Johannesburg did not use to be a tourist destination, but being the main hub to reach Cape Town, Durban or the beautiful Kruger Park through its international airport OR Tambo International Airport, it changed over the years.
Informally known as Jozi or Joburg, the expansive multicultural city is the largest and the most populous one in South Africa. Created in 1886, following the discovery of gold in a farm, it has since grown into an economic, financial and cultural hub.
Johannesburg is a vast city, with its development, attractions for tourists have been created and allow any keen visitor to discover all the features of this multicultural city!
To have an idea of what Johannesburg looks like go to the Carlton Center. It is one of the tallest buildings in Africa and its top floor offers a stunning 360° view over the whole city. It might look a bit run down but it is really worth the visit, especially in the late afternoon, early evening – it closes at dusk (5pm).
Jozi also offers a wide range of museums to visit within which the Apartheid Museum is a must. This museum, created in 2001, shows the rise and fall of the Apartheid, a system of social segregation, politic and economic discrimination that emerged in South Africa in 1948 and lasted until early 90’s (!). This is a must do to understand not only the city of Johannesburg but the whole of South Africa.
Constitution Hill is another must in Johannesburg. From there you will discover a stunning view of the city as well as having the opportunity to visit the prison where a lot of freedom fighters – battling the Apartheid- were held prisoners. A museum is available on site and the Constitutional Court is open to the public as well!
If you didn’t have enough history there’s another exceptional place, 90 minutes away from Johannesburg, that you really should explore. The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that got its name as the 15 fossils sites of the area have produced more hominin fossils than any other site in the world! Within the places you can explore Sterkfontein Caves might be the most popular as it is home of the famous Mrs Ples, the most complete skull of Australopithecus Africanus ever found in South Africa, and Little Foot, a nearly complete Australopithecus fossil skeleton found in 1994. We can also name Cooper’s cave, a real museum with hundreds of fossils. The Cradle of Humankind is an unmissable visit during your stay in Johannesburg.
Next to it, the famous Lion & Safari Park is home to a selection of indigenous species such as lions, cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, wild dogs; sable antelopes, giraffes and many more. Offering guided tours, night drives but also restaurants, it’s a perfect way to make the most of the natural wonders of the area.
A stay in Johannesburg is the opportunity to discover the famous Soweto. Soweto stands for South Western Township and was originally distinct from Johannesburg, populated mainly by native African workers from the gold mining industry. These non-white areas during the Apartheid were the epicenter of conflicts between governments and black communities. This part of the city, highly symbolic, is now offering attractions such as the Nobel Laureate Walk, a unique street in the world as two Nobel prizes laureates lived here: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. In this vibrant neighborhood you will also find The Nelson Mandela National Museum, the Orlando Towers, from which you can bungee jump! the Hector Pietersen Museum and Memorial and much more. Soweto will break all your preconceptions of townships, a must do!
A stay in Johannesburg gives you the opportunity to enjoy its popular neighborhoods such as Braamfontein and Rosebank or one of the coolest neighborhoods in the world, Maboneng!
Rosebank is a great part of Johannesburg to discover by foot, you can stop anytime in one of the numerous coffee shops, have a look in an art gallery or in a vintage shop! Braamfontein is a trendy part of Johannesburg where you will find many coffee shops, popup shops as well as the Neighbourgood market on Saturday mornings where artisan food, clothing stalls and craft are available. Last but not least, Maboneng, it was a no-go zone until the end of the Apartheid in 1994, it is now a unique area where arts, bars, rooftop and galleries are plenty.
Johannesburg still has plenty to offer from the Gold Reef City, a park offering rides and a museum taking you to a gold mine, to Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, a piece of nature in the city where you can even find a stunning waterfall.
The days when Johannesburg was just a stopover to another destination are definitely behind, Jozi is now a vibrant city where arts, food, history and wildlife can be found in the same place.
If you are running out of energy, eat! Don’t try to find just South African food, Johannesburg is a unique melting pot and it means the best food from all over the world is here for you to discover, Chinese, Indian, Turkish or even the famous Braai (barbecues), there’s food for everyone’s taste in Johannesburg!
The city is a great all year destination. Situated on the Eastern plateau of South Africa, Joburg’s temperature tends to stay mild throughout the year thanks to its elevation – Joburg peaks at 1,753 meters (5,751 ft) above sea level.
Winter season, from May to September, is dry and the average maximum temperature at this time is around 16° (61°F). Night can get quite chilly and occasionally go below freezing, however snow is exceptional.
Summer season lasts from October to April and temperatures rise to a maximum average of 25.6 °C (78.1 °F) during daytime. In the afternoon thundershowers are pretty common and evenings are cooler. Be careful of the sun, thanks to its height the city escapes burning hot temperature but the UV index is very high!
Pack casual and light clothes as weather is generally warm and don’t forget a jacket for cooler evenings, an umbrella can be useful during summer months!
Upon coming to visit South Africa you might get anxious of the crime rate, Johannesburg isn’t an exception and you are advised to be careful, however, the city is much safer than a few years back, thanks to the economic stability. With a few precautions the vast majority of visitors enjoy a stay without any fear or trouble. Keep in mind that poverty is one of the main motives for attacks, therefore you should avoid showing wealth and expensive belongings – keep them in a safe – carry the minimum amount of money you need, be confident but don’t show off.
We advise you to avoid walking at nights unless you are in a populated and well-lit area, listen to the local’s advice on security – even though they can be extra careful! During daytime you can walk in busy neighborhoods but remain aware of your surroundings and avoid narrow alleys, if you feel uncomfortable follow your instinct and leave the area. In case of robbery remain calm, do not resist and pay attention to the suspect’s appearance to report it to the police.
Being multicultural Johannesburg is also very welcoming and its inhabitants very friendly and always happy to help, don’t hesitate to ask for advice or information.
Easy to reach, welcoming to tourists, offering all the best of what South Africa has to offer with access to World Heritage Sites, unique museums and a wide range of food and cafés, Johannesburg is firmly on the map and a beautiful way to spend a holiday in South Africa.