Arts, Culture & Museums
Museums, Culture & Heritage
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Despite perceptions, Johannesburg - abbreviated to Joburg and affectionately known as Jozi and Egoli - has a lot to offer the tourist. One day just isn’t enough to experience it all so you’re going to have to do some selecting.

Jacaranda Trees

Joburg skyline
To get an overview, a suggestion would be to start off with a general tour. If your guide takes you up Munro Drive on to the Witwatersrand Ridge you will see why Joburg is known as the “World’s Largest Man-Made Forest” – and bang in the middle of this “forest” is where you’ll find all of our establishments. Go even higher to the 50th floor of the Top of Africa and the panoramic view will give you a pretty good idea of the size of the city. The inner city has a number of attractions and much gentrification and rejuvenation has taken place. On the eastern side is the latest cultural hub Arts on Main which is part of the Maboneng Precinct, where artists like the world-renowned William Kentridge, have their studios.

In the middle of the CBD are the now-pedestrianised Fox and Main Street Malls characterised by unusual street art, Ghandi Square, a number of art deco buildings, and the Standard Bank Art Gallery (check out their major exhibitions under Events). On the western side is Newtown - the first of the areas to be regenerated. Spend a day there wandering the streets filled with theatre and music venues (see under Entertainment & Theatre), squares, training spaces, heritage buildings (such as the Turbine Hall which was originally a power station now converted to a corporate conference and events venue), museums displaying history – Museum Africa – and science – the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre. This is the largest centre in Southern Africa with the goal of stimulating interest and enjoyment of the wide world of science and technology. This Centre is located in another rejuvenated building from the past - the old Electric Workshop and gets its name from an abbreviation of 'Science' and 'Bono', the TshiVenda word for 'vision'. The latest addition to the art scene is WAM (Wits Art Museum) - home to an extraordinary collection of African art, including contemporary and historical art from South Africa and art from West and Central Africa. It forms part of the Wits University Cultural Precinct, next door to the Wits Theatre (see entry under Entertainment and Theatre) and is located in the hip, regenerating area of Braamfontein.
An easy way of getting around the inner city and some of the outlying attractions is to take the Hop On – Hop Off Red Bus. It operates every day with buses every 40 minutes Monday to Friday, every 30 minutes Saturday, Sunday, school & public holidays. At present there are 12 stops including the Carlton Centre, Newtown and the Mining District in the inner city, Constitution Hill and the Origins Centre on the fringe, and others like the Apartheid Museum & Gold Reef City further afield. Buy tickets at the Tour Office, on the bus with debit & credit card only, or discounted online tickets at

Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum

Orlando Towers
If you decide to include a tour of Soweto, you’ll be taken to probably the most famous "township" in the world, including the almost-as-famous Vilakazi Street. This is where you will find the residences of Nobel Prize winners Nelson Mandela (his house at 8115 is now the Mandela Family Museum) and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (who still maintains his home there). Around the corner, the history of the 1976 Soweto uprising is remembered at the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum. Other spots to visit are Freedom Square and the Chris Hani-Baragwaneth Hospital, an academic teaching hospital reputed to be the largest in the world. Another must-view (even if you don’t attend a performance) is the Soweto Theatre which opened in 2012, simply because it won the leisure development category of the prestigious African Property Awards. The award, presented in Dubai, is one of the established and highly reputable International Property Awards. The main theatre seats 420 with two smaller venues that seat 180 and 90. However, should you fancy an adrenalin rush, the skybridge between the two Orlando Towers offers swinging, bungee jumping, climbing, abseiling, rap jumping, 100m above the ground. Another rather different view of Soweto can be had by bicycle! Soweto Bicycyle Tours will take you touring the streets of the sprawling township, anything from two hours to a full-day, stopping for lunch and drinks at a shebeen. Around Soweto there are a number of places of interest. The Apartheid Museum, conceptualised by a multi-disciplinary team of curators, film-makers, historians and designers, is an excellent way to discover our past from its discovery, through segregation, to democracy. The Museum is alongside Gold Reef City a complex that includes a Casino and separate theme park based on Jozi’s Story of Gold, and catering for those wanting typical theme park rides (more adrenalin rush) or a glimpse into the gold-rush days that includes going down a gold-mine and watching a gold pour. Just a stone’s throw away is the state-of-the-art Soccer City Complex incorporating the FNB Stadium used for the opening and closing matches of the 2010 World Cup. One-hour tours of the iconic calabash-style complex take place daily.

