Nelson Mandela Bridge and Johannesburg city at sunset

21 Things to Do in Johannesburg: Icons and Hidden Gems

Table of Contents

Johannesburg, affectionately known as Joburg or Jozi, is a vibrant metropolis pulsating with life, a city where the old meets the new in a beautiful dance of evolution. Renowned as South Africa’s financial hub and the world’s largest city not situated on a river, lake, or coastline, Johannesburg captivates with its unique character and spirit.

There’s an undeniable energy in this city of contrasts. It’s where skyscrapers housing international corporations stand shoulder to shoulder with historical buildings that whisper tales of a bygone era. It’s a city of the arts, where world-class galleries showcase homegrown talent, and street murals color the city’s walls in creativity. Yet, it’s also a city of sports, where the cheers from soccer stadiums can be heard resonating far and wide.

For the curious traveler, Johannesburg presents a cornucopia of experiences. Its famed landmarks, such as the Apartheid Museum and Soweto, have an important story to tell. But venture a little off the beaten path, and you’ll find that Johannesburg is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

This list of 21 things to do in Johannesburg aims to guide you through the city’s iconic landmarks, but it also encourages you to delve a little deeper, to discover the side of Joburg that many tourists miss. The places less traveled that hold a certain charm, unique to the city’s core. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a foodie, an art lover, or an adventurer, Johannesburg has a multitude of experiences just waiting for you.

1. Visit the Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum Entrance Johannesburg

Begin your journey with a visit to the enlightening Apartheid Museum, a key destination offering deep insight into South Africa’s turbulent past. Opened in 2001, this museum isn’t just a building filled with exhibits but an emotional journey that takes you through the rise and fall of apartheid.

The museum is located in Johannesburg’s southern outskirts and takes visitors through a poignant exploration of the apartheid era, a period of racial segregation that lasted from 1948 to 1994. The exhibits, comprised of personal testimonials, film footage, photographs, and historical artifacts, provide a deeply moving account of the system’s brutal implementation and the fight to end it.

Upon entering the museum, visitors are randomly assigned a racial classification – either white or non-white – and must enter through the corresponding entrance, instantly providing a stark demonstration of the arbitrariness and inhumanity of the apartheid system. The 22 individual exhibition areas inside the museum take you on a journey through a state-sanctioned system that influenced every aspect of daily life in South Africa, from education and employment to marriage and housing.

Among the museum’s most powerful exhibits are the series of hanging nooses representing political prisoners executed under apartheid and the room filled with copies of the passbooks non-white citizens were required to carry. The museum also sheds light on the role of the African National Congress and notable figures like Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo in the struggle for freedom.

Voyagix Tips

To make the most of your visit to the Apartheid Museum, consider these tips:

  • Allow Enough Time: The museum is extensive and the exhibits are detailed. Plan to spend at least two to three hours here to fully appreciate its historical significance.
  • Guided Tours: While the museum is self-guided, you can hire a guide for a more detailed understanding of the exhibits. More information can be found on the official Apartheid Museum website.
  • Emotional Content: Some exhibits are intense and may not be suitable for young children. Use your discretion.
  • Remember: As the museum deals with a sensitive part of South Africa’s history, be respectful when discussing the exhibits.

Visiting the Apartheid Museum is a sobering but necessary experience for anyone seeking to understand South Africa’s past and the strides it has made towards reconciliation and unity. It’s a reminder of the human spirit’s resilience and the ongoing global struggle against racial discrimination and inequality.

2. Explore Soweto by Bike

Former powerplant, cooling tower, now is place for BASE jumping

Continue your adventure by renting a bike and pedaling your way through Soweto, the largest township in Johannesburg. Soweto (an abbreviation for South Western Townships) isn’t just a place—it’s a vibrant community rich in history and culture, offering a unique blend of poignant history and exhilarating present-day life.

Founded in the early 20th century, Soweto became the center of political campaigns aimed at the overthrow of apartheid. Today, Soweto is home to more than one million people and serves as a vibrant center of black urban life in Johannesburg. It’s a place of stark contrasts where traditional tin houses and informal settlements sit side by side with upscale mansions.

As you pedal through Soweto’s streets, you’ll encounter landmarks such as the former home of Nelson Mandela on Vilakazi Street, now a museum. A few steps away is the house of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, another Nobel Laureate. The vibrant street is the only one in the world to have been home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners, making it a significant stop on your journey.

A stone’s throw away is the Hector Pieterson Museum, named after a 13-year-old boy whose shooting during the 1976 Soweto Uprising became an international symbol of resistance to apartheid. The museum offers an intense account of the uprising and the events surrounding Pieterson’s death.

Voyagix Tips

Here are a few tips to make the most of your biking tour through Soweto:

  • Join a Guided Tour: Local companies such as Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers offer guided bike tours that cover Soweto’s main historical and cultural sites. Having a local guide can provide context and answer any questions you may have.
  • Wear Comfortable Clothes: Remember, you’ll be cycling, so wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy shoes. Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat!
  • Stay Hydrated: Carry a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated during the tour. Johannesburg’s climate can be quite warm, especially during the summer months.
  • Keep an Open Mind: Soweto is a place of contrasts, and the experience can be overwhelming. Go with an open mind, ready to learn and absorb the spirit of resilience that characterizes this community.

