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20+ Things to Do in Johannesburg

Looking for the coolest things to do in Johannesburg? The kind of places you won’t find in a typical travel guide? You’re in luck! I’ve lived in South Africa’s most exciting city twice, and compiled this list from many adventures throughout my stay. 

It includes all my favorite places, which helped me understand and enjoy Johannesburg and inspired me to keep coming back for more. 

Tours and Sightseeing

Plenty of tour groups will take you around and teach you the history of Johannesburg. Most are generic big city, big group deals – bussing you and 30 other people from one site to the next. 

Instead, I’ll recommend the two tours that shaped my understanding of the city and its many challenges and helped me appreciate Joburg’s charms. 

1. Dala Nje Walking Tours

Take a still through Johannesburg’s most diverse, lively, and misunderstood neighbourhood – Hillbrow!

Where most Joburgers don’t dare to go, you’ll be treated to fascinating history, delicious food, and interactions with friendly and welcoming residents.

2. Curiocity City Tours

When it opened in 2013, Curiocity was (I believe) South Africa’s first Black-owned backpacker hostel. 

Regardless, I stayed in their Joburg hostel my first 3 in the city, and it defined my experience of South Africa. Curiocity’s walking tours take you through downtown and the CBD, where you’ll learn Joburg’s journey from a tiny mining camp to today’s mega-metropolis. And how this history has shaped the modern-day city. 

Curiocity’s guides are passionate, incredibly well-informed, and politically astute. They don’t shy away from the difficulties of the post-Apartheid era – including Nelson Mandela’s complicated legacy and how he’s partially responsible for the lack of progress for poor South Africans. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. While I found Cucriocity’s tours challenging, they helped me understand Joburg and appreciate it even more. Especially the people like Curiocity’s staff, who are uplifting the city and celebrating everything that makes it special. 

Weekly Events

Something is happening every day and night in Joburg. I don’t have time to list every possible event, party, and get-together you could attend, so here’s a quick sample. 

3. Sunday Service @ Banditz Bike Club

When: Sundays, from 10am

Banditz Bike Club was founded by a group of cycling fanatics from Soweto. From their bike shop in downtown Braamfontein, they host a weekly community cycle through various neighborhoods in the city.

You’ll join 20-30 fellow cycling enthusiasts from across the city who converge every Sunday to explore parts of Joburg you’d probably otherwise never see. 

I’ve joined a dozen cycles, visiting Joburg’s Chinatown, Middle Eastern neighborhoods, most exclusive and wealthy gated enclaves, hidden downtown art galleries, parks, gardens, markets, industrial areas, the CBD, and so much more. 

The tours are perfectly safe, with a team of trained guides ensuring there’s no risk from traffic (which is almost non-existent on Sundays). We even got an impromptu police escort one week. 

They’re also incredibly fun, with your guides bringing crazy energy, music, tricks, laughter, and camaraderie. And once you’re comfortable enough to get some speed, weaving through downtown Jozi with a gang of 30+ bikers is one of the most thrilling experiences I’ve had in Africa. 

4. Weekly Touch Up @ Bar Ber Black Sheep

When: Wednesday nights, from 8pm

As the name suggests, Bar Ber Black Sheep is a popular barber shop in the hip Park Corner – but only during the day. At night, it becomes an intimate venue for Joburg’s up-and-coming musicians, DJs, and performers. 

Wednesdays are a showcase night, called The Weekly Touchup. The host is a big emcee with an even bigger heart, hyping up the crowd and celebrating the performers, ensuring everyone is on their feet and singing along. 

The lineup is diverse. One week, it could be a live band. The next, a spoken word night. Occasionally, visiting performers from the US and other countries stop by. 

Once you come to a couple of Weekly Touch Ups, you’ll notice some familiar faces and be welcomed as a regular. I wound up coming almost every week for the music and the community that gathers around it. 

5. Saturday Morning Yoga at Nest Space

When: Saturdays, from 8.30am 

If you’re looking for a chance to relax and recharge, Saturday mornings at The Nest Space are perfect. 

It’s an inclusive well-being space run by women that mixes practices based on yoga and Eastern philosophies with indigenous South African traditions. The first class on Saturday mornings is kundalini yoga, followed by gentle flow. 

