The largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg is the ever-developing heart of the Country. Often referred to as Jo-Burg or Jozi’s, this friendly, buzzing city is growing at a rapid rate. Explore this diverse city where affluence sits side by side with the poor. Successful regeneration projects are leading the way to bridge the gap between rich and poor and make the city a completely inclusive place once more.
Soak up the history, sample the culture and enjoy the nightlife in South Africa’s ‘city of gold’.
Getting to and from Johannesburg.
Serviced by two airports, Johannesburg is a destination that is easy to get to. International flights arrive in O.R. Tambo International Airport and you can fly here with numerous airlines from all over the world.
Domestic flights usually Fly into Lanseria Airport. This is usually where you will land if flying in from cape town and where airlines Mango and Kuala offer great value along this route.
Flying from Cape Town takes around two hours and you will always find a flight time to suit. With airlines FlySafair, Mango, British Airways, South African Airways and Kulula all offering flights along this route there is quite a variation in price depending on who you fly with, the time of the flight and of course the demand at the time.
Durban to Johannesburg will take you just over an hour by air. Quick and easy to get between these two big cities flying with operators Mango, FlySafair, South African Airways, Kulula and British Airways.
More limited flights are available from East London, George, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. Standard economy seats are reasonably priced for direct flights on local carriers.
Wherever you are from within the country or further afield, you are sure to find it a breeze to get to and from Johannesburg.
How to get to the centre from the airport.
Tambo International airport is located 14 miles from the city centre. Options to get to the centre from the airport include by train, bus, taxi or limo!
For a tourist who does not know the area, a taxi is by far the safest bet when arriving in Johannesburg. Metered taxis are recognised by the roof top yellow taxi lights and can be found just outside the terminal area. Drivers will take you directly to your door and the ride takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
Unless you have someone who can guide you it is best not to use public transportation from the airport. However the Rea Vaya offers affordable travel stopping every 500m in its dedicated bus lane. Catch these outside both domestic and International terminals.
The new ‘Gautrain’ train lines offer links to the suburbs of Pretoria and Sandton with bus and parking options at the station. They are a good quick way to get these destinations and the locals are very proud of their ‘gold train’.
When is the best time to visit Johannesburg?
All seasons have something to offer in this spectacular city. Summer, that’s October to April, brings warm weather rising anywhere between a low of 15C and highs of 25C. October and November are the milder months when the first rains of the season have fallen and the place is starting to look a little greener.
As you move on to December and January the temperatures become hotter. Visitors are advised to keep out of the sun when it is at its hottest and make sure you use sun cream to protect yourself from high UV rays.
Winter in Johannesburg brings cooler temperatures and significantly little rain. This means the skies are often blue and cloudless. May to September is classed as winter here, with June being the coldest month. Average temperatures range from 16C to 4C and on a very cold night it could even dip to below freezing.
Peak tourist season in Johannesburg and when to see animals.
Although Johannesburg is visited all year round, there are some tips that may help you choose when to go. Summer is often popular with visitors and December and January can be busier due to local education holidays.
You might see a hotel price increase during Easter, Christmas and New Year as these times can bring more people to the city to celebrate.
Going on Safari is a favourite for tourists here and different seasons bring different advantages to animal viewing.
There are plenty of options to experience Kruger tours from Johannesburg too, so if you looking to get out the city then this is a great way to do it.
Winter brings less vegetation and better viewing conditions. Waterholes draw more animals meaning they are easier to spot during this time of the year.
Summer on the other hand, brings pretty vegetation adorable new-born animals and a chance to spot migrating birds.
Top sights worth exploring
Johannesburg, with its turbulent past and struggle with equality, tells its story through the many museums and sights found in the city today.
• The Apartheid museum
Spread over 22 exhibition areas, this museum depicts the struggle for freedom through photographs, videos and other thought provoking items. Prepare for an emotional experience as the story of the apartheid is expressively told, shaping the South Africa we know today.
• Johannesburg Constitution Hill
Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandella were both imprisoned within these walls overlooking the city. This former prison gives visitors a real insight into the history of the brutal treatment of the inmates held here. The Number Four museum, the Women’s Gaol museum and the Old Fort Museum give a unique insight to the past and the present workings to protect the rights of people today.
• Gold Reef City
For a fun filled family day out why not take the trip to this ‘Gold Rush’ themed park. With thrill rides, historic exhibits and building reproductions, not to mention tours of what was once one of the richest gold mines in the world. Gold Reef City has something for everyone to enjoy young or old.