Biking through Soweto is more than just a tour; it’s an opportunity to witness the transformation of a community that was once the heart of the freedom struggle. It’s a testament to South Africa’s tumultuous past, vibrant present, and hopeful future.

3. Walk Around Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill Johannesburg

Immerse yourself in South Africa’s profound history at Constitution Hill, a living museum that tells the story of the nation’s journey to democracy. Once a site of injustice and brutality, it now houses South Africa’s Constitutional Court, a symbol of freedom and democracy.

The Hill was formerly a fort in the late 19th century, later turned into a prison complex that held some of the most prominent figures in South Africa’s history, including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Albertina Sisulu. These iconic individuals were once detained under deplorable conditions, their stories echo through the halls of this historical monument.

As you explore Constitution Hill, you’ll come across the Old Fort, Women’s Jail, and Number Four, notorious sections of the prison complex where thousands of ordinary people were brutally punished for minor infringements against the apartheid regime. The visit is a gripping, emotional journey, but it’s an essential part of understanding South Africa’s past.

Today, Constitution Hill is the seat of the Constitutional Court – the highest court in the land on constitutional matters. This is a beacon of hope, a symbol of how far the nation has come, from a past marked by division and strife, towards a future founded on rights, freedom, and equality.

Voyagix Tips

To help you make the most of your visit to Constitution Hill, consider these tips:

  • Book a Guided Tour: The best way to appreciate the depth of this site is through a guided tour. Constitution Hill offers a variety of tours that delve into different aspects of its rich history. You can find more information and book a tour on their official website.
  • Visit the Court: Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Constitutional Court. Here you can admire a collection of South African artwork and appreciate the architecture, which incorporates bricks from the demolished awaiting-trial block.
  • Prepare Emotionally: The stories shared at Constitution Hill are heavy but essential. The journey can be emotionally intense, so prepare yourself for a deep, reflective experience.
  • Plan Your Time: Allow at least two to three hours for your visit to fully engage with the exhibitions and the space.

Visiting Constitution Hill is not just about exploring a historical site; it’s about understanding South Africa’s journey from a dark past to the establishment of a constitutional democracy. It’s a story of triumph, resilience, and the enduring spirit of humanity.

4. Shop at the Rosebank Sunday Market

Rosebank Sunday Market Johannesburg

Step into the vibrant world of the Rosebank Sunday Market, a bustling hub for local traders, artists, and food vendors. Nestled in the cosmopolitan neighborhood of Rosebank, this market offers a dazzling array of local goods and a chance to immerse yourself in the flavors and vibrancy of Johannesburg’s local scene.

Stroll along the labyrinth of stalls and discover a myriad of items from handcrafted jewelry, unique artworks, to vintage clothing. Each stall presents a unique find, making the market a treasure trove for collectors, enthusiasts, or anyone in search of a special memento.

More than just a shopping experience, the Rosebank Sunday Market is also a culinary adventure. Food stalls abound, offering a range of local and international cuisines. From the traditional South African bunny chow to the exotic flavors of Moroccan tagine, your taste buds are in for a delightful journey. Pair your food with locally brewed craft beer or a glass of South African wine for a complete gastronomic experience.

Adding to the market’s lively atmosphere is a lineup of live music performances by local musicians. The sounds of upbeat African rhythms, soulful jazz, or melodious pop provide a joyous soundtrack to your market exploration.

Voyagix Tips

For an enjoyable visit to the Rosebank Sunday Market, consider these tips:

  • Arrive Early: The market can get crowded as the day goes on. Arrive early to secure parking and enjoy the market before it gets too busy.
  • Bring Cash: While some stalls accept cards, it’s always good to have cash on hand for small purchases or in case card facilities are down. ATMs are available onsite, but queues can be long.
  • Be Adventurous with Food: Try the diverse range of food on offer. It’s a great opportunity to taste local and international cuisine.
  • Check the Weather: The market is outdoors and operates rain or shine. Dress accordingly and bring an umbrella or sunblock as needed.

Whether you’re a food lover, a bargain hunter, or simply looking for a lively and authentic local experience, the Rosebank Sunday Market promises a delightful Sunday outing that brings together the best of Johannesburg’s community spirit and creative flair.

5. Visit the Johannesburg Zoo

Lioness resting and watching other wildlife. Lion Park, Johannesburg, South Africa

Prepare for a memorable encounter with the animal kingdom at the Johannesburg Zoo. Spanning over 55 hectares of land, the zoo is a well-maintained sanctuary for over 2000 animals, offering visitors an intimate glimpse into the diverse world of wildlife.

Established in 1904, the Johannesburg Zoo has grown into one of the city’s premier attractions. It houses an impressive array of species, from the majestic African elephants and ferocious Bengal tigers to the playful ring-tailed lemurs and vibrant flamingos. The zoo is designed to mimic natural habitats, allowing the animals to thrive and providing an authentic experience for visitors.

Adding to the zoo’s unique appeal is a range of interactive experiences. Watch the polar bears during feeding time, enjoy an up-close encounter with farm animals at the Children’s Farmyard, or join the zoo’s night tours for a thrilling after-dark wildlife experience. The zoo’s commitment to conservation is also evident in its breeding programs for endangered species, an effort you’ll learn about during your visit.

