Attractions in Johannesburg

Attractions in Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum

Significantly, Nelson Mandela was the one who officially opened the critically acclaimed Apartheid Museum in 2001. Within a short time, this extraordinarily impressive museum became a must for tourists and locals. The architecture of the building is sober, with lots of metal, concrete and brick, and the 22 exhibition rooms are on an area of ​​6000 m².

The story begins with the introduction of apartheid (which means “to be separated” in Afrikaans) by the National Party in 1948, which enforced the segregation of blacks and whites with the help of strict laws. The exhibition shows how blacks are from theirs Homes were evicted and forced to live in so-called townships, every aspect of life was separated by skin color, and schools, hospitals, public transportation, cemeteries, shops, even park benches and beaches were only white people or only accessible to black people.

The museum follows the development of the African National Congress (ANC) and the resistance movement against apartheid as well as the establishment of the black homelands in the 1970s and the brutally suppressed protests and uprisings. With his reforms, President FW de Klerk initiated the end of apartheid. This was followed by the release of Nelson Mandela and other activists from prison, the first free elections for everyone in 1994, and the birth of a new democracy.

A dramatic highlight of the museum is, for example, a room with 121 nooses hanging from the ceiling in memory of the 121 political prisoners who were executed during the apartheid regime. Another highlight is remarkable footage from an interview with Nelson Mandela in 1961 when he was hiding from the regime. An exhibition room is dedicated to the 1976 Soweto student uprising when the police opened fire on defenseless children. A number of television monitors show the horrific images of this fateful day. In fact, there are monitors all over the museum grounds that bring the events of these decades to life and remind visitors how little time has passed since then.

The possibility for the visitor to hand in his old passbook in the museum (these identity papers require black people to leave the homelands and stay in “white” zones) or to put a pebble on a mountain of pebbles is a thoughtful sign of solidarity the victims of apartheid.

The extremely moving exhibition impressively shows how immoral and malignant apartheid was, how racial prejudice caused unbelievable suffering and how almost 20 million South Africans were labeled second-class people and without human rights. It almost meant the fall of South Africa. The museum successfully tells how the human soul can be victorious even in times of dire need.

Address: At the corner of Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Road, Ormonde, Johannesburg South
Telephone: (011) 309 47 00
Opening hours:Tue – Sun open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Entry fee:Yes.

Disabled access: Yes

Constitution Hill Museum

One of Johannesburg’s newest sights is the infamous old Number Four prison complex, which was only closed in 1983 and reopened in 2004 as an interactive museum.

During the worst times of the apartheid regime, between 2,000 and 3,000 black prisoners roamed the prison complex every day. Mostly arrested for lack of identification, they suffered horrific conditions. Famous prisoners included Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi. Part of the old building gave way to the new Constitutional Court. The use of partly original bricks is intended to symbolize how the injustices of the past can be used to create a fairer future.

Little has changed in the prison itself: the graffiti on the inside of the cell doors, huge pots still crusted with porridge from which the inmates had to eat like animals, the dark cells of solitary confinement, where prisoners live for up to a year on nothing but rice water had to. The conditions at the neighboring women’s prison were said to be somewhat better, but several women still had to share a single cell, while white inmates (mostly activists) had their own.

As in the Apartheid Museum, there are hundreds of monitors with footage and interviews from former prisoners. Many of them returned to number four when it became a museum. The modern entrance hall of the new Constitutional Court shows trees from an African village, under which the village elders traditionally sat and made decisions.

Address: corner of Kotze Street and Hospital Street, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
Telephone: (011) 381 31 00
Opening hours:Open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.).

Entry fee:Yes.

