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South Africa

Johannesburg Holidays

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Jump into Johannesburg

Similar in size to Los Angeles, Johannesburg is South Africa’s biggest city. But, despite this, it’s not one of the country’s three capitals – and those planning a city break in South Africa have long overlooked it in favour of Cape Town. However, after a prolonged period of decline and decay, this rapidly changing city is now very much on the up.

Over the past 10 years, Johannesburg’s received a lot of investment and seen a number of urban renewal initiatives. Eclectic, progressive and thoroughly diverse, it’s now considered South Africa’s most exciting city. With an array of bars and restaurants, plus thriving arts, music and theatre scenes, it’s become one of the coolest cities in the Southern Hemisphere.

There are so many interesting areas to explore in this sprawling city, but to learn about Johannesburg’s past you should head to Soweto – an abbreviation of ‘South Western Townships’. Today it’s a vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city, but it was once a township for black South Africans during the Apartheid era. Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu both lived here, on Vilakazi Street. You can visit their former houses, and learn more about the history of the neighbourhood, on a bike or walking tour.

Besides offering plenty of things to do within its city limits, Johannesburg is also the closest urban centre to many of South Africa’s premier safari hotspots – including the world-renowned Kruger National Park. So, on a Johannesburg holiday, you can easily combine a city break with some game drives out in the bush. But nationals parks and game reserves aren’t the only nearby attractions worth visiting. The UNESCO-listed Cradle of Humankind is a paleoanthropological site about 45-minutes northwest of Johannesburg. Spread over 47,000 hectares, it contains a complex of limestone caves where the fossilised remains of ancient animals, plants and humanoids have been found.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to enjoy more active outdoor adventures during your holiday to Johannesburg, you’ll find plenty of hiking and biking not far from the city. The Magaliesberg mountain range and Kgaswane Mountain Reserve are particular favourites.

Safari

Things to do

Hotels

Best time to go

Johannesburg safari

Johannesburg’s the gateway to a number of South Africa’s best game reserves and national parks. So you can easily turn your Johannesburg holiday into a multi-centre and combine a city break with a safari. It’s just a few hours’ drive from Joburg to Pilanesberg National Park, Madikwe Game Reserve, Entabeni Game Reserve or Welgevonden Game Reserve. Meanwhile Kruger National Park – home to all of the ‘Big Five’ and widely considered one of the best places in the world for a safari holiday – is four to five hours away. If you don’t fancy a long drive, though, you can fly there in under an hour instead.

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Alternatively, if you’re looking for a day trip, Johannesburg offers further wildlife-viewing opportunities closer to home. Dinokeng Game Reserve, on the outskirts of Pretoria, is just over an hour away, while the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve is even closer. This is a particularly popular option for those short on time. You can get there from downtown Johannesburg in just 45 minutes either on an organised trip or a self-drive tour.

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Things to do in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is home to countless bars, restaurants and microbreweries, so you can easily while away your time here eating, drinking and exploring the various neighbourhoods. And – with more than 20 major malls and plenty of individual boutiques – there’s lots of scope for retail therapy, too.

In the bohemian suburb of Melville you’ll find 27 Boxes – a shipping container development filled with shops, galleries and eateries. And if you’re in Johannesburg on a Sunday, head to Maboneng – once a run-down industrial area but now a breeding ground of creativity – for Market on Main, the city’s leading urban food and design market.

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If you’re something of a culture vulture, you’ll be pleased to know that Johannesburg also has some fascinating museums. The popular Apartheid Museum documents the rise and fall of segregation in South Africa, while the Johannesburg Art Gallery is one of the largest on the continent. It has a collection that includes works by Rodin, Picasso and Monet, as well as South African art from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Constitution Hill, meanwhile, is a former prison complex and one of the country’s most important historical sites. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were all former inmates. Or, if you’re looking for something a little lighter, spend a day riding the rollercoasters at Gold Reef City – an amusement park situated on a historic goldmine.

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Johannesburg hotels

As South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg has more than its fair share of accommodation. Whether you’re looking for a well-established chain hotel close to the main attractions, or something small and intimate in a quiet neighbourhood, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding where to stay.

While Johannesburg’s Central Business District – AKA the city centre – is a grid of streets lined with towering skyscrapers, in the leafier suburbs you’ll find a greater range of boutique hotels, country houses, lodges and guesthouses. There’s something to suit nearly every budget, but even the cheaper options offer plenty of character.

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The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Sandhurst, in the affluent Sandton suburb, is one of our favourite hotels in Johannesburg. Set within 10 acres of manicured gardens, it’s where Nelson Mandela stayed after his release from prison and where he edited his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom. Or, for something all together different, consider Sun City, a few hours outside the city. This Vegas-style resort is a sprawling complex of hotels, restaurants, waterparks and golf courses – perfect if you want an all-inclusive South Africa holiday.

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Best time to visit Johannesburg

As it lies in the Southern Hemisphere, Johannesburg’s summer runs from December to February, while winter lasts from June to August. The summer months are obviously the hottest, with average highs of 26oC, but they also coincide with the wet season. Although it doesn’t rain all day, heavy showers – or even thunderstorms – are common in the afternoons. This is also peak tourist season, so accommodation and tours can get booked up well in advance.