With its sprawling green landscapes, picnic spots, and play areas, the zoo is not only an animal paradise but also a recreational space for families and nature enthusiasts.

Voyagix Tips

For an enjoyable visit to the Johannesburg Zoo, consider these tips:

  • Plan Your Visit: The zoo is extensive, so it’s worth planning your visit. Check the official Johannesburg Zoo website for a map and information on animal feeding times and special events.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: You’ll be doing a lot of walking, so wear comfortable footwear. Don’t forget to bring a hat and sunscreen for protection against the sun.
  • Bring a Picnic: The zoo has lovely picnic spots. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy a meal amidst the lush greenery.
  • Attend the Zoo Trot: On the second Sunday of each month, the zoo hosts a 5km or 10km walk or run called the Zoo Trot. It’s a fun way to explore the zoo and get some exercise.

Offering an immersive wildlife experience within the city, the Johannesburg Zoo is more than just a zoo. It’s a place of education, conservation, and family-friendly fun, promising a day full of discovery and adventure.

6. Explore the Johannesburg Botanical Garden

Botanical Gardens in Johannesburg are among the best places to visit in the city, Gauteng, South Africa

Find tranquillity in the heart of Johannesburg at the enchanting Johannesburg Botanical Garden. Spanning over 81 hectares, this lush haven is an ideal retreat for those seeking to unwind amidst nature’s beauty.

The Johannesburg Botanical Garden is not a conventional botanical garden featuring labeled plants and greenhouse collections. Instead, it presents itself as a large, curated park with vast expanses of lawn, beautiful trees, and themed gardens. It’s a place where residents and visitors alike come to relax, picnic, walk their dogs, or simply bask in the serenity of the verdant surroundings.

As you explore, you’ll discover the garden’s diverse landscapes, each revealing a different facet of nature’s artistry. The Shakespeare Garden is filled with herbs mentioned in the Bard’s plays, while the Rose Garden boasts over 10,000 roses. The Hedge Demonstration Garden showcases hedge varieties and pruning techniques, and the Succulent Garden is a haven of hardy, water-wise plants.

A significant feature of the garden is the serene Emmarentia Dam, a popular spot for canoeing and sailing. The dam’s banks are a favorite picnic site, offering breathtaking views of the water.

Voyagix Tips

For a perfect day at the Johannesburg Botanical Garden, consider these tips:

  • Check the Weather: Johannesburg weather can be unpredictable, so check the forecast before you go. The garden is best enjoyed on a clear, sunny day.
  • Bring a Picnic: The garden is an ideal spot for picnics. Pack a basket with your favorite treats and find a comfortable spot on the lawns.
  • Don’t Miss the Birdlife: The garden and dam are home to diverse birdlife. Bring your binoculars and enjoy some bird-watching. The BirdLife South Africa website has useful information.
  • Respect the Environment: Remember, the garden is a shared public space. Please leave no trace, keeping the environment clean and undisturbed.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a garden enthusiast, or someone simply looking for a peaceful escape, the Johannesburg Botanical Garden offers a refreshing urban retreat. It’s a place where nature’s charm soothes the soul and the city’s bustle seems a world away.

7. Discover the Cradle of Humankind

Lighted caves of Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site in Gauteng Province, South Africa, the site of 2.8 million year old early hominid fossil and Mrs. Ples

Embark on a fascinating journey through time at the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage site located just an hour’s drive from Johannesburg. Spanning an area of over 47,000 hectares, this geological wonder is a window into the distant past, unveiling millions of years of human history.

The Cradle of Humankind is one of the richest paleoanthropological sites in the world, known for its extensive fossil record. It’s here that some of the oldest hominid fossils ever discovered have been unearthed, providing invaluable insights into the evolution of humans. The highlight is the Sterkfontein Caves, where over 500 hominid fossils have been found, including the famous “Mrs. Ples” and “Little Foot”.

Aside from its archaeological importance, the Cradle of Humankind is also a place of natural beauty, with a diverse array of flora and fauna. Rolling hills, rugged valleys, and picturesque rivers and lakes create a tranquil and inviting landscape that is a pleasure to explore.

The Maropeng Visitor Centre offers an engaging and interactive journey through our evolution. Its immersive exhibits, which include a boat ride through the elemental forces that shaped our planet, bring the distant past vividly to life.

Voyagix Tips

For an unforgettable visit to the Cradle of Humankind, consider these tips:

  • Prepare for the Caves: Exploring the Sterkfontein Caves involves a significant amount of walking, often on uneven surfaces. Wear sturdy shoes and bring a jacket as it can be chilly inside.
  • Visit the Maropeng Visitor Centre: The Maropeng Visitor Centre offers a fascinating overview of human evolution. Tickets can be purchased online from the official website.
  • Make a Day of It: There’s plenty to see at the Cradle of Humankind, so plan for a full day visit. There are several on-site restaurants for meals.
  • Consider a Guided Tour: A guided tour can enrich your understanding of the site’s significance. Check the Maropeng Visitor Centre for availability.

