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Welcome to Johannesburg


South Africa’s largest and most cosmopolitan city is known as the City of Gold. Gold was discovered here in 1886, enabling the country to develop industrial and commercial strength. Today Johannesburg is a vibrant, dynamic place, the business and transport hub of modern South Africa. A lively cultural scene includes several theatres, live music venues and museums. Trendy cafes and antique stores can be found in the arty Melville district. Shoppers can choose from modern malls, arts and crafts and flea markets throughout the city. Not to be missed is a trip to Soweto (South Western Townships), home to two million people of nine different ethnic groups. Sun City is South Africa’s leading holiday resort. It is also a popular destination for a weekend getaway. It is located about two hours' drive from Johannesburg. Sun City offers a luxury casino, two international-standard 18-hole golf courses. One of the courses is called the Lost City Golf Course and it features 38 crocodiles in the water feature on the 13th hole. Sun City is the perfect resort if you want to relax or chance your arm with some gambling.

The capital of South Africa's smallest province, Gauteng, Johannesburg is the economic powerhouse of Africa with its ever-growing suburban sprawl creeping outwards from the central city skyscrapers and ring-road motorways.

Most visitors to South Africa, particularly those intent on exploring the game reserves of Mpumalanga, arrive at Johannesburg's busy OR Tambo International Airport, which is the main point of entry for the country. There is little in Johannesburg itself to grab the attention of tourists, but a few days can be filled taking in some entertaining man-made attractions before heading off to the game parks of the northeast or the coastal regions. The most interesting diversion in Johannesburg is undoubtedly a 'Heritage Route' or 'Shebeen Crawl' tour of Soweto, but take care only to venture into the maze of the township with an organised tour or professional guide.

Information & Facts


Johannesburg enjoys a very favourable climate, dry and sunny all year round. Between October and April the city experiences heavy afternoon thunderstorms with downpours of rain that disappear as quickly as they arrive. Winter days are only slightly cooler than the pleasant summer average temperatures, but it can become frosty on winter nights.

Eating Out

Johannesburg's role as the economic hub of South Africa, if not the entire continent, has attracted businessmen and investors from all over the world and a wealth of restaurants to cater to them. Johannesburg restaurants offer a wide range of cuisine, with ethnic African fare and traditional Afrikaans dishes, as well as international options to satisfy every craving imaginable. Eating out in Johannesburg offers not only variety in cuisine ethnicity but price and quality too, with a range of up-market, casual, fast-food and street vendor options. Up-market Johannesburg restaurants, featuring both local and international menus, are located in areas like Rivonia, Sandton, Illovo and Melrose Arch. More casual eateries, such as cafés and steakhouses, can be found in Parktown North and Benoni. There are fast-food outlets throughout the city, as well as various local street vendors selling savoury pies, boerewors(sausage) rolls and flame-grilled mealie(maize) cobs. The more adventurous diners could venture out to Soweto to dine at one of its numerous shebeen(communal bar/canteen) venues. This huge variety of Johannesburg restaurants makes eating out in the 'City of Gold' a truly rewarding experience. Many restaurants are closed on Mondays, and reservations are recommended.

Getting Around

Johannesburg is a sprawling city and the lack of convenient and safe public transport is often an obstacle to visitors. City transport consists of an unreliable bus network and a series of minibus taxi routes, neither of which operate much after dark. The main bus terminus is at Ghandi Square in the city centre where there are timetables and route maps, but times are rarely accurate; and the Gautrain bus service only runs to stops around Sandton. Alternatively, a City Slicker sightseeing bus provides hop-on hop-off tours around the city in open-topped buses.

The quickest and cheapest way to get around is on a minibus 'taxi', an informal bus service that goes everywhere but has no schedule or formal stops and can be picked up at taxi ranks or hailed anywhere along its route. However, dangerous driving, overcrowding and high crime rates at taxi ranks have deterred many from using them as a means of transport. If necessary use them for short hops only and never with baggage.

Safer but far more expensive are metered taxis, which need to be booked in advance. The best way to get around is by private car and there is an excellent network of highways and well-maintained roads. There are a number of car rental agencies that require drivers to be over 23 years old and hold a full driving license. A passport and credit card are also necessary. Drivers should keep their windows up and doors locked at all times, never leave anything visible in a parked car, and never stop for hitchhikers. Be aware that there is a risk of car hijacking so remain alert, especially when leaving or returning to the car, and seek out secure parking.

