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.
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.
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.
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.
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 DW13 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 spoilt for choice with a selection of zoos and animal sanctuaries where you can get up close with all sorts of creatures.
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.