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Things to Do in Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa, has become a sought-after tourist destination in recent years. Due to its location, it serves as a transit point and connects Cape Town, Mozambique, Durban, Namibia, Victoria Falls and the Okavango Delta. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, tourism in Johannesburg, and South Africa in general, is on the rise.

Here are some things to do when you visit the metropolis of Johannesburg – or Joburg for short..

Historical Museums and Sites

The history of South Africa is long and varied. Many of us know the more recent, sad history of apartheid. Apartheid was South Africa’s policy of segregation between whites and blacks. But the country also has prehistoric and colonial history as well.

The Nelson Mandela National Museum

The famous Nelson Mandela National Museum is actually the home of activist Nelson Mandela who lived there before being imprisoned. Long time inhabitants of the town help tourist guide around the different parts of the home. Tourists can visit and see all the different things that were once owned by Nelson Mandela. The building is located in Soweto township and one of the great places to visit in Johannesburg.

Apartheid Museum
Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum is one of the other great attractions for tourists visiting Johannesburg. This museum is mainly dedicated to the history of the South African establishment. The South African Government started an initiative in 1995 to attract tourists through casinos. The original plan was to attach Apartheid Museum with Gold Reef City Casino as Freedom Park. There were some controversies attached to this name but the museum was finally opened for public in 2001.

Museum Africa

This museum is dedicated to exhibiting history of the African continent. The museum was established back in 1933. It had been erected on the site where there existed old fruit and vegetable market in Newtown. There is a large amount of African books and materials displayed in the Museum Africa. The books were donated to the Museum by Johannesburg Library. The books in the library cover all aspects of different African cultures.

Hector Pieterson Museum

The Hector Pieterson museum is dedicated to young boy who was shot dead during the Soweto student riots in 1976. The riots began after the apartheid government proposed to use Afrikaans as its main language of instruction in schools.

Although dedicated to Hector Pieterson the museum’s main focus is the happenings of that day and how it instrumental it was in South Africa’s change from an oppressive regime to a democracy. This is a must see for everyone who wishes to gain insight into South Africa’s rich history.

Constitutional Court of South Africa

The constitutional court complex houses one of the more historical prisons in South Africa, the old Fort Prison, commonly known as (Number Four).

Number Four has housed some of South Africa’s most famous political prisoners. People such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others have spent time behind Number Four’s walls.

The tour of the constitutional court is an enriching experience, largely thanks to the passionate and engaging guides. At the end of the tour you will have the opportunity to express your thoughts on your tour by having them etched on cup or mug and placed along others such as Nelson Mandela’s.

Visiting a courthouse and prison might not sound exciting, but the architectural wonder that is the courthouse and the reminder of what came before in South Africa’s political timeline makes this an enlightening experience.

Partake in the Arts

Market Theatre Complex

The Market Theatre Complex, located in the suburb of Newtown, dates back to 1976 and is famous for staging fiery anti-apartheid plays during that period of South Africa’s history. It has now become the center for modern South African playwriting, with three separate theaters showcasing their works.

In addition to theater, the complex also contains art galleries, music clubs, and restaurants.

The Mandela at Joburg Theatre

The Joburg Theatre (previously Johannesburg Civic Theatre) features professional ballet and opera productions, as well as Broadway shows. It’s located on Braamfontein Hill and was originally built by the city council in 1962, but was corporatized in 2000. If you’re visiting during the festive season, make sure to check out the highly acclaimed pantomimes.

Johannesburg Art Gallery

There are many tourists who have peculiar interest in the objects of art. There is an art gallery in the city as well known as Johannesburg Art Gallery. The Johannesburg Art Gallery is situated in Joubert Park. The gallery is very spacious with 15 halls for exhibition. There is a garden attached to the gallery, dedicated to sculptures. The international art displayed in the gallery spans to five centuries. The art gallery was first opened for public back in 1980s. There were several extensions added to it later including North Façade and other galleries.

Pamper Yourself at a Spa

This world-class business and tourism hub is also home to Africa’s finest hotels and spas, for those who want to unwind. There are several spas in Johannesburg that can meet the needs of different prospective clients. Some of these spas include:

The Always-Upstairs Day Spa

This spa is set on the banks of River Vaal, located less than an hour’s drive from the city of Johannesburg. When you visit this spa, you will be treated to a tranquil experience in a secluded setting. The beauty of nature and the tranquil waters here will sooth away your cares and worries.

At the Always-Upstairs Day Spa, you can choose from an exotic list of signature spa treatments that have been uniquely created to revitalize, uplift and recharge the mind and body. The treatments include from massages, skincare, foot and hand treatments and hair removal. In between the treatments, you can relax on deck overlooking the river while sipping on a refreshing drink.

Country Bliss Relaxation and Wellness Day Spa

The countryside of Gauteng is home to the Country Bliss Relaxation and Wellness Day Spa. This spa is a hidden gem that is nestled in the serene and tranquil surroundings of Thorntree Conservancy that is situated twenty minutes from Johannesburg. It is a sanctuary for both men and women who want to relax and rejuvenate themselves in a tranquil and stress free surrounding.

The therapy rooms are Afro-Moroccan inspired while the outdoor massage areas are Bedouin styled. You can also spend a quiet moment in the outdoor room reserved for meditation where they can feel life’s energy permeate from their being. Country Bliss Relaxation and Wellness Day Spa offers the best value for money as it caters to every occasion and need.

Camelot Spas

Camelot Spas offer several different locations for convenience. Here you can enjoy individualized treatments that exceed the usual daily skin care. Emphasis is placed on performance and high standards. creating an ambiance of general well-being and relaxation.

