Budget Joburg: Exploring the city (without breaking the bank)

17 Jan 2024
It may be the City of Gold, but Joburg doesn't have to be costly. Approached with curiosity and a spirit of adventure, you'll find plenty of ways to enjoy this city on the cheap – or absolutely for free. Whether you make the most of Joburg's green belts, don your tourist cap for a day, explore the city's excellent art or hunt down restaurant bargains, there's no reason to skimp on fun just because you're on a budget.

To get you started, we've put together a useful guide to sightseeing, eating out and shopping in Joburg without breaking the bank.


Joburg's many great art galleries are all free to visit. If you attend an opening night, join a walkabout, or take part in the city's First Thursdays, where you can often meet the artists (and enjoy some free wine, too!). In Braamfontein, Wits Art Museum (WAM) always offers a dynamic programme, or head to Parktown North and Parkhurst to visit Stevenson Gallery and Kalashnikovv Gallery. A major stop along Rosebank's art map, Keyes Art Mile is home to BKhz and Johannesburg's oldest commercial art gallery, Everard Read and sister gallery Circa. Enjoy an R18 soft-serve from the nearby Pantry by Marble before you head off to your next stop. Also in Rosebank, 223 Jan Smuts is a showstopper art destination that's home to Berman Contemporary and a beautiful selection of local designer wares. 

These are just a smattering of the free-to-enjoy art spaces in Joburg; check out our weekly exhibitions guide for the latest on the city's ever-evolving art scene.

Contemporary South African art and design finds a home at 223 Jan Smuts, a must-visit in Rosebank. Photo: 223 Jan Smuts.
Contemporary South African art and design finds a home at 223 Jan Smuts, a must-visit in Rosebank. Photo: 223 Jan Smuts. 

Arguably the street art capital of sub-Saharan Africa, Joburg has a thriving graffiti scene bringing colour to busy city streets. Go with a group of friends and explore some of the lesser-known parts of the city on foot... street art is abundant in Braamfontein, Maboneng, and Newtown. While you're at it, swing by Grayscale Store and Gallery in Braamfontein – started by local graffiti legend Rasty Knayles, it's the first Johannesburg gallery to represent street art. If you'd prefer to traverse by car, jump in and do some street art spotting in the suburbs (trust us, there's street art everywhere in this city). 

If in doubt, check out our guide on where to experience the city's graffiti and street art.

Captivating street art in Maboneng. Photo: City of Gold Festival.
Captivating street art in Maboneng. Photo: City of Gold Festival.

Alternatively, design your own art tour to see Joburg's many public installations and sculptures, often paying tribute to local icons. There's Albertina and Walter Sisulu, immortalised in a clay sculpture by Marina Walsh in a small square on the historic Diagonal Street. At nearly six metres, Marco Cianfanelli's Shadow Boxing sculpture of Nelson Mandela towers between Chancellor House and the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court. And, the three grey steel pigeons created by Gerhard and Maja Marx look as if they have been fashioned from origami, perched on the corner of Main Reef and Albertina Sisulu Roads.

Discover where to see public art in Joburg here.

Marco Cianfanelli immortalises Madiba in Joburg's City Centre.
Marco Cianfanelli immortalises Madiba in Joburg's City Centre with his Shadow Boxing sculpture. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.


Everyone should experience Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, the 'living museum' that reflects on South Africa's struggle for democracy. There's free admission on national public holidays like Freedom Day (27 Apr), Youth Day (16 Jun), Women's Day (9 Aug), and Heritage Day (24 Sep), where you can join guided tours through the Women's Jail and the Old Fort. Follow @constitution_hill on Instagram to find out when to take advantage of free entrance. There's also a bi-monthly, free Art and Justice Tour at the Constitutional Court, which has an astonishing art collection of around 600 pieces (the next one happens on Sat, 27 Jan; booking is essential).

Inside the Constitutional Court, photo by Angela Buckland
Book an Art and Justice Tour to see the Constitutional Court's impressive art collection. Photo: Angela Buckland.

Find our guide to free tours in Joburg here. And, if you prefer exploring at your own pace, check out our bumper list of Joburg's most unusual landmarks.


