Things to do in Johannesburg

Johannesburg has a variety of tourist attractions, including museums, art exhibitions and cultural experiences. There are also fun family outings and remarkable displays of local innovation and productivity. With good weather throughout most of the year, sightseeing in Johannesburg is always a rewarding adventure.

The first stop on any list of things to see in Johannesburg should be the Apartheid Museum, which documents South Africa's history of black oppression and its move towards democracy. Another must-see is the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which features the Sterkfontein Caves where the archaeologists excavated the ancient fossil of Mrs. Ples in 1947.

A tour of the Soweto township is an eye-opening experience. The tour will normally include several informative visits to museums and historic sites, as well as more relaxed laughs and adventures in the shebeens (bars).

On a lighter note, a fantastic Johannesburg attraction is Gold Reef City, a gold-rush-fashioned theme park full of exciting thrill rides. It incorporates some of the city's old gold mines and guides visitors down the old shafts if they want something more educational than rollercoasters.

While sightseeing in Johannesburg, visitors can tour the SAB World of Beer, which documents South Africa's proud beer brewing traditions, or take a scenic hike through the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens. Newtown Cultural Precinct's Market Theatre and Museum Africa are also Johannesburg attractions worth seeing.

Kruger National Park photo

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is South Africa's oldest, largest and best-known wildlife conservation area, home to a huge variety of wildlife and most famous for its 'Big Five' viewing …

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is South Africa's oldest, largest and best-known wildlife conservation area, home to a huge variety of wildlife and most famous for its 'Big Five' viewing opportunities. Visitors have an excellent chance of seeing lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino among the enormous variety of wildlife, including over 140 species of mammals, 500 species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. Situated on South Africa's northeastern border, Kruger is a primary destination for international tourists, and is visited by more than half a million local and international visitors every year. They are attracted by the different safari options as well as the park's excellent range of visitor facilities and choice of accommodation, from luxurious game lodges to cottages and camping.

Website www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger

Gold Reef City photo

Gold Reef City

This huge entertainment complex is essentially a theme park full of thrill rides, but was designed to recreate Victorian Johannesburg during the gold-rush era. Situated five miles …

Gold Reef City

This huge entertainment complex is essentially a theme park full of thrill rides, but was designed to recreate Victorian Johannesburg during the gold-rush era. Situated five miles (8km) south of the city centre via the M1 motorway, the park was built around the No.14 Crown mineshaft that began operations in 1887 and closed in 1971. During its production years, 1,400 tons of gold came out of the shaft. Visitors can now descend into the old mine shaft to experience life at the rock face, and watch gold being poured and minted. Gold Reef City also houses a number of museums, and offers performances by traditional gumboot dancers and the like. Youngsters particularly enjoy rides such as the Anaconda, roller coaster and Thunder Mountain River Rapids.

Website www.goldreefcity.co.za

Newtown Cultural Precinct photo

Newtown Cultural Precinct

Located in the city centre, this complex of buildings has been upgraded and restored as part of the city fathers' urban renewal policy and includes several attractions. For instanc…

Newtown Cultural Precinct

Located in the city centre, this complex of buildings has been upgraded and restored as part of the city fathers' urban renewal policy and includes several attractions. For instance, the Market Theatre and Museum Africa are housed in a Victorian building in Bree Street, originally Johannesburg's fresh produce market. The Museum of Africa is particularly worth a visit, as its exhibits tell the city's story from its beginnings to the present day. The display includes an interesting section about the Treason Trial of the 1950s, in which Nelson Mandela and other activists were accused of plotting against the state. The same building houses a photography museum and the Museum of South African Rock Art.

