Johannesburg, South Africa: A Complete Travel Guide

Johannesburg also known as Jo’burg or Jozi, is a place with a combination of different cultures. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and also the most progressive, energetic, and happening place in the country.

This city has a rich history alongside new modern places with fun things to do. Many of the areas were reconditioned during the 2010 World Cup turning into cool spaces. The recent developments in this city have made it easier for tourists to tour around Johannesburg. 

The history of Johannesburg, South Africa is very very colorful. To know about any place, we must know the history of that place. So, let’s start with the history of Johannesburg, South Africa.

History of Johannesburg:

Johannesburg Travel Guide

Johannesburg was founded following the discovery of gold reef on the farm Langlaagte in 1886 and was established as a small village controlled by a Health Committee. It later became one of the four provinces of South Africa, but initially, it was a part of an independent Afrikaner or Boer republic, Transvaal.

Johannesburg became a municipality in 1897 as the population grew over the years. It was considered as a city in 1928 and was declared as the largest city in South Africa. The  City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality was formed in 2002 when Johannesburg joined ten other municipalities.

Today, it is the capital city of Gauteng and a center for learning and entertainment for all of Africa.

Culture of Johannesburg:

Johannesburg Travel: Complete Guide

Johannesburg is called the cultural center of South Africa. There is a wide variety of cultural sites which makes it a renowned area for creative and cultural industries. It is home to a number of prominent cultural landmarks, like Mary Fitzgerald Square.

National School of Arts, The University of Witwatersrand’s School of the Arts and the South African Ballet Theatre, as well as the Johannesburg Art Gallery, is situated in this city.

In Johannesburg, one can enjoy the city life without being freaked out. Public art is one of the ways to connect to this place. There are numerous art installations around the city of varied sizes like the statue of Albertina and Walter Sisulu in Ferreirasdorp or the Ernest Oppenheimer Park.

Another culture that is famous in the city is Graffiti. The hipster areas have a wonderful work of art by the Graffiti artists. The best works can be found in Jeppestown, or in Newtown under the highway, or near Mai Mai. Johannesburg has become a magnet for graffiti artists – they come from all over the world.

Food of Johannesburg:

Johannesburg Travel: Complete Guide

There is a lot of food items popular in Johannesburg, South Africa to talk about. Here is a list of different dishes that one need to try in case they they find themself in the city:

1. Pap

It comes from the Bantu tribes and is short of the term mieliepap. It is a Maize porridge and a main staple food in South African history. Pap is served with a variety of things like meaty stews, braai meat or creamy spinach. It was a traditional dish but during recent times even fast food joints like KFC serves this dish in these areas. Pap can be easily found in the local restaurants and shisanyamas—barbecues—around town. 

2. Vetkoek

Vetkoek comes from Dutch heritage and are deep fried delicacies. It is a mixture  of flour, yeast, sugar, and salt mixed to a simple dough, which is then divided into neat little balls. These are deep fried and transformed into golden crust exterior and a light, fluffy bread-like interior resembling a doughnut. Vetkoek, can be served plain, with syrup, or with a savory minced meat. In Johannesburg Vetkoek are eaten as on-the-go breakfast items found in mom and pop shops all over the city 

3. Braai/Shisanysama

Braai/ Shisanysama means barbeque. Africans have a taste for grilled meat. This dish was invented by nomadic people who had to hunt, shoot, and roast meat on open fires in the open air. The Bantu people preferred to roast mutton, goat or game. The Khoisan people also had grilled insects such as Mopani caterpillars, locusts, and termites. Today, in Johannesburg, preparing grilled meat standing near the fire is a culture enjoyed by the people across the city. There are numerous braai meat spots in Johannesburg. 

4. Biltong

It is a dish made of the meat by marinating it into a lot of spices like, coriander, cloves, and nutmeg. Biltong is an intrinsic part of South African culture, is found everywhere from gas stations to high-end restaurants. It can be made into sticks, cubes, thin slices, or strips, with fat or no fat. The local butcheries and meat markets serve the best Biltong. 

5. Chakalaka

It is a spicy salad which is eaten as a mandatory side dish in the area. It is a mixture of sauteed canned beans, grated carrots, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and spices. It adds to the taste of any plate of meat, vegetables, or starch from blandness. All shisanyamas in Johannesburg will serve a good chakalaka. 

Best Places to Visit in Johannesburg

Johannesburg, South Africa: Complete Travel Guide

There is a lot to do around Johannesburg. Johannesburg travel is oIt is a blend of various tourist attractions ranging from museums, cafes to parks. Here are popular places in Johannesburg that one can visit:

1. The Apartheid Museum 

The Apartheid museum graphically depicts the decades of oppression and the road to democracy in South Africa. It portrays the stories through photos, artifacts, newspaper clippings, chilling personal accounts, and film footage. One should reserve at least two hours for sightseeing around the museum. People can also visit the Liliesleaf Farm Museum, the former center for the leaders of the liberation movement if they are interested in learning more about South Africa’s struggle for freedom. 

