The concrete jungle of Johannesburg is often overlooked as a tourist destination in favour of coastal Cape Town. However, those who are willing to look beyond Johannesburg's 'city life' facade will find that it has just as much to offer. From natural wonders to museums and culture, expats will find an abundance of things to see and do in Johannesburg.
Popular attractions in Johannesburg
The Apartheid Museum
Take a glimpse into South Africa’s apartheid past to learn about the struggle that South Africans went through to achieve democracy. This heart-wrenching museum illustrates how far this unique and diverse country has come.
This national heritage site houses a former prison that is famous for once having held political prisoners such as Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Visitors can take a fascinating journey through the prison's history as they walk through the museum, learning about the terrible conditions prisoners suffered there. As a symbol of transformation, the South African Constitutional Court was built on this site in the 1990s and is home to a collection of over 200 contemporary South African artworks which can be viewed by the public.
Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng Visitor Centre
Some of the oldest fossils of our human ancestors have been found in the Sterkfontein Caves, a central feature of this World Heritage Site. This includes the discovery of Mrs Ples back in 1947, a skull estimated to be more than 2 million years old. The Maropeng Visitor Centre illustrates the evolution of humans, while a trip to the cave itself can also be enjoyed.
Gold Reef City
An entertainment complex for the whole family, expats who have relocated to Johannesburg should be sure to pay Gold Reef City a visit to view what a Victorian version of the city would have looked like during the gold rush. Descend into a gold mine shaft, ride the amusement park theme rides, have fun in the casino or spend the night at the Victorian hotel.
Newtown Cultural Precinct
The Newtown Cultural Precinct features a number of exciting attractions along its side streets and across its alleyways. The Market Theatre and the Museum Africa can both be found here, as well as the South African Breweries Centre, which offers a tour detailing brewing history. The Oriental Plaza, the commercial centre of the city’s Indian community, is also well worth a visit.
Hector Pieterson Memorial site and Museum
The iconic image of 12-year-old Hector Pieterson being carried through the streets of Soweto during the Soweto Uprising in 1976 has been etched in the minds of many across the globe. The museum not only pays tribute to the little boy who died that day but also fuses memorabilia, cultural history and modern technology – a must for any history buffs.
A great place to take a stroll, take the kids or just take some time out from the hustle and bustle of the City of Gold. The Johannesburg Zoo is home to around 2,000 animals as well as the famed Big Five.
Lion and Safari Park
Situated in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg, the Lion and Safari Park offers a chance to get a close view of lions as well as cheetahs, wild dogs, and a range of antelope. It offers good photo opportunities and visitors get a chance to feed giraffes and play with lion cubs.
Montecasino Bird Gardens
After browsing the shops at Montecasino and perhaps enjoying lunch on the piazza, visit the Bird Gardens to see over 60 species of birds and take part in one of several educational activities for the whole family. To top it off, visitors can take a hot-air balloon ride to soar over Johannesburg for some breathtaking views of the city and beyond.
Soweto stands for South Western Townships, another place rich with the history of South Africa’s struggle towards democracy. It is perfectly safe to visit Soweto's attractions such as the Mandela House or the Hector Pieterson Memorial alone but an official half-day or full-day Soweto tour will give expats an even fuller picture of Soweto’s past and present.