The Cradle of Humankind is a testament to our collective heritage, offering a deep and meaningful connection with our ancient ancestors. Whether you’re an archaeology buff, a nature lover, or simply a curious traveler, a visit to this World Heritage site promises to be a profound and moving experience.

8. Try Local Cuisine in Maboneng

Colourfull building in the heart of Maboneng, Johannesburg, South Africa

Experience the vibrant culinary scene in the trendy precinct of Maboneng. Known for its eclectic mix of restaurants and cafes, Maboneng has quickly become Johannesburg’s go-to spot for food enthusiasts. Here, the traditional and the contemporary come together to offer a delicious journey into South African cuisine.

Maboneng is not just a foodie’s paradise but also a cultural melting pot, where urban renewal has brought a creative spirit to the once industrial and commercial district. The streets are filled with art galleries, boutiques, and music venues, but it’s the food scene that really sets it apart. From trendy street food vendors to stylish gourmet restaurants, Maboneng has something for every palate and budget.

Sample traditional South African dishes like boerewors, biltong, and bunny chow, or try more adventurous fare at one of the many fusion eateries. The area is also known for its brunch culture, with cafes serving deliciously inventive variations on breakfast classics, perfectly paired with locally-roasted coffee.

Maboneng’s Sunday Market on Main is a must-visit, offering a plethora of local and international foods, along with handmade crafts and live music. It’s the perfect way to experience the dynamic energy and flavourful diversity of Maboneng’s culinary scene.

Voyagix Tips

For a delightful culinary experience in Maboneng, consider these tips:

  • Explore the Market: Visit the Market on Main on Sundays for an authentic and delicious experience. Check the website for hours and location.
  • Walk Around: Maboneng is a walkable neighborhood, making it easy to explore different eateries. Try a bit of everything!
  • Check Reviews: Look at recent reviews to find the best places to eat. Johannesburg’s food scene is constantly evolving, with new places opening all the time.
  • Be Adventurous: Maboneng’s food scene is diverse and eclectic. Don’t be afraid to try something new!

Whether you’re a food enthusiast or just someone who enjoys good meals, Maboneng is a must-visit on your Johannesburg itinerary. The neighborhood’s energy, vibrancy, and diversity of flavors offer a culinary experience that’s truly one-of-a-kind.

9. Visit the Wits Art Museum

Wits Art Museum Johannesburg

Get ready to embark on a visual journey through African art at the Wits Art Museum (WAM), located in Johannesburg’s bustling Braamfontein district. The museum, part of the University of the Witwatersrand, is an important cultural hub, boasting a collection of over 9,000 works of art.

WAM’s extensive collection spans the African continent and showcases a myriad of artistic styles, mediums, and time periods. From traditional and ancient art to contemporary works, the museum provides a comprehensive overview of Africa’s diverse artistic landscape. It’s home to powerful sculptures, vibrant paintings, intricate beadwork, and everything in between.

The museum regularly curates new exhibitions to provide fresh perspectives on African art. In addition to its static collections, WAM also hosts workshops, film screenings, music events, and lectures, creating a vibrant and educational atmosphere for all its visitors.

Whether you’re an art aficionado or a casual observer, a visit to WAM provides a deeper understanding of Africa’s rich artistic heritage and the important role art plays in cultural expression and identity.

Voyagix Tips

Here are some tips to enhance your visit to the Wits Art Museum:

  • Plan Ahead: Check the museum’s official website for information about current exhibitions and events before your visit.
  • Join a Guided Tour: To get the most out of your visit, consider joining a guided tour. It’s a great way to gain insights into the artworks and their historical and cultural contexts.
  • Don’t Rush: With such an extensive collection, it’s impossible to see everything in one visit. Take your time with each exhibit to truly appreciate the art.
  • Visit the Museum Shop: Stop by the museum shop to pick up a souvenir or a piece of art to remember your visit.

A trip to the Wits Art Museum promises an immersive journey through Africa’s artistic heritage, a must-do for any cultural enthusiast visiting Johannesburg.

10. Wander through Melville Koppies

Johannesburg Skyline Melville Koppies

Take a break from Johannesburg’s bustling city life and embark on a journey of discovery at Melville Koppies, a Johannesburg City Heritage Site. This nature reserve and conservation area is an ecological paradise and a beacon of archaeological significance, nestled in the heart of the city.

Spanning 150 hectares, Melville Koppies offers pristine natural landscapes made up of rolling hills, rocky outcrops, and indigenous vegetation, providing a habitat for a variety of bird and animal species. But nature isn’t the only drawcard here – the reserve is also home to an Iron Age furnace and several Stone Age artifacts, offering a glimpse into the region’s prehistoric human activity.

Embark on a guided hike through the Koppies and uncover the area’s fascinating geological, botanical, and archaeological features. While walking, you’ll be surrounded by the beauty of wild olive, paperbark thorn trees, and the rich birdlife, creating a truly immersive nature experience.

Whether you’re a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or just seeking a serene retreat from the urban hustle, Melville Koppies promises an enriching experience of discovery and exploration.

