There's Lot of Thrill And Excitement To be Found in The City of Gold: 10 Best Places to Visit in Johannesburg (2019)

There's Lot of Thrill And Excitement To be Found in The City of Gold: 10 Best Places to Visit in Johannesburg (2019)

Johannesburg is South Africa's biggest city and also the capital of Gauteng province. It began as a 19th. century gold mining settlement and is also known as the "City of Gold". Read on to know why this beautiful city is a must-have on your travel itinerary. We have curated the 10 best places to explore in this beautiful city.

About Johannesburg

Johannesburg also known as Jo’burg is a city that is located in the heart of South Africa. It gained prominence in 1886 after the discovery of gold. The city is considered to be the face of industrialism and financial prominence in South Africa. Johannesburg faced severe racial discrimination from 1948 to 1994, reflecting even today. The city is lined with Victorian style architecture and monuments, and is famous in particular for Monumental Beaux-Arts structures such as the Supreme Court building and the Johannesburg Art Gallery. The city is also lined with skyscrapers and consists of townships located on the urban periphery.

Best Time to Visit Johannesburg

South Africa’s City of Gold boasts of amazing weather all year round. The summer is dry and warm followed by thunderstorms. The winters are mild, sunny and dry, days are warm and rounded off by breathtaking thunderstorms. The best time to visit Johannesburg is from March to May and from September to November. During these months, the weather is relatively warm and dry, the crowds are less and there is a price drop in the accommodation. The peak season starts from June and lasts through August when the accommodation prices are quite steep.

Culture and Etiquette to Follow in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a city of diverse culture, ethnicity and landscapes. South Africa is famously known as the ‘Rainbow Nation’ due to multicultural ethnic groups. The city of Johannesburg is a melting pot of various cultures and has an active nightlife. The people of the city are stylish and dress up comfortably. There are numerous heritage centres which showcase the rich history of the nation.

Budget and Accomodation Plans

Johannesburg is considered to be one of South Africa’s most expensive cities but can be a very affordable destination if you plan in advance. Visitors travelling on a budget can skip hotels and stay in rented accommodations. There are numerous Airbnb rentals, guest houses and backpacker hostels lining the city. Moreover, staying in local accommodations enables you to interact with the locals. Many of the backpacker hostels offer private as well as shared rooms. Accommodation starts at $13.50 per person per night.
When visiting Johannesburg you should indulge in the traditional cuisine. The city boasts of some of the best restaurants in the country. However, the city is also lined with numerous cafe and street food shacks. Moreover, the restaurants situated near the township offer traditional culinary experience. The food is cheap and allows you to have a more personal experience with the locals. In Johannesburg, you can find Indian, Mexican, Italian and Greek cuisine. The street shacks offer a hearty breakfast at an affordable rate. You can cure your culinary cravings in the lively city of Johannesburg.

How to Get Around Johannesburg

There are numerous ways for you to get around in Johannesburg. You can hire bicycles to get around the city and it is also an economic mode of transportation. The city has a metro system called Gautrain that can help you get connected to the main parts of the city. Moreover, you can hail cabs to ferry around the city safely which have meters and fixed prices. Many people also opt for rented cars, however, the city is subjected to harsh traffic and the petrol prices are steep to grapple with. Public transportation is not ideal in Johannesburg, as the city was designed specifically for vehicular travel. The safer bus option is to use the double-decker metro buses that are more organised and easier to understand. Make sure you are quoted a fair price in advance and negotiate if the price seems unreasonable.

10 Best Places to Visit in Johannesburg

1. Township Tour

Township tours are a great way to interact with local people, experience their music, traditional food and enjoy their customs. According to experts, these townships served as a fortress and guard against apartheid control to alienate communities. The biggest township in Johannesburg is Soweto with a population of 1.2 million people. These tours enable people to earn their livelihood via tourism, ethnic crafts and food stalls. If you are planning to visit Soweto you can reach the place via train. You can also opt for a cycling tour and experience the culture of the city. In Soweto, you can taste exotic food by visiting a bar or choose to experience an ethnic meal in any of the cafes littered around the city. The Soweto Wine Festival that happens every year in March is one of the most prominent events that take place in the largest township situated in Johannesburg.

2. Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

The Walter Sisulu is a botanical garden that is situated in Roodepoort, Johannesburg. The botanical garden is a haven for birds, reptiles and mammals. It is located smack in the middle of the city and provides a haven for nature lovers. The botanical garden also boasts of a waterfall, cliff and a nature reserve. If you are planning a trip to Johannesburg you can visit the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens and take a stroll through the garden. Moreover, you can enjoy and take part in a number of cultural events such as concerts, art markets and much more. Additionally, the botanical garden boasts of a hiking trail that goes to the nature reserve. The botanical garden is also a breeding home for the Verreaux’s eagle that has a wingspan of 2 meters. You can see the spectacular and rare species of flora and fauna that make the park its home. Finally, there is a cafe, nursery and a gift shop where you can refresh and shop for your loved ones.

3. Gold Reef City

The Gold Reef City is an amusement park that is located on a gold mine which shut down in 1971. It is constructed around the theme ‘Gold Rush’ and all the rides in the park are designed around the same. The amusement park consists of roller coasters, water rides and a famous casino. Moreover, the amusement park also has a museum that documents the gold mining process and how gold is obtained. The museum is situated 215 meters below the ground. The park also consists of an auditorium where shows are held. The park boasts of a casino, a Victorian-themed Cineplex, restaurants and hotels.

