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The Best Places to Visit in Johannesburg to Add to Your Bucket List

The Best Places to Visit in Johannesburg to Add to Your Bucket List

As a Joburger, I’ve always been amazed at how much there is to see and do in this vibrant city. From the bustling markets to the rich historical sites, Johannesburg offers a treasure trove of experiences.

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, there’s always something new and exciting to discover here.

If you’re feeling a little FOMO, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered with a comprehensive list of the top spots to check out in the city. 

Apartheid Museum


Address: Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Road

Phone: +27 (0)11 309 4700 

Operating Hours:

  • Wednesday to Sunday – 9 AM to 5 PM

The Apartheid Museum is a must-visit attraction located in the southern part of Johannesburg. It showcases a collection of newspaper clippings, films, documents, photos, and other historical artifacts that tell the story of Apartheid.

The museum’s main goal is to teach people about the difficult times that South Africa went through. We spent hours wandering through the exhibits, reading about the history of Apartheid and its impact on the country and the world.

One exhibit in particular that stood out to me was a collection of artifacts from Nelson Mandela’s time in prison, including his cell door and some of his personal belongings. It was a powerful reminder of just how much he sacrificed for his beliefs.

Pro Tips:
For an enriching dive into South Africa’s history, make sure to visit their website above where you can access a wealth of resources including educational e-books, comprehensive workbooks, and an engaging comic ebook. 

Constitution Hill


Address: 11 Kotze St, Braamfontein

Phone: +27 11 381 3100 

Operating Hours:

  • Open daily – 9 AM to 5 PM

Constitution Hill in Johannesburg is a scenic spot that provides stunning views of the city and tells the story of South Africa’s past.

It’s almost overwhelming to think about the fact that this was once a prison where many political prisoners and criminals were mistreated.

It’s impossible not to be moved by the bravery and resilience of those who were held captive here, including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

Given its history, Constitution Hill is now a symbol of hope and progress in South Africa. The Constitutional Court of South Africa is located here, and it stands for freedom and protecting the rights of the people. 

Pro Tips:
After exploring Constitution Hill, visit the Number Four prison and the Women’s prison to get a deeper understanding of South Africa’s history and its transition to the present. These sites offer a unique perspective and are worth checking out.

Gold Reef City


Address: Corner of Northern Parkway & Data Crescent, Ormonde

Phone: +27 11 248 5000

Operating Hours:

  • Thursday to Sunday – 9 AM to 5 PM

Gold Reef City Theme Park is a must-visit destination for anyone looking for an unforgettable family entertainment experience. 

The park offers 16 thrilling rides, seven family rides, 21 kids rides, and a trampoline park, among other attractions. I couldn’t help but feel like a kid again as I explored the park.

One of the highlights of my visit was the 4D theater experience. The fully immersive sensory experience was so realistic that it made me feel like I was a part of the movie.

I also loved the fact that every ride had a fear factor rating, from the Tower of Terror to the Lady Bug. It was a thrill to try out every ride and see how brave I could be.

Pro Tips:
Gold Reef City offers an impressive range of food options from fast food to sit-down options. Barney’s Restaurant & Bar is a must-visit for delicious food and a perfect relaxing atmosphere after a long day of exploration.

Vilakazi Street

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Vilakazi Street is a gem in the heart of Soweto and Johannesburg. I love its rich history and vibrant atmosphere.

When I walk down the street, I can’t help but feel a sense of awe knowing that Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once called this place home.

One of the highlights of my visits here is stopping by Thrive Cafe. This place is a favorite among locals and tourists for its delicious coffee and warm atmosphere, and it’s easy to see why two great men loved coming here.

Pro Tips:
No visit to Vilakazi Street is complete without stopping by Mandela House. More on this below.

Mandela House


Address: 8115 Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto

Phone: +27 11 936 7754

Operating Hours:

  • Open daily – 9 AM to 4:45 PM

Situated at 8115 Vilakazi Street in Soweto, Mandela House has become one of the most famous addresses in South Africa. It’s the house where former South African President Nelson Mandela lived for more than 14 years.

The house showcases the life of the Mandela family during the apartheid era and beyond, featuring photographs, paintings, awards, and recognitions earned by Mandela. 

What I loved about my visit to Mandela House was the highly narrative element of the experience. It felt like I was being taken on a journey through the life of the Mandela family, with every room having a story to tell.

It was a great way to gain a better understanding of South Africa’s history, and the impact that Nelson Mandela had on the country.

Pro Tips:
Visit Sakhumzi Restaurant after touring Mandela House. It’s a culinary gem in Orlando West, Soweto, offering a vibrant atmosphere and a menu that’s as rich and inviting as the neighborhood’s heritage.

Johannesburg Zoo


Address: Jan Smuts Avenue Upper Park Drive

Phone: +27 83 329 2320

Operating Hours:

  • Open daily – 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM

Johannesburg Zoo hosts over 2,000 animals from 320 species worldwide.

You’ll love exploring the themed sections like Amazonia and Madagascar on a Ferry Tour. 

