Johannesburg, South Africa

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  • Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
  • Best Times: Mar-May, Sep-Nov

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THINGS TO DO

 

Adventure-Seeker? Check out activities with a flame  (  ) for some extra thrills!!

 

Lion and Rhino Park   ( – Play with lion and cheetah cubs and even baby rhinos in the nursery. You can also drive through the reserve and get up close with African wildlife. Approximately 45 min outside the city, this will be an all-day affair. www.rhinolion.co.za

 

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Kruger National Park   ( – One of the largest and most well-known reserves in Africa and it is only about 5 hours from Johannesburg. If you really want to experience a safari through game drives and walks, and seeing the Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard, and Rhino) then you definitely should allocate at least 2-3 days and spend some time with Mama Africa. www.krugerpark.org

 

 

Pilansberg Game Reserve   ( – A 2 hour drive from Johannesburg this is a great game reserve that is set in an extinct volcano that has over 7000 animals including the Big Five. You could also stay at the reserve for a few nights at its luxurious overnight accommodations. www.pilanesberg-game-reserve.co.za




Apartheid Museum – Understand the system of racial segregation in South Africa from 1948 to 1994 between Africans and Afrikaans (Dutch). It was created after World War II by the Dutch dominated Nationalist Party and its resistance to these prejudice laws is akin to America’s Civil Rights movement. www.apartheidmuseum.org

 

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Soweto – This is the nicest township (ghetto) you will come across in South Africa. With an extensive history starting with blacks being forcibly removed from the city starting in the early 1900’s, it has been at the forefront for major political changes in the anti-apartheid movement (i.e. Soweto Uprising, Freedom Charter etc).  See the Orlando Towers below.  http://www.soweto.co.za

 

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Vilakazi St – Located in Soweto, it is the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace prize winners have lived (Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu). Also, a good place to have lunch. www.southafrica.info/vilakazi.htm




Hector Peterson Museum and Memorial – A major part of the reason why so many people feel that Soweto is unsafe, is due to the Soweto Uprising that started with the murder of Hector Peterson in 1976. This place is a must see and crucial part to understanding the deep history of Johannesburg and Soweto. www.soweto.co.za/p_hector.htm

 

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Bungee Jumping  ( – For you adrenaline seekers, how about a 100 meter free-fall between Soweto’s most visible landmark, the colorful Orlando Towers. There is also rock climbing, paintball and a variety of other adventure filled activities. www.orlandotowers.co.za/bungee




Cradle of Human Kind – Take a drive to birthplace of humanity at this UNESCO World Heritage site just about an hour outside of Johannesburg. This site has fossils dating back to 2.5 million years ago and is home to caves where some of the oldest hominid specimens have ever been found. http://www.cradleofhumankind.co.za

 

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Lesedi Cultural Village – A tourist village located about 1 hour outside of Johannesburg that highlights the traditions and tribes of South Africa. It is located in the Cradle of Human Kind so you can also visit this area as well. http://aha.co.za/lesedi/

HISTORY

 

The Zulus – Ever heard of Shaka Zulu (not Chaka Khan the singer)? Well he was the Zulu chief that formed a powerful state in the southernmost regions of Africa in the early 1800’s conquering many other clans creating an extensive Zulu Empire. One of the most notable events in Zulu history is the defeat of the British on their initial invasion. Imagine less than 20,000 Zulu warriors against 35,000+ British soldiers armed with guns being defeated by spears and shields. However, in the second invasion, the British were able to defeat the Zulus and eventually colonize the area.

 

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Modern History (The Dutch) – Fast forwarding to the mixed colonization of Dutch and British in South Africa after the First and Second Anglo Boer War, we have a climate with a lot of tension between the Boers and the British in the late 1800s.




The Boers (Dutch) lost and felt the brunt of the war, so as the British tried to unify these divided South African colonies, the Dutch Nationalist Party arose, whose intent was to champion the Afrikaans interest. This party eventually created the segregation laws and started what we now know as the Apartheid that lasted for almost 50 years.

 

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Modern History (The Apartheid & Soweto Uprising) – The Apartheid government is what led to the township of Soweto being created as blacks were forcibly removed from the city during the gold rush period. In addition, a key piece of Soweto history is when the government, essentially overnight, forced the language in school to go from English to Afrikaan.




