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Stuck on something to do in Joburg this weekend, but don’t want to break the bank? Then you’re exactly like me and I’m taking a stand. I’ve compiled a to-do list and found there’s plenty to do in the Big Smoke. Cheers to the weekend.

Also read: 10 (more) unusual things to do around Joburg


1. City Sightseeing Joburg

Cost: R170 adults, R90 for kids.
Place: Start at the Sandton Gautrain Station
Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

  • Climb to the top of Africa at the Carlton Centre for R15.
  • Look up at lawyer Gandhi at the Gandhi Square and walk through the area (I did so safely on a  recent walking tour so do not fear! See number 5) for free.
  • Check out the James Hall Transport Museum and look out for the extremely rare collection of steam vehicles for free.
  •  Go back in time with archeology and rock art at the Origins Centre at Wits for only R37 when you show your red bus ticket.
  • Learn about South Africa’s history at the Apartheid museum for only R40 when you show your red bus ticket.
  • Walk around Constitution Hill and take in the great art next to the justice court, visit jail cells that held South African heroes and see the old fort built by Paul Kruger for R50. They also have a great new restaurant because you’ll probably be hungry by now.

If you want to splash out, go on a hair-raising ride at Gold Reef City for R175.


2. Montecasino Bird Garden

Cost: R70
Place: Montecasino
Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

I don’t know why more people don’t visit these incredible bird gardens. There are beautiful walkways past countless exotic birds, an impressive cycad garden, a frog room and the longest snake in the world, plus other unusual mammals like the sloth and lemurs. My favourite though is the walk-through aviary filled with dozens of bright pink scarlet ibises and over 60 other bird species.

The bird show is really interesting too and you can feed the lorikeets on your way out which is always a scream. Literally, when they land on your head and walk up the back of your neck.

TIP: If you want to save cash, join the Montecasino Rewards Programme. You just sign up for a card in the casino section (I’m guessing they’re hoping you’ll drop some dollar while you’re at it) and use it for the cinema too because then movies are just R35.


3. Zoo Lake Swimming Pool

Cost: R12
Place: Zoo Lake, Lower Park Drive


Original picture from Grazia blog

I haven’t visited this pool yet but I’ve had various friends take picnics there and used it as a base to celebrate birthdays. I know we’re not really in the age of using public pools anymore, but I’ve heard it’s beautifully maintained and kept looking fresh. We’ve still got some summer left, why not pay a visit and let us know?

You can five five more awesome public pools here.


4. Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

Cost: R40
Place: Roodepoort
Photo by Melanie van Zyl.
Founded in 1982 this nature reserve is perfect for your next picnic. One of South Africa’s eight botanical gardens, you can snack on sarmies beneath the waterfall, watching the Verreaux’s Eagles perched at the top with binocs, walk through the succulent rocket and fern garden or look down on the sprawling lawns from the top of the waterfall. It’s a great time to go with all the recent rains too.

If you’re that way inclined (like me, I love rocks) the self-guided JCI Geological Trail offers the opportunity to learn about the interesting geology of the area, or you can arrange a guided tour of the gardens.


5. Past Experiences Walking Tour

Cost: Between R130 and R260
Place: Mostly Jozi Inner City
Fox Street. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.
I put this on my list of 15 incredible Southern African experiences to try in 2015 because walking through inner city Johannesburg is fascinating. Past Experiences run a variety of themed tours – from shopping to graffiti to a spicy Fordsburg tour – and I went on the Ka’Ching Tour concerned with the birth of Johannesburg as a mining and wealth-oriented town. A walk through the dawning of the City of Gold, so to speak.
Led by our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Jo Buitendach, we were taken through the old banking district past a number of public art sites, restaurants and gorgeous old buildings. I’m looking to try Jozi’s Chinatown tour next.

TIP: Pop them an email and ask about their budget tours which change from month to month.


6. The Living Room

Cost: Cover Charge R30 before 2pm, R50 thereafter.
Place: Maboneng
The Living Room. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.
This awesome rooftop venue in Maboneng overlooks the gorgeous city skyline and feels like you’re sitting in a nursery – hence its name, The Living Room. Eat tapas surrounded by an abundance of plants and sip on cocktails as the sun goes down.

