From Soweto to Sandton and Maboneng to Melrose, here's why you should spend at least 48 hours in Johannesburg.
South Africa’s “City of Gold” is the country’s economic powerhouse, having earned its name (and its reputation) from the Gold Rush in the early 20th Century. Built on the backs of miners, there’s a toughness about Johannesburg that is evident in its layout, architecture and attitude.
The city is softened, however, by the abundance of trees. In fact, Johannesburg is considered to be the world’s largest urban forest, with some 10 million trees planted throughout the city. This man-made forest is so large it is even visible from space!
Typically, most visitors to South Africa choose to whizz through Johannesburg on their way to other destinations, usually the Kruger National Park or Victoria Falls. However, there’s so much to do in Johannesburg that its’ well worth your time to spendat least 48 hours in “Jozi.”
For first-time visitors who want a snapshot view of the city, top Johannesburg attractions include Soweto, Sandton, the Maboneng Precinct and Constitution Hill.
As South Africa’s most famous township, Soweto is home to some iconic historical sites of interest. The Hector Pieterson Museum, Nelson Mandela National Museum and Orlando Towers are must-visit sites. If you want to immerse yourself in kasi culture, head to a Soweto shebeen for a traditional lunch paired with home-brewed beer.
In direct contrast, Sandton is South Africa’s wealthiest city and home to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Expect a fast-paced, high energy experience – whether you’re shopping at the world-class Sandton City mall or viewing the famous statue of Madiba at Nelson Mandela Square.
For culture vultures, head straight to the Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg east. The “place of light” has fast become the centre of creative energy for Jozi’s urban artists. There’s a great mix of restaurants, coffee shops and art galleries.
Top Experiences in Johannesburg
Visit the Apartheid Museum which chronicles the system of apartheid in South Africa during the mid to late 20th Century. This is a great destination for anyone wanting to understand what life was really like during the oppressive regime.
To gain an understanding of the Gold Rush that spurred the development of Johannesburg, head to Gold Reef City, an amusement park built on the site of a closed-down gold mine.
Now the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, Constitution Hill was once the infamous prison which held Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo and other political dissidents.
A quick day trip from Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind is home to fascinating fossils and some of the first examples of human life, the most famous being Mrs Ples.
When to Travel to Johannesburg
Johannesburg enjoys a sublime climate. The days are warm and free of wind between November and February, with the occasional afternoon shower. In winter, from June to August, the air is crisp and clear.