Approximately 10,000+ high school students protested this change on June 16th, 1976, and at its end was the brutal killings of school children, known as the Soweto Uprising. The most famous of those killed in the event was Hector Peterson. The outrage that was expressed in these senseless killings spread to many other South African communities and caused even more protests, so much so that it gained international attention. This Soweto Uprising helped galvanize the liberation movement and was a major contributing factor to bringing an end to the Apartheid regime.

 

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AFFORDABILITY

 

Johannesburg is pretty cheap especially considering it is a developed city. I remember going out and getting 2 beers with two glasses of Maker’s Mark (whiskey) on the rocks and it ended up being less than $10. Lunch can be anywhere from $2-$8 USD depending on where you go. You can also go to some higher-end restaurants and still stay under $25 USD in most cases.

 

There is quite a lot of variability in prices when it comes to lodging depending on where you stay. I stayed at an Air BNB in Maboneng for about $40 USD per night but when I stayed at the Protea (Marriott Brand) in Braamfontein it was $125 USD per night. I used points rather than cash but you can see the wide price variability. Lastly, I also got a haircut for less than $2 USD in Johannesburg when it typically costs around $20 USD in the United States. The affordability factor in South Africa is great, which is also why it is one of my favorite places. Check of Big Mac Index below.

 

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Big Mac (South Africa): 26 Rand or $2.09 [2015]

  • Big Mac (USA): $4.79 [2015]
  • Exchange Rate: $1 to 12.41 rand ( Note Exchange rates are constantly changing. Please use following link for must up to date chance rate www.xe.com/currencyconverter/

RELAXATION

 

A trip to Johannesburg will be a trip full of history and also likely exploring some of its wildlife at a game reserve or at a safari. There are some relaxing activities to do there but not as much as I would have liked.  Typically, I would show relevant museums in this section.  However, the history that will be covered, will be heavy, so I decided to cover  the Apartheid Museum and the Hector Peterson Museum  under the “Things to do” and “History” section.  Going through these museums will likely make you angry and do the opposite of relax you.

 

Markets/Shopping – There is a weekly, weekend market in Maboneng and in Braamfontein. Maboneng’s is on Sundays and Braamfontein is on Saturday so make sure to visit at least one while in Johannesburg to get a taste of local cuisine and pick up a few local souvenirs. There are a lot of other ones outer so let us help you out. www.eatout.co.za/food-markets-joburg

 

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Wine Cellar Wine Tasting (Dunkeld) – Another option for you wine lovers out there while in Joberg is to attend one of the wine tasting events at Wine Cellar. They normally take place on Thursday and include both international and local wines with about 10-15 wines per event. Definitely more pricey as they start off normally around R500 but the staff will be very knowledgeable and can provide some personal recommendation on wines to try while in Joberg and also if you plan to go to Cape Town. They have a sister store in Cape Town as well. http://www.winecellar.co.za/




Bioscope (Maboneng Precinct) – An independent film house where you can do something a bit eclectic. You can watch local films and documentaries as you enjoy a glass of wine or some unique dishes that pair with that evenings showcase. A venue that supports local industries, that Bioscope is located in a 1970 industrial building and it is one of several venues that include residential units, a rooftop, retail shops, and event spaces that host concerts and festivals. http://www.thebioscope.co.za/

 

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Nelson Mandela Square – You have to take a trip to this vibrant hub in Sandton to experience an array of high-end boutiques, shops, and restaurants. This is a great place to hang out for a few hours. Also, snapping a picture in front of the Nelson Mandela statute is a must. www.nelsonmandelasquare.co.za




 

LOCAL FOOD

 

Many of places listed under activities and even nightlife can duo for food but wanted to list some additional places to try out specifically.

$$$ – Expensive
$$ – Moderate
$ – Cheap

 

District Six Eatery (Greenside) – A restaurant that brings Cape Malay to you, D6 has a tasteful decor that cannot be outdone by its amazing gourmet cooking. You will be able to enjoy food from the cape while experiencing it with the Johannesburg vibe. The food is fantastic!! www.jhblive.com/district-six-eatery [ $$ ]

 

