South Africa is a country famous for possessing diverse natural vegetation, stunning national parks, beautiful coastlines, or wildlife conservation areas. Traveling to South Africa always brings new and exciting things to visitors because of many famous landmarks with rich cuisine and unique and vibrant culture. And one of the most exciting and wealthiest cities in South Africa is the city of Johannesburg.
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So, is Johannesburg worth visiting, how to visit Johannesburg, what to do in Johannesburg and how to plan a budget trip to Johannesburg for the first-time perfectly? Let’s check out our Johannesburg travel blog (Johannesburg blog) with the fullest Johannesburg travel guide (Johannesburg tourist guide, Johannesburg city guide, Johannesburg guide) from how to get to Johannesburg, best places to visit, best time to come, what to eat as well as top things to do in Johannesburg to help you maximize your trip as follows!
During a day’s visit to Johannesburg, you can enjoy a five-star breakfast in a first-class hotel, followed by waterfall jumping adventures or climbing koppies. In the evening, go shopping in the downtown markets. There is so much to discover in this beautiful city.
If you are planning a trip to the beautiful city of Johannesburg of South Africa, first you need to have in hand the full Johannesburg travel guide below.
Overview of Johannesburg (# johannesburg travel blog)
Johannesburg, affectionately known as Jo’burg, Jozi, JHB or E’Goli, is a large city in the province of Gauteng, South Africa. According to history books, Johannesburg was built on a rich history of gold mining. Over the years, Johannesburg has grown from a crime-damaged stopover to a modern, classy city. Johannesburg is known as the gold city of Africa with huge gold reserves. With an area of 3300 km2 (metropolis area), a population of nearly 8 million people and an economy of about 10% of GDP in Africa.
The city was founded in 1886 after the discovery of gold in a farm. Due to the extremely large gold reserves found along the Witwatersrand, within ten years the population had increased to 100,000 people. A separate city from the late 1970s until 1994, Soweto is now part of Johannesburg. Originally an acronym for “South-Western Townships”, Soweto originated as a collection of settlements in the suburbs of Johannesburg, predominantly of African-born workers from the gold mining industry. This city is an alpha global city as listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.
The area around Johannesburg was originally inhabited by San hunter-gatherers who used stone tools. The stone wall ruins of the towns and villages of Sotho – Tswana are scattered around parts of the former Transvaal on which Johannesburg is located.
In the mid-18th century, the larger area was settled by various Sotho – Tswana communities (a linguistic branch of the Bantu speakers) who had villages, towns, kingdoms and kingdoms The country stretched from Bechuanaland (now Botswana) in the west. More specifically, the stone-walled ruins of the towns and villages of Sotho – Tswana are scattered around parts of the old Transvaal province where Johannesburg is located.
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, often compared to the New York of the United States because of its youthful, dynamic and bustling. The city is always bright with the lights of bars, coffee shops open all night, busy shopping centers and bustling weekend markets.
Coming here, visitors will understand more about the development history of this place, clearly see the formation from the beginning to becoming one of the richest cities in South Africa. The primitive mixed with modern development gives this place a sympathetic and interesting look in the eyes of foreign tourists.
In the local language, Johannesburg is known as “eGoli” – the place with a lot of gold or “the city of gold” because this is where many precious underground gold mines are located. The gold mining industry is also a key economic sector that brings abundance and wealth to this land.
Not only making impressive numbers, but this beautiful city also offers a lot of great experiences for travelers who love to explore. The climate here is also quite favorable ensuring you have a safe and fun trip!
When is the best time to visit Johannesburg? (# johannesburg blog)
In general, the weather in South Africa varies from region to region. If in Cape Town with mild weather due to the influence of the Mediterranean climate, in Durban the weather is warm and very pleasant. Especially the city Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria are colder than other places.
Johannesburg is influenced by a subtropical highland climate. This type of climate is very hot and sunny. However, because it is located at an altitude of about 1000m above sea level, the weather in Johannesburg compared to other cities in Africa is much cooler and more pleasant. Summer here usually starts from December to February next year. The average temperature is in the range of 25-30 degrees Celsius, rarely exceeding 35 degrees Celsius. This is considered the time when tourists flock to the city the most. Accordingly, the places to visit are overcrowded and the price of services also increases.
However, for a more convenient trip, you should go in the spring time from September to November. This is the most beautiful time, the pleasant weather is very suitable for exploring the city.
Or you can also make the trip between June and August which is also ideal. Winter here is not too cold or snowy, it will be a memorial vacation for you.