Voyagix Tips

Make the most of your visit to Melville Koppies with these helpful tips:

  • Check the Schedule: Guided tours are usually available on specific days of the week. Check the official website for up-to-date information.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: The terrain can be uneven, so wear sturdy shoes for hiking. Don’t forget your hat and sunscreen!
  • Bring Binoculars: If you’re a birdwatcher, don’t forget your binoculars. The reserve is home to a variety of bird species.
  • Stay on the Paths: For the sake of conservation, visitors are requested to stay on designated paths and refrain from littering or disturbing wildlife.

Immerse yourself in the serene natural beauty and the rich historical narratives of Melville Koppies, a rewarding escape in the heart of Johannesburg.

11. Visit Lindfield Victorian House Museum

Lindfield Victorian House Museum
Photo: Tripadvisor

Get ready to step back in time at the Lindfield Victorian House Museum, a beautifully preserved Victorian home that offers a captivating insight into the daily life of the Victorian era. Tucked away in the suburb of Auckland Park, Johannesburg, this living museum is a real-life time capsule waiting to be explored.

From the moment you walk through the door, you’ll be transported to the late 19th century, surrounded by authentic Victorian furniture, clothing, toys, and household items. Each of the 22 rooms in the house, from the grand dining room to the intimate bedrooms, is meticulously decorated to mirror its original function, giving you a genuine sense of Victorian life.

Guided tours are conducted by the owner and resident of the house, Katharine Love, who inherited the home from her parents. Her storytelling brings the history of the house to life, weaving in personal anecdotes and detailed descriptions of Victorian customs, traditions, and etiquette.

Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or someone who appreciates the charm of bygone eras, the Lindfield Victorian House Museum offers an enchanting journey into Johannesburg’s past.

Voyagix Tips

For the best experience at the Lindfield Victorian House Museum, keep these tips in mind:

  • Plan Your Visit: The museum operates by appointment only, so be sure to book in advance. You can do so through the official website.
  • Allow Enough Time: Tours usually last about two hours, so plan your visit accordingly. Remember, it’s not just a museum – it’s a storytelling session that brings the Victorian era to life.
  • Photography: Photography is permitted, but no flash. The house, with its wealth of antique treasures, makes for some great photo opportunities.
  • Parking: There’s free street parking available in front of the museum.

Experience the elegance, charm, and intricacy of the Victorian era at the Lindfield Victorian House Museum, a unique and delightful journey into Johannesburg’s past.

12. Discover the Orlando Towers

Guy bungee jumping from the Orlando Towers in Soweto, a township of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Are you an adrenaline junkie looking for a thrilling escapade in Johannesburg? Get ready to take the plunge at the Orlando Towers, a prominent adventure sports site known for its exhilarating bungee jumping experience.

The Orlando Towers are an iconic landmark in the Soweto township, originally part of a decommissioned coal-fired power station. Today, they serve as a canvas for colorful murals depicting the area’s history and have been repurposed for adventure activities.

Bungee jumping between the two cooling towers, from a staggering height of 100 meters, is a thrilling, bucket-list-worthy experience. The 360-degree view of Soweto from the top is awe-inspiring, and the rapid free fall is sure to get your heart racing. But the fun doesn’t stop there – the Orlando Towers also offer other adventurous activities like abseiling, paintball, and wall climbing.

With safety as a top priority, experienced guides and top-notch equipment ensure a secure yet thrilling adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned thrill-seeker or trying bungee jumping for the first time, the Orlando Towers promises an unforgettable experience.

Voyagix Tips

For a memorable visit to the Orlando Towers, consider these tips:

  • Book in Advance: It’s advisable to book your jump or any other activity in advance to avoid disappointment. You can do so on the official Orlando Towers website.
  • Age and Weight Limit: Keep in mind that jumpers must be over 14 years of age and weigh less than 110 kg.
  • What to Wear: Dress comfortably in athletic wear and closed-toe shoes. Loose items like sunglasses and jewelry should be left behind.
  • Brace Yourself: It’s natural to feel nervous, especially if it’s your first time. Remember to breathe, listen to your guide, and enjoy the moment!

The Orlando Towers is more than just a bungee jumping site. It’s an adventure-packed destination where thrill-seekers can push their limits and make memories that will last a lifetime.

13. Explore Johannesburg Art Gallery

Johannesburg Art Gallery
Photo: Wikipedia

Art aficionados and culture enthusiasts visiting Johannesburg must not miss a visit to the Johannesburg Art Gallery. Boasting a vast collection of European and South African art, this gallery is a treasured cornerstone of Johannesburg’s cultural scene.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery, also known as JAG, houses an impressive collection of over 9000 works that span seven centuries. This includes contemporary and historical prints, sculptures, paintings, and mixed media. From Dutch masters and Impressionist works to pieces reflecting the turbulent history of South Africa, the art on display offers a comprehensive view of world culture.

The museum itself is a beautiful architectural gem, reminiscent of a classic European museum, set within the vibrant urban landscape of Johannesburg. With several temporary exhibits alongside the permanent collection, the gallery continually offers fresh perspectives to its visitors.

Whether you’re an art lover, a student, or simply curious, the Johannesburg Art Gallery provides an enriching and educational experience. Its diversity and depth are a testament to the city’s rich cultural heritage and artistic future.

