On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:There are plenty of opportunities to shop in Johannesburg, from European antiques to clothing to wood carvings, so each visitor’s version of the best thing to bring home will differ. Remember that South Africa is a very immigrant-heavy country, so our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest double-checking to see if what you are buying is truly South African if that’s important to you.
One of the most interesting items to bring home is a photograph with wildlife. Head to one of the many wildlife parks, pet a lion cub or a cheetah and enjoy the memory for a lifetime. Not only will the experience resonate long after the vacation is over, but it will be a constant reminder of the amazing African wildlife.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:There are no foods you can’t try in Johannesburg, but there are a few food experiences its residents would be sad to leave behind. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors have picked the five best Johannesburg food experiences you must sample during your visit.
1. High tea. With its European roots, it’s no surprise that tea plays an important role in any South African’s day. Join them and use high tea as a break from your sightseeing activities. Many of Johannesburg’s luxury hotels offer tea service, and there are also a number of tea houses that specialize in making the most of the afternoon.
2. Bobotie. Available everywhere, from the most posh restaurant to the supermarket, this South African staple is a European-based dish that most often involves a hearty stew with a baked egg top. There are vegetarian options with vegetables, but stay true to the country’s roots and try a meat-based variety. It’s a must.
3. Beer. Yes, there is beer everywhere but a trip to Joburg’s oldest bar, The Guildhall, is an experience in itself. Easy to find, it’s located in the city center; it first opened in 1888 and has passed the test of time. The balcony is great for people-watching and soaking up the sun.
4. Organic markets. Take a field trip to one of the many markets that call Johannesburg home. There is an organic food market in almost every suburb of the city; just find one that fits your schedule and venture to a fresh-food haven. They are all-in-one spots for meats, cheeses, oils and pre-made goods like pizza and sweet rolls.
5. Pap. Similar to polenta or grits, it’s a corn-based porridge, popular for breakfast. Eaten by the Bantu population, the rest of the culturally diverse inhabitants of Joburg enjoy the side dish during dinner or a Sunday barbeque known as a braai.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:Johannesburg residents love to spend a night on the town, which means every suburb has an eclectic mix of nightlife, including nightclubs, live music venues and casual neighborhood pubs. Use our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the best nightlife in Johannesburg as an excuse to try more than one.
Jazz clubs are one of the most popular venues in Joburg. The Blues Room in Sandton comes with a hint of New Orleans and features live music every night except Sunday, and Katzy’s in Rosebank features a brick wall interior, rich dark leather and a cigar bar.
If the dance club scene is what you’re craving, head over to Rivonia and its stand-out spot, The Manhattan Club. Its sleek and sexy atmosphere has turned heads since it opened, and it’s a popular international celebrity hangout. With more than eight bars, including a ladies-only cocktail bar, it turns any evening into an event.
Melville, with its casual yet hip atmosphere, is full of places to pop in and find the right place to rest your feet after dinner. It’s also one of the safest areas in Johannesburg for walking, so feel free to meander around, trying the latest trendy cocktail or just relaxing with a cold beer among the many university students who call this western suburb home.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:Johannesburg is a big city, and to see the most in one day, either drive yourself or hire a driver. Considering that even Joburg residents get lost from time to time, the latter will calm your nerves and make for a less hectic day. Begin with a coffee and pastry from the local chain vita e caffè, located in many of the city’s suburbs. Drive over to the Lion Park, where you can view lions, hyenas, zebras and more. As a souvenir, don’t forget to take a photo with a cub or one of the cheetahs that call this place home.
Stop for lunch at Moyo at Melrose Arch — it’s a lively South African spot to dine on authentic food and enjoy the welcoming local hospitality. Try the ox tail and the samosas for something truly delicious. From there move on to the Apartheid Museum. Nothing is more heartbreakingly educational than learning about the historic rise and fall of the South African movement through the films and photographs contained in the museum.
Continue over to The Westcliff Hotel for an afternoon tea that includes sandwiches, scones and pastries, and also take in the view of this sprawling resort. If time allows, head to Constitution Hill to explore the old prison complex. Make a pit stop at your hotel to change your clothes and venture to one of the many restaurants that call Joburg home. Top off the night by dancing to the sound of jazz music.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:With more than 20 shopping complexes in and around the city, shopping is a huge part of life in Johannesburg, and people travel far and wide to spend their money here. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for some local treasures buried among the retail giants, try our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the best shopping in Joberg.
