Johannesburg has a pretty bad reputation, and most people associate the city with crime and poverty. But the city is changing. It started with little pockets of creativity, that have now grown into whole precincts. Much of the change is rooted in art, creativity and food, with markets and art galleries at its core. While there are certainly areas that should be avoided, as in all large cities, there are many places that would be a shame to miss. These are some of my favourites:
On Constitution Hill, just north of downtown, a fort was located during the early days of the colonial rule. It was later converted into a prison, and many political prisoners such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela have spent time here. Much of the prison has been left untouched, and is today an eerie reminder of South Africa's violent past. Next to the prison is the Constitutional Court, a symbol of the new South Africa that has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world. It is open to the public, and also houses a beautiful collection of South Africa art works.
Maboneng is located in the eastern part of downtown Joburg. It started as a food market and art gallery, and has now grown into a community of apartments, offices, hotels, shops and restaurants. The Sunday market is still the biggest draw card, but there is enough to do here for a visit any day of the week. A number of interesting guided tours of the city also start from here.
Bassline was one of the first developments in the previously run-down downtown area of Joburg. It is considered the ultimate live venue to experience South Africa's finest Jazz and Afro-beat, but also features poetry readings, comedy and impromptu jam sessions. It is located in the Newtown precinct, that is home to a number of restaurants, museums and cultural attractions.
ROOF OF AFRICA
At the top of the carlton Centre, the highest skyscraper in Africa (223 meters and 50 floors), you have a 360 degree bird's eye view of Johannesburg. The building is located in the centre of town, with good parking facilities in the basement. The ticket for the elevator to the top is R15. It's not very well signposted, and can be a little har to find, so ask one of the friendly security guards for directions once you are inside the building. On the bottom floors, there is a shopping centre that is worth spending a bit of time in, if nothing else so for the people watching value.
1 FOX PRECINCT
The Sheds on Fox Street is located in the large warehouses that were used by the mining industry in the mid to late 1800's. Art, craft and food is the main focus, giving local designers and fabrics centre stage. Don't miss the new kid on the foodie block: Urbanology that serves asian-inspired tapas in an absolutely fabulous space that also hosts the microbrewery Mad Giant.