Kids Attractions

Johannesburg does not have a reputation as a family-friendly destination but in reality there's no end to entertainment and attractions for kids in this bustling and busy city! A family holiday wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Johannesburg Zoo or the ever-enticing Gold Reef City. Other great Johannesburg attractions for kids include art cafés, fairy gardens, ice skating rinks, skate parks and adventure centres.


South Africa has 11 official languages, including Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho. English is widely spoken.


South Africa's currency is the Rand (ZAR), which is divided into 100 cents. Money can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and the larger hotels. ATMs are widely available (there is a daily limit for cash withdrawals) and major international credit cards are widely accepted, except in petrol stations where cash is required. Visitors should be vigilant when drawing cash from ATMs, as con artists are known to operate there. Travellers cheques and some foreign currencies are accepted at larger hotels and shops, but commission is charged, otherwise all commercial banks will exchange them.


Africa's biggest and richest city has got the nightlife to match, from world-class theatre and live music to mega-hip lounge bars and epic nightclubs. Jazz fans should amble their way to legendary Kippies in Newtown, and to the nearby Bassline. The Civic Theatre hosts major live productions, while plenty of smaller venues have minor plays, cabaret shows and reviews. Nightclubs tend to open around 11pm and will charge an entrance fee. They stay open all night and drinks are expensive. Many top clubs are positioned in the lively city center of Johannesburg, or funky areas such as Orange Grove and Melville. The affluent suburbs of Sandton, Hyde Park and Melrose Arch are home to the more plush and modern clubs frequented by an unlikely collection of models, stock brokers, bikers and trust fund kids. If taking your chances on the dangerous roads is not enough for you, head for the many casinos on the outskirts of the city. Montecasino, near Fourways, and Caesars Palace, near the OR Tambo Airport, are the best. Apart from the various money-relieving gaming tables and slot machines, there are live shows aplenty. For local listings see, the Friday editions of the Mail & Guardian and The Star, or the Johannesburg edition of Timeout.


As the financial hub of Africa and home to its highest proportion of wealthy individuals, it is no surprise that Johannesburg is a true 'shopper's paradise'. From designer boutiques and world-class specialist shops in the prestigious Sandton City to curios and bargain buys at local markets, Johannesburg has something for just about every kind of shopper. The northern suburbs are the place to start a day of shopping in this bustling city, and Mandela Square provides a wonderful location at Sandton City for shoppers to take a load off and eat at one of the many restaurants surrounding this square. In Johannesburg, the Bruma Flea Market specialises in African souvenirs and crafts such as wooden sculptures, paintings, beaded masks and jewellery, and is highly recommended to those looking for something authentically African. The Rosebank Rooftop Market ,which is held on Sundays and public holidays on the roof of the Rosebank Mall, is an absolute must and just about anything can be scooped up here. There are also wonderful food stalls where shoppers can rest their legs and brace themselves for round two. Other popular shopping malls include Eastgate Mall, Northgate and Fourways Mall. Shopping hours in Johannesburg are generally from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday, and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. Smaller stores usually close on Sunday afternoons. VAT is 14% and is levied on all goods sold, excluding flea market purchases, and visitors can reclaim this when departing at airports or land borders, provided they produce the goods and all necessary receipts.


Johannesburg attractions range from both cultural and historic exhibitions to fun family outings and interesting displays of local innovation and productivity. With good weather throughout most of the year, sightseeing in Johannesburg is always a rewarding adventure. The first stop on any list of things to see in Johannesburg should be the Apartheid Museum, which showcases South Africa's history of black oppression and illustrates how far the nation has come in its move towards democracy. Visit the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which features the Sterkfontein Caves where the ancient fossil of Mrs. Ples was found in 1947. On a lighter note, a fantastic Johannesburg attraction is Gold Reef City, a 'gold-rush' fashioned theme park full of exciting thrill rides. While sightseeing in Johannesburg visitors can tour the SAB World of Beer, or take a scenic hike through the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens. Newtown Cultural Precinct's Market Theatre and Museum Africa are also Johannesburg attractions worth seeing.


Local time is GMT +2.

Children can let their creative tendencies run rampage at Color Café, which has a selection of pottery items just waiting to be painted. From plates, mugs and vases to money boxes and fairy ornaments, the choice of ceramics is vast, and painted items will be glazed and collectable in a week. The cakes and muffins at the café are also great!

A guided tour of the National Heritage Site of Constitution Hill takes visitors on a journey through South Africa's turbulent past, but also illustrates its incredible transition into democracy. Visitors are guided through the Old Fort Prison Complex where the peeling walls and rusty barred cells have many a story to tell of South Africa's past 100 years; from British soldiers in the Anglo Boer War and rebellious youths caught in the Soweto uprising to Nelson Mandela, Joe Slovo and infamous murderess Daisy de Melker. The tour concludes with a look at South Africa's Constitutional Court, the keeper of the basic rights and freedom that those imprisoned here had struggled to win.

