Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and one of the most vibrant and diverse destinations in the world. Whether you’re looking for history, culture, nature, or adventure, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Johannesburg that will suit your taste and budget.
But with so many options, how do you choose the best activities and attractions for your trip? How do you make the most of your time in the City of Gold?
That’s where this guide comes in handy. In this article, we’ll show you some of the best things to do in Johannesburg, from visiting the Apartheid Museum to exploring Gold Reef City. We’ll also give you some tips on how to get around, where to stay, and what to eat in this amazing city.
So if you’re ready to discover Johannesburg, keep reading and get inspired!
Nature and Game Reserves
Johannesburg is not only a vibrant city with many cultural and historical attractions, but also a gateway to some of the most amazing natural wonders in South Africa. Whether you are looking for a safari adventure, a relaxing retreat or a scenic escape, you will find plenty of options within a few hours’ drive from the city. Here are some of the best nature, game reserves and resorts to visit near Johannesburg:
- Aha Makalali Private Game Reserve: A rustic luxury lodge in a 26,000ha (64,247 acres) bushveld where you can see the Big Five and other rare animals on game drives.
- Zulu Camp at Shambala Private Game Reserve: An intimate camp with eight honeycomb-shaped chalets that reflect traditional Zulu style and offer personal butler service.
- Royal Madikwe Safari Lodge: An ultra-luxurious lodge with five suites that have private decks, plunge pools and outdoor showers, overlooking a waterhole and the bushveld.
- Kaingo Game Reserve: A 22,000ha (54,363 acres) reserve with mountain landscapes, savannahs and valleys, where you can see artworks by local artists and ancient rock art.
- Izintaba Private Game Reserve: A 1,200ha (2,965 acres) malaria-free game farm where you can hike and cycle safely through the grounds and stay in self-catering thatched cottages.
- The Wilds Nature Reserve: This reserve is a green oasis with well maintained gardens, stunning artwork, and diverse wildlife. You’ll also find trails, picnic areas, and views of the city.
- Melville Koppies Nature Reserve: This reserve is a heritage site that preserves the natural vegetation and archaeological features of the area. You’ll see grasslands, rocky ridges and stone-age tools. You’ll also enjoy hiking, birdwatching, and guided tours.
Holiday and Getaways
If you are looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating getaway from the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, you don’t have to travel far to find some of the best spas and wellness retreats in the country. Whether you want to pamper yourself with massages, facials and manicures, or enjoy some yoga, meditation and healthy cuisine, you will find a place that suits your needs and budget. Here are some of the best holiday getaways and spas near Johannesburg:
- Gold Reef City Theme Park Hotel: A fun-filled hotel with a theme park, a casino, a train museum and an underground mine tour, as well as a spa that offers a range of treatments and packages.
- Southern Sun Katherine Street Sandton: A stylish hotel in the Sandton CBD, with easy access to shopping malls, restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as a spa that features a sauna, a steam room and a jacuzzi.
- The Fairway Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort: A luxurious hotel on the Randpark Golf Course, with elegant rooms, suites and villas, as well as a spa that boasts 11 treatment rooms, an outdoor pool and a hydrotherapy bath.
- The Cradle Boutique Hotel: A chic hotel in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, with spacious rooms, suites and cottages, as well as a spa that offers massages, body wraps and scrubs.
- Kloofzicht Lodge & Spa: A tranquil lodge in the Zwartkops Mountains, with cozy rooms, suites and chalets, as well as a spa that overlooks a fly-fishing dam and offers holistic therapies.
- Budmarsh Country Lodge: A charming lodge in the Magaliesberg Mountains, with elegant rooms and suites, as well as a spa that provides aromatherapy, reflexology and hot stone massages.
- African Pride Mount Grace Country House & Spa: A serene country house in the Magaliesburg Valley, with classic rooms, suites and villas, as well as a spa that features a heated flotation pool, a steam room and a labyrinth.