Disabled access: Yes

Ditsong National Museum of Military History

Located in the same block as the zoo, this small but comprehensive museum deals with almost all periods of South African military history. You can see uniforms, tanks, artillery weapons (including the G-6 built in South Africa), handguns, twelve planes and a submarine. However, there are only disappointingly small sections about the anti-conscription movement (End Conscription Campaign) and the participation of the black population in the Boer wars. CASSPIRS armored personnel carriers are on display in the museum, which were used in the townships to quell the uprisings against the apartheid regime. An exhibition on the military aspect of the ANC is in preparation.

Address: 22 Erlswold Way, Saxonwold, Johannesburg
Phone: (011) 646 55 13
Opening hours:Open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except on public holidays).

Entry fee:Yes.

Disabled access: Yes


In Johannesburg there is a surprisingly large number of excellent private and community galleries that serve both unusual and mainstream tastes.

Three of them deserve special attention for their commitment to African and South African art: The Johannesburg Art Gallery houses traditional African exhibits, modern South African landscape paintings and the particularly interesting William Kentridge collection.

The Goodman Gallery supports contemporary South African artists and exhibits works by William Kentridge, Penny Siopis, Willie Bester and Sue Williamson. The Kim Sacks Gallery shows traditional South African pieces and contemporary South African handicrafts.


Johannesburg Art Gallery
This building designed by Edward Lutyens houses impressive collections of paintings from the Netherlands of the 17th century and England and Europe from the 18th and 19th centuries. There is also 19th century South African art, a large collection of contemporary local and international art, and prints from the 15th century to the present day.

King George Street (via Klein Street), Joubert Park
Goodman Gallery
163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood

Everard Read Gallery
6 Jellicoe Avenue, Rosebank
Alliance Française
The Alliance hosts modern African and international art exhibitions, usually by individual artists. Exhibitions are approved on request.

17 Lower Park Drive, Parkview

The Premises
Civic Theater, Loveday Street, Braamfontein
Standard Bank Gallery
corner of Simmons Street and Frederick Street, city center
Kim Sacks Gallery
153 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood
Address: Johannesburg
Phone: (011) 725 31 30 (Johannesburg Art Gallery), (011) 788 11 13 (Goodman Gallery), (011) 788 48 05 (Everard Read Gallery), (011) 646 11 69 (Alliance Française) , (011) 877 68 00 (The Premises), (011) 631 18 89 (Standard Bank Gallery), (011) 447 58 04 (Kim Sacks Gallery)),
Entry fee:No entry fee.

Disabled access: No

Gold Reef City amusement park and casino

Originally conceived as a model of Johannesburg around 1890 during the gold rush, the Gold Reef City Museum and the rarities (in replicas of the original buildings) were overshadowed by the “largest roller coaster in the southern hemisphere” and a 60-table casino. That means but not that Gold Reef City still doesn’t give a pretty good picture of Johannesburg’s fascinating mining past and is well worth a visit.

The real charm of Gold-Reef City lies in the fact that under all the amusement park facade there is still a tunnel labyrinth around the Number 14 shaft. The original gold mine was active from 1887 to 1971. Depending on demand, there are several guided tours down a 200-meter shaft where workers from all over Africa sweat, toil and die.

Also part of the amusement park are 14 museums, many handicraft and rarity shops as well as daily rubber boots and can-can dance shows. Not to be forgotten is the casino, which has the Globe Theater with 500 seats and the new Lyric Theater with 1100 seats.

The result is an extraordinary mix of entertainment and insight into the past. The detailed and fascinating model of the above and underground installations of a gold mine is absolutely worth seeing, starting from drilling a shaft to producing gold bars. Another highlight is the daily pouring of a gold bar – supposedly those who can lift it with one hand are allowed to take the bar home with them.

Address: Gold Reef City, Ormonde, 8 km from the city center, Johannesburg
Telephone: (011) 248 68 00
Opening hours:Tue – Sun open from 9.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.

Entry fee:Yes.