Voyagix Tips

To enhance your visit to the Johannesburg Art Gallery, consider these tips:

  • Plan Your Visit: The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, with free admission. You can check the official Johannesburg Art Gallery website for more information.
  • Guided Tours: To better understand the artworks and their historical context, consider taking a guided tour.
  • Temporary Exhibits: Keep an eye on the gallery’s calendar for temporary exhibits, which often feature contemporary South African artists.
  • Take Your Time: The gallery is vast, so allow enough time to fully appreciate the art on display.

The Johannesburg Art Gallery is not just a museum but a cultural institution, providing an inspiring glance into the artistic world. A visit here is an enlightening journey that leaves you with a deeper appreciation of art and its influence on society.

14. Visit Gold Reef City

Jumping gold springboks in Gold Reef City. South Africa

Step back in time and experience the thrill of the gold rush at Gold Reef City, a unique amusement park built on an old gold mine. This Johannesburg attraction offers an exciting mix of entertainment, history, and education, catering to visitors of all ages and interests.

Gold Reef City is more than just an amusement park. While it boasts exhilarating rides and attractions for adrenaline junkies, including one of the world’s tallest and fastest roller coasters, it also provides a fascinating glimpse into Johannesburg’s mining past. Visitors can descend into a real gold mine, watch molten gold being poured, and even try their hand at panning for gold.

Adding to the ambiance is a recreated gold-rush era town, complete with historical buildings, restaurants, and costumed performers. The park also hosts a theatre, a casino, and a 4D cinema, ensuring there’s never a dull moment.

By combining fun and history, Gold Reef City provides a unique perspective on Johannesburg’s past and an unforgettable day out.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to Gold Reef City, consider these tips:

  • Plan Your Visit: Gold Reef City is open from Wednesday to Sunday. You can check the official Gold Reef City website for more information.
  • Gold Panning: Try your hand at gold panning. It’s a fun activity for all ages, and who knows, you might strike gold!
  • Historical Tours: Don’t miss the guided mine tours to truly understand the city’s gold mining heritage.
  • Wear Comfortable Clothing: With so many outdoor activities, it’s best to dress comfortably and apply sun protection.

A visit to Gold Reef City promises an action-packed day that’s filled with fun, adventure, and learning. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker, a history buff, or looking for family-friendly activities, Gold Reef City offers something for everyone.

15. Take a Walk at Emmarentia Dam

Emmarentia Dam Johannesburg

Find your escape from the city buzz and enjoy tranquility at the Emmarentia Dam, one of Johannesburg’s loveliest green spaces. With its stunning views, manicured gardens, and spacious lawns, it’s a local’s favorite for picnics, dog-walking, and a myriad of outdoor activities.

Emmarentia Dam spans over 81 hectares, including the dam itself and the sprawling Botanical Gardens that surround it. It’s not only a favorite among picnickers and joggers, but also amongst sailing enthusiasts who enjoy the calm waters of the dam. The lush gardens are home to a variety of indigenous and exotic plant species, making it a horticulturist’s paradise.

For those with a keen interest in bird watching, the dam is a hub of bird life where you might spot herons, geese, and even the occasional kingfisher. There are also scenic walking trails leading around the dam and through the gardens, offering breathtaking views of Johannesburg’s skyline.

Whether you want to spend a leisure afternoon with your family, take a leisurely stroll, or simply sit back and admire the beauty of nature, Emmarentia Dam offers a perfect backdrop.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to Emmarentia Dam, consider these tips:

  • Plan Your Visit: Emmarentia Dam is open every day from sunrise to sunset. It is free to enter, but parking may come at a fee during special events. Check the official Johannesburg City Parks website for more information.
  • Picnic: Pack a picnic basket to enjoy on the lawns by the dam. Remember to clean up after yourself to keep the park clean.
  • Boating: The dam is ideal for canoeing and sailing. However, motorboats are not allowed.
  • Outdoor Activities: Emmarentia Dam is great for running, cycling, and walking your dog. Be mindful of other visitors and keep dogs leashed where required.

A visit to Emmarentia Dam is a refreshing break from city life. With its serene waters, beautiful gardens, and endless outdoor opportunities, it’s a perfect retreat to recharge, relax, and reconnect with nature.

16. Explore 44 Stanley

44 stanley johannesburg cafe

Step into an urban oasis in the heart of Johannesburg by visiting 44 Stanley, a revamped industrial complex that has transformed into a trendy haven for boutiques, restaurants, and creative studios. Once filled with mechanic’s workshops and auto-repair shops, this urban regeneration project has breathed new life into this corner of the city, creating a unique blend of industrial charm and stylish urban living.

As you walk through its alleyways and courtyards, 44 Stanley offers a curated collection of over 25 specialty boutiques selling everything from fashion and homewares to antiques and collectibles. It’s a shopper’s paradise, where each store offers something unique and of high quality. In addition, there are several artisanal food producers, mouthwatering restaurants, and coffee shops that serve some of the best brews in the city.

