15 Best Things to Do in Johannesburg

15 Best Things to Do in Johannesburg

As the South African hub of culture and economy, Johannesburg is one of the perfect cities to plan a vacation. You’ll get to learn all about African heroes’ struggles, see the wildlife that Africa boasts of, and enjoy the local art and food scenes.

You can go on a local history trip, or just enjoy a morning safari to see the kings of the jungle. No matter what you do like to do, there are plenty of tourist attractions in Johannesburg. Let’s take a look at the top 15 things to do in Johannesburg.

Visit The Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg
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See the graphical portrayal of all kinds of apartheid stories inside this museum in Johannesburg.

The Apartheid Museum is one of the most famous spots in South Africa. There are newspaper clippings, artefacts, and even photos representing people’s stories and struggles.

The entire depiction of the rise and fall and ups and downs of South Africa has been brought up so emotionally that it will be etched in your minds forever. From the people being ruthlessly oppressed to the tremendous struggles of creating democracy, everything can be found here.

You can find decades’ worth of stories that will clearly describe how South Africa came to be this way and what struggles it had to face all along the journey.

Pay a visit to the Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City
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Everyone is aware of the American or the Klondike Gold Rush, but were you aware that Africa had its very own version of the gold rush? Yes, during this gold rush, many foreign businesspeople and traders made their way to the continent, exploited the natives, and made them their slaves.

Of course, the gold rush is another sad part of South Africa’s oppression-filled history. But here in Johannesburg, Gold Reef City was the centre of attention during the gold rush. Now it has been turned into something that will make new memories!

The Gold Reef City is a theme park filled with some of the best rides. There is even a trampoline park along with several roller coasters!

Learn about the history at Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill
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Johannesburg is a city of history. Number Four, Women's Gaol, and the Old Fort are the three museums found here on site.

Constitution Hill is located on the edge of the city of Johannesburg and gives you a beautiful view of the entire city. In reality, it was just a prison that has quite a fascinating, cruel history of almost torturing its prisoners to death.

A lot of political leaders and even criminals were kept inside. The amount of torture they had to endure during their stay was indeed an example of cruelty. Did you know that personalities like the great Nelson Mandela and even Mahatma Gandhi have been imprisoned here?

Learn about the struggles of the natives at Soweto

Orlando towers in Soweto
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Soweto lies just 20 KM from Johannesburg, but it has got some of the most extraordinary tales to tell about the country’s freedom fighters. In the old days, when tyranny still ruled over and oppressed the innocent natives of Africa, Soweto was a place where the laborers lived in the worst conditions.

This city was planned so that the natives could not come into contact with the rulers. It was as late as 1976 that the town inhabitants decided to take matters into their own hands, and we saw the Soweto Uprisings.

The city is entirely different now. You can see the lavish mansions and the well-maintained infrastructure of the city. When you are here, be sure to visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. It shows how many people were cruelly shot down during the uprising of the city.

See the pride of Africa at the Lion & Safari Park

Lion and Safari Park
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You can get your fill of the majestic wildlife of Africa right here in Johannesburg. The Lion and Safari Park is near the downtown part of Johannesburg.

Filled with some of the most marvellous sights and animals that Africa offers, the safari is a must when you are on vacation to Johannesburg.

And do you know the best part about this safari? You can interact with the animals here. Yes! You can pet a tiny lion cub or even play with the cheetahs.

There are even zebras and ostriches roaming around just for you to take that perfect photo. You can take part in a river rafting tour as well. Also, the best time to go on a safari is during the feeding hours.

Spend a day at Pretoria

Streets in Pretoria
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If you are willing to roam around and see some more South Africa, there are some great places to check out just around Johannesburg.

Make a day trip to see the best of what South Africa has to offer. But, Pretoria is situated the closest to Johannesburg. Lying at a distance of almost 50 kilometres, the city is breathtakingly beautiful.

Filled with some of the best parks and memorials, the city has many tales to tell and historical stories to offer. The Pretoria National Botanical Garden is indeed a sight to see. The native flora and fauna are remarkable.

The city is at its peak during the springtime when the delightful jacarandas are in full bloom, giving the city a gorgeous purple hue.

Feel the modern Johannesburg at Maboneng Precinct

Maboneng Precinct
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Maboneng happened to be one of the worst neighborhoods in Johannesburg. Often a hiding space for criminals and thugs, everyone kept away. Due to the initiatives of the locals and the authorities, the area has entirely changed its look and environment.

The place is vibrant now. Filled with people and food joints, Maboneng is quite an enjoyable destination. If you want to see what South African nightlife looks like, Maboneng is the best place to hang out.

If you are looking for some fantastic continental food, Market on Main is your destination. Revolution House is another tourist attraction here.

