The open-top, hop-on hop-off City Sightseeing Red Bus is a great way to zoom around many of the city's key sights in one day. You'll be accompanied by an insightful audio guide on the two-hour journey (the length of the route, without stops). Be sure to download their map to see all the places on the route.
The CitySightseeing Red Bus offers a number of routes:
The Red Route takes a circular path around downtown Johannesburg and the south of the city starting at Constitution Hill. Stops on the Red Route include a walk along Main Street through the Mining District in the city centre where you'll see Chancellor House, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo's first law office. The bus then travels to Gold Reef City theme park in the south of Joburg (where you can join the Purple Route to Soweto) before heading to the nearby Apartheid Museum. On the way back to Braamfontein, explore the rich culture of the Newtown Precinct where you'll be able to visit the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre before seeing the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge. If it's a Saturday visit, make a note to pop into the exciting Playground Market that offers more than 30 different food and drink stalls; for more on the neighbourhood, check out our guide to the Best of Braamfontein.
The Purple Route is a vibrant Soweto extension tour starting and ending at Gold Reef City with stops at the township's must-see sights. Stops include the FNB Stadium (also known as Soccer City) and Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, the third largest hospital in the world. In Orlando, you'll be able to marvel at the imposing Orlando Towers and the Orlando Stadium before taking in some of South Africa's turbulant history at the Hector Peterson Memorial and Museum, then visiting Soweto's famous Vilakazi Street, once home to two Nobel Laureates.
The Green Route winds its way through Joburg's historic leafy suburbs finishing at Constitution Hill (from where you can join the Red Route). Stops along the way include the Johannesburg Zoo and tranquil Zoo Lake, Ditsong National Museum of Military History and the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, along with the lovely Sanctuary Mandela Hotel, a one-of-a-kind boutique hotel that is built on the site of Nelson Mandela’s former Houghton residence. Have your cameras ready for when the bus makes its way to the top of the ridge on Houghton's Munro Drive – you will get a chance at this brief stop to take in one of the city's most scenic viewpoints. On a clear day you can see all the way out to the Magaliesberg mountains.
Guides will lead you to the Green Route bus stop from the City Sightseeing ticket office in Rosebank at The Zone@Rosebank, and in peak season there are shuttle buses that connect with the major hotels in Sandton and Melrose Arch from the Rosebank stop. The hotels include the Da Vinci Hotel and Suites, Radisson Blu Gautrain, Hilton Sandton, The Maslow and the Holiday Inn Rivonia.
Tickets are valid for both the routes and you can hop on and off as many times as you like. Make sure to bring sunscreen and water to keep hydrated along the way.
Helpful information and self-guided walking-tour maps are available to help you make the most of your time at the different stops, and many museums also offer discounted entry to City Sightseeing ticket holders.
On Mon and Tues the bus operates a limited service with a non-stop 'Scenic Tour' that takes in all the main sights combining the Red and Green routes (the tour lasts approximately two-and-a-half hours, starting and ending in Rosebank). From Wed – Sun the full hop-on hop-off service operates.
Until Sep 29, 2023 City Sightseeing is offering Family Winter Specials in Johannesburg and Cape Town. For every adult ticket purchased for R275, up to two kids (aged between four and 17) get to travel for only R49 each. Tickets give unlimited access to the Green and Red routes. Kids under the age of four travel for free. There is also onboard commentary in 15 languages plus a kids' channel. Note that the Family Winter Special is only available on weekends and school and public holidays, and it's for South African citizens only. For more about this special go here.