The Living Room - Melanie van Zyl-2
Keep an eye on The Living Room Facebook page for events like the hosted DJs on some Sundays.


7. Melville Koppies

Cost: Free
Place: Melville

Original photo from Suds344

Original photo from Suds344.

I’m ashamed to say I’ve lived in Johannesburg my whole life and never been to Meville Koppies. A 50-year old nature reserve right on our doorstep, the last of Johannesburg’s remaining ridges according to Gauteng Tourism and I’ve been too lazy to investigate. Well, enough is enough.

180 bird species can be found in the reserve and a variety of small mammals such as slender and yellow mongooses, civets, genets, scrub hares and hedgehogs. Hedgehogs have to be the sweetest animals and we have them right here in Joburg. You can either go on your walk or join a guided tour of the park for 50 bucks each.

Author’s aside: I’ve yet to visit Melville Koppies to make up my own mind about the place, but I am definitely still going to go. After reading some of the comments below it’ll more than likely be with a group. Everyone seems to have their own experience of the koppies, ranging from hiker’s paradise to absolute no-go and I had a scroll through TripAdvisor which confirms this. Although he probably didn’t have a funny experience, I loved this tongue in cheek review titled ’Test your street survival skills‘. The best characteristic a traveller can have is a sense of humour.


8. Mountain Sanctuary Park

Cost: R100 an adult and R50 a car
Place: Mountain Sanctuary Park
Photo by Melanie van Zyl.
One of the best ways to while away a day is swimming in the natural rock pools at Mountain Sanctuary Park in the mountainous Magaliesberg area. The 1000-hectare property, which has been open to the public for 37 years, is renowned for its hiking trails and is a popular day visit destination for nature-hungry Gautengers needing fresh air. The closest set of natural pools is just a 20-minute walk and the waters flow generously after summer rains.


Early morning walks overlooking the valley at Mountain Sanctuary Park. Photo by Teagan Cunniffe.

Early morning walks overlooking the valley at Mountain Sanctuary Park. Photo by Teagan Cunniffe.


View from the Slide pools. Image by Teagan Cunniffe

View from the Slide pools. Photo by Teagan Cunniffe.

There’s also a well-kept pool and grassy picnic area with a viewing deck if you want to braai. Book in advance because the park limits the number of day visitors.

If you’d like to stay for the weekend it’ll set you back about R80 bucks a person a night to camp and you can check out our feature on the best weekend breaks around Joburg.


9. Maboneng Precinct

Cost: Free
Place: Maboneng
A Sunday visit to Maboneng. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.
I specify Sunday because this is when the Market on Main comes alive, but there’s plenty to do in this renewed inner city area that’s brimming with the trendy on any other day.

Visit Africa’s first design museum MOAD, take in a movie (that you won’t find screening at Ster Kinekor) at The Bioscope or sip a cocktail at The Living Room (see number 6). There are plenty of restaurants to check out if the market is a bit full and a number of coffee stands to get your fix. You can even swim at the newly opened Poolside Cafe.

Walk around this vibrant part of town and take it all in. It’s quite something.


10. Hennops Hiking Trail

Cost: R60
Place: Hennops River (approx. 45-minutes from Sandton)
Photo by Melanie van Zyl.
I’ve already ticked this one off the list and absolutely loved spending a day walking in nature on the Hennops Hiking Trail.

There are two main hikes, plus a shorter trail suitable for kids with plenty of scenery to soak up and a swimming pool to splash in post-hike. The range of landscapes is enough to get the soul stirring – from lush river-side gorges to rocky plateaus, giant aloes the size of small trees and easygoing grassland strolls it’s a beautiful day out and not too difficult. You can read the original Hennops Hiking Trail blog and find more photographs there.
As Getaway’s gear editor I’m always on the look out for new travel gadgets to test and review. If there’s anything you think I should check out, please let me know. I’m also blogging at where you can follow my travels, photography and updates on all things Joburg.