In addition, you can also plan a trip to Johannesburg from March to May. Because the weather is still warm at this time due to the afterglow of summer. At the same time, travel costs will also be more economical.
The temperature in Johannesburg often fluctuates up and down. So you remember to prepare warm clothes, gloves, hats… to protect your health.
How to get to Johannesburg? (# johannesburg travel guide)
To getting to Johannesburg, you can book tickets from a number of airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways… to one of the two major international airports in South Africa are Cape Town and O.R. Tambo.
If you land to Cape Town, you have to fly another flight or choose a road transport to get to Johannesburg. If you land at O.R. Tambo, you can go directly to Johannesburg. You can go to Google Flights, Skyscanner or Kayak to find cheap airfares as well as arrange the best routes.
Getting around Johannesburg (# johannesburg guide)
Like other cities, Johannesburg also has a lot of means of transportation for you to choose from, depending on your budget. However, self-driving cars or taxis are still the most popular means of transportation.
When arriving in the city of Johannesburg, to travel to places of interest, the bus is the most popular means of transport chosen by many tourists. Baz Bus is a bus company that runs from Johannesburg to Cape Town and passes through many famous places such as Drakensberg, Garden Route… Many tourists choose Baz Buz because this company allows guests hop on or hop off at any time. And depending on the distance you travel, the price will increase and decrease differently. But the lowest one-way fare is 41 USD.
Plane (# johannesburg travel blog)
From Johannesburg, if you want to visit another city in South Africa, you can choose to fly. Airfares are also not too expensive if you are traveling from a small airport or on less popular routes.
For those who love to experience and like to freely explore Johannesburg, they can rent a car to go. You should find people to share on forums like: Tripadvisor, Nomadic Matt’s, Backpacking Africa or Couchsurfing… for fun and safety.
Where to go and what to do in Johannesburg?
Johannesburg is a destination that combines big city culture, shopping, dining and nightlife with outdoor adventures, up-close encounters with wildlife and visits to historic landmarks. Explore caves and nature reserves, or visit a traditional craft village during the day, then enjoy dinner at a modern cafe or five-star restaurant. And if you are a shopaholic, bring an extra empty suitcase. With malls, open-air and flea markets and places that combine the two, you’ll find plenty of unique souvenirs.
The city center is Johannesburg CBD which is actually quite an interesting place to visit. Currently, with the number of tourists increasing, this place is having development projects to serve everyone’s needs.
A great place to visit is Arts on Main, where you’ll find shops, art galleries, music, tours, and more. Victoria Yards is an exciting urban space with craft studios, urban agriculture, visual arts and skills development. In addition, the city center also organizes markets on the first Sunday of every month. This is a very worthwhile activity to experience and understand more about the culture and life of the local people.
Downtown Johannesburg retains elements of the rectangular grid pattern first officially documented in 1886. The streets are narrow and filled with tall houses built in the mid to late 1900s. The old Victorian buildings first built in the late 1800s have long since been demolished.
Another inner city market you can visit is The Playground, an artisan market, open every Saturday from 10am to 6pm. You can enjoy unique specialties at this market.
Johannesburg is home to some of the tallest structures in Africa, such as the Sentech Tower, Hillbrow Tower, Carlton Centre and the Ponte City Apartments. The Johannesburg skyline has most of the tallest buildings in the continent and contains most of the international institutions such as IBM, Absa, BHP, Willis Group, First National Bank, Nedbank and Standard Bank.
Gold Reef City Theme Park (# johannesburg blog)
Address: Northern Pkwy & Data Cres, Johannesburg, 2159, South Africa
Hours: 9:30 AM–5 PM/Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Closed
One of the famous places to visit when traveling to Johannesburg is the Gold Reef City complex with a travel time of about 40 minutes. Coming here, you will be able to participate in many “heart-stopping” experiences with high danger but very appealing. Gold Reef City is an extremely popular attraction. This complex is built on an old gold mine called Crown Mine. This gold mine ceased operations in 1977.
Come here, try going underground to see the wonderful scenes of gold mining from time immemorial. In addition, you can experience many activities at the park such as: roller coaster, go Tower of Terror, ride the Golden Loop roller coaster…
Officially put into operation in 1909 and became the most famous tourist destination in the city. This day to be relived even if only for about 60 minutes, the atmosphere is attractive but also full of deadly dangers of the ancient gold mining days. Many international visitors come to this gold-themed entertainment complex called gold reef city.
Gold Reef City will bring you unexpected emotions about the old gold mining scene deep underground. In addition, you can also see the gold casting process live in workshops and museums on the ground. Currently, Gold Reef City only organizes 12 tours per day. Therefore, if you intend to come here, remember to arrange a reasonable schedule!
