28 Incredible Things to Do in Johannesburg, South Africa

things to do in johannesburg

COVID-19: The information in this post is updated as much as possible in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. Please check the status of flights, activities etc. before you depart, as entry requirements and restrictions are constantly changing at a fast pace.

Vibrant and colourful Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, and is the industrial and financial hub of the country.

Famously known as Jo’burg or E’Goli, (meaning city of gold due to its history of gold mining), it’s often mistaken as the capital due to being the largest and most populous South African city.

The wealth of arts and culture, and progressive mind-set have made the city much more than just a safari stopover. It is home to some of the best art galleries, museums, soaring skyscrapers, restaurants, studios, and roadside cafes in Africa.

Johannesburg is equally exciting for nature lovers with its numerous gardens, parks, and paleo-anthropological sites. Interestingly, the city is listed by UNESCO the ‘cradle of humankind’.

Scroll on to read 28 Incredible Things to Do in Johannesburg, South Africa:

Table of Contents

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Johannesburg and Gauteng Attractions Maps

Johannesburg Essentials Checklist:

 

 

How to get there?

The quickest way to get to Johannesburg from Cape town is to fly. The flight time is just under two hours. You can also take a bus, which takes about 12 hours, or a train, which takes about 24 hours.

Best time to visit

Winter in South Africa is June-August, when the city experiences cooler average temperatures of 50-64F. However, if you’re looking to escape the cold winters of North America/Europe, Johannesburg is perfect for its hot climate from November-March.

 Is Johannesburg safe for tourists? 

Johannesburg has both safe and unsafe areas; it is important to be aware of which areas you are visiting and take precautions accordingly. Generally speaking, Johannesburg is safe for tourists if you take the necessary precautions.

28 Incredible Things to do in Johannesburg

#1. Stroll around Maboneng Precinct: Johannesburg’s creative hub

 
Maboneng
 

Formerly a run-down neighbourhood, Maboneng is now a perfectly glamorous urban vicinity with excellent shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, hotels, and apartments. The Weekly Market on main offers some of the best food and art from all over the continent, so you can easily spend a few good hours wandering from stall to stall. 

Location: Fox St & Kruger St, City and Suburban, Johannesburg, 2094, South Africa

You can book a guided walking tour of Maboneng here:

#2. Visit the Apartheid Museum

 
apartheid-muesum-entrance
 

The Apartheid Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, which portrays apartheid stories through videos, pictures, and newspaper pieces. Even as you arrive at the entrance, you’re ushered into one of two queues – a ‘whites only’ and a ‘non-whites only’ queue, based on your skin tone. Though this sets an unexpectedly tense vibe, this was in fact the daily norm in South African society not long ago!

Here you can take an educational journey through the dark years of oppression, to the birth of hope and democracy for an unforgettable experience.

 

Location: Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd, Johannesburg, 2001
Admission: R150 (adults), R100 (children)
Opening times: 9am til 5pm, Mon-Sun

Book your half day Apartheid Museum tour here:

#3. Drop by Constitution Hill 

 

Women's_Gaol_Isolation_Cells

In the heart of the city centre, Constitution Hill used to be a prison but now offers a great insight into the remarkable history of South Africa. Three popular museums, called Number 4 Museum, The Old Fort Museum, and the Women’s Goal Museum, showcase the historic movements carried out to protect basic human rights. The site is popular as the prison once held Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

Guided tours of constitutional hill are also offered, and visitors can attend hearings and witness judicial procedures.

 

Location: 11 Kotze St, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2001
Admission: R180 (adults full tour), R120 (adults highlights)
Opening times: 9am til 5pm daily

Why not combine Apartheid Museum with Constitution Hill in this half day guided tour:

#4. Explore Soweto and Mandela House 

 

soweto-johannesburg

The south-western township, known as Soweto, is one of the large shanty towns that are found n all the major cities around the country. Soweto is also famous for being birthplace of South Africa’s struggle for democracy.

