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 19th century.
There is more to this cosmopolitan city than shopping. If you are visiting Johannesburg, or just looking for things to do in the city, here is a list of family-friendly things to do in greater Johannesburg and the surrounding area. However even if you don’t have kids with you, you will still enjoy most of 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.
The hop-on hop-off bus is a great way to see the highlights of Johannesburg if you are visiting the city for the first time. However, even if you have stayed here all your life, you can see Joburg from a different perspective and learn things about the city you never knew. The bus will take you to the main attractions in Johannesburg included many of those listed here. It also has a Soweto extension, which I would highly recommend.
Read more about The City Sightseeing Bus Johannesburg.
A visit to Gold Reef City is one of the most fun things to do in Johannesburg. South Africa’s only theme park, it is located on an old gold mine and 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.
Read more about Gold Reef City.
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.
Read more about Sci-Bono.
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?
One of South Africa’s ten 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.
Read more about the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens.
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.
Read more about Nizamiye Mosque..
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.
Read more about the Apartheid Museum.
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.
Read more about Liliesleaf Farm..
Soweto is the biggest township in Johannesburg and Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world to have produced two Nobel Prize winners—Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. It is also where 13-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot dead, sparking the riots on 16 June 1976.
No 8115 Vilakazi Street in Soweto is one of the most important Mandela sites in South Africa. It 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. There are several other interesting places to visit in Soweto too, like the Hector Pietersen Museum.
Alexandra Township is the oldest, and one of the most historic, townships in Johannesburg. It is also where Nelson Mandela first lived when he came to Johannesburg. Read more about Alexandra Township.
Constitution Hill is a former prison and military fort where world-renowned heroes including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were imprisoned.
Read more about Constitution Hill.
Although I am not a fan of animals in captivity, not everyone can afford to go on a safari. And zoos have some educational value, especially for children, as long as the animals are taken care of well. The Johannesburg Zoo is a fun and educational outing, especially with younger children.
Read more about the Johannesburg Zoo.
Hiking may not be something one would expect in a busy city but Johannesburg does have one of the biggest man-made forests in the world. There are several reserves where one can hike in and around Johannesburg like Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve and Modderfontein Nature Reserve, which have natural springs, dams, grassland and hills. Most of these reserves also have wildlife so you can do some game-viewing while you hike.
This is a popular picnic and recreation area surrounding a lake. You can row boats and feed the ducks. There are on-site restaurants and kids' playgrounds too.
These sprawling gardens border the Emmarentia Dam. Among its features are a rose garden, a Shakespeare-inspired garden and a Huguenot memorial. You can rent canoes, watch the ducks and have a picnic.
This is South Africa's largest land transport museum. It has a large collection of vintage transport dating back to 400 years ago! There are some quirky vehicles too, like this orange-inspired one.
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.
Read more about Lindfield House.
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.
Read more about The Collectors' Treasury.
Visit the Top of Africa, on the 50th floor of Carlton Centre - the tallest building in Africa - for the best panoramic views of Johannesburg. (2023 Update - this is no longer possible)
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.
Read more about Maropeng and the Cradle of Humankind..
20. 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..
21. Johannesburg Planetarium
This was the first full-sized planetarium in Africa. They have regular shows on space.
22. Origins Centre
The Origins Centre is home to an extensive collection of palaeo-anthropological and archaeological materials, including rock art and fossils.
23. The Adler Museum of Medicine
Learn about the history of medicine at The Adler Museum of Medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand's Medical School Campus in Parktown. It is home to over 40 000 objects that illustrate the history of medicine and dentistry through the ages.
24. Soweto Towers
Originally the cooling towers of a decommissioned coal-fired power station, the Soweto 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.
25. Satyagraha House
Visit Satyagraha House, the former home of Mahatma Gandhi. He stayed there from 1908 to 1909. It has now been converted into a guesthouse and museum.
26. Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton is home to Madiba's post-presidential office which has been preserved as he left it when he was last in the building. It also houses a state-of-the-art archive and exhibition spaces, where you can see replicas of important items in Madiba's life and other memorabilia.
27. Honeydew Mazes
Honeydew Mazes is a great place for a family, friends, or teambuilding outing. They have a giant elemental maze made out of reeds and smaller mazes for young kids. In summer, they also have a maize maze. Teams are given a clipboard with riddles, which they have to answer by going through the maze and finding the randomly placed clues, as well as completing the tasks in the pretty secret gardens.
28. Acrobranch Melrose
Acrobranch is a must for adrenalin junkies. Set in the James and Ethel Gray Park in Melrose, it is an aerial adventure consisting of zip lines, tightropes, ladders, swing bridges and other obstacles which take you from tree to tree. Your balance, strength and endurance will be seriously tested.
29. The Joburg Theatre Complex
Local and international productions are held here for children and adults.
30. FNB stadium
31. Hashtag Escape
This is one of Johannesburg's most popular escape rooms. It offers players three distinct experiences - the widest selection available in Johannesburg. Players have to work in teams to uncover clues and solve puzzles within a limited period of time.
32. 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.
33. Mzansi Theme Park, Muldersdrift
Formerly known as Happy Island Waterworld, Mzansi Theme Park is a waterpark with a variety of pools and water slides. It even has an artificial beach.
Stroll through the Maboneng Precinct and explore its other attractions.
35. Weekend markets
Visit the weekend markets.
36. Pretoria / Tshwane
Visit Pretoria / Tshwane, South Africa's administrative capital and explore Pretoria's attractions.
37. Explore the Hartbeespoort area
38. Weekend getaways
Go on a weekend getaway
What are your favourite things to do in Johannesburg ? Let me know below.
See my recommended places to stay in Johannesburg.
Find more accommodation in Johannesburg.
See the GPSmyCity guide.
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Things you must do in South Africa
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