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Pata Pata (Maboneng) – A great place for dinner that is very lively on the weekend and buzzing with good energy. Pair some traditional South African food (usually with some type of meat) with a great band and you will be in for a good night.  www.inyourpocket.com/Pata-Pata[ $$ ]




Cube Tasting Kitchen (Parknorth Heights) – If you are a foodie then this is the place to be. You will have a phenomenal dining experience as you enjoy a 10-course meal that will make your taste buds explode and go to heaven. It is pricey being around 600-800 rand but the portions are well sized and the food is delightful! Bring your own alcohol as they do not have a liquor license.  www,utrip.com/cube-tasting-kitchen[ $$$ ]

 

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The Hill Cafe (Braamfontein) Located in Constitution Hill, an old Fort Prison complex, this casual dining experience is affordable and accompanied with some of the freshest ingredients. Bread is baked daily and even cheese is made on a weekly basis. I had a salad that was impressive but the burgers are to die for!!  www.eatout.co.za/venue/hill-cafe [ $ ]




ROMANCE

 

Balloon Ride – While at the Cradle of Human Kind (in case this ancient history bores you), you can also take a balloon ride and experience Johannesburg from the air. For safety reasons, flights are only in the morning, so be prepared to have an early start. Pricing starts at $140 USD and includes sparkling wine and breakfast. www.airtoairafrica.co.za

 

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Johannesburg Planetarium – Gaze at the stars and be one of the 75,0000 visitor a years to visit the planetarium and have a relaxing evening or night as you learn more about our amazing universe. You can attend shows from Friday-Sunday that will give you a tour of our constellation but be sure to check their website for exact times and cost (approximately 35-50 rand) www.planetarium.co.za/




Vaal River Wine Tasting (Vaal River) – Now this is no Stellenbosch but with over 42 different wine estates and over 200 wines for you to taste from, this region is definitely worth a visit. It is located about 45 minutes outside of Johannesburg so you can easily do a day trip or spend the weekend there. There are various car services that can take you along Gauteng’s most famous wine route as you enjoy grow wine and scenic views of the river. The tastings are as low as R20 for 8 different wines. Just in case you didn’t realize, that is less than $2 for a tasting!!! www.vaalwineroute.co.za

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NIGHTLIFE

 

There is something for everyone in Johannesburg. You have your posh night clubs, a trendy or grungy bar scene, and a variety of places that play great live music. Also, make sure you look up what is going on during your time in Joberg, as there are usually some special events.

 

Vaal River Party Boat (Day Drinking Anyone??) – If you are looking for some rest and relaxation, a romantic getaway,  water activities, rock climbing, or my recommendation, a Party Boat, then this 1-1.5 hours trip from Jozi is well worth it. There are a variety of party cruises or boats that can be rented but probably better to have a group of people going with you. Turn-up or turn-down, it is up to you. <Figure out which boat fits your need to so no link here>

 

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Kitchener’s (Braamfontein) – One of Joberg’s oldest pubs, you will see a wide range of people from your trendy hipsters to your young professionals. Always a good vibe, pretty good food and drinks, and even better music. There are a few other spots nearby as well but this is the place you want to be. www.jhblive.com/kitcheners-carvery-bar

 

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Bassline (Newton) – A popular music venue that is known for its live music and also having a variety of events that include concerts and comedy shows. Check out the lineup beforehand to see who is performing. www.whatson.co.za




Taboo (Sandton) – Upscale club that plays top 40 and house, and has two floors. It has an incredible outdoor area with a classy décor and even better vibes. You have to go to Taboo at least once if you are in Johannesburg. www.taboo.co.za

 

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Newton Cultural Precinct – I specifically called out the Sophiatown and Bassline but there is a large selection of live music venues and nightclubs in the area so you can make a good night of it if you hang out in Newton. www.gauteng.net/newtown_cultural_precinct




Sophiatown Bar Lounge (Newton) – A contemporary lounge where you can listen to classical jazz and unwind while enjoying authentic African food. Meant to continue the legacy of a multicultural suburb that produced some of South Africa’s greatest jazz musicians, enjoy the live music and a décor that pays them tribute. www.sophiatown.co.za

 

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Melville – This is a perfect location for a night on the town as Melville that offers an assortment of bars, restaurants, and shops that can appeal to a variety of taste. This place is a hive of activity so be sure to take in the funky and hipster vibes as you enjoy the night. This is also a great place for a pub crawl, go ahead, do it!! http://www.gauteng.net/melville

WHERE TO STAY

 

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and is located in the province of Gauteng, which means “place for gold”. You will have quite a few options to for the neighborhoods to stay in but keep in mind that these locations will not be that close to each other.