Also read: 20 different things to do in Cape Town

86 Responses to “10 unusual things to do in Joburg that won’t cost a fortune”

    • david

      Hope You followed your own advice. Have left and please don’t return. No need for negative people. Change starts with a positive attitude and the willingness to bring about change. Even if it means changing yourself. Love seeing Jozi become a metropolitan city.

    • Danny Wimpey

      Seriously Douglas? I think maybe you haven’t been here for 10 years. Give us a try, you’ll be surprised. Jozi is a very different place to the one you’re describing.

    • andre

      Please leave then – without a forwarding address. Many of us live here by choice after living in cities like London, Boston, Frankfurt-am-Main etc

    • alex

      Maybe if you took your head out your area and saw the rest of jhb your opinion would be better than just criticism, also try fox street market really cool and free entrance:)

      • Joelz

        I was at the fox Street, Neighbourhood Market, I was really impressed, such a great city vibe, I loved it

    • Sally

      Well that is a helpful comment worth leaving on this site. Misery loves company! Lucky you.

    • Debbie

      Easy to see where your head and heart space is. Best that you leave and stay away. Jo’burg is way up there at the top of the list for having the worlds friendliest, most helpful, resilient, and unapathetic people. If you cannot see that or participate in the goodwill here, then you won’t fit in or be satisfied where ever you choose to be.

    • megan charkowski

      Jo’burg is amazing! its only bad when u look at one side look at the other side of Jo’burg and u will never want to leave. and frankly its better than the cape (no hate to capetonians, its just my opinion)

    • Aysha Patel - McGill

      I think you’re just a troll (in every sense of the word), trying to put a damper on everyones positive vibe. If you have nothing good to say its best to simply keep quiet especially if you can’t provide constructive criticism. I’m born and bred in Johannesburg and have lived in London and Paris and while I love both cities, I long for Joburg and just thinking about it gives me goosebumps. Johannesburg is less crime ridden than many other cities in South Africa, including Cape Town and Durban; it has more trees than any other city in the world and the soul of Africa and more recently the world looks to melt in this pot we call Johannesburg. So please take your own advice and leave – Joburg doesn’t want or need you and if you are employed here there are 20 or more other people happy to relieve you of your misery.I promise you this city will be better off with you and your negative mentality.

    • dkzxxx

      Our dear Douglas is a When-we. Why not go back to Matabeleland Douglas? Check out his very public FB. Self righteously indignant posts abound. His little soap box. Voetsekwena.

    • mary

      Some of actually really love this city. You should take your negative perspective and opinion and keep it IN whatever crime ridden diseased city you come from.

    • Tap Tap

      Go back to Cape Town to join the descendants of those that failed the IQ test for the Great Trek, Jhb. is a great place with a fabulous climate

    • storm

      Honestly speaking I don’t know what your personal experiences of Joburg have been so I can’t really judge you, but if you think about it, every place has a dark side. But if thats the only side you choose to see then you’ll never be happy regardless of the city you’re in.

    • Ishvara

      yawn – Douglas its time for you to leave for a sanitised country like Canada …

    • Nicole

      agreed, Douglas! Yes, Jo’burg has many friendly people and “nice” things but compared to how much hatred and crime there is…it is really a terrible place! So much racism, hatred, crime, pollution and overall just terrible. As much as i try to be a positive person, joburg just seems to disappoint me…and a lot of people for that matter! Its just… ASDFGHJKL!!!!!!!!

    • Shawn Greyling

      That’s the biggest load of turd I’ve read in a long time. I am Jozi born and bred and what you’ve said is wrong. I double dog dare you to Google Dlala Nje and go on one of their amazing inner city tours.

    • Kesh

      Joburg is an amazing place in my opinion and there are so many amazing things to do and see!!!

    • Reba

      Please grow a brain. There is no where on the world where there is complete bliss. The world is riddled with differences. Travel more and not on a penny pincher budget, then dare to repeat yourself. Your clearly not exposed enough!
      Your simple minded.

  1. Gaynor

    I recently visited Maboneng and had the most amazing day. I feel extremely patriotic now and left with a sense of pride that we have such an interesting city. After seeing the urban renewal projects in Cape Town in December, this seems like an extension of just that. Definitely worth a day out especially for people watchers. The amount of foreign tourists was a delight to see in our city. From the food to the buildings, it will not disappoint!