Soweto Town (# johannesburg travel guide)
Traveling to Johannesburg you will definitely want to visit the town Soweto because there is the house in which Nelson Mandela once lived. Currently, the house has become a very famous museum in the city of Johannesburg. Besides, visitors will discover Orlando Towers – the power plant has been discontinued and now they have been renovated into a unique architecture for tourists to visit.
Soweto town is the next place that you cannot miss when traveling to Johannesburg. Here, you will have the opportunity to visit the house where Nelson Mandela – the first black president of South Africa lived. Now the house has become a famous museum and welcomes thousands of visitors every year.
The hometown of the late President Nelson Mandela, the hero of Apartheid and the great leader of the South African nation. Visitors here will witness the changes in what was once a divided land, where impoverished black people were forced to live in concentration and every day faced with police guns protecting apartheid in the early 1990s.
Maboneng is an extremely busy, bustling and colorful neighborhood in the city of Johannesburg. This is a neighborhood with many bars, restaurants, and cafes with beautiful decoration. And to admire the beauty of this city, it is best to rent a bicycle to cycling around. Or you can find a certain bar, sipping a cup of gin is also an interesting experience.
Maboneng is known as the neighborhood that “never sleeps”. Because it is always busy and bustling compared to other places. Throughout the street are countless bars, restaurants, cafes with impressive architecture and colors. To fully appreciate the beauty of Maboneng, a bike ride is the most suitable. At that time, you will be able to comfortably breathe in the fresh air. In addition, you can also immerse yourself in the passionate bustle.
Lesedi Cultural Village
Address: R512, Lanseria, 1739, South Africa
If you are passionate about the culture of the tribes here, surely the cultural village of Lesedi will be an ideal place for you to better understand the life and customs of the tribes. Besides, you can learn about daily life in an African village and enjoy the unique dishes of the people here. More specifically, coming to the cultural village of Lesedi, visitors will enjoy rhythmic dances and melodious music that captivates the souls of many diners.
In addition, you can also learn about the life of South Africans from the last century, as well as have the opportunity to enjoy unique African dishes. In particular, you can also immerse yourself in traditional dances and listen to gentle and melodious music.
Is one of the top resort destinations in South Africa. This is a high-class resort that provides guests with world-class hotels and entertainment areas. The city is known as the “City that never sleeps”. When coming here, visitors will be free to relax and participate in countless wonderful and unique games. If you want to try your luck, you can join the casinos, if you love sports, you can participate in the games, rides here.
The complex entertainment area is likened to the miniature of Las Vegas, Walt Disney and Xanadu where you can have fun in the casino, the 6-star Palace hotel, the golf course, the crocodile farming area. If convenient, you can also visit Pilanesburg National Park located not far away, witness the wild life of animals such as elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, etc.
Address: 11 Kotze St, Braamfontein, Johannesburg, 2017, South Africa
Hours: 9 AM–5 PM
Constitution Hill, which keeps the history of South Africa’s process of becoming a democratic country. Currently, the Constitutional Court of South Africa is located here.
In the past, this hill used to be a dark and scary prison. Constitution Hill is divided into several separate detention zones. It consists of 3 zones: The ancient fortress for white people, the Number Four Jail for black people, and the Women’Jail, which supervises female prisoners.
Visiting Constitution Hill, you will also have the opportunity to learn about South Africa’s transition to a democratic country. Today, this hill is also the seat of the constitutional court of South Africa.
Address: Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Road, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
Hours: 9 AM–5 PM/Monday, Tuesday: Closed
This is the ideal place for those who want to learn the history of South Africa in general and Johannesburg in particular. The old films, photos and artifacts will open the heroic and tragic historical period of the revolution against the apartheid. The Apartheid Museum is a non-profit and is open to the public free of charge.
Here you will have the opportunity to see a lot of pictures and documents about the revolution for independence of the South Africans. The museum has many different rooms. Each room displays artifacts on different topics for visitors to conveniently visit.
Cradle of Humankind
Cradle of Humankind is a definite must-visit during a trip to Johannesburg. It owns caves, rocky mountains and dense forests with majestic and spectacular natural landscapes. Not only that, Cradle of Humankind also has an entertainment area with a lot of interesting and attractive games.
Bothongo Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve
Address: 520 Kromdraai Road, Kromdraai, Krugersdorp, 1739, South Africa
Hours: 9 AM–5 PM/Monday: Closed
A trip to Africa without learning and spotting wildlife will not be complete. The Bothongo Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve is an ideal place to visit and see wildlife for a day. There are several animals like lions, crocodiles, different types of dogs, wild dogs, rhinos, hippos and some other animals here.