During my visit, the tour guide was knowledgeable and shared interesting facts about the animals we saw.

If you’re traveling with kids, you definitely don’t want to miss the Farm Yard section. They’ll love petting friendly animals and learning about how to take care of them. 

But that’s not all, the zoo also has an Education Centre where you can learn about different species and their habitats. I found this section particularly fascinating.

Pro Tips:
For a unique experience at Johannesburg Zoo, attend the Open Moonlight Tours where you can see nocturnal animals waking up for the evening and enjoy a picnic under the stars. 

South African National Museum of Military History


Address: 22 Erlswold Way

Phone: +27 11 646 5513

Operating Hours:

  • Open daily – 7:30 AM to 4 PM

South African Museum of Military History in Johannesburg is a must-visit for history buffs and curious travelers. 

Walking through the exhibits, I felt like I was transported back in time. The collection of planes, tanks, and medals from World War II is simply impressive. 

But what really stood out to me was the exhibit that showed how soldiers were treated when they got hurt in battle. The old and new methods were displayed side by side, giving me a glimpse into the evolution of medical care on the battlefield. 

One of the guided tours was an eye-opener for me. It provided insight into different aspects of military life, showcasing items from the past and educating visitors about what soldiers went through. 

Pro Tips:
Make sure to take some time to explore the nearby attractions such as The Wilds Nature Reserve or Johannesburg Zoo. They are just a few minutes’ drive away and offer an opportunity to experience nature and wildlife up close.

Lindfield Victorian House Museum 

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Address: 72 Richmond Ave, Auckland Park

Phone: +27 11 726 2932

Operating Hours:

  • Open daily – 10 AM to 5 PM

Lindfield Victorian House Museum in Johannesburg is a special place where you can experience Victorian life. The owner, Katherine Love, dresses in old-fashioned clothes and guides you through the house.

Inside, you’ll find lots of 19th-century-style furniture and things that show how people used to live. 

You can also see different rooms restored to look like they did in Victorian times. There’s a special room for children with a cool dollhouse and other old toys. 

After your tour, you can relax with a cup of tea on the verandah and enjoy the view.

Pro Tips:
After your tour, you can enjoy freshly brewed coffee (or tea) and cake made in the same kitchen you just toured. The delicious treats are baked in an old oven, which may take a while, but it’s worth the wait.

The Playground Market 

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Address: 73 Juta Street, Braamfontein

Phone: +27 60 890 4501

Operating Hours:

  • Saturday – 10 AM to 6 PM

The Playground is a lively market held every Saturday on Juta Street in Johannesburg. It offers live music and delicious street food and showcases local fashion.

With over 30 stalls, you can indulge in wine and cheese tastings, join painting workshops, and more. I found myself wandering around for hours, checking out the unique fashion and art on display.

And when I needed a break, I simply pulled up a chair at one of the many tables or headed to the outdoor terrace for some fresh air and city views.

What I loved most about The Playground is that it’s a platform for young artists and entrepreneurs to showcase their talents.

Pro Tips:
If you’re craving authentic Neapolitan pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven, try the Margherita or calzone at the market. They’re absolutely amazing.

Zoo Lake

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Address: Corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and West World Street, Parkview

Phone: (011) 483-1017

I recently visited Zoo Lake and was struck by the beauty of the park. The lake is stunning, and you can easily spend an afternoon strolling along the 1.2-km walking path that encircles it.

There are plenty of spots to stop and enjoy a picnic, or you can simply relax by the fountain and take in the scenery.

One of the highlights for me was the swimming pool. It’s a great place to cool off on a hot day, and there are plenty of lounge chairs where you can relax and soak up the sun.

If you’re feeling more active, there are also cricket and football grounds, as well as a bowls club.

Pro Tips:
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Moyo, one of the two restaurants in the park. It offers live music and a variety of food options, so you’re sure to find something you like. 

Johannesburg Botanical Garden

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Address: Olifants Rd, Emmarentia, Randburg

Phone: +27 11 712 6600

Operating Hours:

  • Open daily – 6 AM to 6 PM

Johannesburg Botanical Garden is a large green area in the city’s Emmarentia neighborhood, once a bare sports field. It’s divided into different gardens, each with a theme like roses or herbs, and hosts events like weddings and concerts.

We spent hours jogging around the garden, taking in the fresh air, and enjoying a cup of coffee at the cafe. 

The garden overlooks Emmarentia Dam, offering a picturesque view of the water. We even rented a canoe and went paddling around the dam!

Pro Tips:
Consider visiting Doppio Zero Greenside, conveniently located a short 4-minute stroll from the park. Try their extensive selection of delectable dishes, ranging from classic pastas and pizzas to fresh salads and scrumptious baked treats.

The Maboneng Precinct


Address: Fox St & Kruger St

Operating Hours:

  • Open daily – 8 AM to 6 PM

Maboneng Precinct is a vibrant area buzzing with life and has a unique mix of businesses and homes.

I visited the Market on Main, a popular spot for foodies, where I had some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted. From traditional African cuisine to fusion dishes, there was something for everyone.

