Things to see and do in Johannesburg, South Africa
Hailed as the powerhouse of Africa, Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest and wealthiest city. It bustles with a cosmopolitan vibe and is a considerable power in the fields of manufacturing, retail and service industries.
Johannesburg generates 17 % of South Africa’s GDP.
This is the city of Gold, where deals and decisions are made. An excellent road and rail infrastructure delivers goods and machinery throughout Africa from Johannesburg, and the city is served by two airports, namely OR Tambo and Lanseria.
Over 4 million people call Jozi home and you can double that figure if you take the suburbs into account. It’s a thriving fast-paced hub, filled with attractions for tourists and businessmen alike. Many international companies have their South African headquarters in the city.
History of Johannesburg
Johannesburg is a city built on gold. Thousands of hopefuls flocked here during the 1886 gold rush on the Witwatersrand.
After that, as these deposits proved to be some of the richest in the world, formal mines were established during the 1890s and even more people flocked here to find employment. The municipality of Johannesburg was declared in 1897.
Tension among the mine barons and newly-arrived English-speaking fortune seekers escalated into the Anglo-Boer War of 1899–1901. Afterward, the British took control over the Transvaal and Orange Free State.
By the turn of the century, over 100 000 people were resident in the area. The British government of the time relocated black mineworkers out of the city, unwittingly sparking the tradition of apartheid which was upheld until 1994.
By the 1930s, Johannesburg had become a thriving metropolis with a strong manufacturing and industrial bent.
Johannesburg is often the first port of call for international tourists flying in to OR Tambo International Airport, which is one of the busiest in Africa.
Domestic and charter flights depart from this hub to places across South Africa, and international flights leave several times a day to the most popular international destinations.
The Gautrain also leaves from here to the city center and Pretoria. This 24-billion-rand project has done much to relieve the infamous congestion on the N1 highway and stops off at many key points along the way.
It is not uncommon for travelers to spend a few nights lapping up the nightlife and attractions of Jozi before heading out to the game parks of Mpumalanga.
As a result, Johannesburg is filled with excellent accommodation options both in the city and in the affluent nearby suburbs such as Sandton. Bed and breakfast as well as self-catering options are a popular choice with visitors wanting to try out some of Johannesburg’s top-class restaurants during their stay.
These excellent eateries include local traditional dishes, outdoor dining opportunities, international staples and fast food options. Swish nightclubs and bars are easy to find as long as you stick to the more touristic suburbs for your evening’s entertainment. As with most large cities, always ask for advice from your travel agent or hosts before venturing out to paint the town red.
Johannesburg is a retail hub for all of South Africa and its neighbors and as a result you will be able to find anything you want somewhere in the city. Large malls are plentiful and weekly or daily artisan markets thrive in the surrounding areas. High end boutiques and shops offer the opportunity to buy local and international fashion, jewelry, gifts, decor, furniture and art.
All the major banks have several branches in Johannesburg and hospitals offer the latest advancement in health care. Fuel stations, pharmacies and grocery stores are abundant and efficient.
Things to See and Do in Johannesburg
Johannesburg is alive with entertainment, activities and interesting things to see.
Many of the old buildings have been immaculately preserved and you can get a taste of the days of yore at the Gold Reef City entertainment center.
Some of the major attractions in and around Johannesburg include:
- The Apartheid Museum
- Nelson Mandela Square
- Hector Pietersen Museum
- Zoo Lake
- Carlton Centre
- SAB World of Beer
- Constitution Hill
- National Museum of Military History
- Johannesburg zoo
- Sci-Bono Discovery Centre
- The Vaal Dam
- Hartbeespoort Dam
- Johannesburg Botanical Gardens
- Maropeng: Cradle of Humankind
- The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
- Gallery Momo
- Goodman Gallery
- Johannesburg Art Gallery
- Joburg Theatre
- Market Theatre
Some of the best things to do in Johannesburg are bungee jumping off Orlando Towers, taking a ride on the city sightseeing bus, lapping up the arts and culture scene at galleries and theatres and watching the rugby at Ellis Park.
Nearby you can head out for the day to game reserves like Pilanesberg National Park or Mabula Game Reserve or try your luck at Sun City Entertainment world. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, horse-riding, fishing and golf in the suburbs and surrounds of the city.
Get in touch if you’d like to get to know the City of Gold better during your stay in South Africa. We’ll be happy to guide you in your explorations.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.