Take a walk through one of the city's biggest green spaces, Delta Park, which has large stretches of grassland, woodland and wetland dams, a sensory trail for the sight-impaired and even bird-viewing hides. End your meanderings at Paul's Homemade Ice Cream at the Delta Central centre for a cheeky single scoop (or splurge on a double if you left your kids or partner at home). Next door, the vegan sourdough doughnuts at Fresh Earth are wonderful and budget-friendly; try the salted caramel with toasted coconut or keep it classic with cinnamon and sugar.

Delta Park in full cosmos season glory. Photo: @tanyapembroke.
Delta Park in full cosmos season glory (March and April). Photo: @tanyapembroke.

Take a walk in one of Joburg's most impressive (and safest) heritage parks, The Wilds. On its western side, climb the stone steps for views of the Joburg skyline that'll make you fall in love with this city all over again, and spot artist James Delaney's quirky animal sculptures on the way up. For the perfect budget experience, stop at one of Joburg's oldest Italian food stores, Super Sconto on Louis Botha Avenue, before you go to the park. The paninis here are generous and well-priced. Choose your fillings of cheese, vegetables and cured meats from the counter.

Awesome city views from the sundial on the top of the ridge at The Wilds
Awesome city views from the sundial on the top of the ridge at The Wilds. Photo: James Delaney.

A Joburg institution, the Zoo Lake Bowling Club in Parkwood has remained a popular late afternoon and evening hangout spot thanks to its affordable pub food (and booze), relaxed vibe and open-air seating. During the day, the bowls greens are a bonus for some lackadaisical physical activity, or stop here for lunch after a walk or around the lovely Zoo Lake park.

For variations on this theme, check out our guide to Joburg's most beautiful parks. 


For a different kind of bowling, head to Bramley. At just R40 for a game of ten-pin bowling any day of the week at Xtreme Bowling, it doesn't get much cheaper than that. Add a bar, slushies and pool tables, this bowling alley tucked in a dingy parking lot makes for a cheap yet memorable date or fun outing with friends. If you're visiting towards the end of the week make sure to book as they fill up quickly. Or, try out The Fun Company at The Zone @ Rosebank on Tue for half-priced, family-friendly fun where all attractions are 50% off, including bowling, bumper cars and all arcade games.


Expect the best contemporary French cinema at My French Film Festival, with 26 short and feature films which can all be streamed for free from Fri, Jan 19 – Mon, Feb 19 via myfrenchfilmfestival.comSet up a viewing party with friends, make it a budget-friendly date night choice, or enjoy some well-deserved me-time. 


If you had a rough night at the local, head to The Fat Zebra in Parkhurst, Linden or Pretoria for the 'The Babalaas' toasted sandwich. Loaded with egg, bacon or macon (+R10), ham, cheese, spicy tomato and grated parmesan, it's served with chips and a shot of cream soda, all for R105. (We could do without the cream soda, but whatever floats your babalaas boat.)

Njam is a Linden favourite with a fresh and friendly menu. We love their 'Rooster Burger'; a beef pattie served on a char-grilled roosterkoek with pickled onions and tomato jam for just R80. There's a veggie version too, with a vegan sorghum and lentil pattie. Tuck into R99 chargrilled sirloin steak, penne bolognese, regina pizza and more from Joy Jozi in Dunkeld's special lunch menu, served on weekdays from 11:00 – 16:00.

Head to quirky Mexican joint Loco in Braamfontein for Taco Tuesday – three-for-two tacos all day. And to keep you coming back for more, from Wed – Sat it's happy hour from 16:00 – 18:00
Get three tacos for the price of two at Loco in Braamfontein. Photo: Loco.

Linden's steampunk-themed hangout Choo Choo Junction is where to get two flatbreads for the price of one every Tue. Plus, enjoy their happy hour offering of two-for-one cocktails between 14:00 – 17:00 from Tues – Sat. The Jolly Roger in Parkhurst is one of those places where you can feel its history as you walk in (and, in one fell swoop, experience your quota of second-hand smoke inhalation for the year). Apart from being open almost any day of the year, 'the Jolly' also makes fantastic pizzas, which you can enjoy 50% off on Wed and Sun from 17:00.