Website www.newtown.co.za

Johannesburg Zoo photo

Johannesburg Zoo

The Johannesburg Zoo is a favourite place for locals to take a stroll. Its many enclosures house more than 320 species of animal, including polar bears that can be viewed underwate…

Johannesburg Zoo

The Johannesburg Zoo is a favourite place for locals to take a stroll. Its many enclosures house more than 320 species of animal, including polar bears that can be viewed underwater in their pool. Of course, the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo) are all in residence, while other highlights include lemurs, gorillas, caracals, Siberian tigers, hippos, orangutans, brown bears, and cheetahs. The zoo's various monkeys are also very entertaining and visitors will appreciate the large collection of birdlife. The zoo is dedicated to conservation and rehabilitation and conducts some breeding programmes.

Website www.jhbzoo.org.za

Warmbaths photo

Warmbaths

The area known as Springbok Flats is part of the Great Rift Valley and lies on the national road north from Johannesburg. Bela-Bela town is located on the area's edge. Still common…

Warmbaths

The area known as Springbok Flats is part of the Great Rift Valley and lies on the national road north from Johannesburg. Bela-Bela town is located on the area's edge. Still commonly known as Warmbaths (the name officially changed in 2002), it is famous for its hot mineral springs. The springs yield about 20,000 litres of water every hour, all of which is enriched with sodium chloride, calcium carbonate, and other minerals. The town is a popular spa and holiday resort. The main resort, Warmbaths, has a large indoor pool with underwater jets, outdoor hot and cold swimming pools, jacuzzis, a wave pool, and several water slides.

Lost City photo

Lost City

Situated in the Bojanala region of the North West Province, the 'Las Vegas of South Africa' is one of the largest entertainment centres for adults in the world. Visitors can look f…

Lost City

Situated in the Bojanala region of the North West Province, the 'Las Vegas of South Africa' is one of the largest entertainment centres for adults in the world. Visitors can look forward to casinos, golf courses, live shows, and the architectural wonder of the Lost City. The vast resort complex is one of South Africa's top attractions for gambling, entertainment, and opulence. Guests will find a luxurious palace at its centre, where frescoes, palm fronds, mosaics and elephant tusks complement the resort's life-size model animals. Lakes, forests, and a tropical beach surround the Lost City. Along with a variety of water sports, guests can enjoy The Valley of the Waves, which is the most advanced waterpark in the country.

Website www.suninternational.com

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens photo

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

Johannesburg is one of the most densely treed cities in the world and has a number of pleasant parks and gardens. Among them, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is undoubt…

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

Johannesburg is one of the most densely treed cities in the world and has a number of pleasant parks and gardens. Among them, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is undoubtedly the city's most superb green lung. Located in the west of Johannesburg, this urban oasis covers 741 acres (300ha), and offers lush gardens and scenic hiking trails. The botanical garden was founded in 1982, with the area used consistently for hiking and outdoor excursions since the 1800s. Locals consistently rate it the best place to explore nature in Gauteng. The gardens are a terrific place for birdwatchers and garden-enthusiasts interested in seeing a variety of fauna and flora.

Website www.sanbi.org/gardens/walter-sisulu

Melville photo

Melville

Melville is an old suburb known for its quirky, artistic atmosphere, eclectic little shops, pavement cafes, fun bars, restaurants, and clubs. This trendy suburb is a hive of activi…

Melville

Melville is an old suburb known for its quirky, artistic atmosphere, eclectic little shops, pavement cafes, fun bars, restaurants, and clubs. This trendy suburb is a hive of activity on any given night of the week, and is the place to go out and carouse in Johannesburg for visitors who prefer a bohemian vibe to the preppy, upmarket nightlife that generally characterises the city. Seventh Street is the central zone from which all the character emanates and is a great place to start. Its collection of book and antique shops, cafes, and other interesting storefronts are well worth exploring. Partygoers barhop into the small hours, but tourists should refrain from walking around too much at night, and be aware of pickpockets.