  2. Lauren

    Completely disagree with Peach Cafe. A few peach trees and some rather bedraggled looking geese does not make it a farm. The food is well below average, the service slow and it has no atmosphere. The only organic produce on sale when we were there was “magic mushrooms” from some rather dubious characters. I wouldn’t recommend anyone go there, it’s is the worse place I’ve ever eaten. Rather go somewhere like 44 Stanley and enjoy Joburg for what it is rather than some fake farm experience.

    • Melanie van Zyl

      HI Lauren

      Thanks for your comments. Peach Cafe is no longer part of the blog as it’s been recently sold.

      Have to agree with 44 Stanley, a wonderful day out wandering through the stores and then stopping for a craft beer at the Stanley Beer Yard.

  3. Andrea

    Ouch Douglas Mitchell Hendry, when was the last time you actually spent any decent time in Johannesburg exploring it? Because you clearly don’t live here!!!

  4. Steve

    You need to advise people that the Melville Koppies is not safe to venture into alone or without a tour guide. Because the area is freely open to the public, many vagrants live in the area. A number of serious criminal incidents have occurred there recently and even officials advise that you should only go there during the day and it groups of 10 people or more for your own safety. They also advise that all valuables should be left at home.

  5. Natalie Fourie

    If that’s how you feel Douglas, PLEASE do so. It’ll leave Jo’burg a little cleaner, a little healthier and with a whole lot more soul!

  6. hilaryisabel

    have done a few of these things and they were great – Mountain Sanctuary used to have old caravans that were too cheap to stay in at night…but gone now – bummer! Cheers on a good list there!

  7. Francesca Meredith

    Don’t agree, so much is happening in Jozi, love the neighbour goods in Braamfontein, for brunch, great vibe, and then there are all the sights and green spaces, Viva Jozi! It comes down to one’s perspective and I for one have hope for our cosmopolitan city.

  8. ben Visagie

    Take the road to most small towns, unfortunately JHB still one of the best places to live! Just go to one of the smaller towns, it is absolutely dirty and unpleasant. And I would love to live in a small town but the conditions have deteriorated. I think we have to build up JHB further for our own future including the perceptions.

    • Lana James

      Ben, I agree. for the amount of investment that JHB has the possibility of attracting/building, most of the old buildings, living quarters and counter productive people must go.

      • Ryan Wulfsohn

        Most of the old buildings must go? Do you realise we have some great examples of Art Deco and Art Nouveau architecture here and we should be doing our best to preserve them.

  9. Lerato Moagi

    Johannesburg will Never be the Same again… And It’s All Thanks to The People who first saw change in themselves then brought change to the City…I cant wait to see the Colours and Hopes built by the people.

  10. Kim

    I am an ex Joburgean living in Cape Town and I would just like to say…. I MISS MY CITY!! People are way friendlier and just plain old nicer. what? cos you have a mountain you’re allowed to be a douche? Very strange attitude. Anyhoo, great article, keep up the love! JHB for life yo 🙂

  11. Yuki

    I also lived in JHB now living in CT. And yes I miss jozi too!! Folks are waaaay friendlier than they are in CT. I miss the whole vibe and atmosphere that’s in JHB. Great article! I’m saving this list for when I visit! ☺️

  12. mama

    Hi. Everyone…i am a born jorburger if i may so call myself …I have tried to live in some places but funny enough i just could not adjust….i dont think i will ever leave my Joburg….my city of gold. If anyone would like to agree with me almost everyone from different provinces of SA comes to Joburg our city of gold because there’s a lot of opportunity with regards to employment and even people from abroad settle very well in joburg. Every city in the world had its own different problems but Joburg is theee best place to be where everything is happening at once….

  13. Mark Petzer

    How about trying a Inner City cycle tour with Purple Hippo Tours with a registered tour guide? We start from Milner Park Hotel in Juta St and spend 2-3 hours cycling around the city centre before returning for a pub lunch at the second oldest pub in Jozi. Other cycle tours available on request in and around Jhb. Contact Mark on 0761528463.

