8 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Johannesburg

Jul 22, 2021

Situated in the heart of Africa, Johannesburg is the gateway to South Africa's wealth of natural wonders. In addition to its world-renowned restaurants, art, museums, and shopping, it's also known for its unique culture, friendly residents, and African wildlife.

If you visit in the middle of the year, you can attend the many celebrations held in Johannesburg, from the Vodacom 4-7 July Carnival and the Rosebank Market in August, to the Pretoria International Jazz Festival in July and the Gift City Arts Festival in November.

The area is also ideal for hikers, sports enthusiasts, and adventure-seekers. Adventure lovers will enjoy visiting one of the many local nature reserves or doing a tour of the Kruger National Park.

Top things to do in Johannesburg with kids include riding a train, playing a round at The Star, or shopping at Jozi-Bricks, a shopping mall with a bizarre-looking exterior and amazing shopping inside. See more top things to do in Johannesburg.

Cape Point

Photo of Cape Town
Cape Town: en.wikipedia.org

Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Point is a fine spot for a visit. Constructed as a century-old lighthouse, the building was modernized in the 1970s, with newer buildings housing its auxiliary and mechanical apparatus. The light still works, flashing each 3 seconds during its first-order period. The prominent Cape Point Lighthouse was modeled on the Lighthouse of Saint-Louis, Louisburg, Canada, one of the oldest lighthouses on the east coast of North America.

The Apartheid Museum

Photo of Apartheid Museum
Apartheid Museum: en.wikipedia.org

The Apartheid Museum is a fittingly gloomy reminder of South Africa's brutal history. The house of the apartheid government's leaders was turned into a museum to share the dark realities of the system that ended in 1994. The most notorious of the many atrocious exhibits here is the separate prison cells used for African political prisoners, with sharp, heavy doors and locks. Some of the other exhibits highlight the power and control of the Afrikaaner nationalism movement and white South Africa's attitudes to the country's non-white population.

Cape of Good Hope

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Castle of Good Hope: en.wikipedia.org

More than a million tourists flock to South Africa each year, spending most of their time in the tourist meccas of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Cape Point. But with unspoilt nature reserves like the Eastern and Western Cape, fabulous safari parks like Kruger, and a safari of its own, this is still South Africa. Why go? As a first port of call, for its spectacular views from the tip of Africa's peninsula. If you prefer to trek, there are many choices for guided hiking safaris that will take you to previously unaccessible parts of the southern countryside.

Nelson Mandela Square

Photo of Nelson Mandela Square
Nelson Mandela Square: en.wikipedia.org

Nelson Mandela Square is the large, crowded heart of the South African city of Johannesburg and is a fairly new addition to the city. The square sits in the shadow of the edifices of Johannesburg's inner-city business district, Sandton, and its influence extends throughout the surrounding area. The square is enclosed by banks and financial institutions, as well as a number of small shops, restaurants, and bars. The square itself is dominated by a large fountain and a series of water sprays used to improve air quality. It's an interesting spot to sit and read or watch the people around the square, which is also the site of an annual Johannesburg-based film festival.

Soweto Village

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Soweto: en.wikipedia.org

Soweto Village is a former village and now a suburb of Johannesburg, with winding streets filled with colorful houses, traditional shacks, open spaces, and lively activity. A visit to Soweto's Durban Street, where the people of the area sell their wares and display traditional Sotho crafts, is the quintessential way to get a sense of the area. There are also a number of museums which commemorate the 1960s uprising known as the Soweto Uprising. To learn more about the area, visit some of the museums, such as the Mandela Centre for Memory, a memorial to Nelson Mandela and the inspiration behind his life. It is best to book ahead for a tour, as the Mandela Centre is a popular visitor attraction.

National Zoological Gardens

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Johannesburg: en.wikipedia.org

The vast majority of the world's most charismatic and endangered big cats live in Africa, and Johannesburg is the only place you're likely to see them in the wild. This is largely because of the National Zoological Gardens, which comprises a 400-hectare reserve divided into five different sections. The Park's "nearest sister park" is Leopard City, where the four Africa's lions can be seen on public display, although this place is mainly geared toward tourists. The Wildebeest and Buffalo Savannah sections of the Park are home to smaller, but no less valuable animals like cheetahs and leopards, and the Leopard Cave houses rescued leopards, allowing visitors to come face to face with one of the world's most amazing predators.

Robben Island

Photo of Maximum Security Prison, Robben Island
Maximum Security Prison, Robben Island: en.wikipedia.org

In the harbor of Table Bay lies one of the seven hills on the shores of the country's capital city, Johannesburg, Robben Island (or eboniesland as it is known locally), which lies just off the coast. The name originated in the 1800s, after the most famous island to be used as a prison in South Africa. What makes the island different is the fact that it's been turned into a tourist attraction where visitors can experience a taste of what life was like for prisoners during the apartheid era of South African history. Today, visitors can tour the island as well as go on a Robben Island Bird's Nest boat tour to see African penguins in their natural habitat and learn more about the experiences of the penal colony. The South African government welcomes visitors who want to get a real glimpse of what life was like for the country's black majority. This is possible through tours organized by the South African National Parks. These tours range from the dramatic Desolations to the peaceful Encounters and also run dune drives to get a sense of the natural landscape. Although on the island there are no hotels or dining options, there is a variety of shops that sell food, games, and clothing, as well as numerous activities to do such as sea kayaking and parasailing.

Constitution Hill

Photo of Constitution Hill, Johannesburg
Constitution Hill, Johannesburg: en.wikipedia.org

Constitution Hill is where the first democratic parliament of South Africa met on February 3, 1910. There are four museums on the site, each one with exhibits on a different part of the country's history. Among the highlights are the Constitutional Assembly building, originally built for a Scottish Presbyterian mission and still used as the Assembly Hall for the South African Church of Scotland. Other interesting places of interest are the Art Deco Central Market built between 1924 and 1934 and the Women's Reception House, which was built in the early 1900s. Constitution Hill is one of Johannesburg's main attractions and is reached by subway or through the nearby City Hall station.