- Askari Game Lodge & Spa: A historic game lodge in the Plumari Africa Game Reserve, with rustic rooms and tents, as well as a spa that offers African-inspired treatments and rituals.
Parks and Gardens
Johannesburg is not only a bustling urban metropolis but also a green oasis with many parks and nature reserves. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing stroll among flowers and trees, a wildlife safari adventure, or a scenic hike in the mountains, you’ll find a park or nature reserve that will suit your mood and preference.
Some of the parks and nature reserves you can visit in Johannesburg are:
- Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden: This botanical garden is home to over 600 plant species, as well as birds, reptiles, mammals, and insects. You’ll see waterfalls, streams, rock formations, and more. You can also enjoy picnic areas, trails, concerts, and events.
- Johannesburg Botanical Garden: This botanical garden features various themed gardens, such as a rose garden, a herb garden, a succulent garden, and more. You can also enjoy the Emmarentia Dam, which offers boating, fishing, and birdwatching opportunities.
- Lion and Safari Park: This park offers a chance to see lions, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, and other predators up close. You can also see giraffes, zebras, antelopes, and more. You can choose from various tours and activities, such as guided drives, self-drives, lion walks, animal interactions, and feeding sessions.
- Pilanesberg National Park: This park is one of the largest and most diverse wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa. You can see the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo), as well as many other animals and birds. You can also enjoy scenic views of mountains, valleys, lakes, and volcanic craters. You can choose from various tours and activities, such as game drives, hot air balloon rides, bush walks, and more.
Shopping and Markets
Johannesburg is a shopper’s paradise with many malls, markets, and boutiques. Whether you’re looking for local crafts, souvenirs, fashion, or food, you’ll find a shopping destination that will cater to your needs and tastes.
Some of the shopping destinations you can visit in Johannesburg are:
- Sandton City Shopping Centre: This shopping centre is one of the largest and most luxurious in Africa. You’ll find over 300 stores, including international brands, local designers, department stores, and more. You’ll also find restaurants, cinemas, hotels, and entertainment venues.
- Rosebank Mall: This mall is a trendy and cosmopolitan shopping destination that offers a mix of local and international stores. You’ll find fashion, art, jewellery and more. You’ll also find a rooftop market every Sunday, where you can buy crafts, antiques, food, and more.
- Neighbourgoods Market: This market is a popular and lively weekend destination that offers a variety of food, drinks, music, and art. You’ll find local and organic produce, artisanal bread, cheese, meat, and more. You’ll also find craft beer, cocktails, coffee, and live entertainment.
- 44 Stanley: This shopping destination is a former industrial complex that has been transformed into a stylish and creative hub. You’ll find boutiques, galleries, studios, cafes, restaurants, and more. You’ll also find a range of products, such as clothing, accessories, furniture, books, and more.
- Eastgate Shopping Centre: A popular shopping mall that offers a variety of services and amenities such as dining options, a movie theater, and grocery market.
- Clico Restaurant: A fine dining restaurant that serves European and international cuisine with a South African twist, using seasonal and organic ingredients.
- Marble Restaurant: A contemporary restaurant that celebrates the art of live-fire cooking, with dishes that showcase local produce and flavors.
- The Blackanese Sushi & Wine Bar: A fusion restaurant that combines African and Asian cuisine, offering sushi, curries, stir-fries and more.
- Curry And All: A fast food restaurant that serves authentic Durban-style curry, with spicy and flavorful dishes such as bunny chow, roti and samoosas.
Adventure and Fun
Johannesburg is a city that offers a lot of fun and excitement for all ages and interests. Whether you’re looking for thrill rides, casino games, bungee jumping, or fossil hunting, you’ll find an activity that will make your adrenaline rush and your heart race.
Some of the activities you can do in Johannesburg for adventure and fun are:
- Montecasino: This entertainment complex is designed to look like an Italian village. You’ll find a casino, a hotel, a theatre, a cinema, a bird park, and more. You’ll also find a variety of restaurants, bars, and shops.
