What to do and see in Joburg

What to do and see in Joburg

Visitors are always so pleasantly surprised at how much there is to do and see in Joburg and many leave saying they wished they’d had more time. So don’t make the same mistake!

  • Johannesburg In Your Pocket
    Johannesburg In Your Pocket an excellent guide to Joburg is published every 4 months. It is comprehensive, up to date and gives a real insider’s take. Well worth checking out the on-line version, www.inyourpocket.com/johannesburg. A paper copy is always available for you to take away with you from Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse.
  • Johannesburg Red City Tour
    Even seasoned travellers who don’t like to be seen as mass-tourists, will take a guided bus tour when they first arrive in a big city. It’s an ideal way to get an overview – literally – from the top of a double decker (or diggle-dupper as my son used to call it!) as well as having an explanatory commentary to the main sights and history of the city. Joburg’s Hop-on Hop-Off bus tours have been going since January 2013 and have changed many visitors’ perceptions of the city.
    Joburg city bus starts in The Zone in Rosebank, near the Rosebank Gautrain station.
    There is a good commentary available in 16 languages and a fun kids’ commentary channel.

    Buying tickets
    You can buy pre-paid discounted tickets on-line or full price with debit/credit card on the bus. And there are various different packages you can purchase. Often guests at Liz at Lancaster take the 2 day pass so that they have time to spend at Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum as well as doing the 2 hour tour of Soweto. There are even walking tours plus a bike tour of Soweto can also be arranged.

    So lots of options...all starting in Rosebank at
    1. the Zone
    2. The Zoo Lake You can have a cup of coffee or a meal at Moyo’s and visit the adjacent gift shop. Also it’s a short walk to Tyrone Ave to go to Art Africa
    3. The JHB Zoo cr Jan Smuts and Upper Park Drive; As zoos go the Johannesburg Zoo is very good. There are also night tours to see the nocturnal animals and there is the standard farmyard for small children. See my blog here
      There are 5 and 10km walks through the Zoo every 2nd Sunday of the month; open daily 011 646 2000
    4. the Military Museum 011 646-5513 Open Daily 9-16.30 I'm not a military machinery person but it provides an interesting overview of South Africa's military history including resistance movements and the integration of Umkonto we-Sizwe (MK) post 1994
    5. Constitution Hill For me if there is one site you experience in Joburg it is this one. Gives a good geographic orientation to Johannesburg and excellent historical overview from Colonial times through to the democratic South Africa; fascinating but tough site with Old Fort which became a prison complex and the uplifting new Constitutional Court. Mandela and Gandhi were both imprisoned here (along with petty criminals, murderers and so-called ‘pass offenders’ under the Apartheid regime (Hourly tours 9-4 weekdays and 9-12 on Saturdays) Corner Kotze St and Hospital St Braamfontein 011 381-3100 www.constitutionhill.org.za

      Join Joburg Red City bus at Constitution Hill
      At Consitution Hill you can transfer to the Red Route.
      • Mining District – home to Anglo-American one of the famous mining houses; small outdoor pedestrian ‘museum’ along Main St with very interesting story boards and old mining gear
      • Carlton Centre via the inner city – good panoramic view of the city from the 50 storey somewhat dilapidated building. On week-ends there is a shuttle bus from this stop to Maboneng Precinct. See below for more on Maboneng.
      • James Hall Transport Museum – not a must-do stop off unless trams and trains are your thing.
      • Apartheid Museum – Excellent museum but quite 'text' heavy with few objects. If you want to do it justice you need a good 3 hours. www.apartheidmuseum.org R75 entrance adults and R60 for children and senior citizens.
      • SAB World of Beer Museum. Interesting private museum of the world’s biggest brewers. Nearby is MuseumAfrica, run by the City is underfunded, mismanaged and is frankly a disgrace; the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre at the old Electric Workshop is a great museum for older children and young adults; Anglo-Gold Ashanti’s excellent adaptive re-use of the Turbine Hall is an amazing building well worth a visit.
      • Newtown Junction Mall A newly opened mall – the Newtown Junction –and the adjacent Workshop (a shopping ‘emporium’ in the old Potato Sheds of the original Newtown market – Joburg’s main fresh produce market from 1913 till the early 1970s). From more on the history of the precinct see . See my blog here.
        Various restaurants open onto the piazza including News Cafe as well as the Potato Shed (Tel: 010 590 6133) sister restaurant to Grand Life Café in Hyde Park. From here the bus crosses over the Mandela Bridge into Braamfontein.
      • Origins Centre Excellent museum of humankind's origins - Close to De Korte St entrance of Wits University 011 717 4700 (open daily 9-6; self-guided tours with head phones; R80 adults and R40 children). Café and gift shop.
      • Not to be missed is the Wits Art Museum at 1 Jan Smuts Ave Braamfontein (corner Jorissen St) A short walk from the Origins Centre. They have very interesting changing exhibitions so check what’s on beforehand. They have wonderful permanent collection of African Art.
      • The Grove Braamfontein Outdoor small piazza area in the heart of Joburg’s student quarter. This is an essential Saturday stop for Neighbourgoods Market at 73 Juta St. Make sure you are hungry when you arrive!
      • Orbit Jazz Club has great gigs in the evenings. Check what’s on at www.theorbit.co.za.

        And back to Con Hill.