1. Auckland Park. Visit the 44 Stanley Avenue shopping center, which offers clothes, toys and art from around the continent — or better yet, visit one of the top 50 unique bookstores in the world. Die Boekehuis, the Afrikaan word for bookstore, houses an immense collection of books as well as a fireplace, coffee shop and garden.
2. Fleamarkets. Whether it’s the African Craft Market or the Rooftop Market, Rosebank is full of unique shopping markets. For African delights, try porcupine quill lamps and tribal chess sets. The rooftop market, open only on Sundays, has more than 600 stalls and its own international food court.
3. Oriental Plaza. Near the city center sits this plaza that’s ripe for bargaining, something not normally acceptable in the big shopping complexes of Joburg. Each shop is individually owned, not rented, so prices are much lower and bartering is a welcomed activity. Shop here for cheap prices and a lively atmosphere.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:There’s no shortage of things to do with kids in Johannesburg, South African’s largest city. From a children’s theater to animal encounters to amusement parks, children will have just as much fun as their parents on a vacation to Jozi; start by checking out our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best activities for kids:
1. Bird Gardens at Montecasino. Yes, it’s a casino, but the bird exhibits are worth a trip with the kids. While the adults may want to hit the tables, make sure to explore the park with more than 60 species of birds, as well as a collection of reptiles and mammals. The walk-through aviary provides a close-up experience perfect for little safari seekers.
2. Visit the tallest building in Africa. Kids will love seeing the views of Johannesburg. Visit the Carlton Centre’s observation deck on the 50th floor and play “I Spy” with the group before descending down from the 223-meter skyscraper to continue the day, or night.
3. Tour the Johannesburg Zoo. There is no such thing as too many animals when vacationing in Johannesburg. The zoo in Parkview offers tours and programs that rotate each month, and have included a tour of the zoo kitchen and an encounter with the culturally iconic honey badger. Make sure to call ahead for reservations.
4. Sandboarding at Mount Mayhem. Joburg is hours from snow-capped mountains, but that doesn’t deter boarders who crave the thrills of an extreme sport. Trips are on the weekends or on weekdays for groups, and are designed for beginners of all ages with professional instruction.
5. Tour a toyshop. A store unlike any other, The African Toyshop is full of treasures from neighboring countries like Angola, Congo, Kenya and Mozambique. Let the kids pick their own souvenirs, which will mean more to them than the run-of-the-mill T-shirt.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:Johannesburg has a big-city feel, and with that comes an endless amount of ways to spend your time. With more to keep your senses heightened than a normal vacation will allow, here’s a taste of what our Forbes Travel Guide editors consider the five best things to see and do in Joburg:
1. Apartheid Museum. It’s a time still fresh in the minds of many South Africans and others, and it won’t ever be forgotten. The Apartheid Museum opened in 2001, less than 10 years after the old-world system fell apart. Learn about the trials and tribulations of those who suffered under apartheid in a tour of film footage, photographs and first-person accounts.
2. Safari by hot air balloon. If it’s too difficult to travel the 260 miles to Kruger National Park, venture just about 30 minutes to the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as The Cradle of Humankind. From there you will lift off in time to watch the breathtaking South African sunrise while viewing animals like lions and jackals from a safe distance. It’s a memorable experience for everyone.
3. Tour Soweto. Yes, it sounds like a tourist trap, but visiting South Africa’s most famous township is a necessity while visiting Joburg. Safety is key — hire a knowledgeable tour guide who can explain the ins and out of the community that houses more than two million people. While in the township, make it a point to see the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum.
4. Hang out on Constitution Hill. Composed of the Constitution Court and prison complex Number Four, whose walls seep with stories, spend a few hours meandering among some of the most significant cells in South African history, including the women’s jail and Nelson Mandela’s temporary home.
