Too much month at the end of your money? Even on payday? Save your bucks and use this great list. Here are 10 of the best free things to do in Joburg.
1. Free beer
2. Free walking tours
Starting at Park Station, this free walking tour of Joburg is a great way to get to know the CBD. Choose to roam Braamfontein (15:30 every day) or the City Centre Tour (at 10:30 and 13:00 every day). You’ll take in the large open-air museum in the corporate mining district, see historical landmarks such as the Chancellor House where Mandela worked as a lawyer in his younger days, the Beautiful Victorian Style Post Office or the buzzing Diagonal Street where you can buy your partner a corn on the cob or grab a beer in the old bar after the tour. (Just know, that even though it is free, a tip is normally granted at the end of the tour).
3. Free art
Dating back to 1966, the Goodman Gallery is one of the longest standing contemporary art galleries in the country. It also welcomes visitors for free. While you’re in Rosebank, create your own self-guided walking art tour and pop in to the Everard Read and Circa on Jellicoe Galleries – these are free too. Other cool art galleries worth stopping in at are the Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein, which has the largest collection of historical and contemporary art from across Africa, and Gallery Momo.
First Thursdays Johannesburg is a free cultural experience where art galleries and other cultural attractions in Braamfontein, Maboneng and Rosebank stay open late on the first Thursday of every month. Events kick off at 17:00 and you can download self-guided programs and maps to plan your evening.
On the first weekend of every month, Artists Under the Sun happens at Joburg’s Zoo Lake. Up to 40 selected artists come together for SA’s largest open-air art exhibition, which has been taking place since 1960. Pack a picnic and make a (free) day of it.
Also read: 12 must-see art galleries in Joburg
4. Free video games
5. Free cultural escapes
Embrace the east at these beautiful sanctuaries.
Bronkhorstspruit (an hour from Joburg) is home to Nan Hua, the largest Buddhist temple and seminary in Africa. There are free guided tours on Sundays at 13:00. Apart from the magnificent shrines, there is also a collection of traditional Chinese artefacts. Open daily except Mondays.
The Nizamiye Turkish Masjid in Midrand, a replica of the 16th-century Selimiye Camii mosque in Istanbul, has a 32-metre dome and four 55-metre minarets. Visitors are welcome to take in the dazzling architecture of courtyards, fountains, marble columns, stained-glass windows, calligraphy and mosaics. Open daily 04:00 – 22:00 (women are required to cover up).
6. Free history lessons
Museum Africa in Newtown is home a fascination collection of Joburg’s ‘firsts’ (traffic light, telephone etc) and features some great exhibitions. Call to check what’s on 0118335624.
The Satyagraha House was once home to Mahatma Gandhi and his Orchards home is now a fascinating living museum-cum-guesthouse. The gorgeous house was named ‘The Kraal’ by Gandhi and his dear friend (who was also the architect) Hermann Kallenbach. The museum is filled with the intertwining history of these two men and is called the Satyagraha House after the passive-resistance movement of the same name.
The Chancellor House is another great free thing to do in Joburg. The well-thought out outdoor museum is housed in the windows of the original attorney’s offices of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo. A time-line has been laid out explaining the story of apartheid accompanied with photographs and interesting facts. Opposite, is an impressive six-metre tall statue of Mandela in his iconic boxing attire by Marco Cianfanelli.
For something more unusual, visit the Fietas Museum in Brixton. The area suffered one of the biggest Aprtheid-era relocations and the small museum is in one of the few surviving original buildings. It includes an exhibition of photographs of the area before, during and after its destruction donated by renowned South African photographer David Goldblatt. It’s closed on Fridays and tours operate daily by arrangement – book in advance by emailing [email protected].
7. Free flowers
Get up early and see biggest flower market in Africa, Multiflora, in action. Call in advance and book a tour to have the auction process explained and make the most of the experience. This great photo blog by Heather Mason explains the whole process best.
Spring also means Jacaranda season and soon the streets will be painted purple. These are the best tree-lined avenues for seeing these seasonal flowers. Melville (especially 4th Avenue), Greenside. Emmarentia and Westcliff are all gorgeous in Jacaranda season and Munro Drive in Houghton offers great views over the city too. Try Tyrwhitt Avenue and Oxford Road in Rosebank. The suburbs of Parkwood and neighbouring Saxonwold (start at Bath Avenue and zig zag though the suburb). Riviera Road in Killarney towards the Ditsong Museum of Military History is always impressive too.
8. Free views
Sundowners at the beautiful Northcliff Hill offers visitors a free views of Joburg that stretch out all the way to the Magaliesberg. You can park your car close by and pack a small cooler with snacks and drinks to watch the afternoon roll by. Although it gets pretty busy on weekends, it’s safest to do in a group.
Melville Koppies Reserve is another great viewpoint and a city heritage site. The vegetation here is completely indigenous and gives an idea of what Egoli was like before the gold rush. It’s also one of the best ways to appreciate the world’s biggest urban forest. From up here it’s easy to see how many trees have been planted in the city. However, there’s been advice to go in groups for safety reasons, so rope in some friends or join a guided tour of the park for 50 bucks each.
The Westcliff Steps (there are 210 in total) are easiest to get to via Crescent Drive or through the pedestrian entrance at the intersection of Wicklow Avenue and Westcliff Drive. Tackling the stairway is great exercise and the views from the top are worth the uphill lunges.
9. Free films
Enjoy a selection of short films on rotation, for free, every Sunday from 11:00 at The Bioscope. It’s a great chance to experience this cool cinema (the seats are actually old leather car seats, some still have the safety buckles too) and enjoy all that Maboneng has to offer on a Sunday, like the free Market on Main.
10. Free markets
Luckily, browsing is still free. Visit one of these regular Joburg markets: The Melville 27 Boxes Night Market, , Braamfontein’s Neighbourgoods, Rosebank Sunday Market, Bryanston Organic Market and more are free to enter. Another cool new event to try is the monthly First Fridays late night shopping at 44 Stanley. From Friday 1st September, the trendy design hub is open for drinks, shopping, eating and promises chilled vinyl music. Try new chocolate flavours at Chocoloza, see the ceramic exhibition by Michelle Legg at Pichulik and simply enjoy the unique outdoor setting.
Also read: 12 of the best markets in Joburg