• Soweto and Mandela House museum
Although 20 k from the city centre, most visitors take the trip out to Soweto to visit the most popular attraction here Mandela House museum. An area of past planned segregation, today you will find shanties and mansions side by side showing a real contrast to life here. Guided tours are offered which include meeting local residents and the modest house museum where Nelson Mandela lived with his wife Winnie before he was imprisoned for 27 years.
If you like markets, then this is the place to visit. Find local food as well as tastes from all around the world in the main market square. This neighbourhood has much to offer, relax and watch the world go by in one of the many cafes, wander the eclectic mix of shops and soak up some culture in local art galleries. Trendy and vibrant enjoy this special place in the city.
• Museum Africa
Taking its visitors back in time to Africa’s first civilisations, including ancient Egypt, then known as Kemet. Its aim is connect generations of Africans with their rich history and a place which the ancients called Gods country. Be wowed by the impressive collection of rock art and inspired by the linguistic and archaeology exhibits. Admission to this cultural experience is absolutely free too.
• Zoo Lake
Part of Hermann Eckstein Park and located opposite Johannesburg zoo, this zoo lake is a peaceful welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can hire a boat to explore the lake eat at one of the lake restaurants or bring along a picnic.
• South African National Museum of Military History
An interesting museum which depicts the country’s past involvement in military history. Here will you find military records, journals and weapons including the G5 cannon. If you are interested in South Africa’s past conflicts then you will enjoy a visit to this museum.
• Lesedi cultural village
Located in the world heritage site the Cradle of Mankind, this village gives it’s visitors a real lesson in African culture and history. There are five traditional homesteads where Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele tribes live. They keep the tribal folklore traditions of their ancestors alive and you have to chance to learn first-hand about tribal life.
Rugby and Cricket are favourites when it comes to sport in South Africa and if you want to catch a game or take a stadium tour why not try the Wanderers Stadium. This is where the 2003 Cricket World Cup Final was played and the Highveld Lions now play.
What to eat in Johannesburg?
As with many major cities there is a wide variety of both local and international cuisine to be enjoyed in Johannesburg.
Here are some local dishes you ought to try:
Braais or Shisa nyama – this barbecued street food that originated in Johannesburg is a real feast for meat lovers. A celebration, as well as a meal find many different meats grilled by butchers, rub shoulders and listen to music with locals at the weekend.
Chakalaka and pap- a staple South African meal which is a vegetable dish with onions, tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beans and spices with a corn maize dish like American ‘Grits’.
Biltong and droewors- another favourite often eaten as a snack. Biltong is air dried meat which is thinly sliced and droewors is air dried sausage. You are likely to find these sold slightly spiced and made with meats such as springbok and ostrich.
Places to eat
As well as the street food and markets which you must try, there are some great restaurants in the city. Providing regularly good food are Wombles and Tashas, as well as the highly rated Five Hundred and Cube tasting Kitchen.
Families will love Papachinos, and many Asian restaurants can been found in the city’s small China Town.
With Johannesburg’s diverse neighbourhoods you are sure to find some places to eat and drink suited to you.
What to drink in Johannesburg?
Find your favourite tipple in the broad range of bars of this up and coming city. From cocktail bars to traditional pubs and beautiful rooftop bars what’s not to love?
Beer and wine are by far the most popular alcoholic drinks to be enjoyed in Johannesburg. You could also try the locally produced Umqombothi, a Xhosa beer which is made from corn and has a lower alcoholic content than regular beer.
If you enjoy a beer, then take the SAB World of Beer tour. Get an insight into the history and origins of the drink in South Africa. Learn about the brewing process, sample raw barley and hops before experiencing the beer tasting.
There are also a variety of wine tours available and if you are really keen visit during the annual Vaal River Meander Wine Route. There are seventeen different venues to try and dozens of wine estates represented along the route. The festival usually takes place from the beginning of July up until the end of August and tickets can be booked in advance.
Best bars to visit
Rooftop bars are the place to be at sunset and a popular choice is the rooftop island bar on the pool deck of the hotel Hyde Park Sandton. Another great option is Sir James van der Merwe in Sandton with its stunning eclectic décor and rooftop view, no wonder it’s a busy spot at sundown!
For a more elegant evening why not try some fine cocktails at the Landmark Cocktail bar in Bryanston or sip champagne at Level Four in Rosebank.
If you want a bar with a more local feel, check out Radium Beer Hall or Kitchener’s Carvery bar. However, you feel find a place to party or relax whilst enjoying your evening beverage.
How much will you spend?
Johannesburg is said to have half the cost of living compared to similar sized European cities. So if you are used to travelling to those destinations then Johannesburg will pleasantly surprise you.
