Day trip with the Gautrain – Park Station

26 Feb 2024
The shiny-gold, high-speed rail service, the Gautrain, swiftly links central Johannesburg with the northern suburbs and beyond to Pretoria and O.R. Tambo International Airport. Leaving the stresses of rush-hour traffic behind, every day thousands of commuters take advantage of this fast, safe, and reliable service. The diverse neighbourhoods linked by the Gautrain also hold many of the Gauteng province’s biggest attractions. 

If you're looking to explore the heart of Joburg's City Centre, take the Gautrain to Park Station and venture out from there. We recommend exploring the City Centre from here with a Joburg local or guide. We've put together a list of tours that might appeal to you; read more here.

Park Station acts as a springboard from which to explore surrounding areas and you'll find there's plenty to see and enjoy in all directions. Make the wonderful Wits Art Museum (WAM) a stop on your itinerary, and don't leave without visiting Braamfontein's most playful precinct, complete with a rooftop beach bar. From historical sightseeing to market shopping, street art, and more, use our guide to Park Station and surrounds to plan your next day trip to Joburg's City Centre, Braamfontein, and surrounds. 

Park Station – The gateway to Johannesburg

Bang in the centre of Joburg’s historic central business district, Park Station is the city’s biggest transport hub and one of the busiest transport nodes in southern Africa. From the main Park Station building, minibus taxis and long-distance bus services ferry travellers across the city and the country. 

The Gautrain has its own station here, entirely separated from the relentlessly busy Park Station complex, and connects to two Gautrain midi-bus routes – the J1 Parktown and the J2 CBD – which both run on weekdays only. 

The Park Station Gautrain station sits on the doorstep of studenty Braamfontein. It's one of Joburg’s best examples of inner-city regeneration where you’ll find colourful street art, cafès, bars, and shops that attract a youthful, alternative crowd. 

On the other side of the railway bridge from Park Station is the historic Johannesburg City Centre where the streets offer an eye-catching mix of architectural styles. This part of the city is packed with history and heritage and is an interesting place to explore on foot with numerous pedestrianised city streets, including sections of Main Street, Bank City, Fox Street, and Kerk Street (all of which can be reached from the Gautrain station via the J2 CBD midi-bus on weekdays). 

Getting around from Park Station

Braamfontein is within a very easy 10-minute walking distance of Park Station but if you're venturing out alone we recommend making use of an Uber or Bolt. The Johannesburg City Centre is best reached in 10 to 15 minutes on the J2 CBD bus which stops near FNB Bank City, Gandhi Square, and the Main Street Mining District. On weekends when the Gautrain midi-bus is not operating we once again recommend taking an Uber or Bolt to Library Square Gardens.

Like any big city, you should be vigilant when walking in Braamfontein and the Joburg City Centre. Pay attention to what is going on around you and heed the warnings about phone snatching by avoiding using your phone on the street. Don't flash your valuables around and be mindful of pickpockets. Avoid walking across the railway bridges into the City Centre by taking the Gautrain midi-bus from the station. 

Braamfontein's Play Precinct

The property development and creative brainchild of Adam LevyPlay Braam is the custodian of four intersecting blocks in Braamfontein that over the years have brought vibrancy and an artistic sensibility to this beloved neighbourhood. Bordering Joburg's City Centre and joined to Newtown by the Nelson Mandela Bridge, Braamfontein is student central and a district that has long been popular with the cool, creative crowd.

The properties under Play Braam's purview span Juta, Smit, and De Beer Streets. The Playground (which houses the City Beach Club and rooftop basketball court) is at 73 Juta Street, Braamfontein.

Flops aren't mandatory at this beach club in the heart of Braamfontein. It's wild, sandy (yes, literally), and sophisticated. Look out over sweeping views of Joburg while you sink your toes into the sand. It's a chilled break away from the busy city below. No under-21s. 

Joburg by the sea. Sink your toes into the sand at The City Beach Club. Photo: Play Braam.
Joburg by the sea. Sink your toes into the sand at City Beach Club. Photo: Play Braam.

The recreational area of 73 Juta's The Playground has been revamped, adding more adult fun and games to the line-up. Gone is the market experience and in its place is a refined and pared-down menu served up by five food vendors, cool details, and a super list of activities that will be refreshed monthly. These activities include Giant Connect Four, table tennis, a 360-camera experience, and various table and board games. And don't forget the ever-popular Paint and Sip sessions in the craft corner.

This sky-high basketball court is a Joburg first, painted with African sunset-inspired hues by graffiti artist Seth Pimental. To play three-a-side or experience the glass floor observation deck 50m above ground, you can book the court for 45-minute sessions (max 15 people) on Saturdays while The Playground is open.