- Orlando Towers Bungee Jumping: This activity takes you to the Orlando Towers, two former cooling towers that have been painted with colorful murals. You’ll have the opportunity to bungee jump from a bridge that connects the two towers, at a height of 100 meters. You’ll also enjoy panoramic views of Soweto and Johannesburg.
- Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site: This site is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world. You’ll see fossils and skeletons of some of the earliest known human ancestors, as well as other animals and plants. You’ll also learn about the evolution and diversity of life on Earth. You can visit the Maropeng Visitor Centre and the Sterkfontein Caves.
- Acrobranch: This place is an adventure park that offers zip-lining, obstacle courses, and tree climbing for kids and adults. You’ll have fun and exercise in a natural setting. You can choose from different levels of difficulty and duration.
- Maboneng Precinct: This precinct is a vibrant and creative hub that offers art galleries, studios, cafes, restaurants, and shops. You’ll also find street art, live music, markets, and events.
- Soweto Township Tour: This tour takes you to Soweto, the largest and most famous township in South Africa. You’ll see the contrast between the rich and poor areas, the historical and cultural landmarks, and the vibrant and diverse community. You’ll also meet some of the locals and learn about their lives and challenges.
- Wildside Tours and Safaris: A tour operator that offers safaris, hiking, camping and rafting trips to various destinations in South Africa and beyond.
- Soul Adventures: A tour operator that offers climbing, hiking, abseiling and caving adventures in the Drakensberg Mountains and other locations.
- Skydive Tandem Johannesburg: A skydiving company that offers tandem jumps from 11,000 feet with experienced instructors and scenic views.
- South Africa Adventures: A tour operator that offers cultural, wildlife and adventure tours, such as the Soweto Bicycle Tour, the Kruger National Park Safari and the Drakensberg Amphitheatre Hike.
- Dlala Nje: A social enterprise that offers walking tours, bicycle tours and cultural experiences in the inner city of Johannesburg, such as Hillbrow and Ponte City.
- Ingrid’s Safaris: A tour operator that offers tailor-made safaris and tours to various destinations in South Africa, such as Pilanesberg National Park, Sun City and Cape Town.
Fun Things to Do with Kids
Johannesburg is a great city for kids, with many fun and educational activities to keep them entertained and happy. Whether you’re looking for science, art, nature, or adventure, you’ll find a place that will spark your kids’ curiosity and imagination.
Some of the fun things to do for kids in Johannesburg are:
- Johannesburg Zoo: This zoo is home to over 2,000 animals, including lions, elephants, gorillas, penguins, and more. You’ll also find rides, play areas, concerts, and events. You can also join the Zoo Trot, a fun walk or run through the zoo that you can do with your kids.
- Sci-Bono Discovery Centre: This centre is a science museum that offers interactive exhibits, experiments, workshops, and shows. You’ll learn about physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and more. You’ll also find a planetarium, a Lego room, a dinosaur display, and more.
- Pottery Junxion: This place is a pottery studio that offers classes and workshops for kids and adults. You’ll learn how to make your own pottery pieces, such as bowls, plates, mugs, and more. You’ll also find a cafe, a shop, and a party venue.
- Little Cooks Club: This club is a cooking school that offers classes and parties for kids and adults. You’ll learn how to make healthy and delicious dishes, such as pizza, pasta, sushi and more. You’ll also find a garden, a play area, and a shop.
- Hashtag Escape: This place is an escape room that offers immersive and challenging games for kids and adults. You’ll have to work as a team to solve puzzles, find clues, and escape from a themed room in 60 minutes. You can choose from different scenarios, such as a prison break, a haunted house, or a spy mission.
- The Playground: A flea market that offers live music, food stalls, craft vendors and a play area for kids every Sunday.
- Johannesburg Planetarium: A planetarium that offers educational and entertaining shows about the stars, planets and constellations.
- Montecasino Bird Gardens: A bird park that houses over 100 species of birds, as well as reptiles, mammals and amphibians, with daily shows and feeding sessions.