5. Get cultured at the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Not just for a rainy day, the gallery, known to locals as JAG, contains more than 9,000 pieces of art that include photography, paintings, sculptures and ceramics from Rembrandt, Picasso and Goya, to name a few. The best part about the collection is its price: free.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:With the melting pot of cultures that come together in Cape Town comes a vibrant dining scene that delivers a wide array of cuisines. From South African to Indian, you’ll find it in here. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best Cape Town food experiences.
1. Biltong. Similar to American jerky, but less sweet and more tender, the Dutch brought the recipe for Biltong to the Cape over 200 years ago. Play it safe with a beef variety, or be bold and try ostrich or kudu instead.
2. Braai at Mzoli’s. Do as the locals do and braai (the South African version of barbecue) in one of the liveliest townships. Buy your own meat and let the professionals cook it while you sip a cool drink and take in a scene not often viewed by vacationers—or even some natives.
3. Bunny Chow. It has nothing to do with a rabbit, but this popular Indian dish is popular with locals of all nationalities. Consisting of a hollowed loaf of bread filled with curry, the dish is a Cape Town version of soup in a bread bowl.
4. Boerewors Roll. Perfect any time of day, a boerewors roll consists of a spiced sausage in a buttered roll. Try one with chutney or onion relish for some added mouth-watering flavor. It’s one of the cheapest, but most popular snacks, in Cape Town.
5. The Gatsby. You could call it the leftover special, but the Gatsby is one of the most treasured dishes in all of Cape Town. No place makes it exactly the same, but Gatsbys always includes a pile of meat and fries stuffed in a large hoagie-type roll. Believe it or not, some of the best can be found at local gas stations.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:Cape Town is a sophisticated, cultured city where you’ll find plenty of antiques shops and art galleries selling pieces unique to the area that make great souvenirs to bring home. Church Street is lined with cafes, galleries and shops and plenty of open-air vendors selling everything from jewelry to ceramics. Be wary of the trinkets peddled by roadside vendors throughout Cape Town, as most are not truly South African and come from other parts of the continent. Springbok purses and belts, available at the Greensquare Market, are not only original but also truly South African – the deer-like animal is the name of the nation’s beloved union rugby team.
If leather goods don’t excite you, visit the Cape Quarter’s Township Patterns Boutique. Fabric items, including dresses, scarves, handbags and mens’ shirts, are constructed by women who operate sewing co-ops in the neighboring townships. The clothes sold here are a unique blend of South African patterns and colors with contemporary lines and patterns, and something you won’t find elsewhere.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:Capetonians love to enjoy their city’s beautiful nights, and there are three very distinct areas of town to join them. Depending on your mood, and your wardrobe, Forbes Travel Guide’s editors suggest visiting at least one of the neighborhoods below during your visit.
Long Street is an eclectic mix of locals and tourists, with the latter accounting for most of the action, especially during the high season. With an array of nightly music at its bars and clubs, which feature everything from rock cover bands to DJs mixing the latest hits, there’s something for everybody. The dress code on Long Street is surfer casual, and you’ll see plenty of locals in jeans and flip flops at the area’s laidback bars.
For something more upscale, head to Camps Bay and Clifton. Several large dance clubs occupy prime real estate; popular daytime joints, including the posh Café Caprice, become even more hip after dark. The vibe is still casual, but most revelers dress to impress in this neighborhood.
If you are looking for something in between the two, try Greenpoint’s Somerset Road. You won’t get the ocean views, but the crowd knows how to enjoy themselves whether it’s for after-work happy hour or a late-night cocktail.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:To find the best shopping in Cape Town, steer clear of international fashion brands and electronics (which are typically less expensive elsewhere) and focus instead on the deals that can be found in South Africa on jewelry and local crafts—the exchange rate for foreigners means bargains can be easily found. We found an array of eclectic shops and high-end boutiques sprinkled throughout the city that made us wish we had bigger suitcases.
The newly-built, multi-level Cape Quarter shopping center boasts everything from home decor to modern fashion to a Sunday farmer’s market. It’s open seven days per week and is one of a few retail outlets located in the city center. For one-of-a-kind jewelry, a dress for Saturday night or a pair of jeans, the boutiques on Kloof Street know how to delight. The visual displays are inviting and the prices are low enough to turn window shopping into much more.
