Expat Life, Johannesburg

Johannesburg Living: It would be a Crime NOT to Tell You

Johannesburg: The Bad Apple

Are you thinking of moving to or visiting Johannesburg?  A lot of people have plenty of concerns about doing so, after all, it has a pretty rotten reputation. If New York is the Big Apple, Johannesburg is perhaps perceived more as the Bad Apple.

Much of what you hear in the media shrieks of rampant crime, ugly urbanity and vast divides between rich and poor. A new city, with new money it’s the brash new kid on the block, offending the refined and established sensibilities of Cape Town.  But right now, I’m not going to tell you about any of that. This is going to be the glass half full portrait of Johannesburg.

Most Violent Cities in the World

A couple of interesting reports were released at the backend of 2014. The first was Business Insider’s list of the 50 most violent cities in the world. War zones were excluded and the calculations were based on murder rates (I know, cheerful reading).

South African seaside city, Durban ranked 48th most violent. Port Elizabeth was 41st on the list and Cape Town with its mountain and its beaches and its wine lands and its booming tourist industry came in at…number 20. Johannesburg didn’t rank at all.

Every considered zipping to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? Checking out the jazz scene? Tasting some of that famous Creole cuisine? New Orleans came in at number 26. Just saying.

Most Inspiring Cities in the World

However, an alternative survey ranked Johannesburg at number 2. That would be 2nd place in the Worlds’s 50 most INSPIRING cities index. Glorious Istanbul, with its stunning architecture, fabulous cuisine and mighty Bosphorus only ranked 6th.

There is a vibrant energy in Johannesburg. You can feel the hum. It manifests itself by bursting through in the most unexpected parts of the city. Leading the way in urban regeneration is the inspiring Maboneng Precinct.

Maboneng means Place of Light and the artistic and the entrepreneurial are flocking there, revitalising previous no-go streets one building at a time. Other areas such as Newtown and Braamfontein are also benefitting from investment and improvement increasingly attracting both local and foreign visitors.

Street art grafiti in Johannesburg

The brutality of Apartheid has given birth to some of Jo’burgs biggest tourist draws. The Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pieterson Memorial to the 1976 Student Uprising, Lilliesleaf Farm and Constitution Hill are all well worth a visit.

inside Nelson Mandela's room at Liliesleaf Farm Johannesburg South Africa

Great Things in Johannesburg

Generally the weather is great, the people are friendly and welcoming and there is plenty to do whether you’re a sports nut, culture vulture, adrenaline junkie or wildlife lover.

For the foodies, there are some fabulous restaurants, although the vista will often be disappointing. The delectable DW Eleven 13 for example is windowless and many others look out upon concrete car parks or the inside of shopping malls, but the food is excellent and relatively affordable.

Running and cycling are both enormously popular and there are plenty of local groups and clubs that you can join. If you want to watch sport, Johannesburg has both the FNB stadium and the Calabash for hosting world class sporting events.

Theatres and music venues are dotted about the city if you want culture. If you are looking for a bit of a thrill, you can try bungee jumping from the Orlando cooling towers. We’re also spoiled for choice with a selection of zoos and animal sanctuaries where you can get up close with all sorts of creatures.

Golden Delicious

So there you go, it may be an apple with a few bumps and bruises, but otherwise it’s a bit of a Golden Delicious.  Try it, you might like it.

*Golden Delicious is a variety of apple.

8 thoughts on “Johannesburg Living: It would be a Crime NOT to Tell You”

  1. Its like reading my own thoughts! I am forever telling people how misconstrued Joburg is. I have been here since 2013, and have fallen in love with this vibrant city. There is so much to see and do…its amazing. Good to find another expat echo the same thoughts. Welcome to Jozi 🙂


    1. Thank you! Agreed, often it’s only the bad news that gets out. There are lots of great things here and for us expats who are here for a while, plenty of interesting new experiences to keep us busy.


  2. Thanks for sharing!! I hadn’t come across the “inspiring” city survey, but did know that Jozi was no longer on the “50 most dangerous cities” list… )(people have been bragging about it at work for weeks…) Glad to see that we are all passing the good word! This city is like no other… Disheartening at times, but so vibrant and energetic that you can’t help but fall in love with her!


  3. Thanks for dropping by…and as I type this there is yet another beautiful sunrise outside. Jo’burg does indeed have a lot going for her Vincent – she’s a bit of a rough diamond, but her charms soon shine through and work their magic don’t they?


  4. People don’t believe me when I tell them how much more dengerous Cape Town is that Johannesburg. And I think Joburg is definitely the young, hipper place – I think of Cape Town as more staid and established. Not sure what Pretoria is, the sort of keen younger sister wanting to keep up! Thank you for linking up with the first ever Stories from Blogging Africa linky.


  5. Living in a fellow ‘bad apple’ city in Africa, Nairobi, means that I can sympathise with a place getting such a bad rap. I visited joburg and thought it was extremely hip and great fun. Life is never boring in Nairobi, frustrating sometimes, sad sometimes, but never boring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nairobi is on my long ‘Africa Hit List’. I’ve heard plenty of positive things about it from friends who’ve lived there. Yes, Jo’burg is fun…and hip (me, not so hip, but love it anyway).


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