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A Johannesburg city guide – people, parks and culture

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South Africa is a rainbow nation: a country intertwined with many cultures and traditions, but proudly united in one nation.  The country’s colorful communities are reflected in its cities, particularly in Johannesburg.  As the largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg is at the forefront of all things commercial, economic and cultural.  A visit to the city is as varied as its people, with hundreds of attractions, from its notable shopping centers to its architecture, historical sites to its inner-city flora.

Peter Thompson

My Destination local expert on




Soweto is the community of the people, and is a neighborhood of great historical importance. The eclectic area is a melting pot of African cultures, including Afrikaans, Zulu, Tswana, Sotho, Tsonga and Venda people. Visitors gather in the Nelson Mandela Museum to learn about the anti-apartheid cause fought so hard by the ex-president. Similarly, The Freedom Charter Memorial in the Walter Sisulu Square is a tick-list favorite.




The Newtown neighborhood is a recently developed area of Johannesburg that is making a swift comeback. It was once considered an area where visitors were encouraged to have their wits about them, but has since had both time and money spent on making it into an up and coming neighborhood, with attractions such as the Mandela Bridge and Market Theatre as must-visits. As the financial district of the city, Newtown is now a funky, youthful area with a large selection of restaurants and attractions. The Oriental Plaza is a popular hang-out, where bartering in the independently owned stores is the done thing.




Affectionately referred to as ‘Braamies’, the Braamfontein district in downtown Johannesburg is the center for arts and culture. It is home to various collages and theaters, like the Johannesburg Theatre, as well as being a place visited by many for a spot of coffee, lunch or dinner at one of the trendy eateries. Braamfontein throws the Neighbor Goods Market on Saturdays, where food stalls and watering holes fuel the growing crowd. It is also a corporate area of Johannesburg, with office block and businesses in abundance.


Rosebank – the parks suburbs


The Rosebank area is a charming up-market suburb located in the north part of the city. The area is brimming with shopping outlets, from malls to boutiques, and has an array of luxury accommodations to choose from. The most prestigious shopping attraction is The Mall of Rosebank and its accompanying The Zone @ Rosebank entertainment center, where high-end designers sell their clothes and those weary of shopping can relax in the on-site cinemas. There are several parks and lakes in this area, such as the Zoo Lake and the Emmerentia Dam, and a walk around the National Johannesburg Botanical Gardens is worthwhile.




A high profile business district, Sandton is full of banks and industry experts. It is made up of impressive multi-storey buildings and its streets are alive with locals hurrying to their next appointment. Visitors go there for the Nelson Mandela Square, where the Italian style piazza is a pleasant contrast to the surrounding corporate appearance. It is also where you’ll find the imposing bronze statue of Nelson Madela himself, watching over the community and reminding everyone of South Africa’s diverse nation. Directly opposite is the Sandton City shopping centre, a heaven for those on the hunt for a sparkly new purchase.