Johannesburg – South Africa’s biggest city and commercial epicentre. Also known as Jozi, Joburg, or Egoli (City of Gold in Zulu), it began as a gold-mining settlement in the 19thcentury.
There is more to this cosmopolitan city than shopping. If you are visiting Johannesburg, or on a staycation in the city, here is a list of family-friendly things to do in Johannesburg . However even if you don’t have kids with you, you will still enjoy them. I have written about several of these places before – individually – but as lists are more concise and easier to access, I have compiled them below.
City Sightseeing Johannesburg Bus
This is a great way to see Johannesburg if you are visiting the city for the first time. However, even if you have stayed here all your life, you can see the city from a different perspective and learn things about the city you never knew. Many of the attractions listed here are stops on the tour. The bus also has a Soweto extension, which I would highly recommend.
Book tickets here.
Gold Reef City
This is South Africa’s only theme park. Located on an old gold mine, it has over 30 rides catering for different age groups. You can also watch a 4D show, visit an underground mine, witness a gold pouring demonstration and much more.
Book tickets here.
Sci-Bono is an interactive science centre where scientific concepts are explained with colourful and interactive gadgets, devices and experiments. Kids are encouraged to experiment to their heart’s content. Special exhibitions are often hosted at the museum.
The Johannesburg Zoo
Even though this is not my favourite way to see wildlife, not everyone can afford to go on safari. The Johannesburg Zoo is a fun and educational outing.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Johannesburg is one of very few large metropolitan areas in the world not built near a sea or a major river?
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
One of South Africa’s nine National Botanical Gardens, the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens are the best place to get back to nature in Johannesburg. It boasts a waterfall and a breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles.
This is a popular picnic and recreation area surrounding a lake. You can row boats and feed the ducks.
The Nizamiye Mosque is a smaller replica of the Selimiye Camii mosque in Turkey. It is the largest mosque in the Southern hemisphere. The mosque complex also contains a Turkish restaurant, museum and bakery. Entrance is free and guided tours are available.
The Apartheid Museum illustrates what life was like for South Africans under apartheid. Every South African, and visitor to South Africa, should visit this museum at least once to understand what our nation has been through and why our current achievements mean so much more.
Book tours here.
Liliesleaf Farm is a heritage site which played a vital role in the fight against apartheid. This is where incriminating evidence was found, which led to the Rivonia trialists, including Nelson Mandela being arrested and convicted.
Visit No 8115 Vilakazi Street in Soweto which was the house of Nelson and Winnie Mandela from 1946 until the 1990’s. The house is now a museum containing memorabilia belonging to the Mandela family.
Constitution Hill is a former prison and military fort where world-renowned heroes including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were imprisoned.
James Hall Museum of Transport
This is South Africa’s largest land transport museum. It has a large collection of vintage transport dating back to 400 years ago!
Johannesburg might be the last place you would expect to find a Victorian house but there is one and it is fascinating. The owner Katharine Love, who still lives there will give you a tour and you can enjoy a high tea once you’re done.
The Collectors Treasury
Get lost in a literary labyrinth at the largest used and rare bookshop in Africa, and possibly in the Southern Hemisphere. With over two million books spread over eight floors, it is a sight to behold.
Top of Africa
Visit the Top of Africa, on the 50th floor of Carlton Centre – the tallest building in Africa – for the best panoramic views of Johannesburg.
Maropeng and the Cradle of Humankind
This is one of the richest fossil sites in Africa. You can explore ancient caves and marvel at the interesting discoveries. The well-designed visitors’ centre is an attraction on its own.
Book a day trip here.
More things to do in and around Johannesburg
1. ABSA Money Museum
Learn about the history of South African money at the Absa Money Museum. They have a collection of different forms of money used in South Africa dating back to 4500 Years ago..
2. Johannesburg Planetarium
This was the first full-sized planetarium in Africa. They have regular shows on space.
3. Origins Centre
The Origins Centre is home to an extensive collection of palaeo-anthropological and archaeological materials, including rock art and fossils.
4. Cullinan Diamond Mine
Tour the Cullinan Diamond Mine where some of the largest diamonds in the world today were found including the 3106-carat Cullinan Diamond, which is now part of the British crown jewels.
5. Bill Harrops Balloon Safaris
Floating in a hot air balloon over a scenic valley as the sun rises is a magical bucket-list experience.
6. The Adler Museum of Medicine
Learn about the history of medicine at The Adler Museum of Medicine, home to over 40 000 objects that illustrate the history of medicine and dentistry through the ages.
7. Hartebeestpoort Dam
Ride the Harties Cableway or go for a cruise on the dam.
8. Orlando Towers
Originally the cooling towers of a decommissioned coal-fired power station, the Orlando Towers are now an extreme sports adventure site. Attractions include the world’s first bungee jump between two cooling towers and the world’s highest Suspended Catch Air Device (SCAD) Freefall.
9. Satyagraha House
Visit the former home of Mahatma Gandhi. He stayed there from 1908 to 1909.
10. Kromdraai Gold Mine
Tour one of the oldest gold mines in Johannesburg and get a feel of what it was like to be a gold miner in the 19th century.
11. Happy Island Waterworld
This is one of Johannesburg’s newest attractions. This aqua adventure park is home to the two largest wave pools in Africa.
12. The Joburg Theatre Complex
Local and international productions are held here for children and adults.
13. FNB stadium
14. Weekend Markets
Stroll through Maboneng.
What are your favourite things to do in Johannesburg ? Let me know below.
See my recommended places to stay in Johannesburg.
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