most visitors to the city are on a long-haul layover or merely using Johannesburg as the gateway to their African adventure. That’s not to say it isn’t a great city with lots to offer – it is. But it can certainly be done in one day. So, here’s what to do with one day in Johannesburg…
Step One: Get out of the airport
So you’ve arrived in O. R. Tambo Airport, Johannesburg — now what? If you’ve got a long layover or have one night to stay in Johannesburg, the first step to enjoying this city is to get out of the airport itself. Many travellers choose to stay overnight in the JNB airport for many reasons, but you should certainly not let fear of your safety stop you. Typically Johannesburg is considered unsafe for travellers and even locals – but as soon as you get out there and see it for yourself, you will see that much of this stereotype/misperception is a result of mass media.
Yes, Johannesburg is safe to visit. But of course like anywhere in the world, it has exceptions and areas to avoid.
Step Two: Check-in to a hotel in Sandton
Sandton is without a doubt the safest area you can position yourself in the city (if that’s still your concern). It is also the wealthiest neighbourhood in Johannesburg and perhaps all of South Africa! Here you will also find “Sandton City” – home to all the comforts of home including international shops, supermarkets and a cinema.
I would highly recommend checking yourself into The Maslow as I did twice when in South Africa this month (I loved it so much that I returned for a second stay). The hotel have a team of drivers who can collect you from the airport for an extra fee, and there is a free shuttle every 15 minutes to Sandton City (which is also just a ten minute walk up the road).
Step Three: A Day Tour to Soweto
Now to see ‘the real’ Johannesburg. Or at least, the other side to the city.
Soweto is a township just a short drive outside of Johannesburg itself. Typically it is known for being a slum of sorts and made famous for being the home to the late Nelson Mandela. Soweto was the centre of the apartheid uprisings (whereby racial segregation was abolished in South Africa), and thus has a very important significance to those that live there, as well as all South Africans as a whole.
Whilst here, be sure to visit: The Apartheid Museum; Nelson Mandela’s Home; and the Hector Pieterson Memorial. There are also a number of companies offering day tours to Soweto and it is an extremely safe way to see the township for yourself – highly recommended!
Step Four: Dining in Mandela Square
Located in Sandton city, the Nelson Mandela Square is home to some of Joburg’s best restaurants. There’s a wide selection, but if you’re after something quintessentially South African to try during your stay, be sure to make your way to The Butcher Shop (yes, they even have some veggie options).
Get a taste for South Africa by visiting the weekend Neighbourgoods market (saturdays 9:00-15:00).
Experience the African wildlife at Johannesburg Zoo.
Splash out at Montecasino.
Get a (seriously one of the best) spa treatments at Africology Spa inside The Maslow Hotel.
World of Wanderlust stayed at The Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg and flew with South African Airways on a direct flight from Perth, Australia.