Maybe it’s fitting that a city as diverse and electric as Johannesburg started with a gold rush. It was a vein of the precious metal that first started people flocking to the place that would become Jo’burg, and that flow of people from around the world never really stopped.
Today the people come for all sorts of different reasons. Ask the people of Johannesburg what they love about their home, and they will inevitably tell you about the exquisite sunsets, the beautiful weather and the unique culture that could only exist in the City of Gold. Then again, they’d also likely tell you that to really understand what makes Johannesburg so incredible, you’d have to experience it for yourself.
To get a sense of Johannesburg’s vibrant spirit, visitors need only look upon the Orlando Towers, a major landmark in the Johannesburg neighbourhood of Soweto. The structures were once the cooling towers for a coal-fired power station, twin concrete pillars belching smoke into the sky. Now, however, the power plant has been decommissioned, the 33-storey towers have been painted with bright murals and the facility has a new life as an extreme sports site, complete with paintball, bungee jumping and zip-lining. It is exactly this type of transformation that keeps Johannesburg confident in its own future, with a diverse culinary scene, a lively arts community and an infectious optimism.
Find your treasure in the City of Gold and book a flight to Johannesburg now.
What is a good time to visit?
Johannesburg may have one of the best climates of any large city in the world (as any of its citizens will happily tell you). Travellers interested in appreciating Johannesburg’s extensive greenery will likely want to visit during the country’s summer (from December to February) when the vegetation is in full bloom and the weather is at its most balmy. The cooler winter months are also ideal for seeing South Africa’s spectacular wildlife.
How do I get around?
Although transit has improved in recent years, visitors to Johannesburg will still likely find the system inefficient and somewhat bewildering. And while many locals use minibuses, travellers will find that private tours or licensed, metered taxis provide the easiest and most convenient means of navigating the city. Adventurous travellers may choose to rent a car in order to exercise more freedom over their time in Jo’burg, but be aware: Johannesburg is notorious for having some of the most aggressive drivers in all of South Africa, and the city’s streets may prove a greater challenge than inexperienced drivers expect.
What currency should I bring?
South Africa’s currency is the South African rand. In Johannesburg proper, major credit cards should also be accepted, although note that some newer credit cards with advanced security features may not be accepted by local ATMs.
Enjoy the green city Johannesburg
Part of what sets Johannesburg apart from other cities its size worldwide is its connection to nature: the city is one of the greenest urban areas on earth, with a park in every neighbourhood as well as almost 200 in the greater Johannesburg area. Travellers who venture out of city limits will also find themselves captivated by the majesty of South Africa’s flora and fauna, with nature and game reserves that showcase one of the most richly biologically diverse countries on earth.
Attractions of Johannesburg
No visit to Johannesburg would be complete without at least a day trip outside the city to experience the vast natural beauty of South Africa, but travellers will have plenty to keep them busy inside city limits as well! Johannesburg’s rich and diverse culture has flourished since the end of apartheid in the 1990s, coming to life in the form of art, theatre and museums that recall the painful realities of that time.
- Market on Main
- The Market Theatre
- Apartheid Museum
- Cradle of Humankind
Market on Main
Started by some of Johannesburg’s most highly regarded design entrepreneurs, Market on Main takes place downtown on Sundays from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. and gives both locals and visitors the best food and design that Jo’burg has to offer.
The Market Theatre
During apartheid, the Market Theatre was renowned for producing theatre that challenged the oppressive regime, motivated by the conviction that culture can change society. Now that apartheid has ended, the Market Theatre proudly continues to produce some of the most ground-breaking work that the country has to offer, including dance, music and plays.
Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum is a comprehensive look at the reality of South African life under apartheid. The museum offers a challenging and powerful means to understand the country’s complicated history.
Cradle of Humankind
One of eight South African World Heritage Sites, the Cradle of Humankind makes a perfect day trip from Johannesburg. A visitor’s centre will help guests appreciate the importance of the site’s many caves and extensive fossils.
And that’s not all! For more information on everything you can do in this city, see our Johannesburg guide.
Eating and drinking in Johannisburg
Between the museums, the theatre and the great outdoors, visitors to Johannesburg may find themselves ravenous by the end of the day. Thankfully, Johannesburg’s always-evolving culinary scene has some delicious tricks up its sleeve. The Boerewors is South Africa’s national sausage of coriander-spiced coarsely ground beef and pork, served with chakalaka, a side dish made of beans, grated carrots, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and spices.
Follow the springbok
Pap, Short for mieliepap, is a softly cooked maize porridge, a main staple in Johannesburg. A typical fast food is Kota, a quarter-loaf of bread, hollowed out and stuffed with whatever is available. The grown-up version is called Bunny Chow, a special sourdough loaf hollowed out and filled with lamb curry. If you are feeling adventurous, try some grilled springbok, a gazelle, or ostrich, both delicious and very local. You will be amazed by the great varieties and high quality of South African wine, but there is also traditional African beer called Mahewu, and Van der Hum liqueur, a blend of brandy, wine, mandarin or oranges peel and spices.
Shopping in Johannesburg
The experience of visiting Johannesburg is unforgettable - but that’s no reason to keep you from the perfect souvenir. There are shopping streets, shopping malls, craft markets, flea markets and many little shops and boutiques to be discovered. Usually the shops open at 9 and close at 6, most are closed on Sundays. A traditional shopping experience can be found at Rosebank Mall, full of boutiques and local fashion. There is also an African craft market and, on Sundays, the famous Rosebank Rooftop flea market.
There are many different tastes to discover on a trip to Johannesburg. Find out more in our guide about eat and drink in Johannisburg.