Constitution Hill Back on the political and historical trail are three other sites worth visiting. Constitution Hill, a city precinct anchored by the South African Constitutional Court – the highest court in the country on constitutional matters. It is also the site of Johannesburg’s notorious Old Fort Prison Complex, where thousands of ordinary people were brutally punished before the dawn of democracy. The art collection in the Court building is worth the price of a ticket. The second one, Liliesleaf can be found in the middle of suburban Rivonia. It is here that you will be given a first-hand account of the events and circumstances leading up to the infamous raid of the Rivonia farm, the subsequent trial, as well as insights into some of the revolutionary personalities who helped to shape South Africa’s democracy. The Satyagraha House was originally built in 1907 by Ghandi’s dearest friend, architect Hermann Kallenbach. The house was restored and has now become a museum and guest house. It boasts a beautiful collection of old photographs and correspondence between Ghandi and Kallenbach, evoking their daily life in the kraal.
Museum of Military History

For anyone interested in the history of wars, be it the Anglo-Boer/South African/Zulu wars of the 19th century or 20th century, the South African Museum of Military History has a collection ranging from medals and uniforms to tanks and planes. The Adler Museum of Medicine preserves the history of the health sciences in Southern Africa, with special reference to Gauteng. It exists to supplement the educational activities of the University of the Witwatersrand, hence its location at the Medical School. The James Hall Museum of Transport, located just south of the city centre has the largest collection of transport in South Africa providing a glimpse of Joburg’s by-gone days. Calling beer drinkers and other interested parties! South African Breweries opened The SAB World of Beer in 1995, incorporating an informative tour on the history and making of – what else but beer!
Lesedi African Lodge The Origins Centre combines cutting-edge technology with the creative vision of some of South Africa’s foremost artists. The exhibits of the museum take visitors through an extraordinary journey of discovery, beginning with the origins of humankind in Africa. The Centre boasts an extensive collection of rock art and visitors can see the earliest images made by humans found in South Africa. Although not strictly part of Joburg this does lead on to the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, a 50-minute drive away. This is the home of our ancestors, ancient history and human beginnings. Take a journey of discovery and adventurevisiting the world-famous Sterkfontein Caves and the award-winning Centre at Maropeng. Also a 50-minute drive is Lesedi African Lodge and Cultural Village, an experience that reveals the cultures and traditions of the people of Africa, steeped in tribal folklore and ancestral traditions. You can opt for an overnight stay in one of the villages (traditionally-based but with the addition of modern conveniences) or do the tour and experience their restaurant.

Rosebank Market If you’re in Joburg on a Sunday or a public holiday be sure not to miss the Rooftop Market at Norwood Mall – virtually all of our guest houses are within a 15-minute drive! Previously held in Rosebank the Market has been a favourite for over 20 years with tourists and locals alike. Here you will find not only the perfect souvenir, but art and craft artefacts, clothing, antiques and collectibles – and an amazing selection of food stalls. More home-made food and arts and crafts can also be found at Johannesburg's oldest outdoor market, the Bryanston Organic & Natural Market which is open Thursdays and Saturdays from 9 till 3. Following on from the success of the Cape Town market, the Johannesburg Neighbourgoods Market opened in 2011 in the vibrant neighbourhood of Braamfontein (open every Saturday from 9 till 3). Another market not to be missed is Market on Main (open every Sunday at Arts on Main from 10 till 5 and the first Thursday night of each month from 7 till 11 pm).

The city has a thriving art scene straddling western and African genres, the latter not only from SA. The past couple of years has seen an increase in public or street art found particularly in the city centre, Newtown and Braamfontein. Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood (with many of our guest houses even within walking distance) has become the best-known art strip in the city. The main ones are the Goodman Gallery at the forefront of SA contemporary art; Kim Sacks showcasing contemporary hand-made objects, traditional artefacts, urban and rural, ceramics, and so on. David Krut features Arts Resource and Projects including an excellent collection of books on art. Further north along Jan Smuts are two other galleries of renown: the Everard Read synonymous with fine South African Art, and it’s “sister” next door Circa Gallery situated within a specially-designed sculptural building. The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) has an impressive collection housed in a beautiful building but is unfortunately located in an area of the city difficult to access without guidance. There are also a number of corporate collections held by banks (the Standard Bank one already mentioned, and ABSA Bank’s collection).

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