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Cosmopolitan Johannesburg (also known as Jo’burg or Jozi) sprawls for miles, sprouting upper-income suburbs like satellite towns – one of them, sophisticated Sandton, is the business and economic capital of South Africa. Soweto, home to most of Johannesburg’s black population, lies to the southwest, a 20 square km conglomeration of townships with homes that range from millionaire mansions and neat middle-income housing to the tin shacks of squatter camps. The city built on gold has seen its landmark yellow mine dumps recycled and replaced by skyrise buildings and glitzy shopping malls, and its recent apartheid history remembered in superb new museums. Soaring chrome and glass buildings, housing opulent international hotels and corporate giants, pepper the leafy streets of a string of exclusive northern suburbs – among them, rich Rosebank, elite Sandhurst, bohemian Melrose Village and foody Greenside. Across a canopy of green, the horizon is spiked by the outline of downtown Johannesburg, slowly stirring from its no-go dilapidation. Six-lane highways and swirling freeways indicate the importance of the car.
The city built on gold has seen its landmark yellow mine dumps recycled and replaced by skyrise buildings and glitzy shopping malls, and its recent apartheid history remembered in superb new museums.
In this cosmopolitan city of myriad cuisines you’ll find traditional Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Indian and Chinese through to authentic Thai and Argentinean. South Africans are great meat eaters, so steak houses flourish. Greenside is packed with smart restaurants, but all the northern suburbs have their stars. Melville, Parktown North, Melrose Arch and trendy Parkhurst are particularly good locations.
Joburg's cafe culture is booming, with hip coffee shops (some with on-site stores and even book shops) and casual eateries aplenty. Having brunch is in, so finding a suitable venue in the neighbourhood you're in shouldn't be of much difficulty.
Jozi boasts a very lively nightlife. From the sleek bars of top-notch hotels to shebeens (informal drinking places, usually in someone’s front room) in Soweto, whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Jozi. Melville’s Seventh Street is popular with night owls, while Rosebank, Rivonia, Norwood and Orange Grove attract the more affluent party crowd. Soweto has crowded bars and live jazz, but it is only advisable to go there on an organised tour.
From upmarket malls to street markets, via designer fashion, crafts, curios and lovely things for the home, Johannesburg is a paradise for shoppers. Mall culture distinguishes this city of dedicated shoppers. Sandton City and its adjacent Nelson Mandela Square is one of the largest shopping centres in the southern hemisphere. The packed African Crafts Market lies next to the stylish Mall of Rosebank, which takes on new vibes on Sundays and public holidays when the lively Rooftop Market is in full swing. Norwood’s Grant Avenue is good for antiques and Parkhurst’s Fourth Avenue for collectables and interior design. Go to The African Toyshop on Stanley Avenue, Milpark, for toys as works of art Art Africa on Tyrone Avenue in Parkview for a dazzling array of ethnic arts and crafts and Kim Sacks Gallery in Parkwood for excellent tribal African art. Keep all the receipts of your shop purchases, as visitors can reclaim the tax paid on departure at the airport.
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