The view from Joburg's first rooftop basketball court. Photo: Play Braam.
Hoops and heights at Joburg's first rooftop basketball court. Photo: Play Braam.

Art and history in the city

A 15-minute walk north of Park Station in Braamfontein is Constitution Hill, a national heritage landmark that is home to one of the best museums in the country, as well as the South African Constitutional Court. Once a colonial fort and later a prison, the complex now houses an excellent and powerful museum detailing the lives of the many political prisoners who were incarcerated here. Museum tickets also include a guided tour of the complex.
Take the J1 Parktown midi-bus (weekdays) to Constitution Hill.

The Constitutional Court at Constitution Hill. Photo: Justin Lee.
The Constitutional Court at Constitution Hill. Photo: Justin Lee.

Grayscale Gallery in Braamfontein is the first in Johannesburg to represent alternative (and previously seen as 'lowbrow') art forms. Co-founded by local graffiti legend Rasty Knayles, it provides a platform for young and emerging artists with backgrounds in graffiti and street art, illustration, tattooing, and other sub-culture-based art. Braamfontein, Newtown and Maboneng are among the best places in Joburg to explore street art; find our guide here. 
33 De Korte Street, Braamfontein. 

Rasty Knayles with his work at Grayscale Gallery.
Rasty Knayles with his work at Grayscale Gallery. Photo: Grayscale Gallery.

The city's public art gallery (known as JAG) opened in 1915. Housed in an exceptional building designed by British architect Edward Lutyens, the collection includes 17th-century Dutch paintings, 18th- and 19th-century British and European art, and a large collection of South African art from the 19th-century until today. Only a fraction of the collection is on display at any one time. The gallery also has several temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. While JAG is an important part of the city's heritage, the area around the gallery has suffered neglect in recent years; be mindful of your personal safety beyond the gallery walls. 
Cnr Klein and King George Streets, Joubert Park, City Centre.

The beautifully preserved Main Street Mining District is another must-see. Along a pedestrianised stretch of several city blocks between Gandhi Square and Ntemi Piliso Street, you’ll find covered wagons, stamp presses, and old headgear that have been preserved from Joburg’s early mining years, complemented by extensive displays outlining the story of Johannesburg’s gold rush. On weekdays at the Standard Bank headquarters (the J2 CBD bus stops just outside) you can even visit the entrance to an old mine tunnel, Ferreira's Stope. Read more about the Main Street Mining District and Joburg's remarkable gold rush history here.
Take the J2 CBD midi-bus (weekdays) and get out at the corner of Marshall and Harrison Streets.

A broad range of work is showcased in a multi-disciplinary space, from a variety of respected artists with a focus on, but not limited to, contemporary South African art. Call ahead (+27 11 631 4467) to confirm what's on show. 
Corner Frederick and Simmonds Streets, Marshalltown.

This landmark museum is part of Wits University, although located outside campus walls in Braamfontein. It is home to an extraordinary collection of African art, including contemporary and historical art from across the continent. WAM offers a dynamic programme of events and exhibitions, whilst maintaining a fantastic permanent collection.
Cnr Jorissen and Bertha Streets, Braamfontein.

Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.
Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

City Centre shopping

Bantu Records in Braam has an impressive selection of jazz, neo-soul, broken beats, Afrobeats, and a vast representation of its local moniker – so it's a great place to browse for South African vinyl by black artists.
70 Juta Street, Braamfontein.

Finding what's good at Bantu Records in Braamfontein. Photo: Bantu Records.

The City Centre is one of the best places to buy fabrics in South Africa. Walking tour company JoburgPlaces leads excellent tours of the traditional Fashion District, known for its extensive and eclectic selection of fabric shops. Check out JoburgPlaces' tours and book a visit here.
The Fashion District is made up of 26 blocks bordered by Market, Kerk, Von Wielligh and End Streets.

A colourful explosion in Joburg's Fashion District. Photo: JoburgPlaces.
A colourful explosion in Joburg's Fashion District. Photo: JoburgPlaces.

Built in 1974, 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 ha 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. 
38–60 Lilian Ngoyi Street, Fordsburg.

Where to eat and drink

A delicious lunch in a unique location is always a good reason to travel to a different part of town. Both Braamfontein and the Main Street Mining District have atmospheric venues where you can enjoy a good coffee, a bite to eat, or a drink in memorable surroundings.

Popular with the running and cycling crowds, Abstract Coffee Club is the perfect place to grab your morning pick-me-up or a sweet baked treat. They've got hot coffee and delicious iced drinks. Closed Sun and Mon.
99 Juta Street, Braamfontein.