  14. Kirchner

    Allot of positive comments here – even if allot of them is simply in counter response to poor Douglas 🙂
    Personally, being from Cape Town and currently living in Joburg, I’m definitely looking forward to some of the “things to do” as per this blog. Thanks for the info and though I love Cape Town, I have to admit that there is allot more more activities and fun to be had in Joburg

  15. cas

    I’m happy with the list as I had no clue what to do on weekends or holidays as I’m always cash strapped so this helps me thanx

  16. Khaya Young Lad Ndzingani

    Jozi is the ultimate melting pot in South Africa. It represents on what a African city should look like and in a couple of years with all the urban renewal projects that are currently happening throughout the city, I have no doubt Cape Town will fall behind. Moboneng, 44 on Stanely, Parkhurst, Greenside, Sandton, Braam, The Design District, Ceda Square,etc. What more can a dynamic person ask for. Not one sided like Cape Town

  17. Janine

    I’d add the Harties Cableway. It’s a great excursion. Neighbourgoods Market. Picnic at Mushroom Farm Park. Thanks for the article. Will try some new places. 🙂

  18. Gail Wilson

    Check out the Facebook page ‘Joburg Free to Fifty’ for more up to date ideas of things to do in Joburg on a budget.

  19. Sue

    Thanks so much for taking the time to post this article! You will always get people who seemingly take great delight in thwarting attempts at highlighting the bright side of anything – and they sometimes succeed in diluting positivity. Would the doomsayers prefer people to sit at home, locked up for the rest of their lives wishing they could be somewhere else? Come on….wake up & live in the now!

  20. dr.zeek

    I would NOT go to Melville koppies or recommend anyone else to go there.
    The crime (including armed robberies) on the Koppies is NEVER under control – even groups of 3 or 4 hikers have been attacked.
    Contact the Melville Residents Association for more information.

  21. Linz

    Try the trails at the Modderfontein Reserve in Modderfontein. They also do park run and mtb trails. Very safe.

  22. Deirdre

    I’m from the mother city and I am now studying in Durban. I have met some awesome people from jozi. It seems like jozi is vibrant and more integrated among the people of south Africa than the other main provinces. I would definitely like to visit some of these places! Every place has its positives including areas and its negatives. Just focus on the positives and that is what your experience will be…positive.

  23. Ben

    Hey Douglas Mitchell, get out of your front gate for a while. You might just get a big pleasant surprise. I had the most enjoyable experience at Maboneng on Saturday. The food was exceptional and the service even better.
    When you leave Johannesburg you might find the service on SAA a little less to your liking, but then you aren’t coming back so good luck

  24. Ian Barry

    Having travelled extensively around the world and worked in many countries, don’t tell Douglas about the perfect Highveld weather. As far as I am concerned there is nothing to touch it.

  25. Simone Deacon

    I love Johannesburg of course crime is scary and I have been affected by crime but there is crime all over the world. We have wonderful people here and there is so much to do. South African is an amazing country and I am proud to live in Jozi. If you have had a bad experience I am truly sorry but each persons experience is different and needs to be respected. Being negative never helps resolve issues.

  26. Debs

    Hennops Hiking Trail was awesome and we completed 2 of the 3 hikes. . . my youngest being 8 years old. Hanging bridge and cable car something different and even climbed into caves. All safe!

  27. Emily

    My husband and his friends were 4x4ing at Hennops and we’re hijacked on the farm. Terrible experience. Needless to say my friend and I no longer go hiking there. It’s not safe. Really it isn’t.

  28. Gareth

    Douglas is not a South African. Any true African will appreciate the beauty of Jozi, The graffiti drawings have a thousand words by looking at them. Viva Jozi I love my country

  29. Missy

    It took a leap of faith for me to do this i did not let my ignorance stop me from doing this i had never travelled before and when i get the chance to do it i chose Johannesburg south africa and fall in love with johannesburg in 48 hours made the journey that easy to take it as before i left home i read on the website then i called the guys at who helped out with a driver and tour guide. thanks to both of you i loved everymoment. I am inlove with Johannesburg


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