12 Must-Do Experiences in Johannesburg

Experience hip, modern Jozi, as well as the ever-present specter of apartheid.

Diepkloof Zone 6, Diepmeadow, 1862, South Africa
A great dining experience can be found at the foot of the iconic Orlando Towers in Soweto in the form of Chaf-Pozi. Chaf-Pozi, is a traditional Shisa nyama. Shisa nyama is a Zulu phrase literally meaning “hot meat”. It is a term used to describe an informal barbecue or braai near a butchery to grill meat in an open fire. The site is usually provided by the butcher owner and only people who buy meat from the butcher are allowed to use the facility. In the photo, a group of friends who were out for a good time are enjoying their freshly picked and prepared meal together, The dining spot is perfectly situated being close to both the FNB and Orlando Stadiums, offering pre and post show meals and entertainment. The services of local taxis are also on offer. This allows guests to be transferred from other major centres to Chaf-Pozi to enjoy a stunning meal, followed by a sporting event or music concert. The extensive menu covers local cuisine including mutton, beef, chicken, wors, samp, pap, chakalaka as well as a variety of tasty side dishes. These meals are chosen fresh from the butchery and then prepared for guests’ enjoyment! Since it’s opening in 2010 the venue has hosted many dignataries and celebrities, and also works well as a spot for company year-end functions and birthday parties.
116 Greenway, Greenside, Johannesburg, 2193, South Africa
There are several shops in the trendy Parkhurst neighborhood that caught my eye. We were there with Jo’burg trend spotter Craig Jacobs who showed us the way. Essential Life was the first place we stopped. Here is a description from their website: “A unique retail experience awaits you at Essential Life lifestyle boutique on 4th Avenue in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. The store boasts hundreds of uniquely South African lifestyle products, interior accessories, artworks and multi-functional hard furnishings produced exclusively for Essential Life by the in-house design team. Ranges include Essential Earth home-ware and accessories themed on the essence of African botanicals, the reflections of nature Earth Furniture collection, Essential Wear’s fashion for the soul and contemporary inspirations like Symbols in the City. Lifestyle items are emblazoned with iconic images of the city that landscape the interior, bringing the outside in.”
Yale Road &, Enoch Sontonga Ave, Johannesburg, 2050, South Africa
Housed in Johannesburg’s historically significant University of Witwatersrand, the Origins Center details the history of humankind through displays, artwork, and more. Touring the interactive exhibits, either with a guide or a headset, will not only change the way you think about human existence, but also provide further insight into the way we’ve developed over the ages. While the museum focuses most on South African human development, there’s enough on offer to keep everyone engaged. Be sure to check out the 11 panels depicting the history of the San people in South Africa. Created by local women’s groups, the works serve as a timeline, covering everything from the distant past and the colonial period to issues affecting the San community today.
Vilakazi St, Orlando West, Soweto, 1804, South Africa
Vilakazi is perhaps the most famous street in Soweto—or all of Johannesburg, for that matter. It’s the only street in the world to have produced two Nobel Prize winners—His Excellency Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu. It’s also where 13-year-old Hector Pieterson was shot dead, sparking the riots on June 16, 1976.

At the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets, you’ll find the Mandela House, which serves as a beautiful testament to Madiba as well as to the greater fight for equal rights in South Africa and around the world. The rest of Vilakazi Street, however, is pretty average—a place where people live and work every day. In its simplicity, it proves that greatness can come from the most ordinary of places. Since it’s still home to so many people, approach the street with respect. Hire a local guide and take care when exploring the surrounding neighborhood of Soweto.
R512 Pelindaba Rd, Hartbeespoort, Broederstroom, 0240, South Africa
The lion cub was licking my hand as if he were a puppy!
This is one of the richest paleontology sites in the world. These sites team with scientists uncovering hominid fossils aged as old as 2 million years. It’s incredible to stand, watch, and reflect as our ancient ancestors are being unearthed. While in the area, check out the Nirox Contemporary Art Foundation (www.niroxarts.com). The artists’ residence and sculpture park contain works by South African and international artists. A peaceful place. You’ll want to stay.
R550, Heidelberg, South Africa
Hot Summers in Johannesburg are held at bay by cool, late afternoon thunder showers. The build up of clouds throughout the afternoon, catch amazing colours as the sun goes down and eventually culminate in a lightshow of epic proportions as lightning flickers through the heavens. The afternoon that I captured the photo, I’d headed out to Suikerbosrand which is about 40 minutes from the old Johannesburg CBD. It’s a great place away from all the traffic and big buildings of the city. Once we arrived it was only a short while before the clouds lit up and we were met fortunate to witness a scene reminiscent of a beautiful artwork
Main Rd & William Nicol Dr., Bryanston, Johannesburg, 2191, South Africa
Life sized replicas of Rhinos and steel Elephants are the order of the day at this location. Here you’ll find beaded wire works of African plants and animals, Jewellery, art, stone statues and many other interesting curios. If you’re looking for a few souvenirs to take back home as memories and gifts for friends, a good place to look would be the market at the intersection of William Nicol and Main Roads in Bryanston. Beaded keyrings and traditional styled jewellery can be bought at a great price and if you buy a few items it’s worthwhile haggling with the artists and store vendors for a better price. One of the artists, Gabriel, manufactures some amazing tin animals, which includes the Big 5 of Africa. A staple of tourist souvenirs are wooden Giraffes, so be sure to check a few out that you might want to take home with you! If you don’t make it to this specific location, you will likely find street vendors selling similar wares. So keep an eye out for them!
Northern Pkwy & Data Cres, Ormonde 99-Ir, Johannesburg, 2159, South Africa
225 meters below the surface of the earth, visitors make their way through dim passageways that miners in the late 1800s had navigated in search of gold. The tour guide ‘jokingly’ points out that if for some reason we get stuck down there, the only way out is a via a steep emergency exit tunnel. In the photo for this post, there is a miner located beyond the struts (which are used to support the ceiling), who’s job it is to demonstrate what it was like in the past when miners excavated the gold bearing ore with nothing but a candle for light! During the tour, you’ll learn about the gold rush that caused the formation of Johannesburg and you’ll also be shown some interesting historical items, like dynamite which was manufactured by Alfred Nobel
73 Juta St, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa
This semi-outdoor market on Juta Street in Joburg’s Braamfontein neighbourhood is fun fun fun. Eat oysters from Namibia, drink craft beer from South Africa, and devour paella, gelato, cheeses, chocolate...a food lover’s paradise! Open on Saturdays.
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