The Apartheid Museum photo

The Apartheid Museum

Situated near Gold Reef City, the Apartheid Museum chronicles South Africa's tragic and shameful history of black oppression. On display are relics of the apartheid system, an abho…

The Apartheid Museum

Situated near Gold Reef City, the Apartheid Museum chronicles South Africa's tragic and shameful history of black oppression. On display are relics of the apartheid system, an abhorrent regime that denied people of colour basic freedoms and an equal life in the country. Visitors often describe the experience of the Apartheid Museum as harrowing. At the same time, the story of the struggle over adversity is inspirational and serves as an integral and important part of the new South African narrative and its reflections on history. To give some idea of the everyday realities of racial classification, visitors arbitrarily are classified as either 'white' or 'non-white' upon arrival and can only enter through their designated entrance.

Website www.apartheidmuseum.org

Constitution Hill photo

Constitution Hill

A guided tour of the National Heritage Site of Constitution Hill takes visitors on a journey through South Africa's turbulent past, but also illustrates its incredible transition i…

Constitution Hill

A guided tour of the National Heritage Site of Constitution Hill takes visitors on a journey through South Africa's turbulent past, but also illustrates its incredible transition into democracy. Tourists can visit the Number Four prison, a dark and terrible place where Mahatma Ghandi, Robert Sobukwe, and Nelson Mandela were all incarcerated, along with many other victims of the racial hierarchy. The Old Fort is also open to the public. Built in 1893, it was a prison for white men (including British prisoners of war) during the South African War, and one of Johannesburg's oldest buildings. Visitors may also be interested in the Women's Prison, where political activists such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela endured terrible suffering, and infamous murderess Daisy de Melker was incarcerated.

Website www.constitutionhill.org.za

Hector Pieterson Memorial Site and Museum photo

Hector Pieterson Memorial Site and Museum

Hector Pieterson became the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto Uprising in Apartheid South Africa, when a news photograph of the dying Hector being carried by a fellow student was pub…

Hector Pieterson Memorial Site and Museum

Hector Pieterson became the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto Uprising in Apartheid South Africa, when a news photograph of the dying Hector being carried by a fellow student was published across the globe. He was just 12 years old when the police opened fire on school children who had gathered to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in township schools. The protest was intended to be peaceful but became a violent confrontation when police demanded that the students disperse; students threw stones and police fired bullets. News of the bloodshed ignited uprisings across the country. The museum fuses memorabilia with modern technology and cultural history and is located two blocks away from where Hector was killed.

Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng Visitor Centre photo

Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng Visitor Centre

The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains a complex of dolomitic limestone caves, including the well-known Sterkfontein Caves, where the fossil Australop…

Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng Visitor Centre

The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains a complex of dolomitic limestone caves, including the well-known Sterkfontein Caves, where the fossil Australopithecus africanus (nicknamed Mrs. Ples) was found in 1947 by Dr Robert Broom and John Robinson. 'Mrs Ples' is estimated to be between 2.6 and 2.8 million years old and ranks high on the long list of australopithecine discoveries for that Sterkfontein is now famous. At present, only the Sterkfontein Caves and the Wonder Cave are open to the public. The Maropeng Visitor Centre is a stirring, world-class exhibition space, focusing on the development of humans and our ancestors and evolution over the past few million years.

Website www.maropeng.co.za

Soweto photo

Soweto

Soweto's history goes back to 1903, when Kliptown was established as the first black settlement on the outskirts of Johannesburg. An abbreviation for South-Western Township, Soweto…

Soweto

Soweto's history goes back to 1903, when Kliptown was established as the first black settlement on the outskirts of Johannesburg. An abbreviation for South-Western Township, Soweto has had a turbulent history and was at the centre of the Apartheid struggle in South Africa. Today, Soweto is home to several famous landmarks, including Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Diepkloof, Walter Sisulu Square in Kliptown, Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Rockville, and the Freedom Towers. A number of historic museums are also popular attractions in Soweto, including the Hector Pieterson Museum, and the Apartheid Museum. Tours of Soweto are a must for any first-time visitor to Johannesburg and South Africa, and a number of tour operators offer trips into Soweto.

Website www.soweto.co.za

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