What to eat, see and do in Johannesburg

Article by Simply You

Johan inline

As a New Zealander who lived in South Africa for 12 years, Naomi Larkin reveals what to enjoy in Johannesburg.

Joburgers always talk proudly about the high energy of their city – that it operates at full-throttle. The catch-cry ‘Africa is not for sissies’ most often comes from the mouths of those who live in this massive, sprawling metropolis. Truly a 24-hour city, it’s as wonderful as it is chaotic – usually at the same time.

Previously downtrodden areas such as Braamfontein and Maboneng have been given a new lease on life with stores, markets, bars and restaurants springing up alongside businesses and stylish loft apartments. Join MainStreetWalks for a tour of Maboneng Precinct which takes in the Kwa Mai Mai Traditional Healers Market, Museum of African Design (MOAD), Bioscope Independent Theatre, and Collectors Treasure – the largest secondhand bookshop in the southern hemisphere.

Head to the revamped Cosmopolitan Hotel for lunch in the courtyard. Arts on Main is the location for the hugely popular Sunday Market on Main, a mecca for contemporary and vintage fashion, food of every description. Nearby Braamfontein has trendy stores, art galleries and bars and is home to Constitution Hill, which includes the Old Fort and the Constitutional Court.

South Africans love a mall and they can be found criss-crossing the country. The upmarket Hyde Park Corner includes brands such as Burberry, Max Mara, Thomas Pink and Emporio Armani. When you’ve worked up an appetite head to Tasha’s le Parc for the excellent food and service. You’ll need to allocate several hours to the Mall of Africa for its 300 shops, many of them local and international chain stores. South African art is garnering growing attention and many galleries are worth visiting. The Keyes Art Mile, which includes the architecturally beautiful Circa Gallery, is a must.

Where to stay:

the saxon
The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa
Originally built as a private residence – it was here that former South African President Nelson Mandela came to write his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom – the Saxon is recognised as Johannesburg’s most exclusive retreat.

Its location in the upmarket suburb of Sandhurst means you’re removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. Suite and room options are available in the main house or in the private villas. All are spacious and luxurious to the extreme.

As expected of a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, top chefs preside over the fine-dining here and the wine collection is superb. Service throughout is impeccable and the spa is one of the best in the country.

afric lodge

Glen Afric Country Lodge

Tourists wanting the full-blown safari experience will most often stopover in Johannesburg en route to the Kruger National Park or Madikwe Game Reserve. However, if your visit is more urban focused but you still want to see some wildlife then a trip to Glen Afric Country Lodge is the answer.

An easy 40-minute drive from Johannesburg, it’s in the Cradle of Humankind and the UNESCO-designated Magaliesberg Biosphere. Glen Afric offers various activities that enable you to get up close and, in some cases touch and interact, with the wildlife. This includes games drives, bush walks, birdwatching, and elephant walks – an hour-and-a-half walk through the bush with elephants, their handlers and guides.

Aside from elephants, you might also see lions, cheetahs, wildebeest, giraffes, hippopotamus, leopards, various antelopes, monkeys and warthogs on a game drive. There are snakes, including the puff adder and the Mozambique spitting cobra. The bird species are so many and varied it’s a dream for birdwatchers.

Glen Afric has a history of assisting in animal rescue and rehabilitation operations. It runs a volunteer programme that attracts people from all over the world interested in animal welfare.
You can either visit for a day or stay overnight. Accommodation is a mix of rooms in the lodge and stable block, cottages and five bush tents with ensuite bathrooms. The lodge has a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and curio shop. The television series Wild at Heart was filmed at Glen Afric and the homestead built there specifically for the programme. Film set tours are also available.

Editor’s Picks:


shopping picks

From left to right: Maboneng, a Maxhosa by Laduma sweater, Black Coffee fashion.

Where to shop

Kramerville design district

Hyde Park Corner


Black Coffee

Anatomy Design

Maxhosa by Laduma

Suzaan Heyns

Loincloth & Ashes

Ardmore Design

Art Africa

Love Jozi

Kirsten Goss & Missibaba



Where to eat

View at Four Seasons

The Leopard


What to pack:


what to pack

Clockwise from top left: Jacket, $399, by Zafina. Top, $80, by K&K. Pants, $230, by Verge. See by Chloé boots, $690, from Runway Shoes. Environ Skin EssentiaA Hydrating Clay Masque, $58.

How to get there:

qantas 1

For most of us, air travel still carries a frisson of excitement but in a world of no-frills price wars and budget airlines, it has lost some of its glamour. Not so for passengers travelling with Qantas, who can now expect a touch of luxury when they board their international flight. The airline recognises the difference sleek crew uniforms, luxurious amenity kits and comfy pyjamas make to passengers’ in-flight experience and has partnered with several luxury fashion and beauty brands to up the style ante.

Business class passengers start their journey with an envy-inducing Kate Spade amenity kit for women and Jack Spade kit for men. The colourful pouches – which double as a stylish make-up bag or storage for smartphone cables and chargers long after you’ve landed – contain everything you need to keep fresh during your flight, including ASPAR by Aurora Spa Sweet Orange & Shea Hand Cream, Vanilla & Orange Lip Moisturiser and Ultra Hydrating Face Moisturiser, courtesy of Qantas’ exclusive deal with the luxury Australian beauty brand. And it doesn’t stop there. When it’s time to get some shut-eye, customers can pull on a pair of cotton-rich pyjamas which have been redesigned to feature a long-sleeve raglan-style top and drawstring pants in a more relaxed fit.

travel kits

First class passengers are treated to sleepwear and amenity kits designed by Paris-based Australian fashion designer Martin Grant, who also designed the Qantas crew and pilot uniforms. Grant’s unisex navy and black trim pyjamas are 100 per cent cotton, feature a tailored neckline and tapered silhouette and even come with matching slippers. The male and female amenity kits contain a range of bespoke hydrating ASPAR by Aurora Spa products and also feature Martin Grant-designed travel socks and an eye mask that cups the eyes for optimum comfort and light blockage.

You don’t have to be sitting in business or first to get your hands on a covetable travel accessory, however. A range of four luxury limited-edition silk scarves is available to buy, thanks to Qantas’ ongoing collaboration with edgy Australian fashion brand Bird & Knoll. The scarves feature images of Qantas destinations, including giraffes grazing in South Africa, and retail for $132 each. At 90cm by 90cm, they’re not only the perfect in-flight wrap, they’ll also imbue you with a sense of adventure. So now you know you’ll arrive in style, all you have to do is choose where to go.

Qantas operates frequent flights from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to Johannesburg via Sydney.

Words: Naomi Larkin, Simply You
Photos: Naomi Larkin, Supplied, 123RF Stock Image