The space’s minimalist aesthetic immediately instills a sense of calm. Your fellow participants and teachers are friendly and welcoming to newbies. And you may end up all getting coffee afterward. 

6. Afro-Latin Night @ Ethos

When: Sundays, from 4pm

Joburg has a huge Afro-Latin dance community, but it’s very spread out, with classes and socials dispersed through the northern suburbs. 

However, every Sunday, the whole community gathers at Ethos Restaurant in Rosebank for an afternoon and evening of dance. The restaurant that hosts the social has a small dancefloor, but dancers usually spill out into the mall around it. So, you’ll have plenty of space to practice and show off. 

I joined my first social at Ethos within 48 hours of arriving in Joburg. I was immediately welcomed into the community, where I made many friends (and met my hairdresser!). The community is as diverse as Joburg, a mix of nationalities, races, and backgrounds where none of this matters, and all anyone cares about is dancing. 

7. Playground Market

When: Saturdays from 10 am to 6 pm

Playground is a vibrant artisan market showcasing some of Joburg’s best indie fashion designers, stores, food vendors, and entertainment. 

Most people come for the vibe, food, and drinks – rather than shopping. 

For drinks, you can sample local craft beers, cocktails, and non-alcoholic treats like fresh juices and homemade lemonade. Food ranges from burgers and shawarma to vegan delicacies and indulgent desserts. 

There’s live music and DJs throughout the day, and you’ll find plenty of places to sit and chill with friends. Most people like hanging out on the balcony terrace, with amazing views of Braamfontein and the city center. 

I believe they’ve also built an outdoor basketball court on the roof now, too. 

Monthly Events

This section is a work in progress, so come back later for more recommendations!

8. Gbedu Nights

When: The last Friday of every month

Gbedu Nights is hosted by three female DJs with a shared love for afrobeats. 

They started Gbedu Nights after growing frustrated that they couldn’t get booked in clubs that only wanted to play amapiano and didn’t regard female DJs highly. So they started their own club night where they could decide what to play and curate their own community. 

It immediately took off. They’ve had to change venues numerous times to accommodate growing crowds. And they’ve branched out into hosting DJs playing various styles from across the continent, including kidoro, afrohouse – and lots of afrobeats!

Clubs in Joburg can be very flashy, posery places, with everyone more interested in being seen and flashing cash than dancing and celebrating the music. They’re not always very welcoming to outsiders. 

Gbedu Nights is different. Everyone is welcomed and embraced. It feels like a tight-knit but growing community coming together with a sole purpose: to dance, sing, and celebrate African cultures. 

Live Music Venues and Nightclubs

9. Bertrand Cafe

Bertrand is a gregarious and generous soul from the Congo who loves live music, celebrating African communities in Joburg, and (most of all) hosting! 

Bertrand Cafe is his place – but it’s much more than a simple cafe.

I don’t want to spoil Bertrand’s for you – a big part of its appeal is discovering the space for yourself. While it may look unremarkable from the outside, you’ll see why I’m not telling you much once you step inside and walk upstairs. 

Just keep an eye out for regular live music and events, featuring acts from the city’s many African communities, including Nigerian, Mozambican, and Congolese performers. Or just come by on a Friday night to join whatever impromptu party will definitely be happening. 

10. Untitled Basement

South Africans love jazz, and Joburg is full of venues hosting local and international players. 

I only discovered Untitled Basement towards the end of my stay in the city. Still, I immediately understood why it’s considered the best jazz place amongst those who know. 

The venue is (you guessed it) deep in a basement beneath a beautiful cocktail bar on a quiet street in buzzy Braamfontein. There’s no stage. Performers set up in the middle of the basement, with packed crowds surrounding them on every side. 

 It can get tight on a busy night, and you may have to stand if you arrive late. But that’s part of the charm and adds to the electric atmosphere. 

Also, the food is delicious. And the service is fantastic. 

11. Kitchener’s Carvery Bar

This is one of the oldest and most distinctive bars in Johannesburg. Kitchener’s opened in 1906 and has maintained much of its decor and aesthetic even as downtown Joburg grew around it. 

These days, Kitchener’s is home to one of the city’s most eclectic lineups of DJs and performers. My favorite event here was a showcase of hardcore punk and garage bands. You can also expect disco revivals, deep house, techno, and all-female DJ nights. 