    6. Soweto extension tour
      From the Apartheid Museum, you can join a 2 hour Soweto extension tour on a small shuttle bus. These buses depart every 60 minutes starting from 11.15 until 15.15.
    7. Shuttle buses from Sandton hotels to Rosebank
      There are free hotel shuttles to the Ticket Office at the Rosebank Zone from several Sandton hotels

  • Walking tours of the city
    • Main St Walks offer general walking tours of the inner city (usually Tuesdays and Thursdays) and Maboneng precinct (Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays) Check www.mainstreetwalks.co.za/tours for more details. There are shuttle buses from the Red City Bus stop at the Carlton Centre over week-ends
    • Gerald Garner of Joburg Places has written 3 books on Joburg focusing on the inner city decline and its subsequent regeneration. He’s passionate about Joburg and runs fascinating informed tours - providing insights into Joburg and its history and perhaps most compelling of all, its regeneration projects. You can check what is up-coming on and make booking enquiries on www.joburgplaces.com/tours/index.htm
    • Past Experiences run a wider range of excellent, more off-beat tours. See www.pastexperiences.co.za. Contact numbers 011 678 3905 or 083 701 3046
    • Lucille Davie has written extensively on Joburg and knows a huge amount about the city. She runs at least 8 tours and will always tailor make tours specifically for you. See www.lucilledavie.co.za/jozi-tours

  • Soweto
    There are various ways of seeing Soweto:
    • Self drive
    • Take the Red City Bus shuttle from Gold Reef City (2 hours)
    • Arrange a private tour (Liz can do this or you can arrange directly). Ideally Soweto needs a whole morning or afternoon. Tours should be arranged in advance and range from R590 upwards per person (minimum 2). There is always a single supplement. www.mashabatours.co.za is recommended.
    • If you feel energetic a great way to experience the day to day life of Soweto is to take a cycling tour www.sowetobicycletours.com 2 or 4 hours tours or full day tours.
    • Walking tour of Kliptown, the oldest part of Soweto and a part that is still very under-resourced with poor infrastructure. Ntokozo Dube aka TK of TKD tours takes walking tours. Fascinating interactions with local community. 073 133 5234 or tktours.dube13 @gmail.com.

  • Maboneng Precinct
    Maboneng is a private development initiative where old warehouses have been turned into galleries, studios, restaurants, apartments, a hotel, a very hip back-packers, a museum (MOAD Museum of African Design). It’s probably best to join Main Street Walks (See walking tours above) as the area stretches over many city blocks. Or else go to Market on Main on a Sunday, or eat at one of the outdoor eateries: Pata Pata has live music; Little Addis (cheap and delicious Ethiopian); House of Baobab (West African); or Che Argetine (booking essential), are but a few. Maboneng is full of energy and buzz with lots of interaction across the social divide.

  • Check Museums and Attractions for other places of interest such as Satyagraha House, Lilliesleaf and Lesedi Cultural Village.

  • Leave some time for shopping – see Shopping and Art and Artefacts.

  • There are lots of exciting day trips:
    • Cradle of Humankind
    • Pilanesberg – see the big 5 (2 hour drive)
    • De Wildt Cheetah Centre
    • Mangwanani African Spa - Central Reservations: + 27 (0)860 55 00 55 Sheer indulgence, treat yourself - a fabulous African health spa in the bush; Can do a half day (Tues- Thurs +R990 pp and Fri-Sun R1150 pp) or full day; Need to book well in advance; transport leaves from Monte Casino so you could see that too - "info@mangwanani.co.za. Be prepared to be tired and very relaxed afterwards. www.mangwanani.co.za. A very special experience.

  • Markets have become increasingly popular in Joburg:
    • The very famous Sunday Rosebank Rooftop Market is now back in the Rosebank Mall following renovations.
    • The market at Arts on Main (Maboneng Precinct) is open on a Sunday – lovely urban space. www.marketonmain.co.za
    • Also open on a Saturday is the Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein – great food stalls and fabulous vibe.
    • Or on Thursdays & Saturdays - the Organic Village Market in Bryanston is also fun (open 9-3). Good natural fibre clothes for women. www.bryanstonorganicmarket.co.za. There is also a moonlit market on the Tuesday closest to the full moon. Fabulous on a summer's evening to browse and have a light supper there.
    • Open from Thursday to Sunday is the new urban space The Sheds@1 Fox St in the Ferreirastown (south east of Joburg's CBD). There’s an artisanal food and produce market, surrounded by eateries and bars. It's a great space - open, airy, laid back and welcoming and caters for families. www.1fox.co.za
    • See also https://www.lizatlancaster.co.za/blog/pick-of-the-week-a-market-a-day

  • End your days with dinner at one of the excellent local restaurants. Visitors often comment on the excellent standard of restaurants in Johannesburg. See www.lizatlancaster.co.za/info/eating.html

  • And there's a lot more, depending on your interests. A day in Pretoria; time to browse through some of the books on local history, art and heritage in Liz's library; contemporary art galleries; the Botanical Gardens; a local play at the Joburg Theatre and/or the Market theatre; major shopping at one of the Malls like Rosebank or Sandton; and relax for a while in Mandela Square; make the most of one or more of the 8 golf course nearby; join the Zoo walk on a Sunday morning; people watch at a pavement café... guests always leave saying they wished they’d planned more time in Joburg.