A brief introduction to Johannesburg, the “city of gold”
Johannesburg is South Africa’s biggest city and the most visited city in Africa. It usually has 2 times the amount of international visitors as the second most visited city. It is the economic capital and the heartbeat of trade in Africa. Johannesburg was formed during the 19th-century gold rush, hence the name “city of gold.” Since the 1800s Johannesburg has transformed from a tented camp, to a shanty town to its current form, a modern skyscraper city.
1. Gold reef city
Price: Start from R125
This is one of South Africa’s biggest theme parks that will take you back to the gold rush in the 19th century. There are 18 thrilling rides, an underground mine tour, dining options and retail stores.
2. Go on a tour of Soweto
Price: From R800 pp
Soweto is a township in Johannesburg South Africa created in the 1930s by the Apartheid Government. It was the largest black city which housed the workforce for Johannesburg. Due to this many of the political activists such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and many others resided there. The riots that changed the history of South Africa occurred there, which makes it a great place for a historic tour.
3. Mandela’s House
Price: entrance from R40 for African Adults and R60 for the rest of the world.
The Nelson Mandela National Museum is the house of South Africa’s first democratic president on the famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West in Soweto. This house is where Nelson Mandela lived from 1946 to 1962 and contains artifacts and memorabilia that are connected to South Africa’s greatest icon.
4. Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum tells the history of Apartheid from 1804 to 1994. The exhibit takes you on an emotional journey through 20th century South Africa, it documents the rise and fall of apartheid.
5. Constitution Hill
Price: R50 for a self guided tour & R100 for normal tour
Constitutional Hill is the location of the modern Constitutional Court of South Africa, located in one of Johannesburg’s oldest suburbs, Braamfontein. Near the court you can also find the Old Fort established during the Anglo Boer war. This prison has also served as a prison in the past.
6. Hector Pieterson Memorial
Hector Pieterson is the symbol of the resistance against the apartheid government. He was one of the first students killed during the 1976 Student Uprising in Soweto. He was just 13 years old, the photograph taken by Sam Nzima of Mbuyiswa carrying a critically injured Hector Pieterson captured the attention of the world and highlighted the injustice of apartheid. The memorial was erected in the 1990s close to where Hector was shot, however a new museum housing photographic and audio-visual displays of the struggles of the youth against apartheid was opened in 2002.
7. Johannesburg Zoo
The Johannesburg Zoo was founded in 1904 in northern Johannesburg and covers 55 hectares of land. The Zoo houses 320 species and is a popular attraction for edutainment.
8. Lion & Safari Park
Price: R225 for self drive, R390 for mini safari tours, R675 for 3 hour safari tour
The Lion and Safari Park is a breeding ground and sanctuary that focuses on the well-being of endangered wild dog, rara white lions and cheetahs. The park gives people an opportunity to learn more about these animals.
9. Walter Sisulu botanical gardens
The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden has plenty to offer from it’s 70m high Witpoortjie Waterfall, and 600 plant species to 20 bird species is a winning venue.
10. Cradle of Humankind
The only world heritage site in Gauteng. The cradle of humankind is where it is believed humankind originated from. The remains of the first hominid, Australopithecus were discovered there in 1924. The site boasts 13 excavation sites that are recognized as national heritage sites.
Vilakazi street is the only street in the world where two Nobel Prize Laureates lived. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived on this street during apartheid. The street is named after Dr Benedict Vilakazi, a writer and educator who wrote the first poetry book published in Zulu.
12. Museum Africa
Museum Africa in Newtown Johannesburg is a social and cultural history museum. The museum has a large collection of artefacts with only a few on display at any one time. Visitors can be taken on a journey back in time to a shebeen or hostel in the 1950s, browse traditional fine art and discover different aspects of South African history.
13. Lindfield Victorian House Museum
Price: R100 pp
Lindfield is a Victorian era living house museum in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. This house represents the culture of the Victorian Era which are trends followed during the ruling period of Queen Victoria of Great Britain from 1837 to 1901. The house is stuffed with antiques from the Victorian and Edwardian Era which makes for a trip back in time.