About 20km from Johannesburg, it is here where the fight for freedom began, when black labourers were forced to live in segregation in small corrugated iron shacks. Must-see places here include Mandela House, the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, and the house of Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Did you know: Soweto is the ONLY place in the world where two Nobel Prize winners (Mandela and Tutu) lived on the same street? You can read more exciting facts about South Africa in this post.

Mandela-House

Word of advice: Although Soweto has become a popular tourist spot,  its still a shanty town where many indigenous South Africans live in confined spaces, in stark contrast to the large, highly-secured gated compounds where whites live. This is sadly a reflection of the stark inequality that still exists in the country to this day. So please bear in mind the risks involved in visiting an impoverished area with a low police presence – stay in groups where possible.

 

Location: Mandela’s House: 8115 Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto, 1804, South Africa
Admission: Mandela’s House: R60 (adults), R20 (children)
Opening times: Mandela’s House: 9am til 4:45pm daily

Here’s some of my recommendations on booking a guided tour of Soweto if you prefer to be in groups and want to make the most of what this township offers:

#5. Eat a traditional African meal in Soweto 

 

If you visit Soweto, you absolutely must try the local food that so many rave about. Here you’ll discover the ultimate, authentic South African cuisine. The township’s Kota Cuisine Festival draws thousands of visitors each year, all trying to get their hands on the local cuisine of multiple flavours and inspirations. Here’s a clip of the famous Msanzi sandwich at the Kota Cuisine festival below:

#6. Visit the Cradle of Humankind

 

Cradle_Of_Humankind

The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage site that is just an hour’s drive from Johannesburg. There are numerous paleo-anthropological areas, including Sterkfontein, a 40-metre deep stalactite cave linked to a lake.

You can also witness Mrs Ples’s skull, the remains of a being that scientists believe to be a distant relative to all humankind, suspected of having resided in the country about 2.5 million years ago.

A guided excursion trip to the facility gives a fascinating insight into the history of the Cradle of Humankind.

 

Location: Gauteng region
Admission: R175 (adults), R105 (children)
Opening times: 9am til 5pm daily

Book your Cradle of Humankind half day tour tickets here:

Top 10 Independent Cafes in Johannesburg

Top 10 Cheap Eats in Johannesburg

#7. Spend a day in Pretoria

 

pretoria

The nearby city of Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa, located 55 km from Johannesburg. The city has an exceptional array of historical monuments, museums and architecture. The city becomes exceptionally picturesque when the purple jacarandas reach full bloom around mid-October.

While there, be sure to visit the Pretoria National Botanic Garden, Zoo, and Freedom Park, for some of the most incredible views.

Book your Pretoria half day city tour here:

#8. Visit the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden

 

Walter_Sisulu_Botanical_Garden

Named after Walter Sisulu, an anti-apartheid activist who was a champion of South African freedom, The Botanical Garden spans over 300 hectares, offering the perfect surroundings for picnics and relaxing evenings. 

 

Location: Malcolm Rd, Poortview, Roodepoort, 1724
Admission: R70 (adults), free entry for children under 6
Opening times: 8am-5pm daily

#9. Take a day trip to Pilanesberg National Park

 

Pilanesberg_National_Park

Pilanesberg National Park is slightly further away, a 2.5 hours drive from Johannesburg city centre, but is definitely worth the trip.

Home to Africa’s Big Five (leopard, lion, buffalo, elephant, and rhinos), the park has an extraordinary diversity of wildlife with a rich ecosystem and lush vegetation, making it the ideal home for more than 300 species of birds and incredible flora and fauna.

You can plan a day trip and hire a private tour guide to enjoy a truly-memorable experience out in the wild. 

 

Location: Pilanesberg National Park, South Africa
Admission: R80 (adults), R30 (children)
Opening times: 6am-6:30pm (March-April), 6:30am-6pm (May-Aug), 6am-6:30pm (Sept-Oct), 5:30am-7pm (Nov-Feb)

You can book your Pilanesberg Nature Reserve and Game Safari tickets here (includes pick up from Johannesburg)

#10. Lose yourself in Johannesburg Art Gallery, the largest art gallery in sub-saharan Africa

 

Johannesburg_Art_Gallery

Johannesburg Art Gallery holds the largest art collection in sub-saharan Africa. Over 100 years old the gallery showcases around 10,000 art pieces, including masterpieces belonging to both local and international artists.

