72 Hours in Johannesburg

When it comes to naming the best cities in South Africa, Johannesburg is certainly up there and shouldn’t be missed. In fact, some tourists have gone as far as giving the city the title, ‘the New York City of Africa’. Whether this is true or not, I’ll let you be the judge. Whatever you decide, Johannesburg is without any doubt a beautiful city, and a must visit for any adventurous tourist. It’s the magic city where most South Africans and Africans in general go to make things happen.

To enjoy all that the city has to offer, you’d probably have to stay a little longer than 72 hours. However, with a well mapped out plan, you can successfully tour the most thrilling places in Johannesburg within your 3 days visit time frame. Our itinerary for a 3 day tour of Johannesburg will be perfect if you don’t have a plan yet or you’re about to make one. Feel free to add other things that suit your preferences and sense of adventure.

things to do in Johannesburg

Day 1

Your adventure in Johannesburg begins today. Excitement levels are high! Understandable, but let’s take it one step at a time. After your arrival in Johannesburg, the first thing you want to do is to check into a comfortable hotel near OR Tambo. For ease of transportation, your choice of hotel should be located close to the airport, especially if you’re flight is early in the morning or late in the evening.

With that sorted out, the rest of the day should leave you with ample time to begin your adventure. Johannesburg is filled with so many places and things to see and experience. However, we are going to stick with places that are within a walking distance from each other.

After having a quick brunch, you can make your way to Constitution Hill. This historic museum will be your first stop. After all, there is no better way to start the tour of a city than visiting places where you can learn more about its history.

Constitution Hill was originally built as a military fort, however, it was later converted to a prison. Incidentally, this was the prison where great freedom fighters like Gandhi and Mandela were held. Today the prison has been converted into a beautiful museum which also houses the Constitutional Court (South Africa’s highest court). Constitution Hill is a reminder of some of the tragic moments in South Africa’s history and its long walk to democracy. 

If you are able to keep track of the time, your tour of Constitution Hill should last for two or three hours. This should leave you with enough time to make other stops.

Constitution Hill Johannesburg

The visit to Constitution Hill should have stirred up a thirst for knowledge in you. So it makes sense to continue in a similar path by visiting Maboneng Precinct. This is another area of Johannesburg that holds a lot of South Africa’s rich History. During and post-apartheid era, Maboneng was a no-go zone. This was due to the high crimes and dreadful activities that went on there. Don’t panic yet! In 2008, the area saw a major transformation, and what was once a danger zone, became a prime tourist attraction. In fact, it is now a top destination for diners, shoppers, and art-lovers. The area houses a number of locally owned restaurants, businesses, galleries, and a trendy weekend market.

You can now take a tour of this fascinating area and enjoy a place that was once South Africa’s most dangerous neighborhood. A tour of Maboneng Precinct should last for as long as three hours. If the day permits you, you can make other stops at the Carlton Centre and Braamfontein

However, if you have seen enough or the day seems to be drawing to a close, you can retire to your hotel. Here, make sure you celebrate your first day at the bar or just enjoy the variety of delicacies the hotel’s restaurant has to offer.

Day 2

Day two should start with a smooth bicycle tour around the streets of Soweto. There is nothing like gliding through the eco-friendly streets of Soweto, stopping for a taste of local food and drinks, and visiting historic centres. 

Another top thing to do in Johannesburg that should be on your list, is the Apartheid museum and the Nelson Mandela National Museum on Vilakazi street (Mandela House). This will give you a first-hand experience of the history and culture of the Soweto people.

The apartheid museum in particular, is perhaps the premier attraction in Johannesburg. The museum holds memories of the harsh racial segregation laws that once ruled South Africa. Apartheid is a not-too-easy concept to understand, but the thrills of the museum makes the visit worth it. 

Vilakazi street on the other hand features the houses of two prominent Noble prize winners; Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Mandela’s house on Vilakazi street is now a museum where family pictures, artworks, and memorabilia are displayed gracefully.

Soweto Village in Johannesburg
Soweto Village

Day 3

Your last day in Johannesburg should be fun! Get ready to eat, drink, shop, and have the time of your life. Pay a visit to the Oriental Plaza where you can have a feel of Johannesburg’s Indian community. It’s located next to the city centre but close to the Indian suburb of Fordsburg. The little town features a variety of fashion shops, clothing and kitchen ware stores, Indian restaurants and other food vendors. You are likely to get lost in the Oriental Plaza, but that’s the point. Wander around and see where that takes you. One thing is sure, you will not leave the plaza empty-handed.

You can also tour other weekend markets to explore the city’s local cuisines and lifestyle. You will most likely pick up a souvenir or two to take back home.

Indian food street vendor in Fordsburg

It’s now time to get back to OR Tambo Airport and leave Johannesburg. We hope you enjoyed your trip.

Have you been to this wonderful city? Tell us your recommendations of how to spend 72 hours in Johannesburg in the comments below.

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