24 hours in Johannesburg
Written by Tess Paterson Illustration by Patrick Hruby
Known as Jozi, Johannesburg has burgeoned from a rough mining town to a sophisticated cosmopolitan city. The gold rush of 1886 was the start of a money-making trend, and today the city is the economic powerhouse of sub-Saharan Africa.
Johannesburg is home to around 4 million people, and its high-energy bustle spreads south from the city centre towards Soweto, and north to Sandton – the flash business district where towering skyscrapers overlook the country’s oldest township, Alexandra First and third worlds collide in full colour, with informal vendors co-existing with sleek shopping malls, packed minibuses vying for space with luxury sedans. The vibrant hum is punctuated by vuvuzelas, the cry of hadedas, and a dozen different languages. Renowned for its sunny climate, an estimated 10 million trees provide the biggest man-made urban forest in the world. Like anyone with a complicated past and a generous heart, ‘Jozi’ is well worth getting to know.
Johannesburg, South Africa
The Gautrain connects OR Tambo International Airport with Sandton, Rosebank, and Pretoria. Metrorail, the mass commuter service, is not an option for tourist destinations.
Metrobus operates set routes on a fixed timetable seven days a week, with most journeys originating at Gandhi Square in the centre of Johannesburg. Infrequent during off-peak times.
Cheap and over-crowded, Johannesburg’s unofficial public transport system moves 70% of its commuters. Destinations are indicated by hand signals; try it once for a true Jozi experience.
By far the priciest way to get around, but fares can be negotiated at the journey’s start. Probably the most reliable option, depending on the individual car.