But 44 Stanley is more than just a shopping and dining destination. It’s also home to a number of creative studios and galleries showcasing the best of Johannesburg’s local art and design scene. The converted warehouses and buildings create a wonderfully artistic ambiance, making it a great place to soak in the city’s creative pulse.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to 44 Stanley, consider these tips:

  • Plan Your Visit: 44 Stanley is open from Monday to Saturday, with limited hours on Sundays. Check their official website for specific opening hours of individual shops and restaurants.
  • Try the Food: Don’t miss out on the variety of culinary experiences available here. From artisanal bakeries and craft beer to fine dining and organic eateries, there’s something for every palate.
  • Shop Local: The boutiques at 44 Stanley pride themselves on their unique, locally sourced products. Support local businesses and find some unique souvenirs to take home.
  • Join an Event: Keep an eye on their event calendar. 44 Stanley often hosts live music, exhibitions, and other cultural events.

A visit to 44 Stanley offers a delightful mix of shopping, dining, and cultural experiences, all set within a creatively renovated industrial setting. It’s a truly unique and vibrant slice of Johannesburg city life.

17. Visit Liliesleaf Farm

Liliesleaf Farm Johannesburg

Immerse yourself in a significant chapter of South Africa’s history at Liliesleaf Farm. Located in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, this site was once a safe house for members of the African National Congress during the apartheid era and now serves as a beacon of freedom, a museum dedicated to recounting the gripping narratives of the struggle against apartheid.

The farm’s serene ambience masks a complex history. In the early 1960s, it was here that many leading figures of the liberation movement, including Nelson Mandela, clandestinely met to plan strategies and discuss ideologies. The farmhouse was raided in 1963, leading to the arrest of several activists and the subsequent Rivonia Trial, a significant event in the fight against apartheid.

The interactive museum at Liliesleaf seeks to bring this history to life. It houses a collection of fascinating exhibits, artifacts, and audio-visual presentations that provide in-depth insights into the individuals involved, their ideals, and the secret operations that were undertaken. Each room in the house tells a unique story, making the visit a rich and informative experience.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to Liliesleaf Farm, consider these tips:

  • Time Your Visit: Allocate a few hours for your visit to fully explore the exhibits. Check the official Liliesleaf website for opening hours and guided tour schedules.
  • Use the Audio Guide: The audio guide provides insightful commentary and adds depth to your understanding of the exhibits. It’s included in the entrance fee.
  • Visit the Cafe: After your tour, enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee at the on-site cafe, which overlooks the beautiful gardens.
  • Bring the Kids: There are several interactive displays that can keep children engaged and help them understand this important part of history.

A visit to Liliesleaf Farm is more than just a historical journey—it’s an opportunity to better understand South Africa’s past, the struggle for freedom, and the enduring spirit of its people.

18. Dine at Marble Restaurant

Internal view of Marble Restaurant in Johannesburg

Dive into a culinary adventure at Marble Restaurant, a shining gem in Johannesburg’s dining scene, revered for its innovative wood-fired cooking. Celebrated South African Chef David Higgs and his dedicated team artfully use fire to prepare dishes that celebrate the country’s rich cultural heritage while adding an avant-garde touch to each recipe.

With a sleek, modern design, Marble’s grandeur sweeps over you the moment you step through its doors. Housed in a contemporary space that boasts an open kitchen and a large bar area, the restaurant offers stunning panoramic views of Johannesburg, adding an unforgettable backdrop to your dining experience.

But it’s the food that steals the show. The menu revolves around the live-fire grill, with every dish infused with a distinct smoky flavour. From succulent steaks to perfectly grilled fish and imaginative vegetarian options, each offering is a gastronomic delight. And, to accompany your meal, Marble boasts a carefully curated selection of local and international wines.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to Marble Restaurant, consider these tips:

  • Reservations: The restaurant is popular, so it’s recommended to book a table in advance. You can do so through the official Marble website.
  • Dress Code: The restaurant has a smart-casual dress code, so dress accordingly to enhance your dining experience.
  • Try the Chef’s Recommendations: Don’t miss out on Chef Higgs’ recommendations, which showcase the best of the fire-inspired menu.
  • Visit the Rooftop Bar: For an extra special experience, visit the rooftop bar for a cocktail before or after your meal, taking in the breathtaking city views.

At Marble Restaurant, you’ll not only taste some of the finest food in Johannesburg, but also experience the city’s vibrant energy and innovative culinary culture in a unique and memorable way.

19. Attend a Show at Market Theatre

Market Theatre Entrance in Johannesburg

Delve into the vibrant performing arts scene of South Africa at the Market Theatre. An institution of paramount importance, the theatre stands as a symbol of creativity, freedom, and resilience, having played a significant role in challenging apartheid and shaping the country’s socio-political landscape through the medium of storytelling.

Established in 1976, at the height of apartheid, the Market Theatre was more than just a space for entertainment. It was a platform that provoked thought and debate, nurturing a sense of empathy and understanding among its diverse audience members. Today, it continues to use art as a tool for social commentary, raising awareness about current issues and promoting dialogue.

With a dynamic selection of performances ranging from classic and contemporary plays to dance shows and musical concerts, the Market Theatre is committed to promoting local talent and showcasing South African stories. The beautifully restored building, brimming with history and character, offers an intimate setting for the performances, making every visit a deeply personal and engaging experience.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to the Market Theatre, consider these tips:

  • Check the Schedule: Visit the official Market Theatre website to check the current schedule and book tickets in advance.
  • Arrive Early: Aim to arrive 30 minutes before the performance to find your seat and soak in the historic atmosphere.
  • Guided Tours: The theatre offers guided tours that provide insight into its history and architecture. It’s a must if you’re interested in the theatre’s significant role during the apartheid era.
  • Photography: While photography during performances is prohibited, don’t miss the chance to capture the theatre’s stunning exterior.