 

Braamfontein – The heartbeat of Joberg, and my personal favorite because of the easy accessibility of a variety of restaurants, bars, clubs, local markets, and weekend events etc. There are so me sketchy areas but if you are an experienced traveler, there is nothing to worry about. I stayed at the Protea using points (too expensive for my budget otherwise) and had a blast!!

 

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Sandton – This is the affluent and upscale area of Joberg. This area has the high end malls, the more posh clubs and also has Nelson Mandela square, an area where you can see the Mandela Statute. I stayed at a hotel in the area but decided to move back to Braamfontein after two days because I got a bit bored. Also worth checking out Melrose Arch neighborhood if you are in the area.




Maboneng – A transitional township that has converted homes into art galleries, it is becoming one of the most pristine and trendy areas in Joberg. Still growing, the neighborhood is just a few blocks in length and has a small, but expanding restaurant selection. I stayed at an apartment for a week using Air BNB.

 

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Melville – A hippy neighborhood filled with at least 30 different restaurants and bars on one main strip, you can find locals along with foreigners enjoying the positive vibes. There are great options for lodging as Melville is situated in a trendy suburb that is also close the University of Johannesburg and University of Witwatersrand. I didn’t stay in Melville but did experience the nightlife a couple of times. This would absolutely be a great place to stay.




Visa – Not Required

 

Suggested Duration – 2 to 4 days

 

Airport Transport – From the airport you can take the train or bus but I would suggest taking a taxi unless you have talked to your point of contact at your accommodations and they suggest otherwise. They are moderately priced and will help you get your bearings in the city. From the airport it shouldn’t cost more than 420 rand (around $35 USD but prices vary).

 

General Transport – I did use local taxis a lot but most people are going to want to go to hire a personal driver/taxi to take you around.

MY EXPERIENCE

 

Pros – Johannesburg is truly transforming to becoming the gem of South Africa. With new cultural districts, great restaurants, and a very down to earth atmosphere, you are sure to leave with some great memories in South Africa’s largest city. The city was instrumental in ending the Apartheid and has the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace prize winners.

 

Cons – A lingering reputation of being dangerous over the last couple of decades, Joberg is has gone through quite a rebirth. It is a bustling city with plenty to offer but as with any place be aware of your surroundings as there are still sketchy areas. Also just wish this city was by the beach and had vineyards but you can’t get everything you want.



My Experience – When I first came to Johannesburg in 2013, I only stayed for one day before going to Kruger National Park for a safari so I did not give it a fair chance.   To be real, I was shook. I heard stories about Africa and Johannesburg (but if you were to ask me specifics I couldn’t tell you any) so I intentionally limited my time in here.  I let people impose their fears on to me…a big no no.

 

However, as part of my 7 continent adventure in 2015, I just had to come back, and you couldn’t tell me nothing! I stayed almost 2 weeks in different parts of the city and absolutely loved it!   Johannesburg is a developed city with a constant flow of activities, extensive history, and it is cheap! It also feels more like Africa to me than Capetown because you do not see as much of a Dutch (Afrikaan) influence.  

 

In addition, I did some service projects in Soweto, a huge township just outside the city that contains more than 50% of Johannesburg’s total population.  I worked with kids, helped organizations with funding proposals,  and even reviewed business ideas of young entrepreneurs.  To be honest,  as much as I may have helped them, volunteering with these awesome people did so much more for me.  

 

 

It really helped re-shape my perspective about Africa and changed the narrative of what the media portrays of a poverty stricken, primitive nation to one of beautiful people who are smart, innovative, and passionate.  I felt like I became my brothers keeper where their struggles became  my struggles and it was no longer “them” but it was “us”.  My trip to Johannesburg was just pure and simple..DOPE!!

 

 

Oh, and I haven’t even talked to you about my Soweto crew!!  A buddy of mine connected me with some Soweto locals and they were PHE-NOM-ENAL.  They treated me like family and showed me nothing but love.  

