Johannesburg, aka Jozi, Jo'burg and E'Goli, once danger central, is transforming. Easing crime rates mean foreign visitors are much more inclined to venture inside the lion's den rather than cower in the airport's transit lounge. The affluent, glamorous, jacaranda-lined The Parks neighbourhood – comprising seven suburbs – just north of the inner city is a perfect place from which to enjoy the city of gold's burgeoning arts, culture and food centres.
Maboneng, meaning "place of light", ten minutes from The Parks, was once a forbidding place of derelict warehouses. Now, the Maboneng Precinct (mabonengprecinct.com) is an urban regeneration marvel – cafes, art galleries, shops and trendy restaurants mix organically with residential buildings. Market on Main (marketonmain.co.za) is a vibrant Sunday produce market.
Nearby, the Saturday Neighbourgoods Market (neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za) is a spin-off of Cape Town's Old Biscuit Mill Neighbourgoods Market. This inner-city hub, with its 15-storey Eduardo Villa mural, offers organic produce, local designers, food and craft beer. Constitution Hill (constitutionhill.org.za) vividly tells the story of South Africa's brutal past and democratic transition. Tours every 30 minutes.
The Leopard (leopardfoodcompany.com) is a relaxed and stylish eatery, serving innovative food. Chef Andrea Burgener's lovingly prepared dishes "amble out of the kitchen". Coobs (coobs.co.za) offers bistro-style seasonal food with most ingredients from the owners' organic farm. DW eleven-thirteen (dw11-13.co.za) has fine dining with a choice of a la carte and degustation. Cube Tasting Kitchen (cubekitchen.co.za) is another fine-dining option with minimalist spaces, and a generous 10-course degustation. For steak, try the popular The Local Grill (local-grill.co.za).
Wits Art Museum (wits.ac.za/wam), part of the Wits University Cultural Precinct in Braamfontein, has a superb collection of African art. Eat at the WAM cafe after your visit. The Market Theatre (markettheatre.co.za), South Africa's "Theatre of the Struggle" and housed in a lovely 1913 building, is renowned internationally for plays such as Woza Albert, Asinamali, Sophiatown and Athol Fugard's award-winning dramas. It's still a hotbed of new dramatic writing. For food, shopping and browsing, 44 Stanley (44stanley.co.za) has a friendly, trendy ambience.
Johannesburg Zoo (jhbzoo.org.za) is a lovely 55 hectares of land in The Parks, with 320 species including the top five fierce, endangered animals. Liliesleaf Farm in the leafy suburb of Rivonia (liliesleaf.co.za) is not as well known as The Apartheid Museum but was once the nerve centre of the liberation struggle.
The beloved salmon-pink Westcliff, which tumbled down the hill, with panoramic views over The Parks and zoo (listen for roaring lions) has been renovated to become the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff (fourseasons.com/johannesburg). The revamp has transformed it into an elegant, contemporary ultra-luxury hotel with modern African-inspired decor in its 117 rooms and suites. The gardens and terraces are still beautiful but the revamp has included a sumptuous spa and fine dining in View and Flames (executive chef Dirk Gieselmann is also ex-chef de cuisine of L'Auberge de l'Ill, the three-starred Michelin restaurant in Alsace, France). Rooms from $354.
Grab a "chicnic" from the Westcliff Deli (fourseasonsevents.co.za) and walk to the zoo (from $45 a person).
Alison Stewart was a guest of Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff and South Africa Airways