14. Market Theatre
Price: Depends on the show
The Market Theatre is renowned for being South Africa’s “Theatre of the struggle” as it challenged the apartheid regime with its anti-aprtheid plays. It was founded in 1976 and has won over 20 international awards for it’s courage and artistic works.
15. Neighbourgoods Market
Price: Free entrance
A great way to spend a Saturday, get fresh fruit and vegetables, eat delicious food from the food stalls and enjoy beautiful views of the city on the upper level outdoor terrace. Open every Saturday from 09:00 to 15:00.
16. South African Museum of Military History
Price: R35 pp
The Ditsong National Museum of Military History is located next to Zoo Lake. The Museum provides insight into the various wars South Africa has been involved in. It was opened in1947 as the South African National War Museum to act as a reminder of South Africa’s involvement in World War II, the name was changed to the South African National Museum of Military History in 1975 when the contents were expanded to include all conflicts South Africa has been involved in.
17. Zoo Lake
Price: Activities such as boat rides and access to the pool have their own fees.
Zoo Lake is a popular park in Johannesburg that hosts events such as the annual Jazz on the lake and Carols by Candlelight events. It’s also the venue for Artists under the Sun open air exhibition. You can also go for a picnic or a boat ride on the lake.
18. Wits Origins Centre Museum
Discover Africa’s rich history, heritage through an extensive collection of rock art, fossils, artefacts and ancient stone tools.
19. Sci-Bono Discovery Centre
South Africa’s largest science centre. It’s affiliated with the Gauteng Department of Education to support maths, science and technology education and to build South Africa’s capacity in those fields. The Sci-Bono has a large collection of interactive science and technology exhibits and exhibitions.
20. The Maboneng Precinct
Price: Walking tours from R285
The Maboneng Precinct is a regeneration of an area that had undergone urban decay, it has now been revived into a creative centre for Johannesburg’s urban artists. It’s home to fashion stores, diverse eateries and entertainment spaces.
21. Arts on Main/Market on Main
A development in the lively Maboneng Precinct which is built from converted warehouses and industrial buildings into artist studios, galleries and shops. There is a weekly up-market Sunday market that trades regional foods and local design.
22. James Hall Museum of Transport
Take an educational tour of the various modes of transport from the days of the carriage to the motor vehicle. The museum is the largest and most comprehensive museum on land transportation in South Africa. A visit to the museum will give you a look back in time dating back more than a century. There are thematic displays and exhibits in various exhibition halls. Types of vehicles include animal drawn vehicles, bicycles and motorcycles, buses and coaches, fire engine and equipment, motor cars, steam-driven vehicles, trams and trolley buses.
23. Rosebank Sunday Market
Rosebank Sunday Market celebrates diversity through a large selection of craft stalls, live music, kids entertainment and gourmet food traders. The market combines stunning Johannesburg skyline views with traditional market experience.
24. Credo Mutwa Cultural Village
Price: Free entrance
An outdoor museum that offers African art, culture and folklore. The museum is devoted to sculptures and other works of artist and traditional healer Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa..
25. Wits Planetarium (formally Johannesburg Planetarium)
Take a closer look at the African sky at the Wits Planetarium, situated at the University of the Witwatersrand. This planetarium was the first full-sized planetarium in Africa. This is a perfect date for those interested in astronomy and the night skies of southern Africa.
26. Johannesburg Holocaust & genocide centre
The centre raises awareness of the evils of genocide, with a major focus on the Holocaust and 1994 Rwanda genocide. It serves as a memorial for victims of genocide and a reminder of the consequence of prejudice, racism, antisemitism, homophobia and xenophobia.
27. Joziburg Lane
A popular modern space frequented by locals, filled with art galleries, street food style eateries, coffee shops and bars. This is a buzzing destination for any time of the day and is used as the starting point for Joburg Places walking tours.
28. Oppenheimer Gardens
The Oppenheimer Gardens is Soweto, a park that mixes nature, history, art and african culture. It is named after De Beers mining magnate Ernest Oppenheimer. The park is overlooked by the oppenheimer Tower which was built using bricks from demolished houses from the forced relocations during Apartheid’s Group Areas Act. The Credo Mutwa village can also be found within this park as well as statues of King Shaka, King Moshoeshoe and Ernest Oppenheimer.
