3 Things You MUST Do When Visiting Johannesburg for the First Time
So it’s your first time going to Johannesburg. And you want to plan the perfect itinerary. I have the answers for you in this post! And they’re all under $7.
Jozi is one of my favorite cities in the world.
There is so much to do, so you can’t go wrong with company or traveling solo. Either way you will fill yourself up on an amazing experience.
From March to April of this year, I had the privilege of living in Joburg. I wrote about the neighborhood I stayed in called Maboneng and their Sunday market vibes here. Please check this out if you’re going on a weekend.
I had some off the beaten path moments, like partying in Alexandra at a hip-hop spot, which I wrote about here. Or walking in the Ancient healer’s market, where I wasn’t allowed to take photos, during a tour with Curiocity Backpackers.
There is Melville, Sandton and Parkhurst, which is are more suburban. Then there is Braamfontein in the inner city, where students and young adults hang. It has a vibrant creative and nightlife scene. Soweto, once the home of the Great Nelson Mandela, is the heart of Joburg’s rich history. Most importantly, the people were very very kind to me.
The list goes on!
But for this post I’m focusing on three things I think every visitor should see in Johannesburg. I’m only recommending things I’ve done myself :). All of these activities are under $7.
Here we go:
1) Museums: Apartheid Museum and Soweto/Mandela’s Home
Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum serves as one of the invaluable markers of South Africa’s dark past.
I visited twice and each time I learned something new. You can take two or more hours to walk through. You’ll learn about the early history of the country up until the year Apartheid was outlawed in 1994.
My cousin and I were both crying by the end of the exhibits. I think it is worth going with someone, if you can, to discuss and unload the messages after. It was heavy especially for a Black American who has experienced racism in our own country. So be aware this may trigger some of those emotions if you’ve had any similar experiences. Overall, the museum does an amazing job of honoring the individuals and groups who fought for freedom and peace for Black people in their homeland.
When I visited in 2015, my best friend and I woke up early and went to Soweto first before heading to the Apartheid museum.
In Soweto, we took a walking tour to Vilakazi Street, which included a visit to Mandela’s House. You will also learn about the Soweto student uprising of 1976. The protest was against the school system, which was forcing students to learn in Afrikaans, a language not their own. It’s disheartening to see students in Cape Town going through similar issues, now 40 years later. Additionally, this is the township where Desmond Tutu lived.
Getting There: You have to drive. So you can take an Uber, which is about $2 a mile. But I would highly highly suggest taking the get on and get off red city bus tour. There are two kinds of tickets. You can just buy the Johannesburg bus tour, which covers the inner city and includes the Apartheid Museum. Or you can purchase the Joburg city and Soweto combo. This is what I did when I visited and it included the walking tour I mentioned above and a visit to Mandela’s House. You are going to save a lot of money and you will at least have some guidance. Be sure to check the times for the first and last bus. Also you can get a discount at the Apartheid Museum if you show them your bus ticket.
2) Eat Braai!
Johannesburg has all the culinary offerings you can find anywhere else in the world. From Italian to burgers to sushi.
But it’s that good old braai, which is the South African style of what Americans would call barbecue, that won me over. There was a Braai shop, I visited many many times called Sharp Braai in Maboneng. I ate a meal of braai steak and chicken for $4. It is served with another staple called pap, which is very similar to grits. You can get it to go or stay and eat at this shop. The photo above may not do you any justice. Sorry! lol
If you’re vegan or vegetarian and not with the meat, don’t fret. There was a restaurant called Eat Your Heart Out just near by the shop above. So you have options. If all else fails, use Zomato to search for places to eat. Yelp isn’t in SA.
3) See Views from Top of Africa
Last but certainly not least is Top of Africa, the tallest building in the continent at 50 floors. It is located at the Carlton Centre, which is a shopping mall and office building.
More importantly, the viewing deck at the top offers magnificent views of Johannesburg. I took the photo above from there.
You can take a guided tour or walk around by yourself. This is also a stop on the red city bus tour, as I mentioned above. It’s something you can do in less than 30 minutes. And it costs you less than $2.
Look out for a longer version of my time in Joburg soon. I can’t wait to share it with you guys.
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