How to spend a stopover in Johannesburg

While a trip to South Africa normally means transitting through Johannesburg to the bush for a wildlife experience, we have found this city has more to offer.

Johannesburg may seem like just a transit point en route to your final destination, however, this vibrant heart of South Africa offers a tapestry of experiences that beckon exploration beyond a mere layover.

Nestled amidst the rolling hills of South Africa’s Gauteng province lies Johannesburg, a city whose very essence pulsates with the rhythm of diversity and resilience. Founded in 1886 upon the discovery of gold, Johannesburg emerged from the dust of the Highveld as a beacon of opportunity, drawing fortune seekers from far and wide to its golden embrace.

Yet, beneath its gleaming skyscrapers and bustling streets lies a tapestry woven with threads of triumph and tribulation, of apartheid’s shadow and the indomitable spirit of its people. Johannesburg’s story is one of resilience, a narrative etched in the struggles and triumphs of those who call it home.

From the dusty townships of Soweto to the affluent boulevards of Sandton, Johannesburg’s streets bear witness to the echoes of history, where each corner tells a tale of struggle, resilience, and hope. Today, amidst its vibrant neighbourhoods and bustling markets, Johannesburg stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of its people, a city that embraces its past while forging boldly into the future.

It will take more than a day or two to see it all and get a real taste of Johannesburg, so consider adding some time to your South African trip in the city of Johannesburg.

Become a local in Johannesburg

Delve deep into the heart of Johannesburg and you will uncover the layers of history and culture that define this dynamic metropolis. From its humble beginnings as a mining town to its emergence as the economic powerhouse of Africa, Johannesburg invites exploration, offering a journey through time and tradition unlike any other.

Here are some of the top experiences to have in Johannesburg, booked through Adventure Destinations.

Take a Tuk Tuk Tour of Soweto

Soweto Tuk Tuk Tour. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Embark on an immersive journey through the historic streets of Soweto aboard a colourful Tuk Tuk with Lebo’s Soweto Tours. Experience the rich tapestry of this township, stopping by iconic landmarks such as the Hector Pieterson Memorial, Nelson Mandela’s former home, and the vibrant Vilakazi Street. Discover more on Lebos Soweto Tuk Tuk Tour here.

Walking the city streets with Curiocity

Johannesburg – Curiocity Walking Tour. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Explore the urban landscape of Johannesburg on foot with a guided walking tour by Curiocity. Dive deep into the city’s history, art, and culture as you meander through its streets, discovering hidden gems and local hotspots along the way. Hosted by a local, you will be surprised at the hidden gems and history this tour uncovers.

Shop until you drop at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton

Nelson Mandela Square. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Pay homage to South Africa’s beloved leader at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. Admire the towering bronze statue of Madiba as you wander through this vibrant plaza, lined with shops, restaurants, and cultural attractions. There is shopping galore and you will find the exchange rate into the South African Rand works in your favour.

Lunch away at FourWays Farmers Market

Fourways Farmers Markets. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Indulge in a culinary adventure at the FourWays Farmers Market, where an array of artisanal food stalls awaits. Sample flavours from across South Africa while soaking in the lively atmosphere of this bustling market.

Learn about South Africa’s history at Apartheid Museum

Apartheid Museum. Image: Supplied

Delve into South Africa’s complex past at the Apartheid Museum. Through immersive exhibits and multimedia displays, gain insight into the country’s journey from apartheid to democracy.

Be cool at Maboneng Precinct

Johannesburg – Maboneng Precinct. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Experience Johannesburg’s creative spirit in the vibrant Maboneng Precinct. Maboneng is a seSotho word meaning “place of light”, a fitting name for a district that has fast become a centre of creative energy for Johannesburg’s urban artists. Explore eclectic art galleries, trendy boutiques, and hip cafes, immersing yourself in the city’s contemporary art scene.

Get a real taste of South Africa

Marble Restaurant. Photo Credit – Kate Webster

Indulge in the flavours of South Africa with a culinary journey through Johannesburg. From traditional braais (barbecues) to fusion cuisine, tantalize your taste buds with a diverse array of dishes reflecting the city’s multicultural heritage. A visit to Marble Restaurant is a must for a delicious dinner with a scenic sunset. Situated in Keyes Art Mile, the growing art and food hub of Rosebank, Marble Restaurant will boast a grand wood-fired grill imported from Grill Works situated in Michigan as the focal point of the restaurant. The concept combines the open-fire trend seen internationally with an added dose of good South African flair.

Getting Around Johannesburg

Catch the Gautrain. Image – Supplied

Navigating Johannesburg is made easy with the efficient Gautrain system, connecting key destinations including the airport, Sandton, and Pretoria. Additionally, Uber provides a reliable and safe option for getting around the city, offering convenience and affordability for travellers.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of accommodation options in Johannesburg from backpackers all the way up to luxurious private residences. Sandton and Rosebank are popular areas for tourists and give easy access to shopping and dining precincts.

For a central stay, consider voco Johannesburg Rosebank, ideally situated in the vibrant Rosebank precinct, offering stylish accommodations and exceptional service. Alternatively, immerse yourself in tranquillity at Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa in Sandton, where indulgent spa treatments await amidst lush gardens and elegant surroundings.

Top Tips for Visiting Johannesburg

Safety First: While Johannesburg offers a wealth of experiences, it’s essential to remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings, particularly in certain areas. Stick to well-lit and populated areas, and avoid displaying valuable belongings openly.

Dress Appropriately: Johannesburg’s weather can vary, so be sure to pack layers for cooler evenings and sun protection for sunny days.

Explore with Purpose: Take the time to engage with locals and learn about their stories and experiences. Johannesburg’s people are its beating heart, and their insights can offer invaluable perspectives on the city’s past, present, and future.

In conclusion, Johannesburg is not merely a stopover but a destination brimming with culture, history, and endless exploration. So, extend your stay, delve deeper, and uncover the myriad wonders that await in this dynamic cityscape.

For more on Johannesburg, visit or South Africa Tourism at

Kate Webster

Kate Webster is the founder and owner of Captured Travel Media. She is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself, but the world around her. An editor and travel journalist, Kate travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the people and places she visits. She is a passionate conservation advocate, sustainable traveller and always travels with reason and cause.