The therapists at the spa are trained to take advantage of the wide range of equipment and specialized products at their disposal. Some of the advanced body and skin therapies on offer at the spa include hydrotherapy, seaweed mud treatments, thalassotherapy, detoxification and slimming treatments for both women and men.

See the City

Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa


Soweto is as a vibrant a place as you can find in South Africa, with its own culture, rhythm and a rich history. Soweto, an acronym for South West Township, has been around since 1885, and continues to be a home to over 850,000 locals.

Today it is still an intensely active place with astounding economic contrast, with absolute poverty flanked by sheer opulence.

Tour Soweto by foot on a bicycle or in a Tuk-Tuk and visit highlights such as the Hector Pieterson Museum, the Mandela house and Orlando Stadium. Have lunch at Wandies place when the hunger starts to set in and bungee jump from the Orlando cooling towers for a shot of adrenalin (after the food has settled).

If you want to take a break from the city and leap into the city’s past, Soweto is the place to be. It still has the earlier shacks and you might come across street-side barbers and also captures the flourishing pattern of this suburb. With a homely feel to it, Soweto also has excellent bars for a friendly chat or a relaxed evening.

The Carlton Centre

The Carlton Centre is the highest office building in Africa. Situated in the southeastern area of the CBD (Central Business District), there is an observation dock on the 50th sweeping vistas of the beautiful city of Johannesburg.

SAB World of Beer by Pascal Parent on Flickr

Visit the SAB World of Beer

As South Africans we love our beer to such a point that through our consumption of the amber liquid our national brewery has grown into the second largest brewery in the world.

Visit the SAB World of Beer in the middle of Johannesburg and enjoy a well organised tour that educates the beer lover as per the history and process of brewing beer.

Once you have completed the tour enjoy one of SAB’s products while looking over downtown Johannesburg from the roof top beer garden. Plus, you’ll get a free a beer glass with some beer to fill it.

Hang Out with Majestic Animals

Elephant in Pilanesberg National Park

Go on Safari

Pilanesberg National Park is a great place to see all of the Big 5 –  lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. It’s a large park with over 7000 animals, including 360 species of birds.

Pilanesberg is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Johannesburg, so plan accordingly. If you wish to spend more than half a day there, you may want to consider staying on-site in one of their lodges. The park offers safaris from 1 to 5 days in length.

However, if you do plan to spend more time away from Joburg, you may wish to consider Kruger National Park instead. Kruger is about 40 times the size of Pilanesberg, giving it more microclimates and a wider variety of animals to see.

Johannesburg Zoo

The Johannesburg zoo is a microcosm of the world as whole, with the zoo being divided into different climate areas. You can see everything from polar bears to chimpanzees and everything in between. You don’t have to visit the zoo during the day the Johannesburg zoo offers night tours and even the opportunity to spend the night in the Zoo (Zoo snooze). This is the perfect outing for animal lovers.

Lion & Safari Park

A 45-minute drive from Johannesburg, the Lion & Safari Park offers a safe, fun, and convenient way to view lions. You can also view ostriches, giraffes, zebras, hyena, and many species of antelope. Take a guided tour, book a private tour, or drive yourself. The park also features restaurants, a shopping area, and a playground for children.

Get Your Adventure On

Gold Reef City

Gold reef city is a 19th century mining town themed park, just outside central Johannesburg, based around a still functioning gold mine. Although essentially a place for fun, Gold Reef City also aims to educate its visitors about the birth of Johannesburg due to the discovery of gold.

Once you are done with the educational part get onto the rides, tame the Anaconda or ride the Jozi express. It offers visitors a wonderful day out – not just for kids, but for adults as well.

Gold Reef City also offers a top class casino that is on open 24 hours a day as well as theater shows ranging from Broadway shows to musicals.  

Sterkfontein Caves

Sterkfontein Caves

The Sterkfontein caves have been declared a world heritage site due to the role they have played in giving us insight into the evolution of mankind.

The Sterkfontein caves were formed 20 million years ago and are famous for giving us some of the most important archaeological finds in history, namely the discovery of “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, ancient skeletal remains. Other Archaeological finds in the area have pointed to early mankind having mastered fire and tools more than a million years ago.

Tours of the caves run every half hour, seven day a week. Make sure to visit the fascinating exhibition by world-renowned paleoartist John Gurche while you are there.

football and rugby

Rugby and Football

There is nothing better than watching a game of rugby in the Ellis Park or football at Soccer City or Orlando Pirates. Be assured to enjoy a thrilling game with the players always high on energy.

Go Shopping

Johannesburg has a large avenue of shopping malls like Sandton City or Nelson Mandela Square, and also famous flea markets like the Oriental Plaza or the Rosebank Flea Market. You can end your trip with a visit to the Cradle of Humankind, home to the bones of 2000,000 years old ancestors.

Nelson Mandela Square
Nelson Mandela Square

Sandton City Shopping Centre

Sandton city has been called Africa’s richest square mile, and it contains more luxury four by fours than anywhere on earth. You can buy anything from traditional African bead craft to Gucci handbags. With over 300 shops and a string of five star hotels, Sandton City is haven for those who enjoy the finer things in life. 

Nelson Mandela Square is connected to Sandton City, and is one of the largest shopping centers on the entire continent, with over 400 stores.

Rosebank Flea Market

The famous Rosebank Flea Market is open every Sunday. It features handmade African arts and crafts from across South Africa and countries beyond. You’ll also be able to enjoy live music and other entertainment while you peruse the stalls. Stay until sunset for amazing views.

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