11 Best Things To Do in Johannesburg
Also referred to as the New York of South Africa, Jozi or Joburg, Johannesburg is now South Africa’s largest and most populous city. It’s a place where artists create and hustlers move to chase their dreams.
Joburg is packed with history and home of two Nobel Peace Prize winners on the same street. It’s where Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela were held in the same prison, which is now the country’s Constitutional Court. South Africa’s largest township Soweto now also belongs to the city.
Because of its size, navigating around Johannesburg may not be easy, but with the following tips, you’re good to explore the city for at least 5 days! So here are the 11 best things to do in Johannesburg, covering a few different neighborhoods.
1. Arts galore at the Maboneng Precinct
Even though the Maboneng Precinct only consists of a few blocks, it’s one of the most awesome places to be in Joburg, especially for creatives. People here take chic and stylish to another level, and are open and friendly, which makes it easy to make friends there as well. On weekends, local street vendors and musicians set up on the side of the street to play and sell their crafts, which is perfect for souvenirs! In the afternoon, you can also get your Kizomba and Salsa on at Arts on Main.
2. The best rooftop views
Enjoy a cocktail or tapas at Randlords, which is situated at the highest point in Braamfontein and offers one of the best 360 degrees rooftop views of Johannesburg.
3. Dive deep into South Africa’s history at Constitution Hill…
Undoubtedly one of the most history-packed places in South Africa, Con Hill, as it is abbreviated, was established in 1892 as a prison for white males. Once Apartheid was introduced, prisoners of all races were held here, but segregated and held under vastly different conditions. The prisons’ most famous inmates were Ghandi and Mandela.
4. …and at the Apartheid Museum
To fully take in this museum, you’ll have to spend one day or two half days here. This place is absolutely packed with information and remnants of the country’s troubled past. It’s also a very sobering experience from the minute you walk through the entrance, which is separated into black and white for demonstration how it used to be.
5. Vilakazi Street in Soweto
This is the only street in the world where not one, but two Nobel Peace Prize winners have lived – Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. You can visit their homes or stroll up and down the street, check out the crafts of local vendors, support local designers at “The Box Shop” watch Zulu dance performances or have a drink at one of the bars.
6. Zoo Park & Moyo
If you’re in need of some green and water in the middle of the concrete jungle that is downtown Joburg, hang out at Zoo Park. Here, you can have a braai (South African version of BBQ) or get sundowners at the Pan-African restaurant Moyo, which also offers live music on weekends.
7. Neighborgoods Market
Artsy people, great live music, local goods and crafts, and dishes from all over the world, the Neighborgoods Market offers all of that on Saturdays in a small alley in Braamfontein. Loved by locals and tourists alike!
8. Newtown Junction Mall
Not only in Maboneng are Joburg’s street artists at work – outside of the Newtown Junction Mall are numerous pillars with amazing street art which invite you to take your next Instagram picture! Inside the mall, the Work Shop hosts African designers and other creatives, from which you can either get a unique souvenir or something for yourself.
9. Enjoy the nightlife at Kitcheners
Over a century old, the second oldest bar in Joburg is located in Joburg’s student and creatives district Braamfontein. Part of the interior definitely gives you the impression that it’s as old as the bar. Kitcheners is a pub by day and a bar/dance lounge at night with a variety of music and events. In the three rooms and small outdoor space, you can get your ratchet on here pretty much any day of the week.
10. Seek your thrill at the Orlando Towers
The two huge cooling towers of what used to be a power station now serve as entertainment for thrill seekers in Soweto. Bungee jumping between the towers, freefalling inside one of the towers, and paintball are just some of the things they now offer. One of the towers also boasts the largest mural in South Africa.
11. Take a township tour
Please don’t take a township tour for the poverty porn, but rather to get to know someone’s home, its culture and its people. Therefore, the best way to explore Soweto or Alex, for example, are walking or bike tours with local entrepreneur guides who support other local business owners by taking guests to their shops or restaurants.
If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to stay in Joburg, read about my opinion and safety tips here.
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