Disabled access: Yes

Johannesburg Botanical Garden

The 148-hectare botanical garden, which runs along the Highveld slope from the western bank of the Emmarentia dam, is one of the quietest places in the city. The dam has a sailing and canoeing club, and there’s a gorgeous, terraced, classic-style rose garden that is said to be the largest in the world. Although there is a park keeper, you should only visit remote areas of the garden in a group. Picnics and braais (barbecues) are allowed at the designated places. In the shady restaurant you can get excellent tea and scones as well as snacks.

Address: Olifants Road, Emmarentia, Randburg
Phone: (011) 782 05 17
Entry fee:No.

Disabled access: Yes

Johannesburg Zoo

At the Johannesburg Zoo, visitors can see the Big Five, the five most dangerous animals in Africa for hunters, all at once. The zoo enjoys great international renown and is home to more than 2000 animals that live in spacious, green enclosures.

Visitors can book day or night tours and behind-the-scenes tours. With the Zoo Ferry pulled by a tractor, you can quickly look around before walking, and the facilities are particularly child and disabled friendly.

The enclosures are divided into zones: Spice Route (“Spice Route”, animals from Asia), Heart of Africa (“In the Heart of Africa”, gorillas, chimpanzees and other Central African animal species), Southern Safari (indigenous animals of South Africa), Extreme Environments (“Extreme climates”, camels, polar bears and penguins) and Amazonia (animals of South America).

Address: Corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Upper Park Drive, Parkview, Johannesburg
Phone: (011) 646 20 00
Opening hours:Daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (last entry at 4:00 p.m.).

Entry fee:Yes.

Disabled access: Yes

Lesedi Cultural Village

Lesedi means “light” in Sotho and is the nickname of the founder of the Basotho Nation (Lesotho), King Moshoeshoe. The two-and-a-half-hour experience in this cultural village includes authentic folk dances, guided tours of replica Zulu, Ndebele, Xhosa and Pedi villages and a traditional meal in the Nyama Choma restaurant. There is also a fully equipped conference center and guest bungalows with bathrooms.

Address: Broederstroom, on the R512 towards Hartbeespoort Dam, Johannesburg
Phone: (012) 205 13 94 or (0800) 11 90 00
Entrance fee:Yes.

Disabled access: No

Melville Village

Not far from the city center, Melville’s neighborly atmosphere is created by the somewhat chaotic mix of residential and commercial buildings. It can even happen that you mistakenly go into the apartment of a private person and ask yourself where the waitress is. The main streets, especially Seventh Street, are worth a stroll. You can visit shops for old books and antiques or even body piercing salons, or just watch people in the street cafe. Many of Melville’s most beautiful houses – some dating from the 19th century – have been converted into charming guest houses and guest houses and are enjoying increasing popularity among foreign visitors.

The Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, north of Melville, is popular with bird watchers and walkers with dogs, with its typical highveld flora and archaeological remains of Stone and Iron Age settlements. There are even remains of iron smelting furnaces from that time.

Melville Koppies Nature Reserve:
Entrance from Arundel Road at the north end of 3rd Avenue, Westdene
Address: Melville, accessible via Barry Hertzog Street, northern suburbs, Johannesburg
Phone: (011) 482 47 97
Entry fee:No entry fee.

Disabled access: Yes


A few years ago, this central part of Johannesburg was still a run-down slum, surrounded by gloomy, dilapidated cooling towers and the huge, abandoned turbine hall of the city’s first coal-fired power station. The general state of decay and neglect was ubiquitous in the Central Business District.

In 1998, the Central Johannesburg Partnership (CJP) was founded as a private, non-profit organization to revitalize the city. Since then, Newtown has changed radically. The old cooling towers have been torn down, Mary Fitzgerald Square has been fortified, the new Nelson Mandela Bridge has been built, which runs over 40 railroad tracks and connects Newtown with Braamfontein, and the new Metro Mall station for minibus taxis has been built. Beautification work has also been carried out on long-standing sights such as the Market Theater, the MuseumAfrica and the Oriental Plaza. Newer attractions such as the Horror Cafe (the café theater opposite the Electric Workshop), Bassline (jazz club) and the South African Breweries World of Beer have also been renovated.