4. Lion & Safari Park

Located in Johannesburg, South Africa this park showcases lions, cheetahs and many other wild animals. It is a conservation park that boasts of housing indigenous species. The park consists of 80 lions including rare white lions, jackals, warthogs and much more. The park takes you on a safari that enables you to learn more about the animals. Moreover, it has a children’s play area, restaurants and retail centres. You are also allowed to feed zebras, ostriches and even interact with the lion cubs. You can have the time of your life by feeding animals, spending time with researchers, participating in various wildlife activities and even volunteering at the Lion & Safari Park. You can unwind by taking a bite at the restaurant, shop at the park or indulge in gaming.

5. South African National Museum of Military History

The South African National Museum of Military History was inaugurated in 1947. The museum documents the country’s involvement in the Second World War. It houses various military equipment such as handguns, machine guns and rifles. The museum also displays the medals, uniforms, aircraft and ammunition used during this period. The museum includes a library that comprises of documents, books and photographs to document the history of the museum. The museum also consists of artefacts that were relevant to the Apartheid period. Additionally, the museum also offers guided tours if you want to learn more about the history of South Africa.

6. Lesedi Cultural Village

The Lesedi Cultural Village was established in 1993 and is a cradle of African culture. The cultural village showcases the rich cultural history and diversity of South Africa. It comprises of 38 beautifully themed guest rooms that are used to accommodate guests. The rooms are designed with the help of designated tribes that portray the culture of their ethnicity. You can choose from six traditional rooms – African Bush, Pedi, Sotho, Xhosa, Zulu and Ndebele. You can also experience tasting the ethnic dishes at the Lesedi Cultural Village. The village hosts daily cultural shows, dance shows, slingshots, cultural quizzes and interactive drumming sessions. You can unwind at the restaurant and bar where you can taste traditional drinks. Moreover, you can enjoy traditional barbecue fare around the fire by celebrating the cultural spirit of the villages.

7. Montecasino Bird Gardens

The Montecasino Bird Gardens is home to more than 1,000 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. You can see Scarlet Ibises, Nicobar Pigeons, pelicans, vultures, cranes, and owls at the bird garden. The park also boasts of the world’s largest collection of South African Cycads. Witness ‘Oliver the Pelican’ in action at the park’s ‘Flight of Fantasy’ Bird Show. The bird garden comprises of a walk-through aviary room, frog room, parrot gallery, flamingo pond and cafe. The garden is also home to over 500 plants that include 37 species. The park has a middelburgensis plant, touted to be one of the oldest surviving plants in the world.

8. Old Kromdraai Gold Mine

During the 1800’s, the city of Johannesburg aka ‘City of Gold’ was considered to be the busiest and the wealthiest place due to the presence of gold mines. The Kromdraai Gold Mine was at the centre of the gold rush. The mine was very productive and produced 25 gm of gold per ore ton. The mine is located in Witwatersrand and offers a guided tour to visitors who want to learn about the history of the gold mine. You can enter the mine via a large hole that is drilled on the side of a hill and learn about the various old-fashioned methods used for gold mining.

9. Pretoria

Pretoria is a city that is located in the Gauteng province in Johannesburg. The city is an important part of the history of South Africa and is well-planned. The streets of Pretoria are lined with jacaranda trees and surrounded by skyscrapers. The city also boasts of numerous sculptures that document the Boer history. The main landmarks in the city are Kruger Museum, Art Museum and the National Cultural History Museum. Pretoria is also home to the extensive greenery of large parks, terraced gardens, sunken gardens, nature reserves and the National Zoological Gardens. You can experience the charm of this historic city and the cultural diversity it has to offer.

10. Mandela Family Museum

The Mandela Family Museum is situated in Orlando West, Soweto. If you want to catch a glimpse of the famed prisoner Nelson Mandela, this is the place to be. The Mandela family home consists of rooms, memorabilia, photographs and paintings of the family. Mandela entrusted the house to the Soweto Heritage Trust but his estranged wife converted it into a family museum. The house is a national heritage site, later renovated and refurbished by the Soweto Heritage Trust. The museum houses Mandela’s honorary doctorates bestowed on him by various universities, boxing belt, boots and a cloak.

How to Stay Safe in Johannesburg?

Johannesburg is a beautiful and historical city however, while travelling you should be aware of the dangers. You should always be on alert when travelling to ensure that you have a safe trip. Some important points to keep in mind:

  • You should not leave your luggage and bags unattended at the airport counter or when waiting for a taxi.
  • Avoid using your phone and try to observe your surroundings so as to be prepared.
  • Avoid getting scammed by locals who might pose as people trying to help you and steal your money.
  • Do not carry or display expensive items such as luxury bags, watches, wallets and mobile phones.
  • Avoid travelling alone at night since many of the streets might not be well-lit.
  • While driving alone, remember to roll up your car windows and do not stop if you find something suspicious happening.
From our editorial team

Explore Johannesburg With City Walks

Johannesburg is one of the most beautiful and happening places in the southern hemisphere. We hope our travel guide would have helped you in planning your next trip to Johannesburg and what to expect when you are there. For a close look at the city consider guided walks around the historic neighbourhoods. This is a good way to know more about the city and its culture.