 

Location: Cnr Klein and King George Streets Joubert Park, 2044
Admission: R80 (adults), R45 (children)
Opening times: 10am-5pm daily (closed on Mondays)

#11. Ride the hop-on hop-off bus

 

Johannesburg-City-Hop-On-Hop-Off-Tour

What’s better than a quick yet detailed tour of this beautiful and lively city? You can enjoy the panoramic views on offer with numerous stops so you can learn about the history and take some memorable pictures at all the major landmarks in the city on these comfortable and easily accessible double-deckers. This is perfect for those short on time or don’t want to do too much walking, or spending too long travelling to get around such a large city.

 

Website: citysightseeing.co.za

There are several bus tour options available to suit your itinerary, here’s a couple I highly recommend:

#12. Indulge in the city flavours at Neighbourgoods Market

 

neighbourgoods-market

If you’re longing to try some delicious, authentic South African food in the heart of the city, there is no better place to be than the Neighbourgoods Market, also known as the ‘playground’.

It is only open on Saturdays and Sundays mind, and you can explore the markets till late at night. You can buy fresh produce like fruits and vegetables here, as well as street food, drinks, and more.

 

Website: neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za
Admission: Free
Opening times: 9am-4pm (Saturdays), 10am-4pm (Sundays)

Family things to do in Johannesburg

Here’s a list of fun outdoor activities Johannesburg as well as family-friendly things to see and do:

 

#13. Spark Your Kids’ Curiosity at Sci-Bono Discovery Centre

The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre makes for a wonderful and educational day out for kids. Offering numerous interactive activities, there’s even workshops that offer kids an in-depth understanding of mathematics, science, and technology. The discovery centre can be visited all week from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm.

 

 

#14. Thrilling adventures at Gold Reef City

 

theme-park-johannesburg

Gold Reef City is located a few miles from the city centre and offers a thrilling experience with historical exhibits and numerous other attractions.

The theme park is the ultimate family day out, packed with rides, a trampoline park, a bowling alley, rollercoasters, a zoo, and an old shaft of the crown mines. The park also offers a hotel for staying the night and a restaurant.

#15. Go Ape Aerial Forest Park

Looking for alternative fun and exciting ways to spend quality time with your family and friends? Head to Go Ape Aerial Forest Park.

It has numerous courses and platforms with obstacles at different levels. It’s truly a test of your physical and physiological strength whilst conforming to international safety standards.

#16. Happy Island Waterworld

How do you spend a hot sunny day somewhere refreshing and soaked in water? Happy Island Waterworld is the place to be for families. 

 #17. Visit the Crazy Kidz Farmyard

Crazy Kidz Farmyard is ideal for families with toddlers and younger kids looking for something more chilled, quiet and affordable, and is especially ideal for kids who are too young for the big safaris.

Unusual things to do in Johannesburg

Now here’s some of the more unusual Joburg activities and fun things to do in Gauteng region:

 

#18. Visit a Victorian House Museum

 

localpic_vichouse-2

Dedicated to preserving the history and culture of the Victorian era, the Lindfield Victorian House Museum is a unique place that features period-appropriate furniture, decorations, and artwork. Visitors can also explore the home’s sprawling gardens.

 

 

#19. Get lost at Hashtag Escape 

Escape rooms are exciting team-building activities. The team or group of friends is locked in a room, and you will have to solve mysteries and puzzles to get out of the room in one hour. Hashtag Escape offers 4 different rooms with varying difficulty levels.

 

 

#20. Take a hot air balloon ride 

A hot air balloon ride is a glorious way to witness the the incredible panoramic views of Joburg. You can even go on a balloon safari – an excellent alternative to the regular safari that offers a whole different perspective.

