Top things to do in Joburg – residents give insider tips
Whether you call it Jozie, Jo’burg, or just plain Johannesburg, if you live here you love it, whilst the rest of the country talks about it in hushed tones as a place riddled with crime and best avoided, especially at peak hour, which is most of the day. A visit to Jo’burg is a crash course in staying aware, all the time. But if you want to experience a real metropolitan buzz then you can’t beat it. Time speeds up. So does the traffic, the number of advertising billboards, the speed at which traffic does (and sometimes doesn’t) get around.
There is so much to do in the city, that one can easily divide the ‘to do’ list up – those things the average travel guide says you should do, and those things insiders consider up there with the best (I know, ’cause I asked my friends). Here are our top things to do in Joburg – residents give insider tips!
Top 8 must-do’s as a tourist
The Apartheid Museum – learn about the rise and fall of a racially prejudiced system that managed to stradle half a century. Exhibits were created by a team of curators, filmmakers, historians and designers, so expect to see more than your average museum behind-a-glass-exhibit – it’s pretty powerful stuff.
Johannesburg Zoo – an animal paradise, including lions and elephants, gorillas, seals, a young rhino, bat-eared foxes and polar bears, in 54 hectares in the heart of Parkview. There are also night tours.
Soweto – you can combine a trip to the Apartheid Museum, just outside Soweto, with a tour of the huge township. You can cycle it, walk it or drive it. Visit highlights such as the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, Kliptown Square, bungee jumping from the Orlando Towers and Wandie’s restaurant in Dube.
Constitution Hill – considered one of the most important historical sites in Jo’burg, this is the site of the Old Fort Prison Complex, also known as Number Four, notorious during Apartheid, where people like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were detained.
Newtown – this is the vibrant heart of regenerated Johannesburg. It’s where you go to experience the Market Theatre, Kippies and Moyo Restaurant. It lies in the western section of the city centre. Get there via the Nelson Mandela Bridge.
Carlton Centre – you visit this particular skyscraper for one reason only – to head to the top, fifty floors up, to look out over the city. Great views.
Cradle of Humankind – whilst this area, fifty kilometres out of town, might not look like much more than a handful of koppies and shrubs, the 47 000 hectare valley has devulged 40% of all the world’s human ancestor fossils.
The Origins Centre – located at Wits University, and, as its name suggests, you can view exhibits of Khoisan and Rock Art that gives the background to the origin of man.
Top 10 insider tips on enjoying Jo’burg
Walk the dog at Emmarentia Dam – almost a pre-requisite for the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. If you don’t walk the dog here, then you definitely haunt the place on weekends for picnics with friends, or in the evenings for summer sundowner concerts. Great for views of the Brixton Tower and Jozi skyline.
Eat icecream at Baglios – My friend Sue loves doing this, sitting on the stairs at Nelson Mandela Square. She says there’s nothing beats this for feeling part of the Sandton vibe. Baglios is a franchise icecream ‘experience’ that insists on icecream indulgence, the Italian way. And where better to have one, than on the Square?
Visit Bryanston Organic & Natural Market – in the years that this market has been going, it hasn’t changed much. It hasn’t needed to. The formula, at the Waldorf School in Bryanston, works. You can pick up local bread, vegetables, fruit and the odd quirky gift for friends’ birthdays. It’s on Thursday and Saturday mornings, and moonlight markets from mid-November until Christmas.
Hike at Suikerbosrand – only about 50 minutes’ drive out of the city and you’re in wide open spaces that are also a game reserve. The average outdoor nut cooped up in Jo’burg will pack a picnic lunch and water (you’ll need it as the sun can beat down on your in all that highveld grass) at the drop of a hat and head out there. Wonderful place to hike.
Ride the bike lanes at Delta Park – Delta Park is regarded as one of the city’s biggest green lungs, and many Jo’burgers with a mountain bike head out to the 13 hectares of grassland and woodland to ride the bike trail.
Visit the World of Beer – said to be the best ever ‘tourist’ tour you can do in Gauteng, and come on, who in their right mind would turn down two ice-cold frosties after a tour, all about how you make the beer and brew it. By that stage you’re pretty much gasping for it. They’re in Newtown.
Enjoy sundowners on Northcliff Hill – great to know that Jo’burgers still do this (we did when I lived there), although it’s safer to do it in a fairly large group. Grab a cooler box full of whatever and get up there just before sunset. Gorgeous views out over the north of Jo’burg.
Ride the Gautrain – an absolute must, according to my friend Grant, and he would know. If you fly into Jo’burg, get your hosts to pick you up in Sandton and ride the Gautrain there.
Stroll 4th Avenue Parkhurst – filled with trendy eateries, coffee shops and boutiques, 4th Avenue Parkhurst is a must day or night. It’s vibey, fun, and one of few areas in Jo’burg where you’ll experience a pavement culture. Other spots are Greenside, Melville and Norwood.
Party at Classic Corner Headquarters – for the young(er) crowd looking for ‘the most awesome club in Joburg’, CCHQ in Primrose offers great alternative parties. It comes filled with antiques, art work, masks, and musical instruments that combine to create a burlesque-y vibe that makes a great place to party, party, party! (I have this on the best advice from my 20-something sister-in-law).
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens – great for picnics and down time
Lemon Rose Farm off Beyers Naude – tea garden and animal petting de luxe
Boksburg Flea Market – for a laugh
Go to Jo’burg for less than a week at your own peril. Forewarned is forearmed. There is plenty to do, plenty to see and a whole vibe in which to partake.