29. Gerakaris Family Wines
A unique experience away from Johannesburg’s urban bustle, this is an urban winery. Most wineries in South Africa are found in the winelands in Cape Town or along the Orange River, which are the grape growing regions of South Africa. The Gerakaris winery gives people an opportunity to learn about wine and experience wine culture further inlands. Even though there is no vineyard, everything else in the winemaking process takes place at this winery in Craighall.
30. Croc City Crocodile & Reptile Park
If you are interested in reptiles and want to learn more about them Croc City is the place to go. The reptile park focuses on the conservation of our indigenous reptiles. The park breeds crocodiles, the other reptiles are brought in, rescued or donated to the park. Apart from crocodiles you can also find indegenous snakes, exotic reptiles, tarantulas, alligators and tortoises.
31. Bounce Waterfall
Enjoy a couple hours of an adrenaline rush in this massive trampoline park. Do aerial gymnastics without worrying about hard landings. This park is suitable for active people and families.
32. Northgate Ice Rink
South Africa is not a super cold country, going to an ice rink gives you an opportunity to learn how to ice skate. This is a great date idea if you are looking do something different.
33. Circa Gallery
The Circa Gallery is a gallery that encourages exploration of art by the public. Even the building is a sculptural masterpiece with its architecture celebrating art. It has a striking design with solar panels and rainwater tanks giving it environmentally friendly green credentials.
34. City Sightseeing red bus
Price: R235 for a 1 day ticket
Go on a tour of Johannesburg using the iconic red hop on hop off bus. This bus takes you to over 20 of Johannesburgs top attractions which include Soweto, the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill and so many more landmarks.
35. Soweto Towers Bungee Jump
Are you an adrenaline junky, if yes, free fall from the popular Soweto Towers in one leap.There are other activities available there such as paintball, SCAD freefall, straight-jacket bungee jump, base jump, and wall climbing. Alternatively you could just go up the lift and get a 360 degree view of Soweto.
36. Free Walking Tours of Johannesburg
Johannesburg is a big city, this means there is a lot to explore from historic and cultural tours, to tours that explore markets and popular attractions. Johannesburg is also the wealthiest city in Africa, it is known as the “city of gold” for a reason, some tours will take you on a tour of the mining district. This is important because Johannesburg was formed during the gold rush in the late 1800s. There are many companies that offer free walking tours of johannesburg such as https://strawberrytours.com/johannesburg and http://freetours.co.za/.
37. Melville Koppies Nature Reserve
Price: R80 er Adult R40 per child
Melville Koppies is a nature reserve and a Johannesburg heritage site. It is the last conserved ridge still in its original state and representation of the ridges before the discovery of Gold in Johannesburg in 1886. It’s geology is said to date back 3 billion years. There are early stone age tools that can be found here as well as Iron age kraal walls on the Northern slopes of the nature reserve. The nature reserve is a great place for hiking.
38. Mountain Sanctuary Park
Price: R50 per vehicle entrance fee.
An hour drive from Johannesburg, nestled in the Magaliesberg Mountains, you will find the Mountain Sanctuary Park. This mountain range is millions of years old. You will find clear mountain pools and extraordinary rock formations. This is a popular destination for mountain bike enthusiasts. The park has a restaurant, camping sites and accommodation for overnight stays.
39. Hennops Hiking Trail
Price: R80/adult and R40/children
A doorstep away from Johannesburg and pretoria, you can go hiking, offroading and mountain biking in an unspoiled natural environment. The trails consists of 3 paths which include features such as river crossings with a suspension bridge and a cable car, historical sites along the trail such as an old field hospital used in the Anglo Boer war and an underground cave. There is also wildlife which thrives in the area. This is a great place have a picnic in nature.
40. StokeCity AdventurePark
Price: depends on activity, starting from R50 for open water swimming and R150 for the Aqua Park access including a life Jacket.
StokeCity WakePark is a water sports enthusiasts paradise that is suitable for all ages. If you want a day of fun in the water you can chill on water floats, take part in waterskiing, kneeboarding, wakeboarding and wakeskating. You can also have some fun on an inflatable obstacle course on the lake. The course includes swings, ramps, jumps, ladders, slides and climbing walls.