Johannesburg has a rich and diverse history that is reflected in its many museums. Whether you’re interested in the political and social struggles of apartheid, the military history of South Africa, the artistic and cultural heritage of the region, or the origins of humankind, you’ll find a museum that will fascinate and educate you.
Some of the museums you can visit in Johannesburg are:
- Apartheid Museum: A powerful museum that tells the story of South Africa’s apartheid era through exhibits, artifacts, videos and testimonies.
- Constitution Hill Human Rights Precinct: A former prison complex that has been transformed into a museum and a court that celebrates democracy, human rights and justice.
- Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial: A museum and a memorial that commemorate the 1976 Soweto uprising and the death of Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old boy who was shot by the police.
- South African National Museum of Military History: A museum that showcases South Africa’s military history from pre-colonial times to the present day, with a collection of weapons, vehicles, uniforms and medals.
- Lindfield Victorian House Museum: A museum that recreates the Victorian lifestyle in a 19th-century house, with guided tours by the owner who dresses in period costume.
- Sci-Bono Discovery Centre: A science museum that offers interactive exhibits, experiments, workshops and shows that make learning fun and exciting for all ages.
- African Craft Market of Rosebank: A market that sells a variety of African crafts, such as baskets, masks, jewellery and textiles, from different countries and regions.
- Satyagraha House: A house museum that was once the home of Mahatma Gandhi, where he developed his philosophy of non-violent resistance.
- Origins Centre Museum: A museum that explores the origins of humankind and the diversity of cultures in Africa, with displays of fossils, rock art and contemporary art.
- Wits Art Museum: A museum that houses an impressive collection of African art, ranging from classical to contemporary, with a focus on southern African art.
- Liliesleaf Farm Museum: This museum is the former center for the leaders of the liberation movement. You’ll see the original buildings, documents, and artifacts that tell the story of the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa.
- James Hall Museum of Transport: This museum is the largest and most comprehensive museum of land and transport in South Africa. You’ll see steam locomotives, penny farthings, ox-wagons, and more.
Cinema and Theatre
Johannesburg is a city that offers a variety of entertainment options for all tastes and preferences. If you are a fan of cinema and theatre, you will not be disappointed by the selection of venues and shows that the city has to offer. Whether you want to watch the latest blockbuster, an independent film, a live performance or a musical, you will find a place that caters to your mood and interest. Here are some of the best cinema and theatre venues in Johannesburg:
- The Bioscope Independent Cinema: A unique cinema that showcases local and international films that are different from the mainstream, as well as documentaries, festivals and special events.
- Egrek Cinema: A cozy cinema that features a single screen with 30 reclining leather seats, a bar and a lounge area, as well as a curated selection of films.
- Ster-Kinekor’s Cine Prestige: A premium cinema experience that offers luxurious seats, gourmet snacks and drinks, and access to a VIP lounge, as well as the latest movies in high quality2.
- Market Theatre: A historic theatre that was founded in 1976 as a platform for anti-apartheid plays, and continues to produce cutting-edge and socially relevant works by local and international artists.
- Joburg Theatre: A modern theatre complex that hosts a variety of shows, from ballet and opera to comedy and musicals, as well as workshops, festivals and community projects.
- Montecasino Teatro: A state-of-the-art theatre that is part of the Montecasino entertainment complex, and hosts some of the biggest and most popular productions from Broadway and the West End.
- The Lyric Theatre: A stunning theatre that is inspired by the opulence of the world’s great opera houses, and hosts musicals, concerts, comedy shows and more.
- The Barnyard Theatre: A fun and informal theatre that offers live music shows, tribute bands, themed parties and more, as well as food and drinks.
Johannesburg is a city that has something for everyone, whether you are looking for nature, culture, adventure or relaxation. With so many options to choose from, you will never run out of things to do and see in this vibrant and diverse city. Whether you are a local or a visitor, you will find that Johannesburg is a city that will surprise and delight you.