Johannesburg & Cape Town
The Republic of South Africa, or as the locals like to call it in slang, “Mzansi”, can be a truly amazing place – if you are in the right places of course! Like every country, it has its good and its bad, but I will concentrate on the good because there is so much that this beautiful country has to offer and I have met a lot of people in my travels who would like to visit South Africa, so this will be the unofficial guide to the magic of Mzansi.
Johannesburg is the biggest city in South Africa and goes by the nicknames “Jo’burg” or “Jozi”. The greater Johannesburg area has around 10 million people living there and is the city that brings most of the country’s GDP, as this is where most of the businesses are and economy is more than any other city in the country. It is also known as ‘The city of gold’ but this is also because it began as a 19th century gold-mining settlement. There is a township called Soweto where leaders like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived. Here you can also find the Mandela House Museum, which was Mandela’s former home.
Other museums in this city worth seeing are the Apartheid Museum (which illustrates the story of 20th Century South Africa and the now abolished apartheid system), Hector Pieterson Museum (chronicles the 1976 Soweto student uprising), Constitution Hill (a century-old prison which is now the High Court and hosts tours and exhibitions on local history), Museum Africa (which has cultural history, geology and photography collections), SAB World of Beer (museum of beer, operated by South African Breweries), and this is just some of them!
If you’re into nature and wildlife you can visit the Lion Park (a 600 hectare wildlife conservation area for lions), the Botanical Gardens (a good place for spending time outdoors to have picnics, canoeing, cycling and play), Johannesburg Zoo (with around 320 species of animals here), Zoo Lake (enjoy a game of bowls or have a few beers outdoors), Melville Koppies (great for hiking) and I would highly recommend also visiting the Cradle of Humankind which is 50 km out of Johannesburg where you will find caves and primate fossils.
Attractions that would also be worth a visit would be Gold Reef City theme park where one would find many different rollercoasters and thrill rides as well as 4D theater. One ride I say you would have to try once is the Tower of Terror! I’ll just leave it at that. Neighbourgoods is a craft market worth a visit, and the many bars and nightclubs (which I won’t name because there are many) that you can visit in the Fourways, Sandton and Rosebank areas.
So Cape Town, the capital of South Africa and a beautiful coastal city, is one of the most multicultural cities in the world and in 2014 it was named the best place in the world to visit by both the American New York Times and the British Daily Telegraph.
One of the most popular tourist attractions Cape Town has is Table Mountain, which is the flat-topped mountain overlooking the city. Great for hiking and also offers the cableway to the top. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden offers walking trails with rare plant species and mountain views. A really good beach to visit is Boulders Beach, which is sheltered between granite boulders and here you will also find free-roaming colony of penguins. There is also Cape Point, which is the southern end of the Cape Peninsula, and here it is a magnificent sight – as this is the point where the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet and you can really see the different colours of the water!
There is a suburb called Constantia and this is where a large amount of wine is produced in Cape Town, and is a great place to visit for the Constantia Wine Route which links the many wineries in the Constantia Valley. There are also many beaches in Cape Town to visit for those who enjoy surfing such as Muizenberg Beach, which has some surf schools as well as restaurants, bars and coffee shops to chill. I know many people who say that Muizenberg is great to surf, as well as a good place to learn surfing, as the waves are not extremely big.
For the nightlife enthusiasts, there are some great places to visit such as Camps Bay. It is right by the beach and Camps Bay has many classy and stylish clubs and cocktail bars to visit. Cape Town also has a part in its city centre called Long Street. Now they don’t call it Long Street for nothing, it’s basically a street that extends a few kilometres and is filled with various clubs, bars, pubs and restaurants. A great place to visit if you want a good time, but not sure exactly what you’re in the mood for.
I need to point out just before I end that although South Africa is a wonderful place, it is also a country where crime is high. So if you decide to visit the different parts of the country, make sure you’re with someone who knows the country well, or travel in groups for safety. There’s so much more hidden gems the country offers, but that you’ll have to discover for your own in Mzansi!