Joburg is packed with history and is home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners on the same street. It’s where Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were held in the same prison, which is now the country’s Constitutional Court. South Africa’s largest township Soweto now also belongs to the city.
Because of its size, navigating around Johannesburg may not be easy, but with the following tips, you’re good to explore the city for at least 5 days! So here are the 11 best things to do in Johannesburg, covering a few different neighborhoods.
1. Arts galore at the Maboneng Precinct
Even though the Maboneng Precinct only consists of a few blocks, it’s one of the most awesome places to be in Joburg, especially for creatives. People here take chic and stylish to another level and are open and friendly, making it easy to make friends there. On weekends, local street vendors and musicians set up on the side of the street to play and sell their crafts, which are perfect for souvenirs! You can also get your Kizomba and Salsa in the afternoon at Arts on Main.
2. The best rooftop views
Enjoy a cocktail or tapas at Randlords, which is situated at the highest point in Braamfontein and offers one of the best 360 degrees rooftop views of Johannesburg.
3. Dive deep into South Africa’s history at Constitution Hill…
Undoubtedly one of the most history-packed places in South Africa, Con Hill, as it is abbreviated, was established in 1892 as a prison for white males. Once Apartheid was introduced, prisoners of all races were held here but segregated and held under vastly different conditions. The prison’s most famous inmates were Gandhi and Mandela.
4. …and at the Apartheid Museum
To fully take in this museum, you’ll have to spend one or two half days here. This place contains information and remnants of the country’s troubled past. It’s also a very sobering experience from the minute you walk through the entrance, which is separated into black and white for demonstration of how it used to be.
5. Vilakazi Street in Soweto
This is the only street in the world where no one but two Nobel Peace Prize winners have lived – Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. You can visit their homes or stroll up and down the street, check out the crafts of local vendors, support local designers at “The Box Shop” watch Zulu dance performances or have a drink at one of the bars.
6. Zoo Park & Moyo
If you need some green and water in the middle of the concrete jungle downtown Joburg, hang out at Zoo Park. Here, you can have a braai (the South African version of BBQ) or get sundowners at the Pan-African restaurant Moyo, which also offers live music on weekends.
7. Neighborhoods Market
The Neighborhoods Market offers all of that on Saturdays in a small alley in Braamfontein, artsy people, great live music, local goods and crafts, and dishes from all over the world. Loved by locals and tourists alike!
8. Newtown Junction Mall
Not only in Maboneng are Joburg’s street artists at work – outside of the Newtown Junction Mall are numerous pillars with amazing street art that invite you to take your following Instagram picture! Inside the mall, the Work Shop hosts African designers and other creatives, from which you can get a unique souvenir or something for yourself.
9. Enjoy the nightlife at Kitcheners
Over a century old, the second oldest bar in Joburg is located in Joburg’s student, and creatives district Braamfontein. Part of the interior gives you the impression that it’s as old as the bar. The kitchen is a daily pub and bar/dance lounge with various music and events at night. In the three rooms and small outdoor space, you can get your ratchet on here pretty much any day of the week.
10. Seek your thrill at the Orlando Towers
The two huge cooling towers of what used to be a power station now serve as entertainment for thrill seekers in Soweto. Bungee jumping between the towers, freefalling inside one of the towers, and paintball are just some of the things they now offer. One of the towers also boasts the largest mural in South Africa.
11. Take a township tour
Please don’t take a township tour for the poverty porn, but rather get to know someone’s home, culture, and people. Therefore, the best way to explore Soweto or Alex, for example, is through walking or bike tours with local entrepreneur guides who support other local business owners by taking guests to their shops or restaurants.