Johannesburg Travel Guide

Built on the wealth of gold beneath its streets, the remarkable city of Johannesburg mushroomed from nothing to a modern metropolis in just over a century. There are wonderful restaurants, township tours, fantastic shopping opportunities, and the chance of exciting excursions to such diverse attractions as glitzy casinos, safaris, and prehistoric fossil fields.

The city illustrates the desperate inequality that characterises South African society, and the combination of palatial homes in glamorous suburbs and sprawling shanty towns shocks and challenges visitors. Crime is a serious problem, but Johannesburg is a proud city and some of the most exciting of the city's attractions can be found in the township areas where creativity and innovation often manage to triumph over poverty.

Johannesburg is a good place to learn about South Africa's apartheid history, with some great museums and tours dedicated to the subject. The city is also the gateway to South Africa's top game parks. Many who enter the country here would be well-advised to spend a few days in the City of Gold to experience this vibrant destination before or after they hit the bush.

Best time to visit Johannesburg

Summer in Johannesburg is between December and February, and perhaps the best time to travel to the city is over the Festive season (December, January) when South African schools are on their summer break and the city tends to empty out as residents head to the coast for their holidays. This leaves Johannesburg's attractions uncrowded and accessible, with late afternoon thunderstorms that cool things down. Winter days are also beautiful and sunny, but nights can be very cold.

What to see in Johannesburg

-Take a tour of Constitution Hill for insight into South Africa's turbulent legal history.

-Explore the fascinating city within a city that is Soweto.

-Visit the Apartheid Museum, one of the country's most renowned attractions.

What to do in Johannesburg

-Enjoy the vibrant cultural and nightlife hub that is the Newtown Cultural Precinct.

-Picnic in the beautiful Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens.

-Treat the kids to a fun day out and explore a mine at Gold Reef City theme park.

-Take an excursion to The Lost City, the famous casino, resort, and waterpark just outside the city.

Beyond Johannesburg

Johannesburg is the most common entry point for foreign visitors to South Africa and is well-situated to be a travel hub, particularly to the country's biggest and most popular national parks, which attract tourists wanting the safari experience. The Kruger National Park, undoubtedly one of the best game viewing destinations in the world, is a short flight or a five-hour drive from the city. For those interested in the origins and history of the human species, the Cradle of Humankind, just outside of Johannesburg, is a must.

Getting there

Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport, situated 14 miles (22km) east of the city, is the main gateway to South Africa, with connecting flights to most other tourist destinations in the country. The Gautrain provides fast and convenient transport into the city.

Did you know?

-Johannesburg is one of the youngest major cities in the world.

-About 40 percent of the planet's ancient human ancestor fossils have been found in the Johannesburg area.

-With more than 10 million trees, Johannesburg often tops lists of the most treed cities in the world.