A Day in Johannesburg: South Africa

Most if not all itineraries of a day in Johannesburg have a half-day reserved for the Soweto tour. We weren’t interested in doing a township tour, so I searched for places beyond Soweto. On this trip, we spent a week in Kruger, then flew to Namibia and spent 16 days there and then our plan was to do a 5 days safari in Botswana. Since we didn’t get Botswana visa in time, I added a day in Johannesburg and rest in Durban. A day in Johannesburg was our last-minute plan, but nevertheless, we loved it.

A day in Johannesburg Itinerary

We reached our hotel, Holiday Inn Johannesburg Airport, late last night from Namibia. We had plans to leave at 9 am, take a taxi to Rose bank, hop on to the green route of hop on hop off (HOHO) bus which covers many spots and then get off at Constitutional Hill at 10 am. But we left only by 10 am and took a taxi straight to Constitution Hill.

10 am – Constitution Hill

  • It was a former prison where the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi had served time. Today it is a Constitutional Court that endorses the rights of all citizens.
  • They offer a one-hour free guided tour. We reached at 10:30 am and waited for the next tour at 11 am.
  • Our friendly guide took us around explaining the conditions in which inmates lived, differences between whites and non-whites, how they were psychologically and physically tortured and what their living conditions were. It was sobering and an eye-opener experience.  Eventually, it ended at the Constitutional Court, which gives a positivity vibe and hopes for a bright future.
  • Apartheid Museum is on everyone’ s list, but we felt this one-hour tour of Constitution Hill was much better and shouldn’t be missed. We are not into museums and normally skip them, but this was a heart touch experience.

Tip – By showing HOHO bus tickets, you get a 25% discount off your Constitution Hill ticket price. So make sure to purchase HOHO bus tickets first if planning to do the same. Also, buying HOHO bus tickets online will give you some discount.

Sleeping arrangement at Constitution Hill

Overcrowded sleeping arrangement at Constitution Hill

Prison Cells at Constitution Hill

Prison Cells

Difference between blacks and whites in South Africa

Difference between blacks and whites

Gandhi's Uniform at Constitution Hill

Mahatma Gandhi’s Uniform

11 Languages used in South Africa

11 official languages in South Africa

Constitutional Court in Johannesburg

Constitutional Court

We then had plans to catch the HOHO bus, but we got late and just took an Uber to our next stop.

1 pm – Neighbourgoods Market

  • It is open from 9 am to 3 pm.
  • This is a food market where you can sample different cuisines.
  • For vegetarians, there was a huge variety available. There were so many different dishes available that we could sample only a few of them before we were stuffed.
  • At the entrance, we saw a Lebanese counter and got a plate of different snacks. Every single dish was delicious. Then there was a Vietnamese counter from where we grabbed many items like Vietnamese roll which was about decent, noodles and spring rolls which were tasty. We also had toasties, nachos and pani puri. Further, we got some sauce and delicious pickles to take home.
  • In all, it was an excellent place for lunch and had endless variety for vegetarians too.

Veg Food at Neighbourgoods Market

Lebanese Platter

Vietnamese Food at Neighbourgoods Market

Vietnamese Roll and Noodles

Toasties at Neighbourgoods Market

He made delicious Veg toasties for us!

Nachos at Neighbourgoods Market

Who doesn’t like Nachos?

After this, we jumped onto the HOHO bus. I’ll say you can easily manage with Uber and not pay a hefty price for the HOHO bus. Since we had purchased tickets, we had no option but to take it.

2 pm – HOHO Bus

In any and every city, we love sitting on the top deck, taking a full round in the bus and checking our various sites. So that’s what exactly we did. HOHO bus gives a good glimpse of the city. We spent an hour admiring various sights and buildings of Johannesburg.

A Day in Johannesburg City

City View from HOHO Bus

Gold Reef City - A Day in Johannesburg

Gold Reef City

HOHO Bus - A Day in Johannesburg

We love HOHO bus for exploring cities!

3 pm – Apartheid Museum

  • After having a touching experience at Constitution Hill, my family wasn’t keen on visiting the Apartheid Museum. But I had heard so much about it that I literally forced them to visit it.
  • The most famous thing is their entrance having 2 gates, which splits you randomly into whites and blacks. It depicts the difference in their lives. After that, it is all pictures and information depicting Apartheid times. We went through all the exhibits and found it about decent.
  • This museum is very famous and gets all the attention, but I would recommend visiting Constitution Hill and doing their guided tour.
  • Also, pictures aren’t allowed here.

After visiting the museum, it was almost 5 pm and mostly all the sights close in Johannesburg by then.

5 pm – Back on HOHO bus to Constitutional Hill/Rose bank

After the museum, we had no time and hop onto the last bus which stops at Constitution Hill and ends at Rose Bank. We got off at Constitutional Hill and called an Uber to take to our airport hotel. While getting off at Constitution Hill, our bus driver was very worried for us and inquired where are we heading as everyone gets down only at Rose bank. But our Uber arrived and we got off there itself. In no time, buzzing Johannesburg turned deserted after sunset. We got to our hotel, ordered pizzas for dinner, and crashed.

Sunset in Johannesburg

Sunset View from HOHO bus

Buildlings in Johannesburg

Views from HOHO bus after sunset

Veg Dinner in Johannesburg

Pizzas for dinner

6 pm – Emperor Palace (Didn’t visit this time)

If this is your first time, stay at one of the Emperors Palace hotels and spend the evening here. It gives Las Vegas vibe and has a huge entertainment centre where you can play casino and enjoy the nightlife. It also houses a couple of restaurants, my favourite being falafel from Anat. We stayed here back in 2012 and in hindsight should have stayed here again.

Emperor Palace in Johannesburg

Emperor’s Palace

Ceiling in Emperor Palace in Johannesburg

Beautiful artwork on the ceiling

Anat in Johannesburg

My favourite falafel place

Other Sights to see if you have time

  • Gold Reef City – It is an amusement park and needs a full day. It is also famous for its gold mine tour. On both of our visits to Johannesburg, we had this on our list but didn’t visit it. Also, reviews state lines are long for rides and the gold mine tour can be claustrophobic.
  • Carlton centre – The tallest building in Africa

On our last visit to Johannesburg, we booked a guided trip to diamond mines and Pretoria. It was a fun tour that may appeal to some and some might find boring. On this trip, we finally explored Johannesburg for a day. We had a great time in Johannesburg and would recommend adding a day or two if you can find some time on your busy South Africa itinerary. Do check out our Kruger Trip Report.

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