The best way to get to know the city is by exploring its city centre; the heart and soul of Jo’burg. The area has been revamped in recent years but still has some fine examples of colonial architecture. For an insight into the segregated black neighbourhoods built during the apartheid years take a tour of the township Soweto where Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both lived.
Post-apartheid Jo’burg has acquired a reputation for being a dangerous city filled with crime and poverty and while this sentiment often resonates in the minds of travellers coming off Johannesburg flights, it shouldn’t deter anyone from visiting this fascinating city.
Johannesburg is lucky enough to have the sun shine year-round. Average temperatures are about 26 degrees in January, 16 degrees in June - and humidity is not a factor. The winters are mild and short and snow is very rare.
When to fly to Johannesburg
The best times to book flights to Johannesburg depends on the activity you have in mind. Southern-hemisphere rules apply when it comes to seasons. South Africa’s summer lasts from November to February – warm with heavy rains in the afternoons.
Average winter temperatures range between 11 degrees in Johannesburg and 17 degrees in Durban; while summer temperatures hover between 19 (in Johannesburg) and 24 (in Durban).
The best time to watch game is spring (August to October). Whale watchers should visit between mid-June and the end of October for Southern Right Whales and between August and December for Humpback Whales.
For diving and surfing – April to September; hiking – spring and autumn as summer temperatures can be very high.
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Getting around Johannesburg
After your flight to Johannesburg lands, hop aboard one of the airport shuttles, which are available for most hotel destinations. The rest of the city is accessible by taxi, by bus, or on foot. The safest way to travel is by calling a cab or hiring your own car.
Johannesburg has bus routes to all corners of the city, and the main station is Park Station. Ticket prices vary by zones. Crime is often a problem on Johannesburg’s public transport, especially on the Jo’burg-Pretoria line, so take care to travel in numbers and keep your belongings close. If you’re taking a taxi, it’s safest to hail a cab or call ahead from your hotel, as taxi lines are often hotspots for petty crime.
Johannesburg insider information
- A visit to Johannesburg wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Apartheid Museum which offers a fascinating look into South Africa under apartheid between 1948 and 1994. Spend a few hours watching the unsettling video footage and listening to audio accounts of peoples’ experiences.
- One of the city’s most popular attractions – Constitution Hill is Jo’burg’s equivalent to Robben Island. Built on the site of Old Fort prison, the development houses South Africa’s new Constitutional Court which rules on constitutional issues including human rights. Visitors can attend court hearings and tour some areas of the Old Fort.
- Another important insight into apartheid can be found at the township of Soweto. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu once lived here and today visitors (on guided tours) can visit Mandela’s home. Down the road from Soweto is the Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum dedicated to the memory of Hector Pieterson – a young boy killed by police during a peaceful protest against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in schools. This was one of many casualties in the 1976 Soweto uprising.
- Situated in the central business district of Johannesburg, the JohannesburgArt Gallery is the city’s first gallery. The three story museum boasts an impressive collection of Flemish and Dutch art, as well as works by reputable South African artists including Helen Sebidi, Alfred Toba, and Gerard Sekoto.