Johannesburg is transforming into a happening city with plenty of exciting sights and sounds.
From museums that give you a look into its dark past to jazz bars and ancient paleoanthropological sites, there are a lot of exciting things to do in Johannesburg to keep you occupied throughout your holiday in this ‘city of gold’.
Find out all the amazing you can do in this wonderful city. From art to architecture to history and future good times, know what Johannesburg has on offer for you.
Visit the Cradle of Humankind
40 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg is the Cradle of Humankind, a site that’s home to about 40 percent of human fossils on the planet. It’s where the first hominid, Australopithecus, was found back in 1924. There are 13 excavation sites, all of which are recognized as heritage sites.
Exploring the Cradle of Humankind is one of the top 10 things to do in Johannesburg for families. Aside from marveling at the fossils, you can tour the private Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve whose inhabitants include tigers, lions, sables, hippos and antelopes.
Check out the Scene at The Orbit – Home of Jazz
There are countless things to do in Johannesburg at night as the nightlife in the city is one of the most happening. There are numerous bars and clubs you can head to but if you’re looking for a more ‘grown-up’ romantic thing to do in Johannesburg, we recommend hitting The Orbit at Braamfontein. You’ll get to listen to some of South Africa’s best jazz musicians while sipping drinks and dining on delicious food. The menu is extensive and includes a choice selection of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails as well as meat platters, mouth-watering mains and delectable desserts.
Go on a Bicycle Tour
One of the best things to do in Johannesburg is to enjoy the sights on a bicycle. A local guide will take you on a tour of popular attractions and help you see the city up close. Depending on which tour you book, you’ll also get to visit the sites of the 1976 Soweto uprising and other important areas of Soweto such as Nelson Mandela’s former home and that of Desmond Tutu. You’ll also learn about life under apartheid and different cultures before sitting down to a wholesome lunch.
Visit the Apartheid Museum
Witness an important period of South African history at the Apartheid Museum. Although a somber experience, exploring it is one of the fun things to do in Johannesburg for adults. You’ll learn about the rise and fall of apartheid through film footage, photos and artefacts. The tour can be emotional but it’s also one of hope and showcases the triumph of the human spirit.
Keep in mind that the museum’s content is graphic and not appropriate for young children.
Dine and Explore A Portas / The Shunting Yard
Over a century old and still going strong, A Portas/The Shunting Yard is a terrific place to sip a coffee and nibble on fresh pastries. You can also pick up tasty cold meats, cheese and olives.
What sets this spot apart is its shelves of model trains, railroad scenery and other related odds and ends. It was expanded to include these delights when it was taken over by train enthusiast, George Lagoudis. Kids and adults will love the place and checking out the many models on display is one of the best family things to do in Johannesburg.
Shop at Nelson Mandela Square
Exclusive restaurants and stores await at Nelson Mandela Square, one of the most popular places for shopping in Johannesburg. You’ll find stores selling jewelry, accessories and fashion items as well as watches and electronics.
Nelson Mandela Square also offers plenty of things to do in Johannesburg at night – read, bar-hopping and dining! Hard Rock Café and Trumps Grillhouse and Butchery are a couple of popular spots to hit.
Enjoy the View from Carlton Center
There’s something about a seeing a city from a bird’s-eye view that’s so satisfying. If you think the same, there’s no better place to admire Johannesburg than from the 50-storey Carlton Center. It’s the tallest office building in Africa. It was once the home of the Carlton Hotel and saw prominent names as guests including politicians and celebrities.
Although affected by urban decay in the 1990s, Carlton Center is still the best place to see Johannesburg in its ‘entirety’.
Explore Constitution Hill
This former prison complex showcases the history of South Africa from some of its darkest times to its brighter future. The infamous prison once housed famous names like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi as well as striking mine workers, political dissidents and ordinary folk. Today, the complex is the seat of the Constitutional Court and the home of prison museums like Old Fort, Women’s Gaol and Number Four.
Shop for Unique Finds at Market on Main
Where else can you find unique buys but at a flea market? Market on Main, which opens every Sunday at Arts on Main, is an urban food and design market where entrepreneurs trade their products in a relaxed space. You can find regional foods, African print bags and shoes and homeware. The bustling market has a great vibe and you can spend hours exploring it. It’s also a terrific place to meet people and see different cultures. This is one of the most interesting cultural things to do in Johannesburg.
Buy Souvenirs at Art Africa
If you have some money to burn, we recommend checking out Art Africa, a store with a range of quality art and souvenirs that you’ll want to take home. There’s a lot to see and buy and although most items are on the pricey side, they’re well worth purchasing.