 

 

I have so many stories to tell from Jozi that I am going to save them for a few blog post but let’s just say this was one of my favorite cities I visited on my around the world trip if not “the” favorite.

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 out of 10 reviews
Things To Do
Adventure
History
Affordability
Relaxation
Local Food
Romance
Nightlife

10 Reviews

  1. Chidiashley
    Chidiashley
    11 Dec 2017
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    Johannesburg is an amazing city! I lived there for several years and I often go back to visit now as a tourist. There are so many fun cultural experiences to be done. One of my favorite places to go is the lion park where you can feed giraffe and see all sorts of wildlife up close. The food is amazing real authentic meats, the ribs at the Micheangelo in Sandton are a must try!

  2. Jeannie_Jeanz
    01 Dec 2017
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    Joburg is amazing! There are plenty of restaurants, clubs, and winery’s to visit. The prices are affordable and the people are kind. You will definitely enjoy your stay.

  3. theordinarycouple
    theordinarycouple
    22 Nov 2017
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    We loved JoBurg! The Aparthied museum is a must. Allow yourself at least 3 hours. We were there for a long time and we were NOT bored. Very interesting and informative.
    After that – go to Soweto and visit Mandela’s House. Also a ton of history there. The local food everywhere was pretty good. We did not do any night life there so we can’t really comment on that. Overall, we liked JoBurg and we would go back.

  4. Traveltadey
    Traveltadey
    19 Nov 2017
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    Johannesburg one of the finest cities on the continent
    The roads are impressive food is amazing
    Peri peri sauce
    Night life was good
    I would recommend a visit
    Also feel free to fly to Capetown to have the full experience

  5. Karissa
    Karissa
    18 Nov 2017
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    While Johannesburg I stayed at the African Pride Melrose Arch. This hotel was absolutely gorgeous and centrally located. They offered breakfast every morning that was included in the reservation. They had a buffet but you could also order from the menu. The pool area was very calm and relaxing and it also offered a bar. The food and drink prices were very affordable. The Melrose Arch area is very popular and there are several restaurants and shopping areas near by. I was able to walk to a lot of the cute restaurants and most of them offered happy hour.

  6. Madeinnigeria89
    Madeinnigeria89
    16 Nov 2017
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    There are many things to do in Johannesburg! Some of my favourites are the neighbourgood markets on the weekend– so much food, live music, local crafts and loads of young people.

    Another option is heading to Soweto for local food and culture and the Mandela house. The Apartheid Museum is a definite ‘yes’ as well!

  7. Jy2011
    10 Nov 2017
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    Me and three friends went to South Africa for my birthday last august. It was amazing. We met a local Dj from london at our hotel bar and he showed us the nightlife. The best part of the trip was the safari at Lion park. We brought liquor and bought food at the reserve. They allowed us to bring our remi on the tour. A tip I can give is to tip your driver before hand. We tipped our driver and he took the gates off and allowed us to leave the jeep for better pictures.

  8. Edmond
    Edmond
    20 Oct 2017
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    Johannesburg is one of those cities that evoke the real essence of the African struggle from colonial masters. It is rich with recent as well as distant history.
    However, there is more to this city than just history. It is a hip city where young people are not afraid to express themselves creatively. The local food is amazing and is very affordable for a westerner. There is just so many things to do. I cant wait to visit again.

  9. Ashley_Elleby
    05 Oct 2017
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    I loved Jo burg for its history but it felt like it was a little too corporate for me. It’s like the business center for the country. There is also a good about of segregation and I often felt as if people were still living in the aparteid days. The food was great though.

  10. Lawrence
    19 Sep 2017
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    I stayed in three different areas while I was in Jozi and would highly recommend Maboneng. It definitely has a hipster vibe and whether or not that is what you are in to, I think you can’t go wrong with this part of the city. Also, I definitely liked Braamfontein, but tread softly. I can see some people feeling that it is sketchy and a bit unsafe, but I loved it. I actually spent a couple days there, went to a different part of the city, and then came back. In regards to Sandton it was whack, I wouldn’t stay there again. One other option that I did not consider before was actually staying in Soweto. I went there 3 days straight so I actually would have been better off if I just found some accommodations in the area. But, it was fun learning how to take the taxis up there lol..

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