Explore the turbulent past and thriving present of South Africa’s biggest city’s with these 10 great things to do in Johannesburg. By Angela Saurine.

The first port of call for most Australians flying to South Africa, Johannesburg is a vibrant city filled with hip urban neighbourhoods and opportunities to learn about the country’s turbulent past. For first-time visitors, here are 10 Johannesburg must-dos.

Market day

With singing stallholders and flaming grills, the Neighbourgoods Market is a lively place to spend a Saturday. Vendors offer everything from paella cooked in an enormous paellera pan to fried chicken, noodles, oysters, gourmet hotdogs and fresh juices.

73 Juta Street, Braamfontein

Take a walking tour

Discover how Johannesburg transformed from a gold mining town to South Africa’s biggest city during a two-hour City Sightseeing South Africa Historical City Tour. Highlights include Church Street food market, the Edwardian-style City Hall and Chancellor House where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo opened the country’s first black law practice in the 1950s. 

Park Station, Rissik Sreet, Johannesburg; 0861 733 287

SEE ALSO: Neil Perry’s Guide to Dining in Cape Town

Go on safari 

Book a day tour to Pilanesberg Game Reserve, about two hours drive from the city, to spot Africa’s big five – lions, elephants, leopards, buffalos and rhinoceroses. The park is also home to antelopes, giraffes, zebras, hippopotamuses, crocodiles and a range of birdlife. 
Bojanala, North West Province; 1800 897 833

Explore an arts precinct

The transformed warehouse district of Maboneng Precinct on the eastern side of the CBD is decorated with murals and quirky features, including a blackboard that encourages visitors to write one thing they want to do before they die. Peruse the art studios, galleries and boutiques, take a break at a café or attend a community event, such as the weekly Market on Main.   

Fox Street, Maboneng  

Listen up

Watch jazz and blues performed on a small stage at intimate live-music club and bistro The Orbit. The venue also hosts spoken word performances. Reservations are recommended.

81 de Korte Street, Braamfontein; 081 534 2867

SEE ALSO: Five Great Things to Do in Cape Town

Explore an historic prison

The former Constitution Hill prison complex is now a fascinating museum that follows South Africa’s journey from colonialism and apartheid to democracy. It is divided into three sections – the Old Fort, Women’s Jail and Number Four, where Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned. 

Kotze Rd, Johannesburg; 011 381 3100

Learn about the apartheid era

Learn about the rise and fall of apartheid – the system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948 until 1991 – at the confronting Apartheid Museum. The permanent collection includes 22 exhibition spaces.

Corner Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Road, Ormonde;  011 309 4770 

Check out the “cradle of humankind”

Take a daytrip to explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Sterkfontein Caves, where hominid and other animal fossils dating back more than four million years have been discovered. The attraction is less than an hour’s drive from Johannesburg.

Hekpoort Road, Sterkfontein; 014 577 9000

Top image: Past Experiences Graffiti Walk

Take a street-art tour

Join a top local graffiti artist on a Past Experiences Graffiti Walk to discover some of the city’s best street art and hear about the works. Two-hour tours are held in several inner city areas. You can also take part in a graffiti workshop with experts from Two by Two Art Studio. 

011 678 3905

Quad bike tour

Jump on a Soweto Outdoor Adventures quad-biking tour through the settlements of Soweto, stopping to see the house where Nelson Mandela lived and try local beer from an informal bar known as a shebeen. 

Dynamo Street, Soweto; 072 692 8159

SEE ALSO: 5 Great Places to Stay in Johannesburg

You may also like