South Africa's gritty, non-stop capital of business and commerce, Johannesburg is not the prettiest city you'll ever see.
Nor is the city the locals call Jozi the most relaxing place on earth: there's a good reason why the police quietly advise drivers to look both ways and accelerate if they come to a red traffic light. But if sheer urban buzz lights your fire, this intriguing, exciting melting pot of races, cultures, languages and lifestyles is a place you need to discover.
Founded on gold in 1886, Johannesburg has sprawled across the high plateau of Gauteng province to become the biggest city in the world without a river or a sea coast. To this day it remains the commercial engine room of South Africa, a city which accounts for 10 percent of the economic production of Sub-Saharan Africa, and claims most of the continent's tallest skyscrapers. But away from the built up central business district, Johannesburg reveals a softer side, with tree-shaded suburbs, parks and gardens that add up to create one of the leafiest cities in the world.
Attractions during daylight hours include the superbly poignant Apartheid Museum, newly-revamped Constitution Hill, where the prison that once housed both Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi has found a more noble purpose as the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and the Johannesburg Art Gallery, the biggest gallery in Africa. Meanwhile, urban renewal projects, like the excellent Neighbourgoods market in Braamfontein are breathing new life into areas of downtown Johannesburg that were once considered no-go zones.
Jozi really lights up at night, but it's still best to go out in convoy, so join a tour of Soweto nightspots or hook up with some locals and hit the restaurants and clubs in trendy Melville. A warm welcome awaits in Johannesburg – a true city of the world!