History buffs will be in their element here with everything from the moving Apartheid Museum to the Cradle of Humankind paleontological World Heritage Site on offer. But that's just one side of a rapidly growing city – there seem to be galleries on every corner and newly hip locales like Rivonia come alive at night for clubbing and bar-hopping. Top it off with a trip to one of the world's most animal-friendly zoos – the Johannesburg Zoo. There's truly no shortage of things to do.
To truly understand the South Africa of today, a trip to the Apartheid Museum is an absolute must. The museum “tells the story of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity” as it explores the rise and fall of apartheid. Exhibition spaces filled with archives in the form of film, text, audio and live accounts relive this piece of South Africa’s harrowing history from the start of segregation to its first free elections and the creation of its progressive constitution. A powerful and sometimes overwhelming experience, the Apartheid Museum offers insight like no other.
Home to the largest collection of art in all of Africa, the Johannesburg Art Gallery claims an incredible collection of art that spans sculpture, photography, painting, multimedia and etching. Housed in a building that is a national monument, there’s a fabulous collection of 17th and 18th century European landscape and figurative paintings, including works by Picasso and Rodin, as well as a great range of South African art from the likes of Gerard Sekoto, Maud Sumner and Alexis Preller. Works by contemporary local artists also feature.
South Africa’s roots can be traced back to Soweto, an area brimming with culture and history where there are numerous attractions to explore. Join a tour or take in the sights of South Africa’s most iconic neighbourhood on your own two feet or by bike. Top attractions in Soweto include the Mandela House Museum, where Nelson Mandela once lived, and the Hector Pieterson Museum, which sheds light on the legacy of the 1976 Soweto uprising. Other areas of interest include Kliptown, the city’s oldest settlement to house all races, and the largest Catholic church in the nation: Regina Mundi Church.
Overlooking the inner city and suburbs, Constitutional Hill offers fabulous insight into the history of Johannesburg through cultural, historical, artistic, educational and recreational spaces celebrating South Africa's democracy. Join a tour to take in the visitor decks of Constitutional Court – the nation’s highest court and the birthplace of democracy. Also explore the court’s great collection of national art and the three prison museums: Number Four, the Women’s Gaol and the Old Fort, which was built in 1893 and is now one of the city’s oldest buildings.
Not only is this the largest zoo in the country, but it’s also considered one of the world’s best. Home to over 9,000 animals from almost every continent, as well as the usual suspects there are many rare species, including one of the few white tigers held in captivity. With some of the most spacious enclosures in the world and its own aquarium and reptile park, the zoo is also home to the world’s first insectarium. From lions and giraffes to crocodiles and snakes, they’re all here. There’s also a cable car which zips up to a hilltop lookout for great views, and golf carts can be rented to get around quickly to watch the various animals’ feeding times.