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As the biggest city in South Africa and the capital of Gauteng province, Johannesburg is a fun travel destination that has a lot to offer visitors. It’s a large urban area packed with museums, historical sites, modern family-friendly attractions, and plenty of arts and cultural opportunities to get to know the local scene. The city was built on a history of gold mining and has a fascinating culture with economic disparities and locals with truly interesting stories to tell. Here are 10 of our favorite things to do on a trip to Johannesburg.
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Constitution Hill is in Johannesburg’s Braampark neighborhood and is worth a visit during your time in the city. Here you can see the Old Fort, the Women’s Gaol, and Number Four, which were all old prisons used until the 1980s. Constitutional Court, which is the country’s highest court, is also here and worth a visit too. You can take the bus to reach Constitution Hill since there are several convenient bus stops near this area.
Lindfield Victorian House Museum
This is a Victoria-era museum that is considered to be a “living museum” because you’ll be greeted by a host in period-appropriate attire and receive a tour of this beautiful home. The home was designed by Herbert Baker, a famous South African architect, and displays collections of art, furniture, and the stories of people who lived in the area during the 19th and 20th centuries. The museum offers daily guided tours led by Katharine Love and last up to two hours. Admission is R50 per person for the tour or R70 per person with cake and tea served after your tour.
Lion Park Reserve
Lion Park is an excellent day trip to take from Johannesburg, and it’s less than an hour away from the city by car. Here you can interact with the animals, take a self-guided tour, or join a guided tour to see lions and much more. You may also see ostriches, zebras, cheetahs, hyenas, and other animals on these game drives. Admission to the park is free, but activities have their own fees, such as R195 for a self-drive adult rate and R220 for a guided lion and wild dog tour for the adult price.
To understand South Africa, you need to have an understanding of the Apartheid era, and there’s a museum in Johannesburg that tells the story of this time. Here you can learn about the county’s history through exhibits that are graphic and disturbing, yet informative and enlightening as well. Take your time to digest all of the information you’ll be taking in here.
A hip and trendy neighborhood that travelers to Johannesburg need to check out is the Maboneng Precinct. Come here for fun shops, art galleries, and great food. Many of the local businesses are housed in old warehouses and factories, and this is the creative hub of the city. This neighborhood used to be run-down and sketchy, but today it’s vibrant and alive with funky shops and mixed-use venues. Wander around and feel the spirit of the city for yourself. Sunday is an especially popular time to visit the area, and there are night markets hosted with live music, crafts, and food on select Thursdays. This area is just west of downtown and best accessed by car.
Nelson Mandela was the first black president of South Africa and led the country in the 1990s as an apartheid revolutionary and political leader. To learn about this fascinating man, visit the Mandela House, which is in the Orlando West part of Soweto, Johannesburg and where he lived during various times. The home has been transformed into a museum to display family heirlooms, awards, and photographs. You can see bullet holes and fire damage still in the exterior of the home today as well. Also, make a point to visit Nelson Mandela Square, formerly known as Sandton Square, to see the leader’s statue and the sprinkler fountain.
This is a busy outdoor market in Johannesburg that has specialty foods, delicious eats, and is full of energy. This market is open rain or shine every Saturday during the day. There is no admission fee to enter the market, and there are plenty of Halaal, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options available. This market has been held in the city since September 2011, and parking is available on the street and in parking lots.
Gold Reef City
A family-friendly activity to do in Johannesburg is to visit Golf Reef City, an amusement park that has a theme inspired by the region’s gold mining history. There are roller coasters here that offer great views of the city, high-speed ones that are perfect for adrenaline junkies, and a section for younger kids where the rides are tamer. For a historical twist on the standard amusement park experience, consider taking a mine tour to learn more about the region’s gold mining history.
Montecasino Bird Gardens
Montecasino is a sprawling complex and entertainment destination with casino games, theaters, a mall, and a bird garden. If you’re traveling to Johannesburg with kids, visiting the Montecasino Bird Garden is a must. These gardens are located northwest of downtown and feature many brightly colored birds, as well as mammals and reptiles too. There are around 60 species of birds here, such as the Scarlet Ibises and the Nicobar Pigeon. The park is open every day except for Christmas day. Flight of Fancy shows last for 30 minutes and feature talented birds that fly twice a day on weekdays and three times daily on weekends and public holidays. The admission fee for the park is R75 for adults and $50 for children and seniors.
Market on Main
Another great way to experience the artsy scene of Johannesburg is to visit Market on Main, which is a weekly market with food stalls, Ethiopian coffee and tea, and plenty of arts and crafts to browse. Market on Main has been held in the Maboneng District since 2011 and takes place from 10am to 3pm on Sundays at 264 Fox Street. Jacques van der Watt of fashion label Black Coffee and Bradley Kirshenbaum of Love Jozi started this market, which has become a leading urban food and design destination in the city.