A visit to the ‘City of Gold’ and its surrounds isn’t often an absolute must when travelling to South Africa. But perhaps it should be as there are many enjoyable and interesting things to do in Joburg.
It is one of the great urban destinations of the world, and the vibrant heart of a country that has experienced a trying past, but has progressed and flourished in recent times.
Travellers frequently need to stay in Joburg for a night en-route to their next destination. Instead of mulling around in your hotel room, why not consider some of the suggestions we’ve made to really capitalise on your stay… and to enrich your cultural experience of the country and have fun of course!
1. Soweto Bicycle Tour
The Soweto bicycle tour allows you to experience the exciting and eco-friendly streets of Soweto. It is South Africa‘s largest black residential area. Spend half a day soaking up the history, culture and many different faces of Soweto; from the Soweto uprising and the resistance against Apartheid, to the developing communities and what they look like today.
Do you prefer breathing in fresh air to that of the inside of a bus? Or quite enjoy cruising through vibrant streets and seeing things from a different perspective? Then add it to your list of things to do in Joburg.
2. Apartheid Museum Tour
There is no better way to truly understand what South Africa was like during the 20th century than to visit the Apartheid Museum. Through the use of film footage, photographs, texts and artefacts, the museum tells the story of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity in a very poignant way.
There are two entrances labelled ‘White’ and ‘Non-white’. Depending on which ticket is issued, visitors will be ushered through one of the two. This gives visitors a glimpse into the reality of what it was like to live in a racially segregated society.
The museum itself is a superb example of design, space and landscape offering the international community a unique South African experience. This is high on most visitors lists of things to do in Joburg… it should be on yours too!
3. Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site
Just an hours drive from Joburg, the Cradle of Humankind is highly recommended during a visit to Joburg. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 and spans on 47 000 hectares of land.
The Cradle of Humankind includes several different fossil sites which collectively add up to possibly the greatest wealth of pre-historic finds in the world. A tour to the world’s richest hominin site is packed with history – an archeaology lovers dream!
We recommend a guided visit to Sterkfontein caves, the Maropeng inter-active visitor exhibition and the beautiful Wonder Caves.
4. Magalies Meander
Oh look! Another World Heritage site just outside the City of Gold. The Magaliesberg (said World Heritage Site) is known for its natural beauty and rich tradition.
Under an hour’s drive from Joburg or Pretoria, the Magalies Meander is in the heart of the beautiful Magaliesberg Mountains. These mountains are also home to an amazing variety of indigenous woodland, plants, birds and wildlife – a nature lover’s paradise!
There is something for everyone on a full day tour to the Magalies Meander. Visit art galleries, arts and craft centres and interesting boutiques the area is famed for.
Highlights of a full day tour include Hartbeesport Aerial Cableway, the Snake & Animal Park, a boat excursion on Hartbeesport Dam, the Elephant Sanctuary and a visit to Welwitschia Country Market.
5. Public Art and Newtown
A compelling reason to visit the heart of Joburg is to experience its unique culture, diverse communities and rich history through an art tour of inner city Joburg and Newtown.
Explore the heritage trail of public art in inner city Johannesburg which celebrates the colourful culture, history, and heritage of the city. Part of the tour includes street art which creates a meaningful appreciation of Johannesburg’s culture and artistic expression.
Visit the Ghandhi Memorial, the Johnny Walker Pioneering Spirit & Jazz monument, the SA Mine Workers’ Union sculpture, the Brenda Fassie Memorial and have lunch at Gramadoelas Restaurant (or somewhere similar).
6. Tour of Soweto
For those who prefer to tour on foot as oppose to riding a bicycle, the Soweto Tour will suit you well.
This sprawling ‘city within a city’ is home to approximately 2 million people. Enjoy a guided Soweto tour during which you see the contrast with the richer suburbs of Rosebank and Sandton in the north.
Choose between a scheduled or private Soweto tour. These include the following major points of interest: the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Baragwanath taxi rank, Freedom Square, Hector Pieterson Memorial and Nelson Mandela’s former home.
7. Gardens in the City
For a great escape from the bustle of the city without having to venture too far, a ‘Gardens in the City‘ tour is an ideal option. Visit three of the most prominent gardens in and around Johannesburg. The tour includes the Montecasino Bird Garden, a balloon ride, the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden and the Brenthurst Garden.
Explore the natural beauty of areas dedicated to conserving the botanical heritage of South Africa, as well as the fauna and bird species who call these gardens home. If it isn’t on your list of things to do in Joburg, it should be.
8. Cullinan Diamond Tour
Why not experience one of the most productive diamond mines in the world during your stay? The small town of Cullinan lies 100km northeast of Johannesburg. It owes its existence to the Premier Diamond Mine, established in 1902 by Thomas Cullinan. The famous 3 106-carat Cullinan diamond was discovered here in 1905. Although no longer in its original form, it remains unequalled in size.
A short video presentation offers an introduction to the diamond mining industry in South Africa. This is followed by a guided walking tour of the mine surface.
If you would like to go on an underground tour of the mine, this can be arranged by special request.
9. Pretoria City Tour
Pretoria is South Africa’s administrative capital and is a complete contrast to the City if Gold. It is often referred to as ‘Jacaranda City’ as thousands of trees line the streets and purple blossoms herald the approach of summer each October.
Pretoria is home to The Union Buildings – residence of the Presidency and his government and home to Parliament during the winter months. It is also a place of culture with a series of theatres ,museums, and monuments… definitely worth adding it to your list of things to do in Joburg.
A half day tour to Pretoria takes you to the Union Buildings, the Paul Kruger House Museum, the Voortrekker Monument and Church Square.
10. Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre
Looking for more wildlife-orientated things to do in Joburg? Why not visit The Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre in the north-east of the Magaliesburg. The centre aims to work with private game reserves around the country to breed this endangered species.
Since 1971, over 750 cheetah cubs have been born there. This is a dramatic contrast to the days when the cheetah population of South Africa was estimated at a mere 700. The young cheetah are sent to private game reserves to live in the wild and in turn, their offspring are redistributed to other parks to avoid cross-breeding.
For a once in a lifetime experience, join the ‘Feeding Round Tour’. This informative and entertaining trip around the farm allows visitors to feed the Cheetah, Wild Dogs and a variety of other animals.
Book a trip to Joburg with Cedarberg Africa
Cedarberg Africa is a travel and safari company specializing in Southern and East African tailor-made itineraries. We have special rates with all the hotels and game lodges. Therefore, booking through us will cost no more than booking direct, and sometimes less. So our expertise and knowledge comes at no extra cost to you!
Check out our South Africa and Johannesburg pages, and feel free to contact us if you want us to plan the perfect holiday for you.