Whether you’re a theatre enthusiast or a history buff, a visit to the Market Theatre is a powerful, enriching experience that throws light on Johannesburg’s cultural life and turbulent past.

20. Visit Museum of African Design

Internal view of Museum of African Design MOAD Johannesburg

Embark on an unforgettable journey through the world of African design at the Museum of African Design (MOAD). Located in Johannesburg’s vibrant Maboneng precinct, the MOAD holds the distinguished title of being the first museum in Africa dedicated solely to design across the African continent. It’s a ground-breaking institution that seeks to challenge the traditional museum model, focusing instead on innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions and events.

The MOAD is more than just a museum; it’s a platform for dialogue, learning, and interaction. Housed in a refurbished 1930s industrial building, the museum’s large, open spaces are filled with cutting-edge exhibits showcasing the work of African designers across multiple disciplines, from architecture and interior design to fashion, graphics, and digital design.

At the MOAD, design is presented not merely as a form of art but as a vehicle for social, cultural, and economic discourse. The exhibitions, installations, workshops, and talks hosted here are all designed to challenge perceptions, encourage critical thinking, and inspire creativity, pushing boundaries and setting new standards in African design.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to the Museum of African Design, consider these tips:

  • Plan Your Visit: Check the official MOAD website to see current exhibitions and events.
  • Tours: Guided tours offer in-depth insights into the exhibits. They’re a fantastic way to fully appreciate the significance and creativity of the displayed works.
  • Workshops: MOAD frequently organizes workshops and talks. Participating in these events can enrich your understanding of African design and its impact on society.
  • Location: The MOAD is situated in the Maboneng precinct, a hub of culture and creativity. Spend some time exploring the surrounding area, filled with street art, unique shops, and trendy cafes.

A visit to the Museum of African Design is a voyage into the future of African design, showcasing the remarkable talent, diversity, and innovation found across the continent.

21. Stroll in Delta Park

Delta Park Johannesburg
Photo: Adrian Coetzee

Escape the urban hustle and retreat into the welcoming arms of nature at Delta Park, one of Johannesburg’s largest green spaces. This 104-hectare park serves as the city’s lungs, providing a peaceful retreat for city dwellers and visitors alike, offering a rejuvenating connection with nature amidst the metropolitan backdrop.

Originally a dairy farm in the 19th century, the park is now a vibrant green space filled with countless trees, open grasslands, and three beautiful lakes. The park is a haven for birdwatchers with over 250 bird species recorded, including various types of owls, kingfishers, and finches.

Apart from its natural allure, Delta Park is known for its excellent outdoor recreational opportunities. A network of walking and cycling paths meander through the park, inviting visitors for a leisurely stroll, a morning jog, or a fun cycling expedition. Additionally, the park is home to picnic spots, an adventure playground, and the well-known Delta Environmental Centre which provides a range of educational programs and exhibitions about the environment and sustainability.

Voyagix Tips

For an optimal visit to Delta Park, consider these tips:

  • Plan Your Visit: Check the official Johannesburg City Parks website for the park’s opening hours and any ongoing events.
  • Pack a Picnic: With ample open spaces and picnic spots, Delta Park is an ideal location for a relaxing outdoor meal. Don’t forget to pack your favorite snacks!
  • Birdwatching: If you’re a bird enthusiast, don’t forget your binoculars. The park’s birdlife is thriving, making it a paradise for birdwatchers.
  • Visit the Environmental Centre: The Delta Environmental Centre offers fascinating exhibitions and educational programs. It’s a must-visit for those interested in environmental conservation.

Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat, an outdoor adventure, or an educational experience, Delta Park has it all. It’s a testament to Johannesburg’s commitment to preserving its natural spaces and promoting sustainable living.


Whether you’re exploring Johannesburg for the first time or revisiting the city, you’ll discover that there’s always something new to see, do, or experience. Its ever-evolving cultural landscape and dynamic spirit make it a city of infinite discoveries. From its iconic landmarks that paint a vivid picture of its historical past to its modern-day innovations, there’s a richness and depth to Johannesburg that is truly mesmerizing.

Behind every corner, every stone, and every face, there’s a story waiting to be told. It’s a city where each district offers a unique flavor, from the bustling energy of Soweto to the gastronomic delights of Maboneng, from the tranquil green spaces like Delta Park to the thrilling adventures awaiting at Gold Reef City.

Each of these 21 things to do in Johannesburg offers you a glimpse into the soul of this incredible city. Each location visited, each memory formed, will reveal to you another layer of Joburg’s multi-faceted character. And whether you’re at the top of the Orlando Towers gazing at the cityscape or exploring the art at the Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg will capture a piece of your heart.

So go on, venture out, and delve into Johannesburg’s fascinating mix of history, culture, and modern innovation. Explore its famous sites and its hidden gems, and be ready for a journey that’s as diverse and dynamic as the city itself. And remember, each journey is an adventure, an adventure that promises to leave you with unforgettable experiences and lasting memories of your time in the city of gold.

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