Long known as a quick overnight stop for safari-bound travelers, Johannesburg has evolved into a dynamic metropolis worthy of an extended layover. Though the city famously imploded in the 1990’s, Joburg has reemerged with a thriving arts and culture scene, thanks to the innovative designers and developers who have led the city’s revivification. Plus, last summer’s World Cup brought new infrastructure and a clutch of sophisticated hotels and restaurants.
Check In: The all-suite Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa (doubles from $1,167), set on six acres of landscaped gardens in the northern Sandhurst neighborhood, is just a 15-minute train ride from the O. R. Tambo International Airport, thanks to the new Gautrain (gautrain.co.za; $14) mass-transit system. The Saxon is where Nelson Mandela completed Long Walk to Freedom following his release from prison in 1990. In nearby Sandton, just steps from the Gautrain, the Great Value Radisson Blu Gautrain (doubles from $184) opened in May, with bright, spacious guest rooms and a popular outdoor terrace. Another recent arrival is the sleek Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton (doubles from $350). All 290 guest rooms have large windows that overlook the skyline and surrounding veld.
Lunch: Hop in a cab for a five-minute drive to Moemas (lunch for two $24), a pocket-size café and bakery in upscale Parktown North. Photo-ready sweets like raspberry-coulis meringues and bread-and-butter pudding are the top sellers—but don’t skip the inventive salads, such as dill-infused couscous with butternut squash and caramelized onions.