The best place to bargain shop in the city and one of Cape Town’s most colorful spots, Greenmarket Square is where local vendors set up tents daily to hawk a wide variety of goods to visitors. Jewelry, leather goods and beadwork are the most popular items—and this is the best spot to practice your negotiation skills.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:1. See the penguins at Simon’s Town. Drive south from the city center and relax among a myriad of black and white beauties. A colony of African penguins congregates here on Boulders Beach, where you can view the birds from wooden walkways or learn more about them at a new information center. Our advice is to go early and spend the day at the southern viewing area where you can enjoy the beach as well as the birds. Don’t forget a waterproof camera and sunscreen.
2. Picnic in the Company Gardens. Located next to Parliament, this stretch of green is a great spot to spread out a blanket and enjoy a touch of nature in the middle of the city. Bring a Frisbee for the kids or spend your time playing amateur birdwatcher. Bring your own lunch or enjoy a casual alfresco experience at the garden’s own gourmet snack bar.
3. Visit the Two Oceans Aquarium. Not just for a rainy day, Cape Town’s aquarium is full of ocean-dwelling species that your kids may have only read about in books. The touch pool exhibition lets kids get their hands on ocean plants and species, while the predator exhibit gives you an up close view of the ocean’s survival pecking order. Be sure to visit during one of the daily penguin feedings.
4. Fly high in the Wheel of Excellence. Located at the V&A Waterfront, the Wheel of Excellence is a Ferris wheel with air-conditioned cars that deliver great views of Cape Town. The line is rarely long—perfect for short attention spans.
5. Take surfing lessons in Muizenberg. On the Indian Ocean side of the peninsula, surfers flock to Muizenberg beaches to catch a few waves before beginning the rest of their day. Join them by taking a family surf lesson from one of the local instructors and paddle out among the regulars.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:No matter which time of year you visit, Cape Town is consistently casual. If it’s summer in the southern hemisphere, you should pack lightweight clothing and sun protection like a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. During the rainy fall and winter seasons, don’t forget a rain jacket, which will protect you from the blowing rain better than an umbrella. Comfortable shoes are a year-round must, because Cape Town is a city that’s easy to navigate on foot. For nighttime, men are safe with shorts and a collared shirt at most locations and women are seen in everything from cotton dresses to sequined shorts. Unless you plan on hitting one of the city’s upscale dance clubs, leave the heels behind.
On August 16, 2012Janelle Schroeder answered the question:Cape Town, with its warm sunny days and stunning, mountain-spiked geography, is full of things to see and do, from seeing historic sights to taking part in outdoor adventure activities. These are the ones that will leave you with a well-rounded feel for the city:
1. Visit Table Mountain. You can’t come to Cape Town without seeing its centerpiece, the dramatic, flat-topped Table Mountain. Besides, leaving without a trip to the top would make the locals cringe. The round-trip cableway is the fastest and safest way to do that for those who aren’t up for the all-day hike required to reach the summit. Those in the know visit the mountain at sunset (preferably with a bottle of local chenin blanc) to take in the spectacular natural show.
2. Drive around the peninsula. A tour of the Cape Peninsula delivers views of beautiful beaches and mountains. Start from the city and head east to Muizenberg, then south to Simon’s Town and Cape Point. From there, go over to Chapman’s Peak and into Hout Bay before heading back to the city. The views are nothing short of legendary.
3. Take a sunset cruise. It may sound mundane, but climbing aboard a boat for a sunset cruise is the best way to see Cape Town. There are several companies that provide tours at sunset, which typically last around 90 minutes and leave from the V&A Waterfront. The boat you choose is a personal preference but we recommend the Tigresse, Africa’s largest sailing catamaran.
4. Swim with great white sharks. Jump into a metal cage in the chilly ocean off the coast of Cape Town and find yourself just inches away from the great whites that swim these waters. While the boats leave daily from neighboring Gansbaai, tour operators are happy to play chauffeur to and from Cape Town. Swimming close to these magnificent creatures is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an exhilarating and fascinating experience you won’t forget.
5. Go wine tasting. World famous Stellenbosch, South Africa’s answer to Napa Valley, is just a quick drive from Cape Town's city center. Join one of the local tours to taste the area’s award-winning chenin blancs, or better yet, hire a private driver for the day and create your own.