The concierges’ guide to Johannesburg #southafrica #joburg @@CityofJoburgZA #travel

A travel guide to Johannesburg’s best attractions, bars, beaches and experiences, as judged by concierges from the city’s best hotels

Johannesburg may struggle to lure the same volume of tourists as Cape Town, but this is a city in the ascent. Regeneration is endowing the area with fresh appeal, the weather is wonderful and, John Simpson assures us, the excitement and energy of the city surpasses Cape Town’s “retirement home” atmosphere. In a further vote of confidence in the destination, British Airways A380 flights to Johannesburg are also being launched this year.

To help the expected influx of new visitors to find their way, concierges from three of Johannesburg’s best hotels share their guides to the best attractions, restaurants and experiences. They are:
Morris Mthembu, head concierge at Hyatt Regency Johannesburg
Kathleen Hedges, head concierge atInterContinental Johannesburg Sandton Towers
Denzil Arendse, head concierge at The Saxon
I’m new here. Tell me something people don’t know about Johannesburg.
 Its one of the most tree-rich cities in the world with exotic plants making up 90 per cent of the vegetation.
Kathleen: Johannesburg has over ten million trees and is the biggest man-made forest in the world.

Which attraction should I definitely make time to see?
 A combined Johannesburg and Soweto tour would be ideal. During it you can visit Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world where two Noble Prize winners once lived – Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.
Kathleen: Visit Maropgeng visitor centre at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, where our ancestors have lived for more than three million years. By coming here, you are coming to the birthplace of humanity. Welcome home.
Denzil: Soweto, South Africa’s most famous township. It is a good place to start to understand the social dynamics of Johannesburg as it contains areas of mass development and opportunity and also areas of extreme poverty.

Which of the “must-visit” attractions should I avoid?
 I’d avoid walking tours generally – they require lot of time and energy as the city is so widespread.
Denzil: The Johannesburg Zoo was once famous for its collection of animals but has since faded and needs a renovation. I think the Pretoria zoo is a much more attractive alternative.

Which cultural attraction would you most recommend?
Lesedi Cultural Village , which is a 45-minute drive from the city centre. It celebrates local cultures and our heritage.
Kathleen: While in Soweto, make time for the remarkable Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum.  The museum provides wonderful insight into the events that led to the famous insurrection and why Pieterson became a symbol for a movement.
Denzil: The Lesedi Cultural Village is a great location for exploring several of the cultures we have in Johannesburg . Here you can experience the way of life in four different cultures, namely the Zulu, Basotho, Xhosa and Pedi.

Where can I take the best picture of Johannesburg?
 On a clear day, the 50-storey Carlton Centre is the best place.
Kathleen: There are wonderful views from the Nelson Mandela Bridge.
Denzil: The peak of Linksfield Ridge on the East Rand of Johannesburg offers 360-degree views of the city.

I’m going to propose to my partner while I’m here – where should I do it?
 At the lush Walter Sisulu Botanical
 Gardens – right by the spectacular waterfalls would be a good place.
Kathleen: The Emmarentia dam is one of the city’s most tranquil spots.  Arrange a picnic and enjoy the magnificent views.
Denzil: On a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over Haartebeesport Dam or Pilanesburg National Park.

I’d like to try something new here – what should I do?
 Visit one of the traditional healers’ centres, called maimai, to learn about our ancient medical traditions and ask healers questions.
Kathleen: If you are brave enough you can bungee jump off the Orlando Towers. You leap from a platform that stands between the two towers of this former power station.
Denzil: The Orlando Towers bungee jump.

I’d like to buy an unusual souvenir – what do you recommend?
 Biltong, a dried meat that a lot of people have never heard of. It can be bought from all major department stores. Another favourite is the beaded doll made by the Ndebele, an indigenous South African tribe renowned for their fine art and beading.
Kathleen: We have a lovely craft market in Nelson Mandela Square where you can buy lovely souvenirs. I’d recommend buying a genuine African elephant hair bracelet which is steeped in legend and traditional significance. The legend of this bracelet dates back to about 1,200 years, and it is believed that people who wear this bracelet are protected against illnesses, misfortunes, and harm.
Denzil: Traditional African hides such as zebra or gemsbok are very popular.

I know crime is a problem in Johannesburg. What precautions should I take?
 Be vigilant. Always be aware of your belongings and surroundings and avoid remote places.
Kathleen: Follow the suggestions of the hotel and do not walk outside alone at night.
Denzil: Like any major city in the world, there are places that should be avoided and others that you can travel freely in. I would recommend travelling with a local or, if possible, with a guide and to stick with the advice of your concierge.

Are there any areas I should avoid?
 Johannesburg city centre at night should be avoided unless accompanied by a local guide.
Kathleen: Johannesburg Central and Hilbrow.
Denzil: Downtown Johannesburg after hours is a notorious area for criminal activity.

What’s the best restaurant in the city right now?
 The Grillhouse offers the best steak in town, Moyo Restaurant is a unique destination for a sophisticated African experience and Sakhumzi Restaurant for the best South African experience. The latter was Nelson Mandela’s favourite.
Kathleen: Pigalle Sandton. The menu is sensational and the dishes impeccably prepared.
Denzil: 500 restaurant at the Saxon is considered among the best restaurants in the country and is an exceptional option here in Johannesburg.

And where’s best for drinks? I don’t want somewhere touristy.
 An evening visit to Soweto to one of the shebeens – an unlicensed bar dating from the Apartheid-era – is ideal. Locals are friendly and you’ll be able to hear a South African perspective on everything from politics to sports.
Kathleen: For cool bars and restaurants head for the suburbs of Parkhurst, Greenside and Melville.
Denzil: The Foundry in Park Town is a favourite of the locals in Johannesburg and stocks a selection of craft beers from around the country, as well as other spirits and a great tapas menu

I’d like to take a day trip from Johannesburg – where should I go?
 Pretoria, our capital city, is a definite must-see. The Union Buildings are currently offering a tour which is especially recommended.
Kathleen: Enjoy a day trip to Pilanesberg National Park, home to healthy populations of lion, leopard, black and white rhino, elephant and buffalo – Africa’s Big Five.
Denzil: The Palace of the Lost City in Sun City is three hours from Johannesburg and contains one of the largest water parks in the country, as well as a casino and Big Five game reserve.

via The Telegraph

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