Top 10 Things to do in Johannesburg

What is your reason for visiting Johannesburg?

Don’t make the mistake of simply using it as a stopover on your way to other southern African cities. You need to take your time and experience what this place has to offer.

Firstly, it has a rich history as a gold mining town and is home to South African heroes. Secondly, your days will be filled with entertainment and excellent local food.

The city’s leaders have invested time into transforming old areas into modern tourism hubs. You can select your day’s activities from a long list of epic experiences.

Situated close to local and international airports, and with an excellent Gautrain transport infrastructure, it’s easy to enjoy Johannesburg. There’s something for everyone. Here are the 10 things you can’t miss out on.

Get an Adrenaline Rush

What do you do when a power station closes down? You turn it into a tourist attraction.

The Orlando Towers are so famous, they’ve been featured on the TV program The Amazing Race. You can enjoy a thrilling bungee or base jump from the top of a tower, to commemorate your visit to the city.

The bland cooling towers were transformed into stunning skyline features with vibrant painted images. This makes it the perfect South African background to your selfies.

Eat Burned Meat

It’s called ‘Shisa Nyama’ in Zulu. In Afrikaans you’ll call it ‘Braai’. This cuisine is part of many cultures in South Africa and refers to the way chicken, pork, lamb or beef is cooked. And while the name refers to ‘burn the meat’, it’s delicious.

When you visit local families at their homes, this is bound to be on the menu. Alternatively you’ll find it at stalls when you take a guided tour to a township. Look out for informal stalls where locals put meat on makeshift grills and eat it straight from the fire.

This is not only about the food. It’s about the community and atmosphere you’ll experience while everyone stands around enjoying this particular dish.

View the Skyline

Have you seen Johannesburg’s skyline? When you do you’ll see why it’s one of South Africa’s most popular images. With the high Carlton Center flagged by other prominent buildings, it’s quite striking.

And you must see it for yourself.

Of course a skyline is most beautiful when viewed at night. For this you can plan a late dinner at Flames restaurant, situated at the Four Seasons.

But why not take in Johannesburg’s daytime magic too? You’ll see old and modern buildings flanked by the six million trees Johannesburg contains. This is best experienced by taking a walk on the hilly grounds of the Dutch Reformed Church in Cottesloe.

From where will you capture an image of your new favorite travel destination?

Experience History

When is a visit to a new city most special? For many travelers it’s about experiencing something unique to the area and its people.

In Johannesburg your options are vast.

Why not learn about all people at The Cradle of Humankind? It’s situated just outside Johannesburg and you’ll be able to view 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils in one place. You won’t get that anywhere else in the world.

Looking for something more specific?

  • Museum Africa tells you everything about southern Africa
  • The country’s political history is captured at the Apartheid Museum
  • Learn about Johannesburg’s history as a gold mining town at Gold Reef City theme park

These tours won’t be boring history lessons. There are too many impressive figures mentioned, and interactive features. You can even descend into a real mine 75m below the earth’s surface. The gold you’ll see down there is real. You’ll realize why people risked their livelihoods to get more of it.

All of this happened in the powerful city called Johannesburg. Will you play a small role in the city one day?

Make Mandela Memories

Did Mandela make an impact on you as he did on others around the world? What better place to learn about him than in his hometown?

In Johannesburg you’ll never have to travel far to reach an attraction associated with him. You can visit his home in Soweto or Liliesleaf in Rivonia. The latter is where Mandela was arrested.

Why consider this historical journey for your holiday? Because it will give you the best insight into the country as a whole. And what better way than learning about the people who formed its history?

With their inspiring stories in your mind, the selfie you take on Nelson Mandela Square will have that much more value for you.

Visit a Market

Where will you find memorable items to take with you after your Johannesburg visit? That’s what you need markets for.

Johannesburg locals love indoor and outdoor markets, so you can take your pick.

The aptly named Neighbourgoods Market is situated in the heart of the city. You’ll experience locals as well as their many wares. This ranges from handmade items to original food ideas. All your senses will be stimulated.

The community also supports healthy living. You can try Bryanston’s Organic Market. Here it’s not only about providing naturally grown food. You’ll also find natural fiber clothing and handmade crafts.

Johannesburg caters for everyone.

Nature and Entertainment at Monte Casino

Are you looking for the ultimate all in one experience?

Monte Casino is the ultimate leisure complex. You’ll find everything your holiday needs:

  • Luxurious hotels
  • Entertainment in the form of movies and theaters
  • A bird park hosting over 60 different bird species you’ve never seen before, as well as some small animals that walk free
  • Restaurants of all kinds for rejuvenation after sightseeing
  • A casino with slots and table games
  • Keep an eye out for regular events, exhibitions and festivals

Visitors love the décor that transforms the complex into a small Italian city. Because it’s situated close to main roads and tourist hubs, it’s the ideal place to stay during your Johannesburg visit.

Ride the Red Bus

You don’t even have to be concerned about transport when you’re a Johannesburg tourist. You can see everything noteworthy from the comfort of a bus.

These busses drive around Johannesburg all day. Purchase a ticket and you can use them to get from attraction to attraction. Here’s what you’ll enjoy:

  • Take a break from the hot African sun by sitting inside or bask in the sunlight when using the open top seats.
  • Learn about the city in one of 15 languages. Audio is played through headsets and you can select whether you want to listen or simply enjoy the views.
  • Over 20 Johannesburg attractions can easily be reached along its route. Simply get off at the stop nearest to yours and get on another bus when you’re finished.

It’s the perfect way to spend a day and get an idea of what this city is about.

Get to the Top of the Carlton Centre

When you put your wish list together, you want to plan epic moments, right?

That’s why your trip will include a trip to the Carlton Centre. This will connect you with quite a few historical features.

The Carlton Centre took seven years to complete and opened in 1973. It housed the five star Carlton Hotel and this is where the rich & famous stayed when visiting the city.

But times change. The area deteriorated and the hotel closed. But a state owned entity bought and renovated it so you can now enjoy the sights from its 50th floor. When you’re at this level—223m up in the air—you’re at the top of the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. Imagine the view!

And don’t worry, you don’t have to climb stairs. There’s a lift. Once you’re there you can enjoy 360° views of Johannesburg and take the perfect selfie to remember your holiday by.

See a Sports Match

Sports isn’t simply a pass time for South Africans. It’s part of their culture. And if you’re a Johannesburg local you have to support your local rugby and soccer teams.

Where can you go to experience this?

Thanks to the country hosting the Soccer World Cup in 2010, you can watch a game in the state of the art FNB Stadium. If popular teams play, get ready to share the seats with almost 95 000 other people. You’ll be entertained by the game, as well as the fans’ unique songs, jubilant attitude and passion for their teams.

Featuring one of the best teams in the world, South Africa loves rugby too. The Johannesburg locals are usually Lions supporters and you can join them at Emirates Airline Park. You’ll be covering your ears when 62 000 fans cheer on their teams.

These events show you the passion the local people have for life.

Summary

What are you passionate about? Hopefully this list will help you find experiences that line up with your preferences. Enjoy Johannesburg’s rich history or its modern attractions. But perhaps it’s better not to overthink it. In an interesting metropolis such as Johannesburg, you’ll have selfie worthy moments, simply by walking down the street.

If you are thinking of heading to this great city, check out this locals guide to Johannesburg and see the true beauty of this city.