41. Tuk Tuk rides
Price: From R25 for a 3km trip to R95 for a 10km trip.
Explore Rosebank and Sandton in eco friendly style by taking a 3 wheel Tuk Tuk to take you around town.
42. SAB World of Beer
Price: From R95 and combo is R160
A centenary centre celebrating 100 years of brewing mastery. This centre celebrates the history of South African beer through interactive tours. This beer museum documents Africa’s rich beer culture, from the tombs in Egypt to the mining townships of Johannesburg. You can go beer tasting or take a beer tour, or a combination of both.
43. Watch a movie at the Bioscope independent cinema
The bioscope is an independent cinema in Downtown Johannesburg that showcases small international films, documentaries and locally made films. The Bioscope’s aim is to increase the diversity of film content on South African cinema screen, unlike mainstream cinemas that only offer mainstream films. Food and drinks are also served here.
44. Visit tallest skyscraper in Africa
Get a birds eye view of Johannesburg from the top of Africa’s second tallest building, the Calton Centre which is 223m tall. It was Africa’s tallest building from 1973-2019. From the top you can see the mining belt, Soccer City, Gandhi Square, Braamfontein, Hillbrowand Sandton. It was recently overtaken by The Leonardo which is 234 m tall and also in Johannesburg.
45. Bird watching at Montecasino Bird Gardens
Price: R75/Adult and R50/kid
The montecasino bird garden boasts over 100 species of birds (60 bird species), snakes, frogs, iguanas, and small antelopes. There are bird shows featuring pelicans, vultures, cranes and owls. The bird garden also features the largest and most diverse private collection of the South African Cycad plants.
46. A day of finding your way through Giant mazes (mazes and secret gardens)
Find your way out of giant mazes constructed from indigenous fencing and centers around 5 secret gardens. There are quiz games you can play in teams while going through the maze. If you have ever watched the Amazing race, this is the type of challenge the teams would participate in. This is a great activity for families and large groups of friends.
47. Zorb in a giant ball down a hill
Climb inside a 3m diameter ball and roll down a 200m slope and have upside down fun. There are two ways to Zorb, the first is hydro zorbing which means that you will roll down unharnessed in an inflatable ball with 40L of water or harness zorbing which is the dry option where you are strapped to the ball.
48. Visit a Game reserve
A trip to South Africa is incomplete without going on a safari, be it a self-drive safari or a guided safari. There are many game reserves around Johannesburg such as Madikwe Game reserve, Pilanesberg Game Reserve, Miki Private Game Reserve, Dinokeng Game Reserve and many more.
49. Watch international cricket at the Wanderers Stadium
Watch the South African cricket team when they play an international match at this cricket stadium. During the year watch domestic cricket.
50. Watch International rugby at Ellis Park Stadium
Watch the rugby champions the Springboks play international matches at Ellis Park. During the year watch super rugby.
51. Watch PSL Soccer at the FNB Stadium (Soccer City)
Watch Bafana Bafana matches at Africa’s biggest soccer stadium or a Kaizer Chiefs PSL match during the year.
Safety in Johannesburg
There is crime in Johannesburg just like any big city in the world. Some areas are safe whereas other areas should be avoided. Safer areas in Johannesburg are middle-class to upper-class neighbourhoods Such as Maboneng, Sandton, Rosebank, Braamfontein and places to avoid include downtown Johannesburg and Hillbrow. However, wherever you are you should practice caution. Read our guide on safety in South Africa for some safety tips.
Transport in Johannesburg
On arrival at the Johannesburg international airport you can take the gautrain to the major urban districts in Johannesburg such as Sandton and Rosebank.
If you will be traveling short distances within the city, close to where you will be staying you can use taxi-hailing apps such as uber/bolt which are affordable, safe and convenient for short distances.
This is the most affordable way to travel in the city, but may not be the most pleasant way. It takes a while to get used to taxi drivers, their behaviour and driving style.
Rent a car
This may be the best option if you will be staying for a week or more and you would like to explore the city and it’s surrounds with freedom. Check out our affordable car hire options in Johannesburg.