Johannesburg did not used to be a tourist destination, but being the main hub to reach Cape Town, Durban or the Greater Kruger area through its international airport OR Tambo International Airport, it changed over the years.
Informally known as Jozi or Jo’burg, the expansive multicultural city is the largest and most populous one in South Africa. Created in 1886, following the discovery of gold on 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 Apartheid- were held prisoners. A museum is available on site and the Constitutional Court is open to the public.
Just 90 minutes away from Johannesburg, The Cradle of Humankind. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was named for the 15 fossils sites of the area which have produced more hominin fossils than any other site in the world! You can explore Sterkfontein Caves, the most popular site 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. Also popular is Cooper’s Cave, a museum displaying hundreds of fossils.
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 2 Nobel prizes laureates lived here: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. In this vibrant neighborhood you will also find The Nelson Mandela National Museum and the Orlando Towers, from which you can bungee jump! Also in Soweto is the Hector Pietersen Museum and Memorial and much more. Soweto will break all your preconceptions of townships and is a must see!
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 and you can stop any time in one of the numerous coffee shops, have a look in an art gallery or vintage shop! Braamfontein is a trendy part of Johannesburg where you will find many coffee shops, pop-up shops, as well as the Neighbourgood market on Saturday mornings where artisan food, clothing stalls, and crafts are available. Last, but not least, Maboneng, it was a no-go zone until the end of Apartheid in 1994. It is now a unique area where arts, bars, rooftop and galleries are plenty.
Johannesburg still has plenty to offer from Gold Reef City, a park offering rides and a museum taking you to a gold mine. The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, a piece of nature in the city where you can find a stunning waterfall is also a must-see.
The days when Johannesburg was just a stopover to another destination are definitely a thing of the past. Jozi is now a vibrant city where arts, food, history and wildlife can be found within close proximity.
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, 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 a rare occurance.
Summer 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 quite common and evenings are cooler. Be careful of the sun – because of it’s 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!
As with any large city, visitors should be aware that Johannesburg isn’t an exception when it comes to crime and you are advised to be careful. The city is, however, much safer than a few years ago, 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 and 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.
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, and 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 time during your trip to South Africa.
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