How far your money will go here will of course depend on your budget and how you intend to travel. It is possible to have a fabulous time whilst sticking to a tight budget, however some of the more expensive restaurants and bars may have to be avoided.
As mentioned earlier it is best to opt for taxis as a safer alternative to public transport. Taxis are relatively cheap and you can even use Uber as with many big cities. Fares for a short distance can start from around 50R which is around 4USD. Expect to pay between 300R and 400R from the airport (23-30 US DOLLARS).
Many visitors also opt to hire a car for the duration of their stay. To really get around, a car is the best way to do it. Shop around for hire costs before you visit to be sure of a god deal.
Eating Out in Johannesburg
If you want to eat out on a budget but still eat out in restaurants you can expect to pay around 60R for a fast food meal (5USD) or up to 200R for a main meal in an average restaurant (15USD)
If you really want to splash the cash then top restaurants tasting menus with wine or champagne can set you back 2000R (150USD).
Tours and activities
It won’t cost you much to get a good tour around Johannesburg. A city tour will cost around 600R and give you a good all round overview of the city. You could also try the city bus tour where you can get on and off the bus at your chosen destinations or stay along for the ride.
A tour of the neighbourhood Soweto is high priority for many tourists and a half day tour can cost around 700R (55USD)
Further afield tours include another favourite, a safari tour. For a full long day trip expect to pay around 2000R (150USD)
There are bargains to be had when shopping in Johannesburg whether that’s at markets or malls there’s plenty to quench your thirst to shop. One of the best shopping locations is the Mall in Rosebank with its wide range of outlets is elegant and sophisticated and is compared to European shopping centres.
For craft bargains the African market and neighbourhood markets are a great. Bring along your change and haggling skills and don’t leave without making a good deal.
Best neighbourhoods to stay in Johannesburg.
The things you should consider when choosing a place to stay are the safety of the neighbourhood for tourists, proximity to local attractions, bars and restaurants you wish to visit and how you want to spend your nights.
Safety should be your number one priority and the local authority in Johannesburg are doing a lot to ensure the safety of visitors in the city. Just by making sure you stay in a safe neighbourhood and be aware of your surroundings you will ensure your stay is enjoyable.
Rosebank and Melrose
Described as some of the safest areas in the city, Rosebank and Melrose are also some of the most affluent. Tourists are catered for well here, with plenty of amenities and attractions to keep you entertained.
Rosebank is a very popular place to stay and you can see why with its abundance of bars and restaurants, art galleries such as Cherie De Villiers gallery and for souvenir shopping, the African craft market and the rooftop flea market.
Melrose is directly next to Rosebank and is a quieter area to stay compared to Rosebank. Traditional architecture and pretty tree- lined streets make it a wonderful place to wander around. There is also the Melrose Wild Bird Sanctuary to visit, where you can see over 120 wild bird species.
Although a financial district and home to the stock exchange, Sandton is another popular place to stay. Centred around Nelson Mandela Square, this safe neighbourhood boasts high end restaurants, great cafes and bars, as well as shopping malls and entertainment complexes.
Which hotel to choose?
There are a wide range of hotels and accommodation available depending on how much you wish to spend here.
If you are looking for luxury, then really spoil yourself by staying at The Saxon Boutique and Spa. Although located in Sandhurst, this retreat style hotel has sumptuous suites, a spa and pool and three restaurants to choose from.
Monarch hotel in the Rosebank area, provides the mix of historic architecture and furnishings with modern African art. Elegantly set in a garden, this hotel is close to all the amenities Rosebank has to offer.
For a self-catering option why not check out the Villa Moyal in Melrose. With a fully equipped kitchen, your own patio area and access to the pool it’s a great property if you wish to come and go as you please.
Best Budget Hotels
If you are looking to save some money on your accommodation in Johannesburg there are a range of budget friendly stays that are easy on your pocket. Always check out the area before you book to make sure you are happy with where you are staying.
SUN1 Wynberg in Sandton offers a no-frills budget friendly hotel experience in this popular district. Enjoyed by those visiting for business and pleasure alike.
For hostels, you will have to venture further away from the main tourist areas. Curiocity backpackers hostel offers a stay in the newly developed Maboneng precinct. Whereas Lebos Soweto backpackers offers an altogether different stay in the Soweto township. It also offers the opportunity to take interesting tours in the area.
There are so many accommodation options in this diverse city you can be sure you will find the right place for your perfect stay.
Only one thing left – let’s go!
Now you are armed with everything you need for a fantastic stay in Johannesburg, you just need to pack your bags and go. Check out these flight deals and start booking your dream trip today!