Arts on Main was another highlight of the precinct, where I admired the works of various artists and even bought some souvenirs. The Bioscope Cinema was another great spot, where I watched an indie movie that left me feeling inspired.

Pro Tips:
If you’re looking for a great spot to dine in Maboneng Precinct, you should check out Rooftop BBQ. They boast an amazing rooftop setting with delicious grilled meats and flavorful sides.

Hector Pieterson Museum

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Address: 8287 Khumalo Rd, Orlando West

Phone: +27 11 536 0611

Operating Hours:

  • Tuesday to Sunday – 10 AM to 5 PM

The Hector Pieterson Museum is a significant place that remembers the events of 16 June 1976 and the Soweto Uprising. It honors Hector Pieterson, a 12-year-old boy who lost his life during the protest.

Inside the museum, I saw various newspaper clippings, personal stories, and photographs that told the story of the Soweto Uprising. I was moved by the famous picture taken by Sam Nzima, which captured the tragic moment of Hector’s death.

Outside the museum, there’s a garden with bricks bearing the names of students who lost their lives during the protest, a solemn reminder of the sacrifices made for freedom. 

The museum opened in 2002, near where Pieterson was shot, and it’s one of the first museums in Soweto, reminding us of South Africa’s fight against Apartheid.

Pro Tips:
For a delightful meal just steps from the museum, Soweto Pizza Company offers a warm ambiance to savor their exceptional pizzas, crafted with fresh ingredients and distinctive tastes.

The Market Theatre


Address: The Market Square, 138 Lilian Ngoyi St, Newtown

Phone: +27 11 838 7498

Operating Hours:

  • Monday to Friday – 9 AM to 5 PM

The Market Theatre is housed in a building that used to be a market, and it showcases some of the finest productions in its four live theater venues.

I watched a production in one of the four live theater venues, and it was an unforgettable experience. The acting was superb, and the story was impactful, leaving me with a lot to ponder.

After the show, I visited the bookshop, art and photograph gallery, and restaurant. The restaurant had a cozy feel, with a perfect ambiance to hang out even after the sun sets. 

Pro Tips:
Stop by Mary Fitzgerald Square, a mere two-minute stroll from the Market Theatre, where the aromatic delights of coffee and dynamic performances of street dancers and entertainers await you.

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre


Address: Corner of Miriam Makeba and Helen Joseph

Phone: +27 11 639 8400

Operating Hours:

  • Monday to Saturday – 9 AM to 4:30 PM
  • Sunday – 9 AM to 3:30 PM

The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre located in Southern Africa is recognized as the biggest science center in the area. Its goal is to stimulate interest in and enjoyment of the world of science and technology.

One of my favorite exhibits was the Robotics Division. As someone who’s always been fascinated by robots, I couldn’t wait to see what they had in store. 

Another exhibit that stood out to me was the H2O TODAY exhibition. It was eye-opening to see how much we rely on water and how we can all do our part to conserve it.

The best part? I got to participate in many activities like science experiments, rock climbing, and playing complex games.

Pro Tips:
Reaching the Science Centre is a breeze. Simply hop on the City Sightseeing bus, which stops right at its entrance.

Wits Art Museum


Address: Wits Art Museum Cnr Jorissen and, Bertha St

Phone: +27 (0)11 717 1000

Operating Hours:

  • Tuesday to Saturday – 10 AM to 4 PM

Wits Art Museum houses a great collection of African art and is a part of the Wits University Cultural Precinct. What I loved about it was that it was not just a static collection, but it also had temporary exhibitions that kept changing. 

The huge glass windows show off changing displays of classical, modern, and contemporary African artworks from all over the continent.

As I walked into the museum, I was greeted by different galleries that showcased a variety of African art. I especially enjoyed the Gertrude Posel Core Gallery, which was the inspiration behind the original collection.

The sweeping ramp that led to the gracious Mezzanine Gallery reminded me of the Guggenheim. I then descended the elegant stairs to the Strip and Basement galleries, and everywhere I went was wheelchair-friendly.

Pro Tips:
If you have some extra time, I recommend attending a lecture, film screening, music event, or art performance. You can also take one of the regular weekend walkabouts, with different sessions geared to adults, children, and families. 

Nelson Mandela Bridge

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Address: Smit St, Braamfontein

Nelson Mandela Bridge is the largest and most iconic cable-stayed bridge in South Africa, spanning almost 300 meters and connecting Braamfontein and Newtown. It offers a unique perspective of the city’s beauty that you won’t find anywhere else. 

As you drive across the bridge, you’ll be surrounded by stunning artwork and murals that decorate the surrounding buildings.

But why just drive when you can walk or bike across the bridge? The pedestrian walkways on either side of the bridge offer a unique perspective of the bustling city below. 

The real magic happens at night when the bridge is illuminated and the city skyline glows in the background. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a romantic night out or take in the city’s beauty with friends. 

Pro Tips:
Check out the view from the M1 Highway for an unforgettable experience. And you won’t want to miss the opportunity to stop on the bridge and snap some beautiful photos.
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