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Things to do in Johannesburg

Things to do in  Johannesburg

Welcome to Johannesburg

South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, is home to the country's main international airport, and often serves as the gateway for most travelers visiting this southernmost country in Africa. Guided tours offer much to learn about South Africa's often-tumultuous history: Take in a history lesson at the acclaimed Apartheid Museum (followed by a bike tour of the nearby Soweto township); visit the former cell of Nelson Mandela in the Old Fort prison on Constitution Hill; or dig into the cultural history of Johannesburg at Museum Africa. For a stunning view of the cityscape, head to the top of Africa's tallest building, the Carlton Centre; or take a trip back in time to the UNESCO-listed Cradle of Humankind, a short 16 miles (25 kilometers) from the city and easily reached with a full-day tour. For a thrilling day trip, visit the enormous Kruger National Park for a safari tour in search of some of Africa's “Big Five” wildlife. Follow it up with a stop at nearby Pretoria to see the famous Jacaranda trees in bloom, and then continue to Pilanesberg Game Reserve or Sun City resort. Johannesburg is the ideal jumping-off point for further exploration in southern Africa, with regular flights to Cape Town, Durban, and even Botswana.

Top 15 attractions in Johannesburg

Soweto

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For most, Soweto (short for South West Townships) is synonymous with resistance to apartheid, South Africa’s former policy of racial segregation. The township’s complex past is visible in Soweto’s moving museums, historical monuments, and strong traditions.More

Apartheid Museum

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The Apartheid Museum details the injustice, cruelty, and absurdities of white minority rule in South Africa. Apartheid, meaning “separateness” in Afrikaans, was officially in effect from 1948 to 1994, though segregation had been a cornerstone of South African politics since the country’s inception. The museum is dedicated to helping South Africa overcome its oppressive past and look toward the future.More

Chobe National Park

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Located the northeastern corner of Botswana, Chobe National Park encompasses more than 4,500 square miles (12,000 square kilometers) of floodplains, forest, swamps, and rivers. The park is known for having one of the largest concentrations of wildlife in Africa; most notably, a large elephant population.More

Sun City

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Sun City is a resort and entertainment complex located north-west of Johannesburg. One of South Africa's top leisure destinations, the resort complex is conveniently located on the South African Garden Route and next to Pilanesberg National Park. Highlights of Sun City include a casino, spa, water park, and golf courses.More

Mandela House

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The Nelson Mandela National Museum (Mandela House), is dedicated to the preservation of the history, heritage, and legacy of the Mandela family. Former South African president Nelson Mandela and his family lived in this Johannesburg house from 1946 to the 1990s before dedicating it to the Soweto Heritage Trust.More

Constitution Hill

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Perhaps nowhere is South Africa’s transition to democracy more apparent than on Constitution Hill. For over a hundred years, buildings here functioned as a feared prison complex, holding everyone from common criminals to activists Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, and even Winston Churchill (briefly during the Boer War. Since 2004, the site has been home to South Africa’s Constitutional Court.More

Aha Lesedi Cultural Village

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Set among the rocky hills and bushland outside Johannesburg, Aha Lesedi, an African lodge and cultural village is made up of traditional homesteads and provides an opportunity to meet people from Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Ndebele, and Basotho origins. Lesedi reflects the diversity of South Africa’s original inhabitants with elements from many tribal cultures.More

Gold Reef City

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This theme park and casino complex built on the site of a former gold mine offers 24-hour entertainment for both kids and adults. Highlights of Gold Reef City include a casino, live theater, cinema complex, bowling alley, trampoline park, 30-ride theme park, and Johannesburg’s only authentic underground mine tour.More

Carlton Centre

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The Carlton Centre is a 50-story, four-blocks-long skyscraper in downtown Johannesburg, and at 732-feet (223-meters tall, it's one of the tallest buildings in Africa. This towering structure is also known as a shopping destination and it offers unparalleled roof-top views of the South African capital city.More

Cradle of Humankind

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A complex of 300 limestone caves, South Africa's Cradle of Humankind is one of the most significant archaeological and anthropological sites in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has produced an extensive human and animal fossil record, including a nearly-complete hominin skull dating back more than 2 million years.More

Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve

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Just under 30 miles northwest of bustling downtown Johannesburg, this enclave of animals makes it easy to see many – giraffe, white rhino, Kruger lion, cape buffalo, hippos, flamingos, ostrich – not far from the city’s creature comforts. Six hundred individual beasts comprising more than 30 species call the 3,000-acre privately-owned slice of savanna home. The option to self-drive the reserve’s bumpy gravel roads or take an organized day or night drive in the park’s open-top vehicles makes this a popular stop with Joberg visitors without a lot of time.Still, don’t expect a Kruger-like experience where all the animals run wild and fate and chance take their toll on the circle of life. Predators are separated by fences and easily spotted during scheduled public feeding times. A reptile house contains captive versions of creatures many would just as soon not spot in the wild, and species from around the continent and beyond also have a home here: Bengal and white tigers, three varieties of leopard and two types of jaguar. There’s even a chance for photo ops with some of the results of the reserve’s onsite breeding center – baby white lions, tigers, cheetah and more –– at the Animal Créche.The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, situated within the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, makes it easy to hit multiple tourist stops such as the renowned Sterkfontein Caves and the Cradle of Humankind visitor center. The nearby Wonder Cave (operated separately), discovered by miners in 1898, hascavernous ceilings reaching 50 feet is host to exploratory and abseiling tours. Overnight accommodations and entertainment facilities for young children are also available in the park.More

Hartbeespoort Dam

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Built for irrigation purposes in the 1920s, Hartbeespoort Dam created a reservoir and a recreation hot spot that now draws visitors to what has become a small resort town. Nestled in the Magaliesberg, Hartbeespoort offers a mountain escape complete with scenic views and everything from cruises to paragliding.More

Newtown

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Newtown is a neighborhood in the center of Johannesburg, and it has been the focus of redevelopment efforts in recent years. Originally called “The Brickfields,” as brick-making was the primary industry, the neighborhood was burned to the ground in 1904 – on purpose. The reason given was to stop the spread of the plague. Later that year, as the area was being redeveloped, it was given the name of Newtown.Today, Newtown is home to some important Johannesburg attractions, such as MuseumAfrica, Market Theatre, and Mary Fitzgerald Square.More

Johannesburg Zoo

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You don’t have to head for the big game reserves to appreciate the variety of South African wildlife—it’s all on display at the Johannesburg Zoo. The sprawling 136-acre (55-hectare site includes spacious habitats for more than 320 species, with a focus on the physical and psychological wellbeing of the animals on display.More

SAB World of Beer

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Johannesburg's SAB World of Beer is a museum dedicated to beer, run by South African Breweries. Opened in 1995, the World of Beer is an interactive beer museum tracing the history of the drink in Africa. The exhibits begin with the earliest known references to beer, roughly 5,000 years ago in Egypt and Mesopotamia. In addition to the history of beer, visitors also learn about the beer-making process in different parts of the world.Tours end in the Tap Room, where visitors can sample South African Breweries' beers and enjoy some snacks while looking out over Newtown.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Johannesburg

How to Spend 1 Day in Johannesburg

How to Spend 2 Days in Johannesburg

How to Spend 2 Days in Johannesburg

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Recent reviews from experiences in Johannesburg

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Phillipians4four Tour gave us the best Safari experience
Shabala_M, Oct 2022
Full Day Safari Tour of Pilanesberg National Park, Open Jeep experience
The restaurant is at picturesque location by a waterhole and we got to see zebras, kudus, Impalas, giraffe and birds at the waterhole as we enjoyed the lunch.
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What a surprise!
MARILYN_B, Oct 2022
Full Day Ultimate Pilanesberg National Park Safari from Johannesburg or Pretoria
But we were able to see quite a bit of Johannesburg the city itself which made it worthwhile.
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Amazing tour
Anna_B, Jul 2022
Johannesburg and Soweto Tour (6-7 hours)
Felt very safe with him and got to see everything I wanted and even more.
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More than an Airport Transfer
Yasmina_N, Jun 2022
Professional, Safe and Reliable Shuttle Service, Tours and Safari
I was so happy to see a smiling face.
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From the USA
Jarvis_A, Apr 2022
Soweto /Johannesburg and Apartheid Museum Guided Full Day Tour
We were able to see lots of historical places in Johannesburg and Soweto
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The trip was interesting...
Thomas_S, Feb 2022
Soweto /Johannesburg and Apartheid Museum Guided Full Day Tour
It was a really good way to see parts of the city of Johannesburg which may not have been accessible as a tourist without a guide.
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Good to see more of the...
Ivo_R, Jan 2022
bicycle tour soweto
Good to see more of the locals in Johannesburg!
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Very interesting tour
Thomas_H, Dec 2020
Johannesburg Full-Day Tour(Soweto/Jo-Burg & Apartheid Museum)
The guide Pastor was very knowledgeable and friendly, Apartheid museum was fascinating as was the chance to see what life is like in one of the Johannesburg townships although it does also make you feel sad to see some of the poverty these people endure
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All about Johannesburg