Show More
Show Less

The winter months are far milder. However, they’re nowhere near as cold as we’re used to in Europe. Daytime highs are around 16-18OC, but it does get chillier in the evening. This is also the driest time of the year. Autumn – which falls between March and May – is probably the best time to visit Johannesburg. It’s drier than summer but warmer than winter, and it’s fairly quiet too. So it’s a great time for a Johannesburg holiday if you want to avoid the crowds and score cheaper accommodation.

For a visual treat, though, think about visiting in October. This is the peak of spring and the city’s jacaranda trees will be in full bloom, so you’ll see Johannesburg coated in a sea of purple.

Show More
Show Less

Safari

Johannesburg safari

Johannesburg’s the gateway to a number of South Africa’s best game reserves and national parks. So you can easily turn your Johannesburg holiday into a multi-centre and combine a city break with a safari. It’s just a few hours’ drive from Joburg to Pilanesberg National Park, Madikwe Game Reserve, Entabeni Game Reserve or Welgevonden Game Reserve. Meanwhile Kruger National Park – home to all of the ‘Big Five’ and widely considered one of the best places in the world for a safari holiday – is four to five hours away. If you don’t fancy a long drive, though, you can fly there in under an hour instead.

Show More
Show Less

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a day trip, Johannesburg offers further wildlife-viewing opportunities closer to home. Dinokeng Game Reserve, on the outskirts of Pretoria, is just over an hour away, while the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve is even closer. This is a particularly popular option for those short on time. You can get there from downtown Johannesburg in just 45 minutes either on an organised trip or a self-drive tour.

Show More
Show Less

Things to do

Things to do in Johannesburg

Johannesburg is home to countless bars, restaurants and microbreweries, so you can easily while away your time here eating, drinking and exploring the various neighbourhoods. And – with more than 20 major malls and plenty of individual boutiques – there’s lots of scope for retail therapy, too.

In the bohemian suburb of Melville you’ll find 27 Boxes – a shipping container development filled with shops, galleries and eateries. And if you’re in Johannesburg on a Sunday, head to Maboneng – once a run-down industrial area but now a breeding ground of creativity – for Market on Main, the city’s leading urban food and design market.

Show More
Show Less

If you’re something of a culture vulture, you’ll be pleased to know that Johannesburg also has some fascinating museums. The popular Apartheid Museum documents the rise and fall of segregation in South Africa, while the Johannesburg Art Gallery is one of the largest on the continent. It has a collection that includes works by Rodin, Picasso and Monet, as well as South African art from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. Constitution Hill, meanwhile, is a former prison complex and one of the country’s most important historical sites. Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were all former inmates. Or, if you’re looking for something a little lighter, spend a day riding the rollercoasters at Gold Reef City – an amusement park situated on a historic goldmine.

Show More
Show Less

Hotels

Johannesburg hotels

As South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg has more than its fair share of accommodation. Whether you’re looking for a well-established chain hotel close to the main attractions, or something small and intimate in a quiet neighbourhood, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding where to stay.

While Johannesburg’s Central Business District – AKA the city centre – is a grid of streets lined with towering skyscrapers, in the leafier suburbs you’ll find a greater range of boutique hotels, country houses, lodges and guesthouses. There’s something to suit nearly every budget, but even the cheaper options offer plenty of character.

Show More
Show Less

The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Sandhurst, in the affluent Sandton suburb, is one of our favourite hotels in Johannesburg. Set within 10 acres of manicured gardens, it’s where Nelson Mandela stayed after his release from prison and where he edited his autobiography, A Long Walk to Freedom. Or, for something all together different, consider Sun City, a few hours outside the city. This Vegas-style resort is a sprawling complex of hotels, restaurants, waterparks and golf courses – perfect if you want an all-inclusive South Africa holiday.

Show More
Show Less

Best time to go

Best time to visit Johannesburg

As it lies in the Southern Hemisphere, Johannesburg’s summer runs from December to February, while winter lasts from June to August. The summer months are obviously the hottest, with average highs of 26oC, but they also coincide with the wet season. Although it doesn’t rain all day, heavy showers – or even thunderstorms – are common in the afternoons. This is also peak tourist season, so accommodation and tours can get booked up well in advance.

Show More
Show Less

The winter months are far milder. However, they’re nowhere near as cold as we’re used to in Europe. Daytime highs are around 16-18OC, but it does get chillier in the evening. This is also the driest time of the year. Autumn – which falls between March and May – is probably the best time to visit Johannesburg. It’s drier than summer but warmer than winter, and it’s fairly quiet too. So it’s a great time for a Johannesburg holiday if you want to avoid the crowds and score cheaper accommodation.

For a visual treat, though, think about visiting in October. This is the peak of spring and the city’s jacaranda trees will be in full bloom, so you’ll see Johannesburg coated in a sea of purple.

Show More
Show Less

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Whether you're looking for luxury or simplicity, we've got the perfect holiday for you.

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Travelbag is fully protected by ATOL and ABTA, so your booking is completely secure.

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