The famous MuseumAfrica, South Africa’s first new museum after the fall of the apartheid regime, and the Market Theater are housed in a magnificent Victorian building that was formerly the urban fruit and vegetable market until the mostly Indian traders in the nearby Oriental Plaza had to move. In the plaza you can have a wonderful Indian meal or buy clothes and fabrics at low prices. Bollywood music is available for free.

The Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, the Museum of South Africa Rock Art and the Bernberg Museum of Fashion are part of the MuseumAfrica. The themes of the exhibitions are diverse and range from early people to the struggle against apartheid.

The Market Theater complex houses three theaters: the Main Theater, the Laager Theater and the Barney Simon Theater. A lot of protest theater against the regime could be seen in the Market Theater. Pioneering pieces such as Athol Fugard’s Sizwe Banzi is Dead (1973) and Mbongeni Ngemas Sarafina (1988) were also premiered there. Political satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys (in the role of his alter ego Evita Bezuidenhout) performed his sold-out anti-apartheid one-man shows here.

Kippies (a converted Victorian toilet) has long been considered the best jazz club in Johannesburg, and here the music still crashes every weekend. Just a few steps from the entrance to the Market Theater, opposite the museum and beyond Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown Park, is the new Bassline (previously in Melville), another top-notch jazz club. The South African Breweries (SAB) World of Beer offers tours and exhibitions about beer brewing, with the mandatory beer tasting at the end. There are also replicas of a Shebeen pub and a dive bar from early mining times.

Newtown can be reached from the M1 expressway or the Nelson Mandela Bridge from Bertha Street in Braamfontein to Ntemi Piliso Street in Newtown.

121 Bree Street
Tel: (011) 833 56 24.
With entrance fee.

Market Theater
121 Bree Street
Tel: (011) 832 16 41.
With admission fee.

SAB World of Beer
15 President Street
Tel: (011) 836 49 00.
With admission fee.

Horror Café
15 Miriam Makeba Street
Tel: (011) 838 67 35.
With admission fee.

Oriental Plaza
Sixth Avenue, Fordsburg
Tel: (011) 838 65 72.
Free entry.

Address: Johannesburg
Disabled Access: No


During decades of struggle against a tyrannical regime of white supremacy, the residents of Soweto (short for South Western Townships) were living symbols of the victory over oppression. Nelson Mandela, a political icon of the late 20th century, lived in Soweto before being sentenced to life in prison for treason (and serving 27 years) by the apartheid regime. Just to get a feel for the environment that formed such a man, you should not miss visiting Soweto (Internet: ).

Although Soweto is officially part of the Johannesburg metropolitan area, it is separated from the outskirts by an extensive mining waste dump and a heavily trafficked motorway. Thousands of tiny, community-owned apartment buildings with just two rooms, bleak miners’ dormitories and pompous villas line up in this frighteningly sprawling township. Originally only intended as temporary housing for temporary workers of the formerly very profitable Witwatersrand gold mine, today around one million people live in Soweto.

Visitors wanting to see where South Africa’s peaceful revolution was developing will be surprised by the total lack of tourist facilities. The contrast between the barren surroundings and the lively, friendly residents is also striking.

Since there are no street signs or safe public transportation, it’s best to explore Soweto with a good tour operator. Half-day tours to historically relevant places in Soweto or evening tours through the Shebeen pubs are interesting.

Historical tours include visits to the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, the former homes of Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Regina Mundi Church, Walter Sisulu Square of Independence, the Avalon Cemetery, and Chris -Hani-Baragwanath Hospital, the Winnie Madikizela-Mandelas apartment and Morris Isaacson School (where the student uprising began in 1976). Hector Pieterson, only 13 years old, was one of the first of numerous students who were shot by the police on June 16, 1976. The memorial also contains a poignant photo of journalist Sam Nzima, which shows how Hector’s lifeless body is carried through Soweto’s chaotic streets and his 17-year-old sister walks along sobbing.

