Things to see and do in Johannesburg
A little over a century ago, Johannesburg was just another dusty provincial mining town. The early settlers came in search of gold – and found it in plentiful supply. Today, the city is still something of a goldmine, being firmly established as the country’s leading commercial centre.
As you would expect in such an important financial centre, there’s plenty to spend your money on. One of Africa’s leading shopping cities, it offers every class of retail therapy – from the exclusive Sandton Shopping Centre and Nelson Mandela Square to the famous Rosebank Flea Market.
With all its bustle and energy, it’s easy to forget that Johannesburg is a relatively new addition to the landscape. To learn about the cultures that went before, visit Museum Africa in the vibrant suburb of Newtown. Housed in one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, it offers a fascinating journey through the history of the continent.
You can also explore the more recent past at the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pieterson Museum and Mandela House in Soweto.
For younger visitors – and the young at heart – there’s the Gold Reef City theme park. Built on a former gold mine, it’s a fun evocation of the 1880s gold rush. As well as water rides and roller coasters, you’ll find a museum, a hotel and restaurant facilities.
For more artistic entertainment, the city is renowned for its galleries and world-class theatre. You can also enjoy the bohemian ambience, restaurants and bars of the city’s leafy suburbs.
The annual calendar begins – and ends – with the Joburg Carnival on New Year’s Eve. August and September have some major cultural events, culminating in the month-long Arts Alive festival. By mid-November, you can get ready for Christmas with the Good Food and Wine Show – South Africa's leading food, wine and lifestyle event.
Head into the wild with an Avis car rental
Some 15 miles to the north of the city is another subterranean treasure trove. This time, the treasure isn’t gold or diamonds – it’s the origins of humanity itself. The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s widely recognised as the place where mankind began. Packed with attractions, this enormous site is not only a mine of scientific discovery – it’s a wonderful place to relax and unwind.
For example, you might want to step back in time at the Lesedi Cultural Village. You can spend the night in traditional dwellings and experience the culture of four southern African peoples: the Zulu, Basotho, Xhosa and Pedi.
Of course, no trip to South Africa would ever be complete without experiencing the local wildlife. The Lion Park nature reserve is home to more than 85 lions as well as many other carnivores, such as cheetahs, wild dogs and hyenas. Nineteen miles northwest of the city centre, it also has a unique type of antelope indigenous to the continent.
Another interesting option is the Krugersdorp Game Reserve – a small and intimate nature park approximately 40 minutes’ drive to the west. A convenient alternative to major national parks, it offers a true safari experience. Here you can see no less than four of the ‘Big Five’, as well as giraffe, zebra, antelope, roan, sable, hippo and gemsbok. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can leave your vehicle and tour the park on horseback.
As you may have noticed, Johannesburg is one of the few cities in the world that is not located on a river or coast. If water sports are your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that there is an option nearby: the Hartbeespoort Dam Reservoir. Forty-five miles from the city, it’s a popular holiday and weekend resort, as well as being home to the Transvaal Yacht Club.