Join us as we explore Johannesburg in South Africa
It’s hard to talk about South Africa without mentioning her largest city: Johannesburg. Join us as we explore Johannesburg in South Africa. The country’s premier industrial and financial metropolis, Johannesburg is a setting teeming with life, energy and industry—making it the perfect place to visit for travellers seeking a locale that offers an authentic taste of modern South Africa. Today, I’m serving up a quick overview of this lively South African city. Read on for the ultimate Johannesburg travel guide…and get ready to start eagerly packing those bags.
Johannesburg Overview & Fun Facts
The largest and most populous city in South Africa—and the provincial capital of
Gauteng—Johannesburg is seen as the cultural hub of its mother country. It’s the wealthiest
city in the area and is also considered the most progressive. The currency you’ll be using there
is the Rand—and walking around you’ll likely hear English and Afrikaans…but you may also
catch some snippets of everything from Zulu to Hindi, thanks to its diverse locals.
Because it’s such a thriving economic and tourism hub, getting to Johannesburg is relatively
easy, with constant flights from London and across Europe touching down at the city’s main
airport: Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International. Direct flights from North America tend to be
a little more limited, with plane-changes typically required.
If you’re considering visiting, the best time to plan a trip to Johannesburg is usually March-
May and September-November, as crowds tend to die down during those times (and prices
tend to drop)—and the weather is in that ideal, warm-and-dry sweet spot. Because it’s
situated in the Southern Hemisphere, keep in mind that Johannesburg’s winter is June-
August, and its summer lasts December-February.
What to do in and around Johannesburg
With a rich history in the mining industry, tons of museums and libraries to explore, the
boasting point of being Nelson Mandela’s home, and (of course) a plethora of wildlife to
watch—there are so many enriching things to do in Johannesburg. Below are just a few of my
Spend a day at Gold Reef City
An amusement park built on a storied gold mine, Gold Reef City has transformed
Johannesburg’s mining-centred history into a captivating—and thrilling—theme for modern-
day park goers. Enjoy roller coasters, restaurants, a movie house, a trampoline park, and a
casino. If you’re up for it, you can even embark on an exciting underground mine tour to learn
more about the gold-rush era that defined so much of Johannesburg’s past. (It’s called “The
City of Gold” for a reason, after all!)
Visit the Apartheid Museum
If you know anything about South Africa’s history, you know about apartheid. Afrikaans for
“apartness,” apartheid kept the black population under the rule of a white minority until 1991.
From Nelson Mandela’s lifelong fight against this brutal system of white supremacy—to the
systemic effects that linger to this day—there is so much history to learn and absorb around
this tumultuos time period rooted in racism, and there’s truly no better place to start than at
Johannesburg’s Apartheid Museum. Explore both permanent and temporary exhibits that
illustrate the rise and fall of apartheid—and be sure to spend an hour or so absorbing the
sheer power of the coveted Madela Exhibition.
Visit Mandela House
A single-story red-brick matchbox built in 1945, Nelson Mandela National Museum (or
“Mandela House” as it’s commonly called), is where the anti-apartheid activisit lived from
1946-1962. Declared a national heritage site—and turned into a museum at the request of
Mandela himself, who donated the property to the Soweto Heritage Trust—Mandela House is
one of those absolute must-see spots for anyone visiting Johannesburg.
Visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum.
A moving collection of everything from oral testimonies to historical documents, the Hector
Pieterson Memorial details the events surrounding June 16, 1976 (or the “Soweto
Uprising”)—when a peaceful march of school students ended with a 12-year-old Hector
Pieterson being shot and killed by police.
It’s estimated anywhere from 100-700 devastating fatalities occurred that day, as students
demonstrated against the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in black
schools (as Afrikaans was closely associated with apartheid). While June 16 has since been
declared “Youth Day” and held as a public holiday in South Africa, the events of that day aren’t
often known or understood by those outside of the African diaspora—which makes a visit to
the Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum all the more enlightening and important for
travellers to Johannesburg.
Spend a day at the Lion & Safari Park
A 1,000-hectare reserve, Gauteng’s Lion & Safari Park is a truly iconic tourist destination.
Enjoy everything from the property’s 3-hour flagship tour—to bush walks, self-drives,
horseback safaris, and mountain biking. Whether you’re on a honeymoon or travelling with
family, the wide array of activities the park offers makes it an ideal destination for a day of
animal watching and adventure.
Where to eat in and around Johannesburg
Your trip to Johannesburg can’t be considered complete unless you’ve indulged your palate in
local cuisine (namely, red wine and red meat). Below are a few of my favourite spots to pull up
a chair and dig in.
All-you-can-eat meals cooked on open fire and served on swords (yes, swords) makes for a
vibrant dining experience you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Choose from
delectable game and domestic meat dishes—and keep your glass full with The Carnivore’s
selection of South African wines. Named Best Traditional Restaurant (along with an array of
other impressive titles over the years), this is one of those can’t-miss spots every traveller to
Johannesburg needs to experience.
Butcher Shop & Grill
A brasserie-style eatery with plush leather booths and the kind of menu that makes choosing
just one thing nearly impossible, Joburg’s historic Butcher Shop & Grill truly is an institution.
Expect tender meat, quality produce, flowing wine, loud laugher, and great conversations in
this endlessly lively, welcoming environment. After you’ve filled up at the restaurant, don’t
forget to stop in the beloved butchery and deli to grab a few fresh items for the road.
Self-described as “a celebration of quintessential South African fare,” Marble is one of those
five-star spots that can’t be passed over on your trip to Johannesburg. With a philosophy
centred around open-flame cooking of local game and meats, you can indulge in everything
from impeccably cooked wagyu to mouthwatering lamb cutlets at this fan-favourite spot. Just
be sure to save room for dessert—the ice-cream sandwiches are something to write home
The Grillhouse Rosebank
A highly acclaimed upscale restaurant, The Grillhouse Rosebank offers an idyllic setting for an
unforgettable dinner (perfect for a honeymoon date night). While it’s known for its steak and
ribs, every dish it serves is so thoughtfully curated and prepared—from its fresh salads to the
vegetarian options. A classic steakhouse aesthetic only amplifies the experience—as warm
woods, white tablecloths, and an expansive marble bar create an environment that feels as
storied as it does luxe.
We truly hope you get a chance to explore Johannesburg and all of the culture and cuisine it has
to offer. It really is such an energetic, expansive city full of exciting experiences, rich history,
and the kind of mouthwatering dishes you’ll be talking about (and craving) for a lifetime to
Until next time, happy travels!
Contact Exalt Africa for more details or to discuss your upcoming experience.