Holiday Destinations / Africa / South Africa / Travel Guide / Johannesburg
Many of our clients visit Joburg because of its history. Constitution Hill is more than just the location of the country’s constitutional court – it’s also a living museum. Originally a prison and a military fort, today it recounts South Africa’s long road to democracy. Its exhibitions take place across four locations on the compound: The Old Fort (once a whites-only prison); the Number Four Jail (once a non-whites-only prison); the Women’s Jail; and the Awaiting Trial Block (now the constitutional court). Many notable figures, including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, were all prisoners here at one point or another, along with thousands of others, including children.
High on the list of most visitors to Joburg is a visit to Soweto’s Vilakazi Street, the iconic place where Nelson Mandela lived (the house is now a museum) and Archbishop Tutu still lives.
The Apartheid Museum is one of Johannesburg’s most popular attractions. Teaching visitors about 20th-century South Africa since 2001, it’s the first of its kind, documenting the rise and fall of the apartheid system via exhibits curated by filmmakers, historians and designers.
Joburg is South Africa’s epicentre for up-and-coming artistic talent. The city boasts an intense cultural life and, if you have the time, a visit Johannesburg Art Gallery, is for many of our clients a worthy addition to their itineraries. One of the largest public collections in all of Africa, the gallery boasts over 9k works of art including pieces by Picasso, Rodin and Dalí, and discover home-grown talents such as Walter Battiss, JH Pierneef and Gerard Sekoto. Anyone interested in arts should also consider a visit to the Maboneng Precinct in downtown Johannesburg. This is the city’s most innovative hub, and the place to go for local contemporary art. It makes for a pleasant afternoon as the precinct boasts loads of quirky cafes, great bars and restaurants, and lots of shopping opportunities.
Meet the first man on Earth. A short 40-min drive from Joburg city centre, the first-ever hominid fossil, Australopithecus africanus, is on display at The Cradle of Humankind, internationally recognised as the place where humankind began. Visit some of the famed 13 excavation sites. The Sterkfontein Caves, which is home of the longest continuing palaeoanthropological dig in the world, are also located in the area. Notable finds include the pre-human skull dubbed “Mrs Ples”, and a near-complete hominid skeleton called “Little Foot”. Since you are in the area, visit the Lion and Safari Park for a chance to see lions and cheetahs among other species in this waterside park.
Visiting with kids? Take a rollercoaster ride through a gold mine! Located on an old gold mine, Gold Reef City is among South Africa’s largest and most-loved theme parks – styled around the gold rush that started in 1886. Take a tour of an authentic, disused underground gold mine (the only tour of its kind in the city) via the museum and explore the original mining houses on display. While it houses a casino, the Lyric Theatre, a Victorian train station-themed cinema complex, a trampoline park and a 10-pin bowling alley, it’s the 18 thrilling rollercoasters and water rides that really draw the crowds in. For example, the popular Tower of Terror features a vertical drop into an old mine shaft and currently holds the record for the highest g-force on a rollercoaster.
The Grand Tour of South Africa is a fantastic private escorted tour we recommend for first time visitors to South Africa, begins at Johannesburg and gives visitors a good opportunity to experience the highlights of the city. Alternatively, we can organise a tailor-made experience around your interests, time and budget.
We know South Africa from personal experience and have done ourselves most of the activities we recommend here. If you’d like more information, tips and advice, and help planning and booking your holiday in South Africa, feel free to get in touch by chat, phone, videoconference, or email. We are always here to help.
Travel Designer and Founder at Travelisto
More Holiday Destinations
- South Africa
- French Polynesia
- Costa Rica
- Tanzania and Zanzibar
- New Zealand
- US Southern States
- Argentina & Uruguay
- Canada & Alaska
- Western Canada
- Eastern Canada
- United States of America
- Western USA
- United Kingdom
- Sri Lanka
- USA Route 66