Kitchener’s is a welcoming, inclusive space that attracts a young, hip, and diverse crowd with some of the most exciting music in Joburg. 

12. Smoking Kills

Smoking Kills is the definition of a dive bar. Tiny. Decrepit. Full of weirdos and misfits. 

Which is why I love it! 

This is the favorite bar of Joburg’s grungey rock scene, with people traveling from as far as Soweto to attend live music and DJ sets celebrating punk, new wave, metal, grunge, and anything else that inspires lots of headbanging and occasional mosh pits. 

The main stage and dance area are dark and dimly lit, but there’s plenty of space out back if you need a breath of fresh air. 

13. And Club

And Club is the kind of place they put stickers on your phone as you enter. 

If you don’t know what that means, think of all the dark, debauched nightclubs in dingey industrial buildings you’ve seen in the movies. 

Weekends here start late and end early, with the best DJs in the city playing a mix of house and techno to a loyal crowd. The club is housed in a huge old warehouse, with lots of space to dance to the pulsating rhythms reverberating throughout, and the best sound system in the city. 

The Best Coffee Shops

Johannesburg has an abundance of coffee shops and cafes spread throughout every neighborhood. I’ll add more to this list soon so you can bookmark them all. 

14. Home of the Bean

When I have nothing to do on a Sunday in Joburg, I usually wind up in Home of the Bean, enjoying a tasty breakfast, expertly brewed coffee, and lively chats with the baristas. It’s the perfect way to start a lazy day or prepare for some sightseeing.

The cafe is set at the edge of Maboneng’s lively “main street” in a historic colonial building preserved through many upheavals in the surrounding area. It’s bathed in sunlight throughout the year thanks to almost floor-to-ceiling windows. The red brick walls are complemented with select pieces from local artists, and the occasional splash of color gives the whole place a cozy feeling.

Bring a book, laptop, or friends, and settle in for a leisurely day. 

Neighborhoods to Explore

You probably think Joburg is just one giant, decrepit, ugly, scary city. 

Actually, the neighborhoods and districts that make up greater Joburg are as diverse as the people living within. The four listed below are just a tiny sample. You could also visit Chinatown, the Middle Eastern and Indian district, Sandton (“The Richest Square Mile in Africa”), and many, many more. 

15. Maboneng

I’ve mentioned Maboneng a bunch already, so let me explain why. 

Deep in the heart of Joburg’s downtown, the neighborhood was an attempt at privatized urban renewal. A single property developer created a hip, artsy distraction for independent stores, galleries, creatives, restaurants, and bars. They renovated old industrial buildings, turning them into boujee loft apartments, pop-up studios, bars, and markets. 

For a time, it worked, Joburg’s creatives flocked to Maboneng. And with them, came the city’s hip middle class. It was lively, exciting, free. 

Then, the pandemic hit and worsened the already city-wide economic decline. Many vendors shut down or moved uptown. They were replaced with gaudy, loud nightclubs that make the loft apartments unlivable by blasting generic amapiano until 4am every night. 

Maboneng is now a neighborhood of fascinating contrasts. The creative community remains. Although diminished, they’re determined to keep their corner of the city alive. By nightfall, they’re overshadowed by pounding beats and crowds of drunk girls in tiny skirts hopping from one club to the next. Stalked young men on the prowl. Step outside the main street, and you’ll glimpse the abject poverty that cripples Johannesburg. 

But…. I love it here!

Come during the day, and there’s a relaxed but vibrant atmosphere. Stop by Bertrand’s Cafe for a chat with its gregarious owner… Bertrand. Get a coffee at Home of the Bean or Revolver. Do some shopping. Explore the remaining galleries and studios. Then, head to Living Room for sunset drinks and deep beats, looking out over the city. 

Nighttime is still a vibe, even if you skip the clubs. Pata Pata will have some live music and soul food. Bertrand’s will probably wind up hosting an impromptu party (it’s also very queer-friendly, btw). Head to Curiocity for a game of pool and some open mic jazz. 

There’s plenty of security around, so it’s perfectly safe to explore. 

16. Soweto

Soweto is probably South Africa’s most (in)famous township. It’s the one-time home of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, birthplace of amapiano, and the epicenter of uprisings and protests throughout apartheid. 

