Did you know that Johannesburg was founded in 1886 when gold was discovered on the reef? It was only expected to be a temporary town.
Or that it is one of the largest cities in the world not built near a sea or major river?
Or that it is an incredibly high city, sitting at 5 900 feet above sea level at its highest point?
We heard these facts, along with other interesting trivia and entertaining anecdotes, on the City Sightseeing Johannesburg Bus commentary.
Johannesburg is a vibrant, cosmopolitan, continuously changing, multi-faceted city that will present you with contrasts from every angle. Even though I’ve lived here for most of my life, I love playing tourist every now and then, and it still surprises me frequently.
It had been years since I had last been on the City Sightseeing Johannesburg Bus, and I was keen to experience it again, especially as there had been a few changes since my last trip. In addition to the original red route, thehop-on hop-off red bus now has a green route too, which takes one through the verdant Northern suburbs of the city.
The City Sightseeing Johannesburg Bus offices are located at The Zone shopping centre in Rosebank, conveniently close to the Rosebank Gautrain station, and we headed there to collect our tickets and earphones. The guide then took us, along with many other foreign tourists, past the shopping centre’s parking area where the bus was waiting. We headed to the seats in the uncovered section at the top of the double-decker bus, plugged in our ear phones and began the Green Tour, guided by the insightful audio commentary which is available in 15 languages and there’s a kids’ channel too.
The Green Tour lasts one-and-a-half hours without stops and ends at Constitution Hill where you can switch over to the Red Tour, which takes two hours. During our tour, we saw the city’s many faces as we drove through the affluent suburbs and the downtown suburbs, the green areas that show why Joburg has one of the biggest man-made forests in the world and the dense CBD where you can see its status as an economic powerhouse.
In the process, we saw street art, monuments and mine shafts throughout the city that we hadn’t noticed before. Sitting at the top of the double-decker bus also gave us a great vantage point from which to take photos of the jacarandas covering Joburg in October.
Probably the world’s only theme park built over a gold mine, Gold Reef City is South Africa’s premier amusement park. Here, you can enjoy over 30 rides, watch a 4D movie, go on a tour of one of the deepest underground mines in the world, witness a gold pouring demonstration, pan for gold and visit gold miners’ houses which haven’t changed in over 100 years.
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.
Constitution Hill is a museum and former prison where you can learn about South Africa's turbulent past. Famous former inmates include Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Fatima Meer and Daisy De Melker.
It is also home to the new Constitutional Court, and on weekdays, you may see the court in session.
The James Hall Museum of Transport is a fascinating museum where you can marvel at the quaint transport from South Africa’s past. The collection includes animal-drawn carts, steam locomotives, electric cars, rickshaws, fire engines and penny-farthings.
The Johannesburg Zoo is a fun and educational outing, especially with younger children. It has over 2000 animals of 320 species, and a farmyard section.
This popular picnic and recreation area near the Johannesburg Zoo surrounds a manmade lake where you can row boats and feed the ducks. The walk around the lake is gentle and pleasant. You can also have a picnic on the lawns or take the kids to the play areas.
Carlton Centre was the tallest building in Africa until 2019, when it was surpassed by The Leonardo in Sandton, and the Iconic Tower in Egypt. One can go to the top for great birds-eye views of the inner city.
The South African National War Museum was opened in 1947 by former Prime Minister Jan Smuts. It boasts a collection of World War 1 and 2 fighter planes, including the first jet engine fighter plane made, military tanks used by the South African Defence Force, and other war memorabilia like medals, military insignia and uniforms.
In Newtown, you can go back in time through the history of the African continent at MuseumAfrica or test your scientific skills at Sci-Bono, an interactive science centre.
Keep your camera ready. The bus makes a brief stop at the Munro drive viewpoint for some panoramic views of Johannesburg all the way to the Magaliesberg mountains.
Operating on Saturdays only, The Playground is a weekly market artisan market offering food, drinks and live entertainment.
The City Sightseeing Johannesburg bus also has a separate Soweto extension tour in a minibus taxi which we did a few years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. If you plan to get off at all the stops, then I would suggest taking a two-day pass, or else a one-day pass will be sufficient. Since we had been to all the stops already, we just stayed on the bus and enjoed the ride.
The bus provides a good overview of the city especially if you are short of time. If you are a local, like me, it’s a fun day out in Joburg.
Good to know
Your ticket entitles you to free entry at The Playground in Braamfontein, discounted prices at Gold Reef City, Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill as well as 10% off your next City Sightseeing Bus tour anywhere in the world.
For more information and to book, visit City Sightseeing Johannesburg Bus
Read about the City Sightseeing Cape Town Bus.
See more things to do in Johannesburg.
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