 

 

#21. See the Kromdraai Gold Mine 

Kromdraai Gold Mine is the oldest gold mine in South Africa. Discovered in 1884, it has churned out more than 30 million ounces of gold since its discovery. The Kromdraai Gold Mine is located in the Witwatersrand Basin, at the world’s largest gold deposit.

 

 

#22. Vredefort Dome, the world’s oldest and largest asteroid site 

Vredefort Dome is the largest and oldest asteroid site in the world. It was created when a large asteroid slammed into Earth about two billion years ago. The impact left a huge crater that is now filled with water. You can now visit this unusual and fascinating place and learn more about asteroid and the effects it has had on the area over the years.

 

 

#23. Pay a visit to Gandhi’s House

 

Satyagraha_House

The Satyagraha House was built in 1907 by Gandhi’s friend and fellow activist, Herman Kallenbach. The two men shared a close relationship, with Kallenbach helping Gandhi finance his legal studies in England.

Gandhi lived in this house with his wife and children for five years. It was declared a National Monument in 1973.

Other Things to See & Do in Johannesburg:

#24. Honeydew Mazes – open on weekends and general holidays so you can easily go without booking in advance. The giant maze has a capacity of 150-plus players, so you know finding your way out is gonna be fun.

#25. Wild Waters Waterparkbuilt in 1984, it’s been one of the top summer getaway places for families, offering plenty of fun in a safe environment for energetic kids so the parents can relax for a while.

#26. Tenpin Bowlingamong many fun things to do in Johannesburg for couples and families, and it’s perfect for sweltering days when looking for indoor activities.

#27. Black Ops Laser tag first-person shooter games are always fun, especially if you are playing with your friends. With top of the line equipment, and experienced staff, book your tickets here:

#28. Acrobranch Melrose – a challenging course set up in James and Ethel Gray Park, zip lines, Tarzan swings, nets, bridges, and other fun obstacles are just a few things to expect. The park is fully equipped to test your strength and balance. 

General Information about Johannesburg

 
  • Area: 1,645km squared
  • Weather: 2C (winter), 26C (summer)
  • Population: 5.6 million (1st in S. Africa)
  • Founded: 1886
  • International Airport: O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB)
  • Famous Residents: Zindzi Mandela, Sasha Pierterse, Miriam Makeba, Ernie Els, Watkin Tudor Jones

Don’t forget to book travel insurance

 

It kinda goes without saying really that when you travel in Africa and beyond, travel insurance is super important.

I never always bothered though. For years I travelled without insurance as I thought, “what could happen?”

Well, I once got my bag stolen in Vietnam and I had an electric shock in a hostel bathroom in Mexico. What if you’re hiking up a mountain and your appendix suddenly bursts, leaving you in excruciating pain and requiring emergency treatment? Anything could happen.

I use World Nomads for comprehensive cover and convenience at great prices on all my travels, and I never set out without it. You can get an instant quote below.

Johannesburg Interactive Map

Check out the interactive map below to see all the highlights of Johannesburg and the Gauteng region, in red markers.

So that’s it – the top 28 things to see and do in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Honestly I recommend a good couple of days minimum in Johannesburg to get a feel of this incredible country’s identity and history, as well as adapting to the culture and customs, and immersing yourself in the warm vibes.

And for the budget traveller – Joburg, and South Africa in general, is quite easy to explore on a budget because most places are fairly affordable here.

 

Planning on staying in Jo’burg?

 

Click here for a list of excellent accommodation options at Booking.com

Booking.com

Commonly Asked Questions:

Here’s the perfect Johannesburg 1 day itinerary:

  1. Take a trip to Constitution Hill and learn about the incredible human rights movements that changed the country.
  2. Take a guided tour of Soweto – visit Nelson Mandela’s house and discover the township’s popular Kota cuisine
  3. Stop by the Apartheid Museum to learn about South Africa’s dark recent past.
  4. Visit the Cradle of Humankind and see the remains of one of the oldest humans on the planet.
  5. Drop by the hip Maboneng Precinct and discover the cool street art and markets while you’re there.
  6. Lose yourself in Johannesburg Art Gallery – the largest in sub-saharan Africa.
  7. Indulge in the flavours at the Neighbourhoods Market.
  8. Visit a unique Victorian Museum at Lindfield House.
  9. Pay a visit to Satyagraha House – the same house that Gandhi lived in more than a century ago.
  10. Enjoy the rides at Gold Reef City theme park.

