Aerial view of skyscrapers and streets below in Johannesburg's business district

My Secret City: Johannesburg

Affectionately called Jozi or Joburg by locals, Johannesburg is the vibrant heart of South Africa. Alumnus Nuno Da Costa Mousinho (MBA 2020) shares his insider’s guide to his home city.

My favourite museum in Johannesburg is the Apartheid Museum. It’s a world-class facility that vividly captures the history of South Africa and the horrific events and human stories that occurred during the apartheid era. For me, it’s an informative, sad and emotional experience to relive South Africa’s sombre history, but the museum also highlights Nelson Mandela’s role during this period. Every time I visit the museum, it restores my faith in humanity as it displays the power of strong leadership, forgiveness, courage, hope and unity which Mandela exemplified.

"Established as a gold-mining settlement, Johannesburg is also called the City of Gold. Today, it offers endless opportunities."

Market on Main in Maboneng is an ideal place to visit if you’re a foodie and enjoy art and fashion. There are various stalls with local South African food and international dishes, such as Spanish, Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Italian and Moroccan. I love to go with friends as we all order something different and share it with the group. If you want to experience local food and flavours, try bunny chows (hollowed-out loaves of bread filled with curry) or boerie rolls (South African sausage with bread rolls).

I love the Rietfontein Nature Reserve located in the suburb of Paulshof. There’s a walking trail that leads to the top of the ridge, which has splendid views of the skyscrapers in Sandton (Johannesburg’s financial district) and Midrand (a city in Johannesburg’s municipality) and is a great spot to watch the sunset. I live close by and it’s my go-to place to quickly escape the concrete jungle and to relax and enjoy nature. The trail is beautiful and peaceful, and if you’re lucky, you might spot wildlife.

Sandton City mall is where I go whenever I need to shop. I always find everything I’m looking for there, from gadgets to on-trend fashion. The mall has over 300 retailers, including international high street labels and luxury brands, and a large food court with lots of choice. After I finish shopping, I usually have a drink or meal at Nelson Mandela Square, which has a wide variety of restaurants and live music during the weekends.

"South Africa is known as the rainbow nation and has 11 official languages!"

Cradle Moon Lakeside Game Lodge is my favourite place to enjoy a Sunday afternoon. The lodge has wildlife and an amazing trail with beautiful views of the lake and mountains. I particularly enjoy swimming in the lake, it’s a refreshing and soothing experience in summer. They also have a restaurant with an amazing view of the lake. Personally, I go there for the superb pizza.

The 947 Ride Joburg, the world's second-largest timed cycle race, is extremely popular and fun. The event is held annually during the month of November and attracts thousands of participants and spectators. I enjoy the festive atmosphere of the event as it brings family and friends together either to take part in the race or to support the cyclists and their chosen foundations or charities.

I enjoy spending the day at the Sun City resort, which is only a two-hour drive from Johannesburg. The resort has a water park, golf courses, entertainment centre, casino, spa, restaurants and bars. It also has outdoor activities such as safari tours, ziplining and quad biking. I have many warm and fun-filled memories from this resort as my parents used to take my siblings and I there when we were little. If you’re looking for a beautiful place to relax, have fun and create memories with your loved ones, I highly recommend this resort.

My food & drink hit list

Drinks with a view
I love to go to Alto234, the highest urban rooftop bar in Africa. Located in the heart of Sandton, it’s a wonderful place to destress and relax after a long day at work, and I like to enjoy a drink while soaking up the breathtaking 360-degree views of the city. I absolutely love watching the beautiful and peaceful African sunsets from the deck. I particularly enjoy having a glass of one of our local wines such as Eikendal Charisma, which is bold and fruity.

"I really enjoy a good 'braai', a South African barbecue. A traditional braai is cooked on local wood but sometimes charcoal is used – both give the meat a distinct, delicious flavour."

Local dishes
As well as bunny chow and boerie rolls, my favourite local dishes are malva pudding (apricot jam sponge), rusks (twice-baked bread) and biltong (South African jerky). I really enjoy the rich, spicy and fruity taste of bobotie (spicy minced meat with raisins baked with an egg-based topping) and highly recommend trying this dish.

A special dinner
The Aurum restaurant in Sandton is my favourite place to enjoy a special three-course dinner with family or friends. The aesthetics of the restaurant are lovely, and it has a cool atmosphere. The fusion of different flavours and ingredients coupled with outstanding plating techniques, always takes me on a journey through the different European cuisines. I recommend their Frutti di Mare pasta dish if you enjoy Italian food and seafood.

Local drink
Amarula Don Pedro is a traditional South African liqueur made from the marula fruit. I enjoy having it as a cocktail and love the rich, fruity and creamy flavour and its milk-like texture. It’s available at most bars, restaurants and at the duty-free shops at the airports and is an excellent choice for a souvenir.

This article was first published March 2022. All opinions expressed are the views of the author and are not endorsed by the University of Glasgow.

Entrance to the Apartheid Museum, with two doorways: one with a sign above reading ;Whites' and one 'Non-whites' [Photo: Shutterstock]

Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum tells the story of the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa. In addition to permanent and temporary exhibitions, the museum features an exhibition on Nelson Mandela.

Photo of the outside of Nelson Mandela's house in Soweto [Photo: Shutterstock]

The Nelson Mandela National Museum, known as Mandela House, is the house on Vilakazi Street, Soweto, where Mandela lived from 1946 to 1962. 

Outdoor view of the buildings of the former jail at Constitution Hill [Photo: Shutterstock]

Constitution Hill is a living museum that tells the story of South Africa’s journey to democracy, and is the current home of the country's Constitutional Court. A former prison, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi both spent time incarcerated there.

Outside Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum in Soweto Johannesburg [Photo: Shutterstock]

The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, situated in Soweto, commemorates the role of South Africa's students in the struggle against apartheid. It memorialises the school children who were killed by police during a peaceful protest in 1976. Once of the first to be killed was 12-year-old Hector Pieterson.

Sunset over Sandton city skylines [Photo: Shutterstock]

Sandton is the financial district of Johannesburg and home to some of the city's skyscrapers. Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton features a six-metre-high bronze statue of Mandela.

Letters spelling out Maboneng strung across a street in the district, with a large mural of a man painted on an end gable in the background [Photo: Shutterstock]

The Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg is a hip urban enclave and an incredible example of urban regeneration. The area boasts plenty of shops and eateries with rooftop views. Maboneng is a seSotho word meaning 'place of light'.

Aerial sunrise scene of Sun City with flare and ray from the sunrise [Photo: Shutterstock]

Located around 125 miles (200 kilometres) from Johannesburg, Sun City is a luxury holiday resort and home to attractions and events, and is close to the Pilanesberg National Park and the Madikwe Game Reserve.

Two bunny chows (hollowed-out bread roll filled with curry) dished up on a plate [Photo: Shutterstock]

Bunny Chow, often known simply as 'bunny', is a South African fast food dish consisting of a hollowed-out loaf of bread filled with either meat or vegetarian curry.

Close up of bobotie, a South African dish made primarily of curried minced meat topped with milk and egg mixture [Photo: Shutterstock]

Pronounced ba-boor-tea, bobotie is a hearty and comforting baked South African dish made primarily of curried minced meat and fruit, topped with a milk and egg mixture.

This article was first published March 2022.

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