This effortlessly cool bar, eatery, and gallery is perfectly placed to fill a gap in the market in Braamfontein for a more mature and upmarket venue, with good food and cocktails on the menu that appeal to the neighbourhood's post-student, young professional crowd. The bartenders are excellent, even when there's just morning fruit juices in their cocktail shakers. True to its name, the space also doubles up as an art gallery, with a new exhibition on the walls each month.
7 Reserve Street, Braamfontein.

A tasty spread to share at The Artivist. Photo: The Artivist. 

With a branch in Blairgowrie, Coalition Pizza's newest spot is in Braamfontein's Play Precinct – and when it comes to authentic Neapolitan pizza, more is always better. Coalition's accomplished wood-fired pizzas are made with two-day, slow-rising dough and topped with the freshest buffalo mozzarella. More delicious you'd be hard-pressed to find. 

In the mood for Cola Dunked Wings, Hot and Spicy Chachos (like nachos), and Chilli Lime Burgers? KFC's new global concept store in Braam is the first of its kind in South Africa, with a menu you won't find elsewhere. But this is more than a grab-and-go: KFC Play Braam is a fresh and friendly hangout space with virtual reality games, an interactive Spotify playlist, and artist-collab merch.
73 Juta Street, Braamfontein. 

A Braamfontein student favourite, Kitchener's is always jammed on weekends with cool young things having the time of their lives in what used to be a grand colonial hotel. Fortunately, even the most serious hipsters can't turn this welcoming atmosphere into something more pretentious, making it a popular spot with locals of all stripes. By day it's a quiet pub; by night DJs spin everything from house and soul to timeless underground sounds.
71 Juta Street, Braamfontein.

The old Milner Park Hotel is home to Kitchener's, Joburg's second-oldest operational bar. Photo: Play Braam.

A fun, quirky, and colourful spot in Braamfontein's Juta Street precinct, Loco serves tasty tacos and tequila cocktails, amongst other easy eating and drinking delights. The menu is designed as an all-day affair – breakfast, lunch, or dinner is served, and the cappuccino here (if that's all you have time for) gets top marks. The food is simple and tasty fare inspired by Mexican cuisine. Try the fish and vegetable tacos. If you visit on Tuesdays, tacos are three-for-two.
73 Juta Street, Braamfontein.

Head to hip Mexican eater Loco. Photo: Loco.
Head to hip Mexican eatery Loco. Photo: Loco.

Johannesburg's oldest private member's club, Rand Club has been an institution since the Club's founding in 1887 and welcomes the public for breakfast and lunch at its exceptional long bar. Thoughtfully and beautifully restored, Rand Club is a breath of fresh air in the City Centre and a treat to explore. While you are there make sure to also visit James Findlay's Collectable Books & Maps. Rand Club often hosts events such as film screenings, lectures, book sales, and live music events.
Take the J2 CBD midi-bus (weekdays) to Library Square Gardens. Rand Club is located two blocks away at 33 Loveday Street.

Grand staircase at the Rand Club. Photo: Hidden Johannesburg.
Grand staircase at the Rand Club. Photo: Hidden Johannesburg.

For some of the best wings in the city, look no further. What began as a hobby for founder Tlhompho Mokoena and his mother, Wing Republic now has three physical locations, one of them in Braamfontein. Of course classic buffalo wings are on the menu, or try the extra spicy Flames basting (with ghost pepper). They also serve burgers, ribs, and even pasta. Ribs are half-price on Tuesdays – don't say we didn't warn you.
6 De Beer Street, Braamfontein.

It's a feast at The Wing Republic. Go hungry. Photo: Wing Republic.
It's a feast at Wing Republic. Arrive hungry. Photo: Wing Republic.


Pay for your Gautrain and midi-bus trips using a contactless bank card by simply swiping in and out of the turnstiles at stations and tapping the touchpoint on the midi-bus when you enter. Alternatively, buy a Swift card at the station and top it up with credit to pay for your trips.

The Park Station Gautrain station opens at 05:14 and closes at 21:28. The first train departs the station at 05:29 and the last at 20:30. Trains leave every 10 minutes during weekday peak rush hours and every 20 minutes during off-peak hours. On weekends trains depart every 30 minutes. The first Gautrain midi-bus leaves Park Station at 06:16 and the last at 21:28. Midi-buses depart every 10 to 20 minutes depending on the time of day. Note that there are no Gautrain midi-bus services on weekends.

Download the Gautrain app for real-time updates on when the next Gautrain and midi-bus is due or find the schedule online at For a helpful overview, check out our guide to using the Gautrain here.


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