Next to the memorial is the newly opened Hector Pieterson Museum, which tells the story of June 16 in a creative way with the help of moving photos and film recordings. Within the walls of the Regina Mundi Catholic Church, where hundreds of protest gatherings took place, the bullet holes of the shots at the sheltering students can still be seen.

The Walter Sisulu Square of Independence (formerly called Peace Square) in Kliptown, the oldest part of Soweto, is the place where the Freedom Charter was presented at a mass rally by the ANC. The Freedom Charter called for equality for all, and Walter Sisulu, who gave the square its name after his death in 2003, was one of the ANC delegates. In 1955 it was just a dusty piece of land, but since 2003 it has been developed as a tourist attraction and is now a beautiful place with a number of monuments and tourist information.

South Africa’s Communist Party leader Joe Slovo, who died of cancer in 1995, was the first white man to be buried in Avalon Cemetery. After Nelson Mandela, the most important anti-apartheid activist Chris Hani, who was murdered in 1993, gave his name to Baragwanath Hospital, the largest hospital in the world. After Mandela was released from prison, he built a villa for his estranged wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s in Soweto, where the ex-wife of the former President of South Africa still lives and is highly regarded.

An evening Shebeen tour illuminates the entertainment value of Soweto. The word comes from the vocabulary of Irish miners, but today it is synonymous with the varied and sometimes noisy nightlife of Soweto residents. These informal pubs were prohibited during the apartheid regime. Some are just a few stools in front of a hut, others are modern and dazzling night clubs.

Some shebeens have adjusted their menus and prices to suit the number of tourists, but that cannot be said of Wandi’s Place (Dube). There is traditional cuisine here, such as umngqusho (stew made from mashed beans and corn), morogo (wild spinach) and chakalaka (chilli and bean salad), which is always popular in Soweto. Guests pinned thousands of business cards to one wall.

B’s Place (Orlando East) is located in an extension of a small residential building from the 1930s. On the wall are cut newspaper articles about Soweto during the apartheid era. Sorghum beer (made from millet) is served with traditional township dishes such as mogodu (tripe) and pap (corn porridge).

Tebogo calls his trendy tavern The Rock – “New York in Soweto” – and this is where the up-and-coming class of young black business people gathers. Eating traditional or modern African while pictures of Johannesburg are projected onto the walls.

The first shebeens were all housed in the typical two-room cottages of Soweto. At Pinky’s Place, drinks are still served in the living room, with an adjoining outdoor dance floor under a thatched roof.

Tours in Soweto are available from Jimmy’s Face-to-Face Tours (Tel: (011) 331 61 09; Internet: or JMT Tours (Tel: (011) 980 60 38; Internet: www. booking. The guides are residents of Soweto who know how to bring the history and character of this township to life.

Address: Soweto, 15 minutes west of the center of Johannesburg, Johannesburg
Entrance fee:With entrance fee for tours.

Disabled access: No

Tourist offices

Gauteng Tourism Authority

The tourism authority also has information kiosks at OR Tambo International Airport (Tel: (011) 390 36 02, open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.); at the African Craft Market in the Rosebank shopping center (Tel: (011) 390 36 14, open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.); and at the Sandton City Mall (Tel: (011) 784 95 97, open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Address: Newtown
1 Central Place, corner of Henry Nxumalo Street and Jeppe Street, Mary-Fitzgerald-Platz, Johannesburg
Phone: (011) 639 16 00
Opening hours:Mon-Fri 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Tourist Office of Johannesburg

Address: Parktown North
195 Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg
Phone: (011) 214 07 00
Hours:Mon-Fri 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sa 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.


Visitor passes

There are currently no visitor passes in Johannesburg.

Zebras grazing near Johannesburg