Johannesburg Travel Guide

South Africa  

Best Things To Do in Johannesburg

History buffs will find plenty to see and do in Jozi. From museums like the South African National Museum of Military History and the Apartheid Museum to historic properties like Constitution Hill and the Mandela House, chances are you'll have a full itinerary. For those looking for a bit more action, Gold Reef City offers an array of rides suitable for all ages. Other family-friendly attractions include the Johannesburg Zoo and Montecasino Bird Gardens. And if you'd rather take in some Jo'burg art, music, food and shopping, save time for a visit to the city's trendy neighborhoods like Melville and Maboneng Precinct.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated August 16, 2017

  • #1
    Apartheid Museum
    View all Photos
    #1 in Johannesburg
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For a thorough understanding of South Africa's appalling apartheid era, a visit to Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum is a must. The museum features a series of graphic yet informative exhibits, including an array of hanging nooses that represent the execution of 131 government opponents and a series of televisions that show footage of anti-apartheid residents being attacked and killed. The museum also features several interactive exhibits, such as a room where visitors are invited to move a stone from the right to a pile on the left to show their commitment to fighting discrimination and racism. There's also two museum entrances – one for whites and one for nonwhites – to denote the physical separations once apparent during apartheid.

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  • #2
    Mandela House
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    #2 in Johannesburg
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Historic Homes/Mansions, Museums, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Constructed in 1945 in the Orlando West section of Soweto, Johannesburg, the Mandela House became the home for Nelson Mandela (also known as Madiba) and his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1946. Although the pair divorced shortly after, Mandela continued to live in this quaint brick structure. His second wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, eventually joined him here in 1948, and together the couple resided at the property with their two daughters. However, due to Mandela's prominence in the anti-apartheid movement, he was forced to leave his family to try to evade government authorities. As a result, Madiba would not return to his home until 1990 when he was released from prison following his arrest in 1962. But after a mere 11 days in the home, Mandela permanently left this Soweto property in favor of a larger, more secure home in Jozi's Houghton neighborhood, where he resided until his death in 2013.

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  • #3
    Constitution Hill
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    #3 in Johannesburg
    Museums, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing, Tours
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located in the city's Braampark neighborhood, Constitution Hill provides travelers with a mix of old and new Jo'burg. For those looking for historic Jozi, there's the Women's Gaol, the Old Fort and Number Four, three former prisons that were used to separately house female, white and black political prisoners until 1987. Famous inmates of Number Four include Mohandas Gandhi and Robert Sobukwe, while the Women's Gaol once held prominent female activists like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Fatima Meer and Albertina Sisulu. And iconic anti-apartheid leader Nelson "Madiba" Mandela holds the distinction of being the Old Fort's only black prisoner, kept here because of his status and escape concerns.

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  • #4
    Maboneng Precinct
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    #4 in Johannesburg
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Lovers of good food, contemporary art and trendy shops will enjoy exploring the city's Maboneng Precinct. Known for its eclectic vibe (think New York City's Chelsea neighborhood or the Hackney area of London), the once unsafe Maboneng Precinct now offers an array of quirky galleries, eateries, clubs and stores, many of which are housed in former factories and warehouses. The majority are located inside of Arts on Main, a multi-purpose building that acts as the neighborhood's central creative hub.

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  • #5
    Montecasino Bird Gardens
    View all Photos
    #5 in Johannesburg
    Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of Jo'burg's most popular family attractions, the Montecasino Bird Gardens – which sits about 19 miles northwest of downtown – houses an array of brightly colored birds, reptiles and smaller mammals within a lush garden setting. In addition to strolling through the property's grounds, visitors can feed more than 60 species of birds in the aviary or enjoy a 30-minute bird show at the on-site amphitheater.

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  • #6
    South African National Museum of Military History
    View all Photos
    #6 in Johannesburg
    Museums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Whether you're a history buff, a military enthusiast or just want a place to cool off on a hot South African day, odds are you'll enjoy the South African National Museum of Military History. With an array of military exhibits that include everything from military vehicles and service medals to Anglo-Boer War paraphernalia and a small arms display, there's plenty to peruse. But the standout here is the museum's military aircraft collection, which features iconic planes like a Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter jet, a Blackburn Buccaneer S Mk 50 carrier-borne strike airplane and a de Havilland DH.98 Mosquito combat plane made mostly of wood.

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  • #7
    Gold Reef City
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    #7 in Johannesburg
    Amusement Parks
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Amusement Parks
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For a bit of heart-pounding fun, families cannot pass up an opportunity to explore Gold Reef City. Influenced by the region's prominent gold mining industry, this Jozi amusement park includes attractions like Tower of Terror (a former gold mine head converted into a freefall ride), Jozi Express (a rollercoaster with sweeping city views and several mine dump drop-offs) and Anaconda (a high-speed coaster ideal for adrenaline junkies). A kids section, multiple water rides and tamer experiences like gold panning and mine tours are also offered.

    ...Read More »

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