Sip with reckless abandon at Melville's SIX Cocktail Bar. Their regular cocktail special gets you two cocktails for the price of one every day from 11:00 – 19:00, while in January (2024) this is extended until the bar closes at 02:00. Appletini, anyone? In Greenside's eclectic main drag, Gleneagles Road, Italian café-bar Topo Gigio has half-price cocktail jugs Sun –Thu from 15:00 – 17:00, Fri from 14:00 – 16:00 and Sat from 13:00 – 15:00. It's a great option if you're looking for cheap pre-drinks; add in half-price pizza on Mon and half-price pasta on Tue and you can make that budget stretch just a little further. Also in Greenside, sip on something cold with buy-one-get-one-free Long Islands every day, all day (Wed – Sun) at South American-inspired bar and restaurant, The Last Alpaca.
Is your budget small but your sushi craving significant? On Wed, it's half-price sushi all day at @Deli, the on-site gourmet food market at the @Sandton Hotel in Benmore. Yamakado restaurant at Cedar Square in Fourways has a daily buffet; pay R235 p.p. (and R165 for kids under 10) for all-you-can-eat sushi, plus other menu items including soups, bao, and spring rolls. Rainbow Sushi in Norwood also has an all-you-can-eat special daily, for R228 p.p. so you can indulge to your heart's content. Yasong in Emmarentia draws loyal fans for its budget prices, drop by every Mon when the sushi is half-price.
50% off sushi at @Deli in Benmore. Photo: @Deli. 
50% off sushi at @Deli in Benmore. Photo: @Deli. 


A neighbourhood that brims with the cultures and flavours of the Indian subcontinent, it's also home to one of Joburg's most underrated attractions for those on a budget. Head straight to Fordsburg Square for a Middle Eastern and South Asian taste adventure. You won't be disappointed. Open day and night, this part of the city is a feast for the senses – and you can experience it for very little. Think R10 for a Pakistani kulfi ice-cream, R15 for a mango lassi (the best you'll have), sugarcane juice, samoosas, fresh naan and grilled chicken. Fill up on deliciousness. We do recommend that if you visit, stay within the market as it's a secure area.

A veritable feast at the Fordsburg Square night market. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.
A veritable feast at the Fordsburg Square night market. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

The Oriental Plaza is one of Joburg's best-loved shopping spaces – the city simply wouldn't be the same without it. At least 350 stores are housed within the vibrant, largely open-air complex in Fordsburg, covering 17 hectares and consisting of three sections: the north, south and central Grand Bazaar. Here, a successful balance is struck between Western-style shopping and craft markets in the City Centre. There are tables of pots, pans and crockery, small kiosks with hair accessories gleaming in the sun, fabric stores galore (with discounted prices) and authentic Indian and Middle Eastern restaurants, with more than one contender for Joburg's best samoosas. 

Strolling down Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene, you'd be forgiven for thinking you've somehow stepped through a portal to China. If you're interested in authentic Asian cuisine, are searching far and wide for an uncommon ingredient, want to sing some karaoke, sit down for a cup of tea or go for a beauty day at the spa, Chinatown in Cyrildene has plenty to offer. You're spoilt for choice when it comes to places to eat tasty and well-priced Asian food – anything from Szechuan cuisine to Thai, Taiwanese, Korean and Shanghai delicacies. And for affordable, fresh produce from bok choy to shimeji mushrooms, look no further.

Get fresh fruit and veggies at Cyrildene's Chinatown.
Stock up on fresh fruit and veggies at Cyrildene's Chinatown. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

An upmarket area known for business and leisure, Rosebank is also a great place to while away the time, without necessarily having to spend a whole lot of money. ​The Rosebank Sunday Market on the rooftop of Rosbank Mall is free to visit and open every Sun from 09:00 – 16:00. Explore the many cheap food stalls, secondhand books, records and CD vendors, fresh juice stands, organic fruit and vegetable stalls, and more. On the third and last Sun of the month is the market's car boot sale, where you'll find bargain secondhand and antique items with an especially popular range of traders specialising in vintage clothing.

For more, see our guide to Joburg's best daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal markets.


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