Johannesburg v Cape Town – Which South African City Should You Visit?

Posted by Jay in Travel on January 31st, 2018


South Africa is an amazing country to visit, this enormous nation is home to so many delights. From it’s geography as the most Southern point of the African continent, to it’s people and the wealth of culture they bring. The most famous of them all being the late Nelson Mandela, the former South African president. When thinking about a trip to South Africa, most people end up with the same dilemma. Which South African city should they visit? The main two contenders are the powerhouses of Johannesburg and Cape Town. Even though these cities are located in the same country, they are rather different. So how will you choose between the two of them? Here are some notes that I made that should help you make up your mind.


Johannesburg, Joburg, or Jozi is the largest of the South African cities and it is also the business capital of the country. You are likely to find many international companies with offices here. As such, you will find a wonderful mix of local South Africans, as well as visitors from all around the world. This diversity, and the large population of Johannesburg means that you will never run out of things to do here.



Maboneng Precinct is the cool, hip neighbourhood on the east side of the city. You will find an abundance of creatives collaborating side by side. Artistic and thought provoking artworks, on the street, as well as in galleries. Maboneng is teaming with cultural venues from intimate cinemas, theatres, to performing art centres. Such as the POPArt Centre, a place where you go to watch a comedy show and end up seeing Mos Def. Yes, that really happened to me.



There are a large number of places to pick up some gorgeous African wares dotted all around the city. The fashion district is home to many shops and schools where you can buy and learn all things fabric and textiles. As I had neither the time nor the inclination to learn how to make clothes, I bought them instead! I was able to buy an already made dress, and had a jumpsuit tailored. I was walking around like the African Queen, I am.



Soweto is a township in the city, it is actually an abbreviation for South Western Townships. This was the home of two Nobel Peace Prize Winners; Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela. Both of these accomplished men lived on the same road, Vilakazi Street. No other place in the world can boast such a claim! A large part of the fight against apartheid was fought within Soweto, and as such is an important place in South African history. Walking through Orlando West, you can visit the different museums such as Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum and Nelson Mandela Museum commonly known as Mandela House. In my opinion, you can’t really get the full South African experience without coming here.



During my time there, I felt such a sense of belonging in Johannesburg. I was staying at a hostel in Maboneng where I was regularly referred to “sis”. It was a lovely feeling being so wholly welcomed in another African country. Everywhere I went, there were faces that looked like mine and were smiling right back at me. Definitely a joy to experience travelling as a black woman. Obviously, that did not happen near the financial district, as they never smile anywhere!


Johannesburg is both accessible and inaccessible. The posher, more gentrified areas obviously had great roads and pavements, such as the financial district. When you go to places with less money invested, the pavements are a lot more jagged and not as accessible. Meaning that wheelchair users may find themselves having to go onto the road to avoid accidents. 

Many buses have ramps, as well as seat belts for wheelchair users to secure themselves in place. There are taxis available in the city, but none that are adapted to be wheelchair accessible. For those with manual wheelchairs, the drivers should help you un/load your chair.

The Gautrain is a golden accessible delight, and a jewel in Johannesburg’s transportation crown. The train is frequent and incredibly fast. It connects the OR Tambo Airport to major business districts and the Northern part of the city. It has step free access and specified seating areas for wheelchair users. But be warned, it does cost a pretty penny!


Despite the name, Cape Town is a city, and a wonderfully natural city at that. Located by the coast, Cape Town offers the hustle and bustle of big city life, but is close enough to nature so that you can get away for the day. From the dizzying heights of the Table Mountain, to the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Town has a lot to offer any visitor.



This beautiful flat topped giant can be seen from nearly everywhere in Cape Town. If you are feeling up to the challenge, you can climb to the top of this behemoth, but it is not for the faint of heart. For those that prefer to take it a little bit easier, you can relax and take a cable car all the way up. The view of the city from Table Mountain is simply unparalleled, you can even see as far as Robben Island on a clear day. Throughout the city, and even on the island itself, you have giant frames that allow you to take pictures with Table Mountain.



You cannot mention the history of South Africa without referencing late President Nelson Mandela. It was here on Robben Island that he was jailed for 27 years, fighting for justice. A tour of Robben Island Museum takes you on a journey through the hardships that Mandela and other freedom fighters faced. A visit here will illustrate the struggle faced by many South Africans on the road to a more united nation. This former prison, now converted to a living museum is a must see.



Being a port city in the Southwestern region of the country, you are able to enjoy all the things that come along with its location. Such as Boulders Beach, which is home to a large penguin colony, a few of whom live for the camera. You can have some amazing seafood, that you know won’t have travelled far to get to your plate. Or spend the best part of the day at the V&A Waterfront shopping mall, with many restaurants, tourist attractions and even an aquarium!


From my experience, Cape Town is much more accessible than Johannesburg in terms of transportation. The MyCiTi transport network was built with accessibility in mind. The buses on the network have space on board to accommodate wheelchairs, as well as ramps that allow level access on and off the buses. The MyCiTi stations have large fare gates that are big enough for wheelchair users, buggies, and those with large pieces of luggage.

I found the pavements to be in much better condition, and didn’t spot any loose tiles. Of course, I didn’t venture beyond the tourist areas, so it may be a different case on the outskirts. There are some areas where there was a large step from the road to the pavement. So it could be possible that you may need to travel a bit further up the road to get sloped access from the pavement to the road and vice versa.



I loved both cities for very different reasons. The natural beauty of Cape Town and it’s surroundings is simply unmatched. But the feeling of belonging in an African city, I only felt when I was in Johannesburg. So I say, choose both! South Africa has so much to offer, so don’t just limit yourself to just these two cities, see it all!

2 Responses

  1. Wiki says:

    Hello ,

    I saw your tweet about animals and thought I will check your website. I like it!

    I love pets. I have two beautiful thai cats called Tammy(female) and Yommo(male). Yommo is 1 year older than Tommy. He acts like a bigger brother for her. 🙂
    I have even created an Instagram account for them ( ) and probably soon they will have more followers than me (kinda funny).

    I wanted to subscribe to your newsletter, but I couldn’t find it. Do you have it?

    Keep up the good work on your blog.


    • Jay says:

      Hey Wiki,

      Thanks for taking the time to check out my website. Animals do seem to get a lot of followers nowadays, so I certainly would not be surprised.

      I will add your email address to my mailing list so that you will be able to get the next newsletter. Thanks for the interest.

      – Jay
      Jay recently posted…What To Do In Antwerp – Part 1My Profile

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