April 19, 2011

What to Do in Joburg

If you're an expat in Johannesburg, no doubt you've had (or, trust me, will have) your fair share of visitors. Isn't it funny how your friends and relatives were horror-struck at the thought of your family moving to Crime Mekka, but then couldn't wait to purchase tickets to visit you there? I think we expats as a group have single-handedly done more for South Africa's goodwill abroad than the entire World Cup!

Anyway, what you need for when your visitors arrive on your doorstep is a good list. What to see and do around Joburg - shopping, art, museums, amusement parks, safari, evening entertainment, sports, what to do with kids, what to do without kids.

Lindfield House Museum
Lindfield House is a private museum about the Victorian era. Katharine Love, the owner of the house who still lives in it, gives tours complete with scones and strawberry jam for afternoon tea. Tours by appointment only. Read more...

Are you a visitor or expat in Johannesburg and looking for authentic local experiences such as food markets, art exhibitions, nightlife, or live music events, rather than the traditional tourist activities? Check out VibeScout, an easy free entertainment guide for most of the events happening all over Joburg and other areas. Read more... 

Northcliff Hill
A great place to take visitors for a spectacular view of the Johannesburg skyline is the top of Northcliff Hill, and it's absolutely free. You can reach it by car, or you can park further down and walk up through leafy streets taking a peek at some of Joburg's older and more expensive homes. Read more...
Gold Reef City
A Disney World type amusement park with rides for the entire family, ranging from Kiddies Corner for your toddler to the Tower of Terror for your teenager, and everything in between. It's a perfect size park so you won't get lost in it, but beware of long lines on public holidays. Read more...
011 248 6800

Johannesburg Zoo
I have to say I'm amused at the idea of a zoo in Johannesburg, when you can find a huge variety of game roaming the wild within a few hours' drive, but it is actually a nice zoo set in a beautiful park. Something to do when a full-fledged safari isn't feasible.
011 646 2000

Apartheid Museum
Right across from Gold Reef City, the Apartheid Museum is one of Joburg's must-see destinations. It takes you back to the not-so distant past and the struggle for equal rights, freedom, and ultimately democracy for every South African. Read more...
011 309 4700

Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum
Dedicated to Hector Pieterson, a 12-year old boy who was killed during the Soweto Uprising in 1976, this museum brings alive the history of that day and the injustices that led to it. Very moving displays and video documentaries.
011 536 0611

Soweto Tour
Take a tour of Soweto, South Africa's largest township and another place steeped in history. You will see the Hector Pieterson Memorial, Regina Mundi Church, Mandela House, the Apartheid Museum, a squatter camp, and a traditional shebeen where you'll taste Joburg Beer.  Read more...
011 463 3306

Maropeng Visitor Centre
The "Cradle of Humankind," about one hour from Joburg, is where they found "Mrs. Ples" or rather her remains which are 2 million years old. Tour the Epcot-like visitor centre to learn more about our human ancestors, or descend into the spectacular Sterkfontein caves. Read more...
011 956 6342 (Sterkfontein Cave)

Lion Park
If you won't have time for a safari, the Lion Park is your best bet to get a good close-up view and great pictures of lions as well as cheetahs, wild dogs, and a range of antilopes. As a highlight you also get to pet and play with lion cubs. Read more...
011 691 9905

Montecasino Bird Gardens
A great place for kids (and adults) to interact with birds and other animals. Combine it with a stroll past the shops of  "Monte," have lunch at a cafe on the Piazza, or take the balloon ride for great views of Joburg. Read more...
011 511 1864 

Rosebank Rooftop Market
Visit the Rooftop Market at Rosebank Mall on a Sunday to browse everything from African crafts to cheese, spices, jewelery, hats, and paintings. Includes a flea market. Read more...
011 442 4488

Bryanston Organic Market
Another nice craft market your visitors will love, featuring lots of African crafts, organic food, live music, and several outdoor cafes. Every Thursday and Saturday morning.
011 706 3671

