Johannesburg

While the apparent absence of scenery makes Jo’burg a less popular tourist destination than Cape Town or the Kruger Park, it has more than enough to keep even the most demanding traveller occupied.

Carlton Centre

Don’t let the critics fool you – Jo’burg is beautiful too. It’s been named the biggest human-made forest in the world, and looking down over the trees, you can almost forget you’re in a major city. Get a view over Jo’burg from the top of the Carlton Centre, the tallest building in Africa. It costs less than a cappuccino and the view is well worth it.

Soweto

See a different side of Jo’burg with a visit to Soweto – various companies offer tours by bus or bike. In addition to the opportunity to explore what life is like in South Africa beyond the city suburbs, Soweto is a site of historical importance, featuring Kliptown, where the Freedom Charter was drawn up, and the Hector Petersen Memorial.

The Apartheid Museum

For a sombre insight in South Africa’s history, the Apartheid Museum is an essential destination, giving a thorough overview of the rise and fall of apartheid. The museum makes excellent use of multimedia exhibits to show the political and personal aspects of apartheid. Prepare to be deeply moved.

Lion Park

Because sometimes the Kruger Park is just too far away. By contrast, the Lion Park requires a trip no further than the west of Johannesburg. A sanctuary for a number of important species, the Lion Park gives visitors the chance to see and learn about the animals in their care. In addition to lion, expect to see cheetah, wild dog and hyena, as well as zebra, giraffe, and antelope.

The great outdoors

Jo’burg is also home to a number of beautiful parks, the biggest of which is the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden in Roodepoort. Take an easy hike to the top of the waterfall, and keep your eyes peeled for the resident eagles. For an even more relaxed day, go for a walk or a picnic in the sunshine at Emmarentia Dam, or indulge your inner pirate and go boating on Zoo Lake. Arr.

Newtown

A programme of city regeneration has begun to draw previously suburb-bound locals back into the city centre, and with good reason. Take in a show at the Market Theatre, visit the Sci-Bono Centre, drop in at Museum Africa, or catch some local and international music acts at Bassline. Make sure to see the Nelson Mandela Bridge lit up at night.

Markets

Have brunch with the hipsters at Market on Main on Sunday morning, and take a look at the quirky designer offerings on sale. For a more relaxed feel, try the Rooftop Market at Rosebank Mall, a huge market with everything from souvenirs and handmade goods to old movie posters and antiques. You can also find traditional South African food – at prices locals will pay. If you’re still hungry, eat your fill every Saturday morning at the Jozi Food Market.

Sandton

Spending time in a mall is a central part of the Johannesburg experience. If you’re into shopping, the place to be is Sandton City. Situated in one of the city’s commercial and business hubs, Sandton City hosts upmarket designer boutiques and, well, just about anything else you might want to find. Have lunch in Sandton Square, or just let your inner child run free in the fountains.

Montecasino

Montecasino is a sprawling, faux-Tuscan entertainment complex that Jo’burgers have to at least pretend to hate. But with its arguably tacky yet oddly enchanting recreation of Tuscany by night, it’s a spectacle well worth seeing. It’s hard to argue with its self-description as “Gauteng’s Premier Entertainment Destination”, given that it’s home to cinemas, a casino, and the largest theatre in Africa, the Teatro. The Teatro has hosted a number of world-class musicals featuring South African casts, and the smaller theatres have a steady run of more intimate shows.

Vibe, bru

It’s pronounced “vaab”. Check out trendy 7th Street in Melville for a selection of cafés, cocktail bars and second-hand books, or make your way over to Greenside for dinner and a drink. And if you feel like dancing the night way, either location would be happy to indulge you. It’s all about the vaab, bru.

The Cradle of Humanity

It only takes a short trip from Jo’burg to get back to your roots. Get in touch with your ancient ancestors in the Sterkfontein Caves, where Mrs Ples and Littlefoot were discovered, and spend time exploring the award-winning Maropeng visitor centre.