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.
Recommended attractions in Johannesburg
Take a glimpse into South Africa's 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 600 contemporary artworks which can be viewed by the public.
Cradle of Humankind
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 and Little Foot, estimated to be 2 million and 3 million years old respectively. The Maropeng Visitor Centre illustrates the evolution of humans, and visitors can also view the Sterkfontein Caves in person.
Gold Reef City
Expats who have relocated to Johannesburg should be sure to pay a visit to Gold Reef City, an entertainment complex for the whole family that portrays what the city would have looked like during the gold rush of the 1880s. Descend into a gold mine shaft, ride the amusement park theme rides, have fun in the casino or spend a night at the Victorian hotel.
Hector Pieterson Memorial 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 into the minds of many across the globe. The museum is situated just two blocks from the site of Pieterson's death. It not only pays tribute to the little boy who died that day, but also fuses memorabilia, cultural history and modern technology to create a fascinating museum experience.
This is a great place to take a stroll, go on an outing with the kids, or just take some time out from the hustle and bustle of the City of Gold. The Johannesburg Zoo is home to more than 2,000 animals, including the famed Big Five.
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 a few of their reptile and mammal friends.
Soweto is another place rich with the history of South Africa’s struggle toward democracy. While Soweto's attractions such as the Mandela House Museum or the Hector Pieterson Memorial can be visited alone, an official half-day or full-day Soweto tour will give expats an even fuller picture of Soweto’s past and present.
►See Lifestyle in Johannesburg for more on life in the city
"Be excited, seek out the positive things available here, try not to compare backwards to a country you have left, rather look forward and create a bucket list of things you want to do, then book them in. Day trips, weekends away, learning about wine, history, culture, there is so much on offer, you need to choose to embrace it." Hannah's advice as a Brit living in Johannesburg.
"The Bryanston Organic Market on a Saturday morning or the Rosebank Rooftop Market on Sundays for African craft shopping, Montecasino or Melrose Arch for dinner and evening entertainment, a Soweto tour or the Apartheid Museum for some South African culture and history, and perhaps a visit at the DeWildt Cheetah Centre or the Lion Park to see animals." Sine's tips for visitors as an expat living in Johannesburg.
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