Things to do in Johannesburg
Affectionately known as Jo’burg or Jozi, Johannesburg is one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in South Africa. With its many theatres, museums, fantastic food culture and large shopping malls, there is plenty on offer for the many visitors that flock to this cosmopolitan metropolis each year.
Here are some essential experiences when visiting South Africa’s city of gold, which can be built into a bespoke itinerary as well as featuring in our suggested South Africa itineraries.
Soweto, the ‘South West Township’, is South Africa’s most famous township and sprawls seemingly endlessly from Johannesburg and appears as a bright, graffitied, tin-roofed village. It was always at the forefront of the struggle against Apartheid, and was once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, both Nobel peace prize winners.
A tour of South Africa’s most infamous neighbourhood is recommended to visit the locations of secret underground meetings and walk the streets of nation-defining riots.
A visit to the Apartheid Museum is essential for anyone wanting to understand and experience what apartheid South Africa was really like. It shows how South Africa is coming to terms with the past and working towards a shared future.
As you go through the museum, the journey will start with segregation, which was the cornerstone of apartheid. It takes you back through the history of the multitude of cultures converging during the pre-apartheid era, through the years of race classification, the 150 acts of apartheid, detentions and the oppression of the nationalist regime.
You will then see the rise of black consciousness and the armed struggle and witness the release of Nelson Mandela after 27 years of imprisonment which led to the negotiations for peace.
Liliesleaf Farm and Museum
The Liliesleaf Farm and Museum is a popular heritage site which honours the South African liberation movement. It was for many years a meeting place and hide-out for top African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP) personnel.
Liliesleaf Farm is widely regarded as the birthplace of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), and was the site of the Liliesleaf Farm police raid on 11 July 1963 that resulted in the incarceration of many senior ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela.
You can explore the museum with guided tours to see the various exhibits.
Johannesburg City Tour
Market on Main, Maboneng
South Africa’s largest city remains its financial and commercial heart. It’s in this fast paced city that the country’s radical political and social formation is most evident, this is the ‘Rainbow Nation’ at work.
On this tour you will visit Constitution Hill, home of South Africa’s Constitutional Court and site of the Johannesburg Old Fort Prison, enjoy a scenic drive through the quaint suburb of Melville and stop at Newtown Market, where a unique variety of African arts and craft are for sale.
You will also visit Museum Africa which is reminiscent of a 1950’s shebeen, and is Johannesburg’s premier cultural history museum.
Graffiti Walking Tour
A Graffiti walking tour in Jo’burg is highly recommended, where you can see the bold graffiti found on bridges over the highways to paint-flecked street corners of the inner city. In the city centre and neighbourhoods of Braamfontein, Newtown and Maboneng, the wall paintings created by local and international artists, brighten up spaces and are worth pausing for along busy streets. The Grafitti tours are both insightful and entertaining.
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