The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains a complex of dolimitic limestone caves, including the Sterkfontein Caves, where the fossil, Australopithecus africanus(nicknamed Mrs. Ples) was found in 1947 by Dr Robert Broom and John Robinson. 'Mrs Ples' is estimated to be between 2.6 and 2.8 million years old and ranks high on the long list of australopithecine discoveries for which Sterkfontein is now famous. At present only the Sterkfontein Caves and the Wonder Cave are open to the public. The Maropeng Visitor Centre is a stirring, world-class exhibition space, focusing on the development of humans and our ancestors and evolution over the past few million years.

This entertainment complex is essentially a theme park full of thrill rides, but was designed to be a re-creation of Victorian Johannesburg during the gold-rush era. The park, four miles (6km) south of the city centre via the M1 motorway, was built around the No.14 Crown mineshaft that began operations in 1887 and closed in 1975. During its production years 1,400 tons of gold came out of the shaft. Visitors can now descend into the old mine shaft to experience life at the rock face, and watch gold being poured and minted. Gold Reef City also houses a number of museums, and offers performances by traditional gumboot dancers. Youngsters particularly enjoy the rides like the Anaconda roller coaster and Thunder Mountain River Rapids. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, a massive casino, and a Victorian hotel for those wanting to stay the night.

North of Johannesburg lies one of South Africa's oldest dams, built in 1923, which provides a favourite day trip for city dwellers set against the Magaliesberg mountain range. A scenic road encircles the dam, culminating in a tunnel just before it reaches the dam wall and the Hartbeespoort village. The village offers a small zoo and snake park, cableway, bird park, aquarium and several restaurants and curio shops.

Hector Pieterson became the iconic image of the 1976 Soweto uprising during apartheid South Africa, when a news photograph of the dying Hector being carried by a fellow student was published across the globe. He was just 12 years old when the police, unprovoked, opened fire on school children who had gathered to protest the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in township schools. The museum fuses memorabilia with modern technology and cultural history and is located two blocks away from where Hector was killed. In 2007 Hector's sister Antoinette, who is seen in the famous photograph holding her hands held out in panic, was working at the museum as a tour guide and today 16 June is a public holiday named National Youth Day to honour young people.

Visit the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Joubert Park to see a vast collection of works by a host of famous artists, both local and international. Some of the exhibits date as far back as the 15th century and there are also a number of contemporary pieces on display.

The Johannesburg Zoo is a favourite place for locals to take a stroll among the numerous enclosures that house more than 3,000 species of animal, including polar bears that can be viewed underwater in their pool. Of course the Big Five are all in residence too. A tractor-tram does circuits of the zoo for those who don't fancy walking. On the eastern edge of the zoo is the Museum of Military History, which has some interesting exhibits like tanks, fighter aircraft and submarines.

The Kruger National Park is South Africa's oldest, largest and best-known wildlife conservation area, home to a huge variety of wildlife and most famous for its 'Big Five' viewing opportunities. Visitors have an excellent chance of seeing lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino among the enormous variety of wildlife, including over 140 species of mammals, 500 species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. Situated on South Africa's north eastern border, Kruger is a primary destination for international tourists, and is visited by more than half a million local and international people every year who are attracted by the different safari options as well as the park's excellent range of visitor facilities and choice of accommodation, from luxurious game lodges to cottages and camping. Because of the park's popularity, it is advised to book ahead for both day visits and extended stays. Bookings can be made through the park's website.

Market Theatre is a popular Jo'burg entertainment complex offering live theatre venues (boasting the first production of Sarafina), bookshops, galleries and restaurants, as well as a flea market on Saturdays. The adjoining Museum Africa showcases the lives and cultures of the South African people. The theatre hosts a variety of local productions throughout the year that can enhance a visit to Johannesburg. Information on upcoming productions can be found on their website.

This trendy suburb is a hive of activity on any given night of the week; it is the place to go out and carouse in Johannesburg, offering anything from hip and upmarket to just plain odd coffee shops, bars and dance venues throng the streets. The bohemian Seventh Street is a great place to start with its collection of book and antique shops, cafes, and other interesting storefronts. Partygoers barhop into the small hours, but tourists should refrain from walking around too much, and be aware of pickpockets as crime has risen in the area in the last few years.