It’s also just a place people live. 

You’ll probably first visit Soweto on a day trip from the city (it’s a roughly 30-minute drive with no traffic). They’ll take you to all the important spots and explain Soweto’s importance in the struggle. You’ll also get to try kota – a quintessential South African street dish. 

But if you’re lucky enough to make friends with some Soweto residents (not difficult), they’ll probably invite you out for a block party or braai. Take them up on the offer the first chance you get. Despite the history here, people are incredibly welcoming to visitors and go out of their way to make you feel at home. 

17. Melville

Melville is a vibrant suburb known for its bohemian charm and vibrant energy. While the rest of Joburg can feel increasingly materialistic or stuck in the colonial era, Melville is a breath of fresh, unpretentious air. 

7th Street is where most of the action happens. It’s got the best bars, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. During the day, it’s a relaxing vibe to stroll along, bump into friends, and do some thrift shopping. At night, you can hop between the many bars to find your vibe. But the people who know always end up in The Plug. Expect DJs playing anything from esoteric traditional African music to deep house. 

On Friday evening, Six Cocktail Bar hosts fantastic high-life jazz bands. Smoking Kills is also just down the road from 7th Street and always busy on the weekends. 

18. 4th Avenue, Parkhurst

4th Avenue in Parkhurst is the epicenter of one of Johannesburg’s most diverse and boujee suburbs. This street is flanked by diverse boutiques, cafes, bars, and restaurants. On one end you might hear traditional Irish music (Joburg has a big Irish community). On the other, the latest amapiano bangers. 

4th Ave. is also one of the most open areas of Johannesburg. Like 7th Street in Melville, you can freely stroll up and down the street day and night, and once the sun goes down, many of the bars and restaurants spill out onto the footpath. It’s a fun atmosphere with a young crowd from every community in the city. 

For food, The Blockman has the best steaks, grilled meat, and seafood in Joburg – and the best service. If you’re into haute cuisine, head across the road to Embarc. For something more casual, Hudsons and The Station deliver lively pub vibes. If you wanna dance til the sun comes up in an inclusive crowd of revelers, Bad Manors is the spot. 

Nature and Hiking

Fun Fact: Johannesburg is one of the greenest cities in the world. 

You’ll need to visit the northern suburbs to experience the rich nature in its full glory. Or take a day trip to many national parks, nature reserves, and hiking trails. For now, If it’s your first time in the city, I’ve one recommendation. 

19. The Wilds Nature Reserve

Joburg can be overwhelming when you first arrive. The sprawl. The imposing Brutalist architecture. The inequality. 

So, if you need a break and don’t want to leave the city on a day trip, head to The Wilds. It’s a free nature reserve between downtown and the posh Northern Suburbs. You can walk along secluded footpaths, sprawl out on landscaped gardens, or perch yourself on a bench looking out over the city. 

Joburg has plenty of public parks dotted throughout the city. But many of them have been neglected and lie in a sorry state. 

The Wilds is a welcome exception. You’ll still hear the occasional hum of traffic in the distance. But tuning it out is easy. 


I only visited one museum in Joburg, as the walking tours and events I attended provided me with most of the context I needed to understand the city. However, there is one museum you should probably visit while in the city….

20. The Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum is exactly what it sounds like. 

It details many of the atrocities of the fascist, white supremacist governments that ran South Africa for most of the 20th century. But it also celebrates that struggle, both within South Africa and around the world, to take the regime down. 

The museum is interactive and starts with a re-enactment of Apartheid’s racial segregation. As you walk through the entrance, you’ll read harrowing excerpts from laws and government officials outlining their racist ideologies in plain English. 

From there, you’ll be taken on a story through the mostly non-violent resistance and its leading figures, from Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu to diaspora figures like the singer Miriam Makeba. 

Eventually, you emerge into a beautiful garden celebrating South Africa’s rich diversity and many cultures. 

Coming Soon!

This list is a work in progress. 

I’m currently writing a lot more content, including: 

  • The best museums and art galleries
  • Unique dining experiences
  • Day trips
  • More nature and hiking
  • More live music and clubs
  • Much more…

So, stay tuned and join the Facebook community to get updates.

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