Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, is dynamic, energetic and full of things to do. Here, you can go bungee jumping off a cooling tower one day, and explore an amusement park built on a former goldmine the next. The inner city neighbourhoods are hotbeds of art, live music and culture, while the peaceful northern suburbs are known for purple-blossomed jacaranda trees and lush parks where ibises strut freely. It's also a great place to learn about South Africa's apartheid history, with lots of interesting museums tackling it head-on.
Hostels in Johannesburg are fun and friendly. You can stay in a '70s mansion built by a mafia boss, a traditional wooden lodge or a concept hostel with rooms designed by local artists. Usually they have grounds for relaxing outdoors and learning the art of the South African braai (barbecue). Free events such as walking tours are a great way to see the city with an in-the-know local. Many Johannesburg hostels offer free airport transfers, as well as the standard free Wi-Fi.
The tree-lined streets and art galleries of Johannesburg's northern suburbs are well worth exploring. One of its neighbourhoods is Rosebank, which is known for modern bars and restaurants. As well as upscale shopping malls, there's also a daily African Craft Market where you'll find handmade souvenirs. In the city centre, Braamfontein is a cute little enclave lined with street art, third-wave coffee shops and independent boutiques selling locally designed clothes and trinkets.
The best way to get an overview of Johannesburg is with the hop-on, hop-off bus tour. One of the stops is the Carlton Centre, the tallest building in Africa, with a viewing deck on the 50th floor where you can see right across the city. Another is the arty Braamfontein neighbourhood. The city's famous Soweto township is home to historic attractions like Nelson Mandela's house as well as the buzzing Locrate Market, with its street food stalls and live music.
The easiest way to reach Johannesburg from OR Tambo International Airport is to take the Gautrain to Sandton in the northern suburbs. There are two public buses a day from the airport's bus station to the city centre, run by Metrobus and Putco, although there are private coaches too from companies like Magic Bus, Luxliner and Airport Link which you can book in advance. There are two bus services, or you can use ride-sharing apps such as Uber or metered taxis to get around.