Johannesburg

Joburg sightseeing - 10 essential Joburg experiences

12 May 2017

While Joburg may not have a majestic mountain or picturesque beaches to admire, what it lacks in natural splendour it more than makes up for with its rich history, burgeoning art scene and colourful street life. Whether you have only one day to explore the city or several, here’s our pick of 10 great ways to spend your time sightseeing in Joburg.

1. LEARN ABOUT APARTHEID HISTORY
To get an in-depth view of South Africa’s complex history visit the extensive Apartheid Museum for chilling reminders of the apartheid state’s cruelty, or take a tour of the former prison Constitution Hill which is also home to South Africa’s Constitutional Court, an inspiring heritage landmark. Other must-visit places include the insightful and interactive museum at Liliesleaf, once the headquarters of the underground resistance led by Nelson Mandela and Sophiatown The Mix, a museum and community centre that tells the heartbreaking story of the forced removals of this vibrant community in 1955.

2. TRACE YOUR ORIGINS
Visit the educational and interactive Maropeng visitor’s centre in the Cradle of Humankind (a UNESCO-protected World Heritage site) to learn about the evolution of humankind. Take a tour of the nearby Sterkfontein Caves where the remains of world-famous hominids Mrs Ples and Little Foot were found. If you don’t have time to leave the city then visit the excellent Origins Centre in Braamfontein that celebrates the 80 000-year history of humanity.

3. RIDE THE OPEN-TOP CITY SIGHTSEEING BUS
If you have limited time and you don’t have a car then the best way to get around and see the sights is on the City Sightseeing Bus. The two open-top bus tour routes leave from the Gautrain stations at Rosebank and Park Station, stopping at all major heritage landmarks and accompanied by an insightful audio guide. There’s also a link to a 2-hour Soweto mini-bus tour which starts at the Gold Reef City Apartheid Museum stop and a free city walking tour that leaves from Park Station.

4. BOOK AN INNER-CITY WALKING TOUR
Taking a guided walking tour is the best way to encounter the inner-city for the first time and experience unique aspects of local history and culture that might otherwise be hidden from view. Choose from tours focused on street art and graffiti, history and architecture, food and shopping or even pay a visit to a traditional healers market. See Tours for our favourite Joburg walking tour companies

5. EXPLORE CONSTITUTION HILL
The buildings of the national heritage landmark Constitution Hill in Braamfontein reveal the horrors of some of the darkest hours of 20th Century South Africa, while also showcasing the bright, optimistic future of the country enshrined in the modern Constitutional Court. The large complex is split into four parts and extensive permanent exhibits tell the stories of the many people who passed through this place. There is also a busy programme of regular events such as temporary exhibitions, markets, lectures, concerts and festivals and a one hour guided tour is included in the entrance price.

6. VISIT AN ART GALLERY
Joburg has an exciting art scene and the city is blessed with several top contemporary art galleries. Most galleries are concentrated in three main areas: Maboneng, Braamfontein and Rosebank, and they are all free to visit. Explore the Art Gallery Row along Jan Smuts Avenue and Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank for the biggest collection of contemporary galleries or pay a visit to Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein to view an ever-changing collection of historic and contemporary African art. Look out for art exhibition opening events on Thursday nights and if you are here on the first Thursday of the month don't miss out on the many First Thursdays art events and parties that take place every month in Braamfontein, Maboneng and Rosebank.

7. SPEND THE DAY IN SOWETO
With a rich history, vibrant contemporary social scene and plenty of fun experiences on offer, Soweto has become one of the country’s top tourist attractions. Take a walking or cycling tour with a local guide, learn about the youth of 1976 and their role in the anti-apartheid struggle at the Hector Pieterson Museum, bungee jump from Soweto’s iconic Orlando Cooling Towers or just hang out for the afternoon on the famous Vilakazi Street, where Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu once lived.

8. TAKE A WALK IN THE PARK
Take a leisurely stroll through the Botanical Gardens at Emmarentia Dam or the park at Zoo Lake. For a short hike follow the nature trails that skirt the waterfall at the beautiful Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. Golfers are spoilt for choice in Joburg with dozens of world-class golf courses located in and around the city.

9. GOLD RUSH HISTORY
The search for gold has shaped Joburg dramatically during its 130-year history and still plays an important role in the city’s economy today. Visit the Ditsong Museum of Military History to learn more about the Anglo-Boer Wars and other conflicts sparked by the relentless hunt for mineral wealth. To see how Joburg’s well-off colonial middle classes lived at the turn of the century book a tour and high tea at the Victorian Lindfield House museum. Take a stroll through the historic Main Street Mining District downtown between Gandhi Square and Ntemi Piliso Street to see the relics of Joburg’s early mining heritage such as mining headgear, stamp presses and mining carts complemented by information boards detailing the city’s gold rush history. If you have time to spare take a day trip to Cullinan (one hour's drive north east of Joburg) and tour the famous diamond mine.

10. HANG OUT AT A PAVEMENT CAFÉ
Sometimes the best sightseeing is done from the comfort of a neighbourhood café. Get a taste for Joburg’s urban regeneration in fashionable Maboneng or Braamfontein, spend the afternoon on Parkhurst’s pretty main street 4th Avenue, explore the bohemian suburb of Melville with a visit to 27 Boxes or browse the boutiques and take time out for a coffee or craft beer in the pretty interlinked courtyards of 44 Stanley in Milpark.

Associated Venues

Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves

 R400 just off the R563 to Hekpoort (approx 30mins drive from Sandton)

Origins Centre

 Cnr Yale Rd and Enoch Sontonga Ave, Wits University campus, Braamfontein

Wits Art Museum (WAM)

 University Corner, cnr Bertha St and Jorissen St, Braamfontein

Comments

Connect via social media
Leave a comment using your email This e-mail address is not valid
Please enter your name*

Please share your location

Enter your message*
Take your guide with you Download a pdf or order a printed issue Browse our collection of guides
Put our app in your pocket
Top
City Essentials

Download our new City Essentials app

download 4.5