This complex of buildings in the city centre has been upgraded and restored as part of the city fathers' urban renewal policy and provides several attractions. The Market Theatre and Museum Africa, for instance are housed in a Victorian building in Bree Street that was originally Johannesburg's fresh produce market. The Museum of Africa is particularly worth a visit with its exhibits that tell the story of the city from its beginnings to the present day, including an interesting section about the Treason Trial of the 1950s in which Nelson Mandela and other activists were accused of plotting against the state. The same building houses a photography museum and the Museum of South African Rock Art. At its eastern end is the Market Theatre, famed for being the venue for many protest theatre productions in the Apartheid era. Also in the area, in President Street, is the South African Breweries Centre, which offers a tour detailing brewing history through some reconstructed gold-rush pubs and shebeens (township bars). Along Jeppe Street is the Oriental Plaza, the commercial centre for the Indian community.

Situated in the Bojanala region of the North West Province, the 'Las Vegas' of South Africa is one of the largest adult entertainment centres in the world, with casinos, golf, live shows, and the architectural wonder of the Lost City. The vast resort complex is one of South Africa's top attractions for gambling, entertainment and opulence, a luxury theme park for adults that was the multi-million dollar dreamchild of South African entrepreneur, Sol Kerzner. The Lost City, with its African theme of life-size animals, has at its centre a luxurious 'palace' decorated with mosaics, frescoes, palm fronds and elephant tusks. Surrounding it are lakes, forests and a tropical beach. There are a variety of watersports and The Valley of the Waves, the most advanced waterpark in the country, has among other things a wave machine capable of generating almost seven-foot (2m) waves. The resort complex also borders on the Pilanesberg National Park, home to the 'Big Five' and a popular game-viewing destination.

SABMiller started in South Africa and has expanded to become one of the world's largest brewers of beer. The World of Beer offers a fun short tour, which summarises the history of the company, beer in general and details the brewing process. Afterwards visitors can enjoy a draught or two on the house in the resident pub.

The ancient dolomite caves with an underground lake, situated a few miles north of Johannesburg, form part of what archaeologists call the 'Cradle of Humankind'. Sterkfontein is recognised as one of the world's most important palaeontological sites, having yielded fossil deposits dating from up to three and a half million years ago, spanning the development of hominids. Among the most famous finds are the 'Taung child', 'Little Foot' and 'Mrs Ples'. Because the cave environment is fragile, visitors are not allowed into certain areas, particularly those that scientists are working on. There are however guided tours of one of the sections, which include the massive Hall of Elephants. A visitor centre includes the Hominid exhibition, conference facilities and a restaurant.

In Sun City, 'where the sun always shines', kids will love the various activities and attractions. A must-see is the Valley of the Waves, its fantastic 2m surf breaking onto a artificial beach. Fun activities include horse riding, elephant rides, quad biking and archery. There is also a great games arcade to enjoy.

South Africa's history of black oppression is chronicled in this building, situated near Gold Reef City. Relics of the Apartheid system, which banned non-whites from certain areas and from receiving an education, as well as forbidding interracial relationships, can be found here, right down to a bench marked for 'Whites Only'. Visitors often describe the experience of the Apartheid Museum as 'heart wrenching', but at the same time find the story of the struggle over adversity inspirational. Due to graphic content, the museum does not allow children under the age of 11.

Kids will be enchanted by the wonderful world of unicorns, fairies and gnomes to be found at Unicorn Wish. While all the kids enjoy the pony rides, the fairy garden is a favourite for little girls and the boys love seeing the exotic llamas and camels. Fun children's crafts include candle making and fabric painting.

Not known for being an especially green city, this oasis in the west side of Johannesburg covers 741 acres (300ha), offering lush gardens and scenic hiking trails. The gardens are a terrific place for bird watching (over 200 species) and garden-enthusiasts interested in seeing a variety of flora and fauna (over 600 species). After a walk or hike, it is common practice to enjoy a picnic on the lawns at the foot of the breathtaking Witpoortjie waterfall.

On the national road north towards Zimbabwe is the flat area known as the Springbok Flats, part of the Great Rift Valley. About 80 miles (125km) north of Johannesburg on the edge of the Flats lies the town of Warmbaths, named for the hot mineral springs that rise to the surface there. The spring yields about 20,000 litres of water, enriched with sodium chloride, calcium carbonate and other minerals every hour. The town has now become a popular spa and holiday resort, considered to be one of the most modern of its kind in the world. It has a large indoor pool with underwater jets, outdoor hot and cold swimming pools, wave pools, and water slides.

Looking for something a bit different?  Check out our selection of cultural & adventure holidays or if you're looking to go it alone then see our selection of solo holidays.

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