2. Constitution Hill 

Constitution Hill provides a great insight into the history of South Africa. It is a former prison and displays  provocative exhibits at the Number Four museum, the Women’s Gaol museum, and the Old Fort museum. This place was known as The Fort, and was well known for its brutal treatment of political prisoners, common criminals, and passive resistors. Famous former prisoners include Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

3. Gold Reef City

Gold reef city has a series of thrilling theme park rides and historical exhibits that take one back to the gold rush days. This place is perfect for family visits. It displays reproductions of buildings and businesses from the era, and shafts of the Crown Mines, one of the richest gold-mines in the world. There are a lot of attractions for children here from a trampoline park, ten-pin bowling alley, and exhilarating theme-park rides to a petting zoo. 

4. The Maboneng Precinct

It was a run-down neighborhood which is now a  successful mixed-use urban renewal project. Maboneng means “place of light”. It is now full of life and is home to a variety of Funky restaurants, cafes, art galleries, shops, hotels, and entertainment venues mix smartly with residential buildings. The top attractions here include the weekly Market on Main with food from all over the continent, Arts on Main and Revolution House which are warehouses turned to an art gallery, host Bioscope, an independent cinema, a community center, designer hotels, and boutiques. 

5. The Lion Park 

The Lion Park is Located in the Gauteng Province and it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Johannesburg. It is well-known for the Transvaal lions and is the major point of interest for the visitors. It is also home to a number of other animals that are indigenous to Africa. People can also indulge in fun activities like a safari expedition, a tour of the four lion pride camps, and more.

6. Holy Hill

The Holy Hill is located in the heart of the city and provides mesmerizing views. Although, not a very popular tourist destination, it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Johannesburg. One can spend hours sitting and capturing the picturesque view. There is no entry fee required to visit the place. 

7. Wits Art Museum

Johannesburg Travel is incomplete without visiting Art Museums. Wits Art Museum was opened in the year 2012 and it has a collection of African art. It is a part of the Wits University Cultural Precinct and displays temporary exhibitions. After taking a tour of the beautiful arts and admire them for hours one can head out for a meal at the nearby popular cafe. There is no entry fee for visiting this place. The place remains closed on Monday and Tuesday 

8. Mandela House

Mandela house which is now a tourist attraction in Johannesburg, was once home to Nelson Mandela, the hero of the liberation movement. It is located in Soweto Street. This place attracts the tourists irrespective of their interest in history. There are four rooms in the house which showcase a collection of photographs, paintings, and more of the Mandela family. It also exhibits the awards & recognitions earned by Nelson Mandela.

9. Zoo Lake

The Zoo Lake is for the people who are looking for a romantic getaway. It is very popular among the residents of Johannesburg. People can enjoy a walk together, boat rides, and evengo for a swim in the pool. For a leisurely time, people can just sit by the fountain and have a blissful and serene time. No entry fee is required to enter the place but the activities like swimming, boating have their individual charges. 

 10. Lindfield Victorian House Museum

It is a ‘living museum’ and one of the most peculiar and interesting places to visit during Johannesburg travel. Lindfield Victorian House Museum is a well-preserved middle-class Victorian house which hosts an amazing collection of 19th and 20th-century Victorian furniture, art, and common household items. The current owner adds to this touch by dressing up in Victorian clothing and showing around the house. People can also sit in the verandah and have a cup of the at the end of the tour, with a view of the city of Johannesburg.  

Best Time to Visit Johannesburg

Johannesburg South Africa

March to May and September to November are the low season months when the crowds lessen and prices drop. The weather too is relatively warm and dry. This makes these months the best time to visit Johannesburg.

Large crowds and high prices occur during the summer months which starts in December and lasts till February thus it is not suggested to visit the city during these months. But we all know the best view of any place is always the time when the place is crowded. So, if you are not thinking about saving money and want to enjoy the beauty, this is the best time to travel to Johannesburg.

Once the temperature starts to drop from March the hotels and flight rates lower and it makes the winter an ideal time to explore Johannesburg, South Africa on a budget. 

How to Reach Johannesburg

Johannesburg Travel: Complete Guide

O.R. Tambo international airport which is located in Gauteng, 21 km from the heart of the city is the nearest airport to Johannesburg. It is connected to most of the cities in South Africa as well as international destinations. The flights ply late-night thus reaching the airport early morning.

Major international airlines like  Emirates, Kenya Airways, Etihad, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, etc.  serve O.R. Tambo international airport. 

Visa/Passport Requirement for Johannesburg Travel

Johannesburg South Africa

Passport– A passport valid up to 30 days from the intended date of departure is required to enter South Africa. It must have a minimum of two blank pages for entry stamps. Also, if the journey starts or is via a country with yellow fever, a yellow fever certificate is required.

Read More, Best countries that offer on-arrival visa

Visa– Visa requirements vary from country to country. It is advisable to check the list of countries which are exempted from visa to enter South Africa. U.S passport holders do not need a visa if their visit is for 90 days or less for the purpose of tourism or business.

There are also certain countries which are exempted from visa requirements if the person is traveling to South Africa for not more than 30 days, Likewise, certain countries need to apply for a visa but are exempted from visa fees, e.g. India, Colombia, Mexico, etc. Thus, it is advisable to check for the list of countries that need visas for their tour to South Africa.

Read More, Cape Town, South Africa: A complete guide

Johannesburg, South Africa has a lot in its boundaries for travelers. People can spend time visiting the historical sites and knowing about the road to freedom as well as enjoy the cityscapes. Apart from the tourist attractions, the city also offers a lot of delicacies in fancy restaurants and roadside food stalls. One can enjoy with their friends as well as families in this city.