Most people think of Johannesburg as only a stop along their journey to their final South African destination. But Johannesburg has so much more to offer to visitors. Here is a list of the top things to do in Johannesburg and why you should take the time to explore it.

When people think of Johannesburg (Joburg, as the locals say), they think about the danger and criminal reputation that hangs over the city. Some are willing to risk a night in the city on their way to Kruger or the rest of South Africa. But once people get there, they find a completely different side to the city. Many are often convinced to stay longer. There is a plethora of reasons for why you should plan to stay longer than one night in Joburg! Here are a few things to do in Johannesburg that really stuck out to us.

The History

South Africa has a deep history of racism and segregation, but they take the time to learn and understand it. While you’re in Joburg you can visit places like Constitutional Hill or the Apartheid Museum to really grasp what the country went through. It’s hard to believe that it only ended in 1994 (the year we were born!) but knowing the time apartheid took place contextualizes the artifacts at each site and exhibit. It also puts into perspective the passion of the people over the history of their country.

The Markets

There are several markets throughout Joburg but one of our favorites was Neighbourgoods Market. It happens every Saturday starting around 10am, when the market fills with delicious foods, desserts and snacks to take home. On the top level there is also a DJ who keeps the good vibes going while you shop. Look around for clothes, jewelry and other trinkets from local artists and business owners to make your friends envious.

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The Creativity

Joburg, and South Africa in general, has a vivid and colorful creative scene. Whether it’s music, fashion, jewelry making, graffiti or any other artistic pursuit, it’s sure to be in the city. In the month we stayed there we had several opportunities to attend music festivals, gallery openings, DJ nights and many more events. There was never a shortage of unique things to do in Johannesburg. Fashion Week Joburg was also happening while we were there and we got to meet and purchase some pieces from up and coming designers. It kept us constantly inspired and was probably the most unexpected part of South Africa. Everyone has a creative idea and they are passionately trying to make it happen one way or another.

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The People

We highly recommend you take the Soweto bike tour to get a taste of the culture in South Africa. The tours, either two or four hours long, give you an intimate look at the largest township in South Africa. It is also the township where Nelson Mandela is from! You’ll have a guide that will tell their personal stories from growing up in the township, before and after apartheid. You’ll also have many opportunities to greet the residents of the community in their native language, which the guide will teach you at the beginning of the tour. While there are many options for touring Soweto, like the Big Red Bus, we would definitely encourage you to stay on the ground for this one and hear the stories from a first person account. And even if you don’t know how to ride a bike, we promise it’ll still be a reasonable ride. This should definitely be on your list of things to do in Johannesburg.

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South Africa is the epitome of a hidden gem. One month was not enough time for us. Some of the most kind and passionate people welcomed us with open arms into their homes and their culture. Whether you’re looking to go on a safari, or simply looking to be immersed in a new culture, we recommend you put South Africa at the top of your list.

Book your discounted flight to Johannesburg today with StudentUniverse to experience all that this city has to offer.

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    About Chelsea St. Clair & Tien Dang