What to do and see in JoburgLockdowns during Covid (2020 early 2022) hit Joburg very had so lots of places had to close down temporarily and with did not re-open or scalled back considerably. But visitors are still 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. It is well worth checking out the on-line version, www.inyourpocket.com/johannesburg.
- 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.
A Green tour has been added which takes visitors from Rosebank around the suburbs before arrival at Constitution Hill to change for the Red tour through the city to the south.
The Joburg Green and city bus starts from outside the Holiday Inn in Rosebank with the first bus leaving at 9.00. There is a good commentary available in 16 languages and a fun kids’ commentary channel.
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.
- Depart from outside the Holiday Inn in Rosebank
- Melrose Arch is an ultra-chic urban precinct designed around the concept of live, work and play. Built around a series of piazzas and walkways it is very walkable with plenty of luxury stores, sidewalk cafes, restaurants and bars.
- Mandela Foundation in Houghton Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm closed Sunday. There is a small museum with a permanent focusing on Mandela’s life with personal letters, photographs and his Nobel Peace prize on exhibition. Between 2002 and 2010 Mandela used this as a working space.
- Munro Drive -up 900 metres with a hairpin bend you will pass from Houghton to Upper Houghton for a magnificent photo opportunity over Rosebank, Sandton to the north. On a clear day you can see, not forever, but to the Magaliesberg.
- 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
- Gold Reef City and Casino Hotel. Check the website for current entry prices – if funfairs, mock historic towns or gambling is your thing .. this is the place to hop off.
- Apartheid Museum Excellent museum but quite 'text' heavy with few objects. If you want to do it justice you need a good 3 hours. Check the website for current entry prices
- Newtown: 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.
- Nearby is MuseumAfrica, which although it has amazing holdings is run by the City and is underfunded, mismanaged and disappointing
- Braamfontein Square Is home to the Playground (old Neighbourhoods Market) which is open Saturday 10am to 6pm. An artisanal market with lots of food stalls, buskers and informal performers. Free entry with City Sightseeing ticket.
- From Braamfontein Square you could walk through Braamfontein to Origins Centre at the south end of Wits University. If you can’t make it out to Sterkfontein and Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind, this as an excellent option for the fascinating archeological history in this area.
- And on the way to Origins you will pass the Wits Art Museum which has a very good collection of African Art. But check what the current exhibition is on the website.
- Red City Bus Soweto extension tour
From the Apartheid Museum, you can join a 2 hour Soweto extension tour on a small shuttle bus. But you will be take to a limited number of standard tourist sites.
- Walking tours of the city
- Microadventure Tours. Kennedy Tembo founded Microadventure Tours in 2017 leading half-day and full-day guided rides around the historical sites of the Joburg City Centre. He also runs the Jozi Coffee Cycle Tour – a coffee-themed bike ride through downtown Joburg stopping at various coffee shops. Bikes and helmets are provided. And every Tuesday morning he takes a gentle walk around the Wilds.
- Main St Walks offer general walking and cycling tours of the inner city. Check www.mainstreetwalks.co.za/tours for more details.
- 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
There are various ways of seeing Soweto:
- Self-drive if you know what you want to see/experience and use Google maps to the main sights/sites
- Lebo's Cycling, Walking and Tuk Tuk tours. In the very late 1990s, the now late Lebo Malepa borrowed bicycles from locals and began to take foreign visitors around. And from small beginnings big things grow.
- 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.
- 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.
- Check Museums and Attractions for other places of interest such as Satyagraha House 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) Safaris@pilanesberg.com +27 84 500 1773; +27 11 678 2616
- 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 - email@example.com. 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.
- Also open on a Saturday is the Playground 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.
- 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.