Elephant Sanctuary
A day trip to Hartbeespoort Dam one hour from Joburg makes for a nice outing. Enjoy the beautiful scenery around the lake and visit the Elephant Sanctuary, where you get to touch, feed, ride, and even get kissed by an elephant! Read more...
012 258 0423

Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre at De Wildt
Visit one of the few places in the world where cheetahs (as well as other endangered animals) are bred in captivity. You can pet a cheetah, take a game drive to view the different animals, and watch the cheetahs race. Read more...
012 504 9906

Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg is a Big Five game reserve only two hours from Johannesburg (adjacent to Sun City). Self-drive through the park as a day visitor (adults R45, children R20) or spend the night in one of the safari lodges. Read more...
014 555 1600

Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory
Another half day outing to the Hartbeespoort area for the science-minded in your family, featuring great hands-on activities and loads of interesting facts. Public viewing one Saturday each month. Read more...
012 301 3100

If you don't have the stomach for an all-day slug at Gold Reef City, drop in for a few hours of great fun at JoziX in Bryanston, a sort of giant jungle gym for kids and adults. Read more...
082 456 2358

Magaliesberg Canopy Tour
A bit of a stretch at 1.5 hours from Joburg, but if you're looking for thrill and adventure this is the perfect day trip for you. While I haven't done this particular canopy tour, I have written about the Tsitsikamma one, which is similar. Read more...
014 535 0150

Joburg really offers pretty much everything. You can even hit the slopes with your skis or snowboard (or opt for tubing) at Avalanche, located in Fourways at Cedar Square. Lessons and birthday parties available. Read more...
011 467 2426

Liliesleaf Farm Museum
Another great place, in addition to the Apartheid Museum, to learn more about Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid struggle, set in beautiful surroundings and never very crowded. Guided tours available. Read more...
011 803 7882

The perefect destination for the adventure lover is the Witbank Skydiving Club about 1.5 hours from Joburg, where you can do a tandem skydive without any prior training or take part in a skydiving course. Read more...
072 150 7680

Balloon Safari
There is another way to soar through the skies for those not inclined to jump out of airplanes - booking a balloon safari over the Cradle of Humankind, about an hour's drive from Joburg. Read more...
083 356 2435

Cradle Nature Walk
For nature lovers who'd like to experience the bush on foot rather than on the ubiquitous and noisy safari vehicles of Southern Africa, the guided walks at Cradle Nature Reserve are the perfect half-day getaway from the hustle and bustle of Joburg, followed by a gourmet lunch with a beautiful view. Read more...
011 659 1622

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Bing said...

Great list! I have 2 more places in your list to go to now. Thanks! I'll have to do something like that on my blog some time too, coz I did Best of NZ earlier.. hopefully to do a Best of JNB or Best of SA by the time we leave. =)

Sine said...

Feel free, and let me know if you find anything else I forgot to add! Best of SA, I love that. What do you think, between us expat bloggers we promote South African tourism to the extent we should be paid for it!

Neetika said...

Hi Sine,
Your blog has been extremely useful and an interesting read for my husband and myself.
I am living in US right now and we are moving to Jo'berg with a 3 month infant next month (feb '12)...thanks for all your information! We sure enjoy the lovely pics and stories.

Sine said...

Hi Neetika,

Thanks so much for the feedback, and I'm glad you've been able to prepare for your life here by reading my blog. Good luck with the move and let me know if you have any questions!

Talooma said...

I'm looking for a some ideas for valentines that coming up. The skydiving does look incredible though I'm not sure if it's in my budget. Last year my wife and I took the balloon trip but with http://airtoair.co.za/. It was fantastic!
I think I'll go with some animal sightings just to keep things easy and chilled this years, elephants and the zoo are in order

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Great list! Makes me wish I could check them all out right this minute.