Plan a day trip to Pilanesberg National Park

Pilanesberg National Park
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You cannot plan a trip to Africa and not visit its royal wildlife. After all, safaris and forests are two of the most significant aspects of African tourism. When you are here in Johannesburg, you are really in luck. The Pilanesberg National Park is one of the best African forests to experience all of Africa’s pride.

You can catch glimpses of lions, elephants, and even leopards in the same place. You can even take a whole day trip here to get the very best of the forest. In addition to large animals, you can see hundreds of different types of birds. The park offers both mornings as well as afternoon safaris.

Plan your meals at Neighbourgoods Market

Neighbourgoods Market
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Previously known as Braamfontein, the Neighbourgoods Market is one of the best things that ever happened to Johannesburg. If you drive from downtown, you can get to the market in just an hour. This area is the best during the weekends. People crowd around the marketplace, and live music is always going on.

The area is lively with lots of restaurants and eateries. You can find all types of cuisines here—street tacos, authentic sushi, and Thai cuisine are just some of the foods that can be found here in the restaurants that are scattered around. The gelato available during the warm summer months is the best of the lot.

Enjoy the beauty of nature at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens
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When you are in Johannesburg, and you want to get away from the chaos of the city for a while, Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens is one of the best escapades.

There are very few botanical gardens—9 to be exact—and the Walter Sisulu is one of the very best. The South African National Biodiversity Institute takes care of this project.

Red rock cliffs surround the botanical gardens that make the scenes look even more beautiful. The presence of the Witpoortjie Waterfall in the botanical gardens makes it a picturesque location.

There are different types of gardens inside this botanical park. With a ton of trekking trails around as well, you can even go for a hike.

Enjoy the local art scenes at Market Theatre

Market Theatre
Ossewa, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The best way to spend some of your leisure time here in Johannesburg is to observe and enjoy the local art scenes. The Market Theatre is one of the best places to let loose and enjoy the beautiful local scenes.

Learn more about the culture and the local Johannesburg traditions from this market. There are different galleries in this area filled with local talents.

There are even jazz places where you can hear the traditional music that the entire continent is famous for. Museum Africa is also located right here. You can drop by for a visit after you are done appreciating the local scenes.

See the struggles of the past at the South African Museum of Military History

South African Museum of Military History
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Africa has seen a lot of military conflicts over the years. All other continents or major colonial countries have tried to lay their hands on Africa at different points in history. The history is vast, and the stories of the struggles of the African military are endless.

In this famous museum, where the top priority is to show people the highlights of African military struggles, you can find many things that refer to the work during WWII and the Anglo-Zulu war.

There are even mentions of the strategies which were used during WWI. You can even get a glimpse of the modern-day battle means and the weapons here.

See where everything began at the Cradle of Humankind

Cradle of Humankind
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Cradle of Humankind plays one of the most significant roles in South Africa’s tourism. The entire world officially announces the place to be the birthplace of humans. Yes, this is the spot where supposedly all of life began. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well.

The Australopithecus Africanus, estimated to be somewhat of a human-like creature’s skull, was found right in this spot by scientists. Another skeleton that dates back almost 3.5 million years was also found here.

All these discoveries led to the scientists referring to this place as the beginning point of human life.

Johannesburg Art Gallery
Janek Szymanowski, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Johannesburg Art Gallery happens to be the largest one here in South Africa. The work here is too much to be entirely seen in just one visit. There are more than 9000 works that have beautifully decorated the walls of the gallery.

There is no other gallery in South Africa that has done as good of a job in storing and maintain its pieces as this gallery.

Many local talents have been portrayed on its walls, but you can find a lot of international works, too. Did you know you can find ancient works as well? Yes, the gallery is rumoured to have works that date back to as early as the 15th century.

See the Lindfield Victorian House Museum on your last day.

If you want to know what kind of life the British lived in Africa during the Victorian era, we might have an excellent suggestion for you. Apart from being a Provincial Heritage Site, this museum does live tours with its owner serving as the guide!

Yes, Katherine Love, who also happens to be the current owner of this house museum, has been here since 1967. She still gets all dolled up before any tour.

She wears all the old Victorian clothes and takes the tourists on a tour. Being one of the most attractive spots in South Africa, the Lindfield Victorian House Museum is very well preserved.

You can still see the furniture that is at least a couple hundred years old. Get a better grasp on the well-known Victorian culture from the traditions and the art that are well-maintained around the house.

This brings us to the end of our wonderful Johannesburg trip. We hope we gave you a clear image of how beautiful Johannesburg is and how much it deserves your time. Do pay a visit to this beautiful city on your next vacation, and let us know what you think!