Johannesburg

Free tours in Joburg

25 Oct 2023

Nestled within the concrete jungle we know as Johannesburg, and between our many historic heritage sites, lies a few places of botanical beauty and artistic genius. Our rich cultural history and cityscapes make for an excellent destination for exploration. From urban gardens near the City Centre and art exhibitions across the road from The Four Seasons The Westcliff, to heart-breaking tours of our violent history, here are free tours in Joburg, likely to enrich your soul.

ART AND JUSTICE TOUR AT THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

Since the opening of the permanent court building in 2004, the collection of artworks has grown to around 600. Inside the Constitutional Court (pictured). Photo: Angela Buckland.

A bi-monthly event, open to no more than 15 people, the Art and Justice Tour at the Constitutional Court offers an opportunity to view the incredible art collection belonging to South Africa's highest court. You are guided through the collection with the expertise of Assistant Curator Francois Lion-Cachet (our guide when we visited) and also get access to the private areas of the court that are otherwise never open to the public. 

Need to know: Bookings are essential and can be requested via curator@concourt.org.za or +27 11 359 7577. More info at ccac.concourttrust.org.za/tours 
When: Every second Sat from 09:30 – 11:05. Next dates: Oct 28, Nov 11 and 25, Dec 9, 2023.
Where: Constitution Hill, 1 Hospital St, Braamfontein. Underground parking is available at the Constitution Hill precinct at R30 per vehicle.

EXHIBITION WALKABOUTS AT JOBURG CONTEMPORARY ART FOUNDATION

Each artist presents a version of their grappling with the reality of post-apartheid South Africa in Otherscapes. Pictured: Sethembile Msezane's Avuleka AmaZulu (2017). Image: JCAF.

Since its launch, the Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation (JCAF) has created an annual exhibition – each time pulling together unexpected threads of artists, artworks, narratives and history. Each has broken new ground, not only in the way in which the content and themes have been presented, but in the design of the visitor experience. To experience any of JCAF’s long-running exhibitions, bookings are essential but it comes with a curated tour and an interactive experience where you can ask questions, discuss and engage with the artworks. Currently on show is Otherscapes, a collection of four large-scale installations by contemporary South African artists Siemon Allen, Wim Botha, Nicholas Hlobo and Sethembile Msezane. The installations can be viewed as ‘scapes’, suggestive of different takes on the state of the country, as the artists explore narratives around people and nation, identity and place, body and space. 

Need to know: Exhibition viewing is by appointment only, and bookings are open on the JCAF website. Entrance to JCAF is free, but exhibitions get booked out quickly. Get in touch via info@jcaf.org.za or +27 10 900 2204.
When: Open for bookings Tue – Sat until Nov 4, 2023. Exhibition times vary depending on availability. Closed to the public on Sun, Mon and public holidays.
Where: 1 Durris Rd, Forest Town, Johannesburg. Secure parking is available.

FREE CONSTITUTION HILL TOURS

A guided tour of Number Four. Image: Kemiso Wessie. 
Experience Constitution Hill, the "living museum" in Braamfontein that narrates the country's long and tireless journey towards democracy, with free admission days on public holidays to commemorate special national holidays. Travel through the former prison and current location of the Constitutional Court with knowledgeable and friendly tour guides as you visit historical sites including the Women's Jail, Number Four and the Constitutional Court as well as the Old Fort. Learn about our country's history on our most important public holidays celebrating the people who helped bring South Africa to democracy.

Need to know: Bookings are not required for individuals and small groups. Visitor Centre is open from 08:45 – 17:00. More info at constitutionhill.org.za, via +27 11 381 3100 or info@constitutionhill.org.za
When: Next free tour dates are Dec 10, 2023 (International Human Rights Day) and Dec 16, 2023 (Day of Reconciliation).
Where: Cnr Joubert St and Kotze St, Braamfontein. Secure underground parking can be found on levels C and D in the parking lot off Joubert Street.

JOHANNESBURG HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE CENTRE GUIDED TOURS

The exhibition is deeply moving and highly engaging and is set in a space replete with symbolic references. Image: Supplied.
The Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC) is the first institution of its kind that brings together the stories of genocide across two continents, creating parallels between the historical narratives of the genocide committed by Nazi Germany in World War II Europe and the more recent genocide that occurred on African soil in Rwanda in 1994 (the year of South Africa's transition from apartheid rule to democracy). The permanent exhibition, which opened in March 2019, is a fascinating exploration of genocide in 20th-century world history through photography, film, personal testimonies and particularly poignantly, the everyday personal effects left behind by victims such as clothing, jewellery and keepsakes. Tour guides are available to show you around the JHGC, including the incredible architectural symbolism of the building, its history and activities.

Need to know: Visits are by appointment only. Guided tours are available. Call +27 11 640 3100 to arrange a visit or email delca@jhbholocaust.co.za for group reservations. More info at jhbholocaust.co.za
When: Open Mon – Sun from 08:30 – 16:30. Call to confirm public holiday times. 
Where: 1 Duncombe Rd, Forest Town, Johannesburg. Secure underground parking is available for visitors free of charge.

VICTORIA YARDS GARDEN, STUDIO AND HERITAGE TOURS

The urban gardens and winding pathways around Victoria Yards. Image: Supplied.
Victoria Yards offers an opportunity to explore the beautiful urban gardens, maker spaces and artist studios. Once a derelict complex of light industrial buildings, this sprawling site in Lorentzville in eastern Joburg has undergone a spectacular re-imagining. Underlying the development was the vision for a complex of makers, artists and artisans, which has now infused new life into this downtrodden neighbourhood; it lies between the Maboneng Precinct and Cyrildene's colourful Chinatown. There is also a commitment to greening that has resulted in a lush urban garden, perfect for winding your way among the artist studios and galleries, retail and food tenants, and regular open-day vendors, who call Victoria Yards home.

Need to know: Apart from First Sunday, from Mon – Sun, the history tour and walkabout runs for half an hour and starts at 10:30 daily; to visit the different artisan studios, join the hour-long tour at 11:00 daily. Otherwise, to organise artist studio visits outside these times, contact Sine on +27 76 399 7074.
When: Open Mon – Fri from 09:00 – 17:00, Sat from 10:00 – 17:00 and Sun from 10:00 – 16:00. More info at victoriayards.co.za/tours 
Where: 16 Viljoen St, Lorentzville. Free secure parking.

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