Johannesburg is a hip and happening city. There’s no other way to describe it, and you’re likely to leave with a little more attitude and swag in your step. Here’s what to do in the city:
Why you should visit: Soweto is South Africa’s most famous township and was central to the struggle against apartheid. A must for visitors is Vilakazi Street, which is no ordinary residential street. In the heart of Soweto, Vilakazi Street was once home to the late Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu – both Nobel Laureates. Not many places can boast a Nobel Laureate, never mind two!
There are several historical sights and museums to visit, including the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, and the Mandela House Museum. Soweto also has a cultural, music and social scene that is all its own. You are likely to be challenged to a Pantsula dance-off – a street dance originating from the township but if dancing is not your thing, there’s always a game of soccer to partake in. If you really want to impress local residents, brush up on your soccer club knowledge, especially concerning the two mega-clubs – the Kaizer Chiefs and the Orlando Pirates.
How to get there: A great way to really get to know Soweto on a first visit is by joining a tour led by a local guide. You can also combine your hop-on hop-off bus tour with a Soweto tour. You also don’t have to carry large amounts of cash on you, as most places have speed points for card transactions.
Why you should visit: Maboneng, meaning “place of light” in seSotho, is a perfect name for a neighbourhood that is alive with ideas and artsy allure. Once neglected, Maboneng is now home to urban mixed-use communities. If you’re all about unique experiences, watch a local indie movie at the Bioscope Independent Cinema. If you prefer cityscape sundowners, be sure to roam around the different rooftop venues. The creative energy of Maboneng is hard to replicate anywhere else.
How much does it cost: Exploring is free. For Gautrain ticket costs and routes, visit https://www.gautrain.co.za/
How to get there: Maboneng is centrally located in the Johannesburg CBD and the Gautrain Park station isn’t far away, making it easy to get to and further explore on foot. We suggest you wear your sneakers – yes, there really is so much to see and do in the precinct.
Bungee Jump, Orlando Towers
Why you should visit: A trip to Soweto isn’t complete without bungee jumping in between two cooling towers, originally the site of a coal-fired power station. The colourful Orlando Towers are a landmark, standing tall over Soweto. You can also take an exhilarating leap in the dark and bungee swing into one of the cooling towers – we bet you haven’t done that before. Visitors can also finish off their jump with a round of paintball or rock climbing.
The towers are also home to the Soweto Outdoor Adventures company, famous for their quad-bike tours through the streets of Soweto. For more information, visit https://www.sowetooutdooradventures.co.za/.
How to get there: Once again, the City Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour is a great way to get here. You can also contact the Johannesburg Tourism office to arrange a private transfer on 011-883-3525. More information is available at www.joburgtourism.com.
Why you should visit: A visit to the Johannesburg Apartheid Museum will leave you humbled as you reflect on South Africa’s past. The museum is also a marker of hope, helping visitors understand what it was like during apartheid and showing the world how South Africa is overcoming its oppressive past and is working towards a future that South Africans can call their own.
How much does it cost: Admission to the museum is R100 per person. Guided tours are offered; however, they must be booked in advance. An additional R10 per person will be requested. Note: There are no guided tours on Mondays.
How to get there: Once again, the City Sightseeing bus tour is a popular option getting around. The Apartheid Museum is bus stop 14 on the Red Line.
Gold Reef City
Why you should visit: As the name suggests, Gold Reef City, is located on an old gold mine. It’s a gold rush of fun for all members of the family. Of all the rides, the Tower of Terror and Miner’s Revenge are amongst those that cater for the thrill-seeker. If you’re looking for something a little slower, there’s the option of a train ride chugging its way through the vintage mining town.
The theme park is also the only place in Johannesburg where you can follow in the footsteps of the earliest gold miners, descending 75m below the surface on an underground mine tour. Just about every “Joburger” has experienced this tour to understand what life was like for the miner – it’s sacrilege not too – and so it’s an absolute must for first-time visitors to the “city of gold.”
How much does it cost: Entry at the gate costs R200. Anyone under 1.3m gets in for free and, rather humorously, many adults are seen to contort themselves to try and fit under the 1.3m height-limiting statue – with not much success.
How to get there: The Gold Reef City theme park is one of the stops on the City Sightseeing bus Red City tour. Check out the schedule for times. The Theme Park is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, except during Gauteng public school holidays.