Pilanesberg National Park
Safari Game Drive in Pilanesberg National Park – is ranked as one of South Africa’s largest national parks. The trip will give visitors the opportunity to see firsthand the large animals of Africa: Lion, Hippo, Elephant, Zebra, Leopard and Buffalo. The reason the tour takes place in the early morning is to match the hunting habits and activities of predatory animals.
What to eat?
South African cuisine is very diverse and rich. The dishes here are combined with cultural interference and unique and historical periods and this is also the factor that helps attract visitors when coming to enjoy the cuisine here.
Come to Johannesburg, remember to enjoy this barbecue. This is an authentic South African dish with grilled meat and is often served with pumpkin porridge, bread, and rice. In particular, enjoying this dish is indispensable with the signature spicy sauce along with the spice vegetable Chakalaka – a typical vegetable of South Africa.
Some specialties not to be missed are Bobotie – a dish made from minced meat with water along with eggs, dried meat, curry Chakalaka. The grilled food in South Africa that you should enjoy is Umqombothi beer made from malted corn, yeast or golden wine here is also quite great.
Biltong dates back to the 1800s and is a traditional dish of South Africans, Biltong is essentially wild meat that is dried and preserved according to a special recipe to keep for a long time without losing its taste.
The popular meats used to make Biltong are usually antelope meat, ostrich meat, wild boar meat with a chewy and delicious flavor that will surely make you eat once and remember forever.
Pap en vleis
This dish is quite typical in South Africa with a combination of corn soup, grilled meat and a spicy sauce served with richly marinated vegetables that will surely make you unforgettable. Moreover, this dish is also beautifully decorated, making diners want to enjoy it just by looking at it.
Where to shop in Johannesburg?
As mentioned above, Johannesburg is one of the wealthiest cities in South Africa. Therefore, just walking around the city, you will encounter many large and bustling shopping malls and centers.
Visitors can go to busy and modern shopping centers to experience the most comfortable shopping needs such as: Mall of Africa, Rosebank, Hyde Park, Sandton City, Northgate… Besides, you can also go to the market to Shop at affordable prices such as: The Market in Main or Neighborhood Good Market located in New Town. This is a place where you can buy beautiful gifts for relatives and friends at affordable prices.
Each place has its own characteristics with many local products, unique souvenirs. So, you don’t need to worry about not getting the right gift. One thing you need to pay attention to is not to bring a lot of money when going to crowded places. Avoid putting money in your back pocket and limit wearing expensive jewelry to ensure safety.
Where to stay?
Below we recommend more best budget, mid-range and upscale hotels with good ratings and reviews you can refer to.
- Garden Court Sandton City (Agoda, Booking)
- Thaba Eco Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Signature Lux Hotel By ONOMO, Sandton (Agoda, Booking)
- Sandton Sun and Towers (Agoda, Booking)
- The Residence Boutique Hotel (Agoda, Booking)
- Hotel Perte at Montecasino (Agoda, Booking)
- Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel, Sandton Johannesburg (Agoda, Booking)
- The Maslow Hotel, Sandton (Agoda, Booking)
- Home Suite Hotels Rosebank (Agoda, Booking)
Some notes when traveling to South Africa
- Apply for a tourist visa: You need to apply for a South African visa about 2 months before your departure date.
- Currency exchange: All transactions in South Africa use only Rand. This is the main currency in this country. They do not accept any other currency, including US dollars. The advice is that you should change money first in your hometown. Or you can change it at the airport as soon as you arrive in South Africa to actively spend.
- Language: South Africa has 11 official languages due to its cultural diversity. Among them, English is still the most commonly used language. Therefore, you can easily communicate with them when traveling.
- Another thing that you need to keep in mind, is that if you are not experienced enough to go on your own, it is best to book a package tour to South Africa to ensure safety. In addition, booking a tour also saves you effort and preparation time. Reputable travel agencies with full expertise. Therefore, they will ensure your trip is safe and most economical.
With the Johannesburg travel guide that we shared above, hope to help you get more useful and interesting information to make a detailed travel plan to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Johannesburg you can refer to
- Johannesburg Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour
- Johannesburg City Walking Tour
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Soweto Tour in Johannesburg
- Maboneng Street Art Tour in Johannesburg
- Soweto Walking Tour with Lunch in Johannesburg
- Braamfontein Graffiti Bicycle Tour in Johannesburg
- Soweto Bicycle Tour in Johannesburg
Check out more South Africa guide here.