Johannesburg is very different from other cities like Pretoria and Cape Town, there are very friendly people and warm vibes here in Joburg, there’s a very diverse and tasty food scene, and there’s plenty of superb tourist attractions around the city and nearby. Plus, you’ll discover all about South Africa’s apartheid past right here in Johannesburg, and even get to see some pieces of history.

Here’s the 15 most popular attractions and top things to do in Johannesburg

  1. Constitution Hill – important piece of history that defines South Africa
  2. Soweto township tour – visit Mandela House and try the popular Kota cuisine
  3. Apartheid Museum – learn about the country’s dark recent past
  4. Gold Reef City – adventure theme park
  5. Maboneng Precinct – cool and hip region packed with street art and markets
  6. Pretoria – day trip to the nearby stunning capital city of Pretoria
  7. Lindfield House – a unique Victorian museum
  8. Neighbourhoods Market – indulge in the city flavours and vibrant atmosphere
  9. The Cradle of Humankind – see some of the world’s oldest human remains
  10. Walter Sisal National Botanical Garden – wander the stunning surroundings of this 300-hectare national park
  11. Johannesburg Art Gallery – lose yourself in sub-saharan Africa’s largest art gallery
  12. Pilanesberg National Park – incredible day trip for wildlife and natural wonder
  13. Lion and Safari park – day trip to nearby safari park
  14. Satyagraha House – Gandhi’s former residence that’s now a museum
  15. Hop-on-hop-off bus – see the highlights of the city on a tour bus

There are plenty of safe areas to walk around in Johannesburg, however tourists should take the necessary precautions, such as staying alert, walk in pairs or groups where possible, and keep indoors after dark, to avoid facing any problems due to the city’s high crime rate. Personally, I never encountered any issues during my stay in the city or in the country on the whole.

Johannesburg is known as the financial hub of South Africa, and being home to the country’s main arts scene. It is also famous for historical landmarks like Mandela House, the Cradle of Humankind and Constitution Hill to name a few, as well as housing numerous museums and galleries.

Johannesburg Day Trips and Activities on Get Your Guide:

 

A guided tour and sightseeing events are some of the best ways to experience Johannesburg. Here’s some excellent deals for the most popular trips and activities around Gauteng region. (Remember, you can cancel your bookings at anytime!)

Johannesburg Travel Guides

 

For more in-depth reading about Johannesburg and Gauteng region, you can get your hands on a copy of these bestsellers below:

Book Your Trip to South Africa: Budget Tips & Tricks

 

Flights: As always, I source the cheapest flights on the web from Skyscanner and Kiwi.com. They are considered the top flight search engines for the best deals.

Accommodation: I use Booking to find fantastic cheap stays with free cancellation options. 

Travel Insurance: This will protect you from theft, injury, illness, and cancellations. A safety net in case anything goes wrong, I never leave without it. World Nomads is my favourite agent for total peace of mind.

Tours: I book all my fave activities and guided tours on Get Your Guide & Viator – they do superb deals whilst offering excellent customer support.

Head over to my Travel Tools page for all my best travel tips & advice and everything you need for your trip.

I hope you enjoyed reading my post: 28 Incredible Things to Do in Johannesburg, South Africa, and feel inspired to visit this incredible city one day.

Let me know what you thought in the comments, thank you!

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Billy

Billy

Lover of epic adventures, slow travel, and great coffee. When not travelling, Billy teaches dance, and creates performances on commissioned projects.

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Hey there! I’m Billy, the guy behind BRB | Gone Somewhere Epic. I’ve been travelling around the world for nine years, having an absolute blast going on epic adventures, without breaking the bank. Click here to read more about the art of budget travel.

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