When to visit

A perfect year-round destination, Johannesburg is bursting with sunshine and great events. The summer months (December—February) can be hot and humid—with families entertaining kids on school holidays, as well as high tourist numbers, so a better time to visit is fall or early-winter (March through August). As for events, look out for Ultra South Africa, Africa’s biggest electronic music festival; The Rand Show, a lifestyle expo with rides, military displays, and fashion; and the Good Food & Wine Show.

Getting around

Its widespread nature means visitors have to rely on transport to get around Johannesburg; the city isn’t walkable, especially at night. Local bus services and the Gautrain rapid-rail are public transport options, but for reliability and ease, traveling by car is by far the best way of getting around the city. If car rental isn’t an option, Uber operates here. It’s also possible to go on a hop-on hop-off bus between main tourist sights.

Traveler tips

Johannesburg is a cosmopolitan city with a fantastic food scene and plenty of international flavors. Be sure to try the masala dosa from Dosa Hut in Fordsburg, and head to Breezeblock Cafe’s courtyard garden in Brixton for brunch, coffee, or cocktails. If you’re after something hearty—Duke’s Burgers in Melville has a reputation for its generously-sized and super delicious gourmet burgers; with Wagyu beef, lamb, chicken, and vegan options available.

People Also Ask

What is Johannesburg famous for?

Johannesburg is famous for being the largest city in South Africa. Its nickname, the City of Gold, comes from its gold rush history — it was founded in 1886 after European settlers discovered gold. The city is also the financial, mining, and industrial heart of South Africa.

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How can I spend a day in Johannesburg?

A 1-day trip to Johannesburg should include sights linked to Nelson Mandela to explore the city’s Apartheid history. Go for a guided tour of Soweto, visit the Apartheid Museum, and explore the Constitution Hill precinct. Also, don’t miss the city’s great food and street art scene in the Maboneng Precinct.

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What is another name for Johannesburg?

Johannesburg is often shortened to Joburg; however, it’s got several other nicknames. It’s sometimes referred to as the City of Gold or eGoli, which translates as “the place of gold” in Zulu, due to its gold mining origins. Another popular nicknames that locals affectionately use is Jozi.

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What language is spoken in Johannesburg?

There isn’t one dominant language in Johannesburg. Instead, all 11 of South Africa’s official languages are spoken. The most widely spoken language is Zulu, followed by Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English. Many South Africans are multilingual, and English is a common communication language that’s used in business, tourism, and the media.

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What can couples do in Johannesburg?

Couples commonly stroll through Rosebank Precinct—a fashionable neighborhood with art galleries, coffee shops, bars, and vintage shops. If visiting Johannesburg on a Sunday, look out for the Market on Main in Maboneng. Or, walk the trails at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden—a perfect spot for a picnic.

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Is Johannesburg dangerous for tourists?

Yes. Johannesburg can sometimes be dangerous for tourists, especially if you visit neighborhoods that are known for high levels of crime—such as Alexandra, Berea, Hillbrow, and Yeoville. However, these areas aren’t commonly visited by tourists, and main tourist areas are much safer. Traveling by Uber or car hire is recommended.

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Johannesburg information

Number of Attractions

27

Number of Tours

511

Number of Reviews

5,087

Currency

USD
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