1 Perfect One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary


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Greetings Internet Stranger, and welcome to a one day in Johannesburg itinerary! Johannesburg, South Africa doesn’t get nearly as many tourists as it should. Everyone knows about Cape Town’s charms, but far fewer people understand how much fun Johannesburg can be.

So on this one day in Johannesburg itinerary, we’re going to get off the beaten track with a food tour that’s totally for locals only. Then we’ll learn all about the history of the city, both past and present. Finally, we’ll have a delicious and elegant meal that you won’t soon forget.

Let’s not waste any more time! Hurry along after me!

One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary

How To Get There

Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a beautiful box of South African wine. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you how to get from your home to Johannesburg

But I can tell you that I used a lovely airplane to get from my hometown NYC to Johannesburg. (Of course we had a layover in London.) I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flight to South Africa at the best time of day. It’s really easy to see all your options for flights by using their website.

Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out to your one day in Johannesburg itinerary ASAP.

one day in johannesburg itinerary

One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary

Where to Stay?

I have stayed in hotels all over the world, so believe me when I say that the Munro Boutique Hotel is one of the most elegant I have ever been in. There’s a special turndown service with sherry and sweets every night, a delicious breakfast in the morning, and you can even order dinner in the hotel dining room if you’re too tired to go out.

one day in johannesburg itinerary

There’s even a beautiful garden with a pool where you can relax if you get tired on your one day in Johannesburg itinerary.

one day in johannesburg itinerary

If you’re lucky, the charming owners might even join you for a drink in the evening. If you love beauty and relaxation and want to stay at the Munro, just click here. And if you prefer ugliness and exhaustion and would rather try somewhere else for your one day in Johannesburg itinerary, click here.

One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary

What to Pack?

  • Johannesburg has a lot of stylish people, so make sure your feet stay comfy and trendy with these cute sandals.
  • Waterproof boots because it might rain on your one day in Johannesburg itinerary, and we don’t want that to slow us down.
  • An umbrella that’s so strong it won’t turn inside out even if the winds blow
  • A cell charger so you can have enough battery to fill your Instagram with pictures of delicious food.
  • The best international travel adapter because you can’t plug an American device into a South African charger.
  • A great spray sunscreen because if you’re having your one day in Johannesburg itinerary in the summer, it can get really hot.
  • My favorite guide to South Africa, including Johannesburg.
  • Since we’re going to Nelson Mandela’s former prison, you must read his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.
  • If you’re in the mood for fiction, Cry, the Beloved Country is probably the most famous South African novel. (Its author, Alan Paton, taught school in the Johannesburg area.)
  • I always travel with travel insurance from World Nomads. You never know when something might go wrong, especially in this day and age, and you don’t want to get stranded in a foreign country without help. But with travel insurance, you’re protected even if you’re attacked by a gaggle of vicious penguins on your one day in Johannesburg itinerary.
one day in johannesburg itinerary

One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary

Morning: Food Tour

There’s no better way to see a city than on a food tour. You get to learn all about a place through its yummy eats! What could be better than feeding your brain and your tummy at the same time?

So I strongly suggest booking this food tour of Johannesburg for your one day in Johannesburg itinerary, led by a local guide who took us to places we never would have been able to find on our own. I honestly don’t think anyone should be able to visit Jo’burg without taking this food tour because it’s such an in-depth way of seeing the city. And you can book the tour easily right here.

One of the first things you’ll notice about the tour is what an amazing value it is! Let me show you all the delicious things you’ll eat with…

Approximately Top 5: Johannesburg Food

one day in johannesburg itinerary
1) World of Samoosa

Our first stop is at the World of Samoosa stand in the Oriental Plaza shopping center. Our guide, whom I shall call Charlize, said that she had grown up in Johannesburg under apartheid, and back then people of all races came to the Oriental Plaza to shop, but white people didn’t eat there because of lies about it being unsanitary. “Thank goodness those days are past us,” she said.

I am used to calling these Indian fried pockets samosas, but here they are samoosas, and everyone on the tour got to choose three different flavors. I selected cheese because Charlize recommended it, the coconut, which is a sweet samoosa, and the spicy mutton. (When you go to a South African Indian restaurant, and they say the food is spicy, that’s not a joke. You’ve been warned!) But all varieties were fresh and delicious.

one day in johannesburg itinerary
2) Indian Sweets

So, samosa/samoosas I might have had before, but Indian sweets were pretty new to me. There were so many little sweets in every color, and all of them were rich and seemed to have nuts in them. The other guests on the tour and I split one because it was too big to eat alone.

You can also buy some sweets at your own expense for later. I recommend doing this if you go on a safari trip or something because it’s good to have a snack for the car. Just buy whatever Charlize says to buy because she knows everything.

one day in johannesburg itinerary
3) Dosas

The second half of the main course was a delightful Indian dish known as the dosa. I had thought of this as a street food because back home in NYC we have a famous man who sells dosas from a cart. But Charlize said in South Africa they eat them sitting down. Makes sense because in NYC we can turn everything into a street food whether or not it’s supposed to be that way.

These were extremely filling because they are made with, I believe, rice flour, but then stuffed with a spiced potato concoction. It’s carbs on carbs!

one day in johannesburg itinerary
4) Drinks Time!

There are no alcohol drinks on this tour, but we did get two special beverages. The first was a whole coconut from an extremely kind coconut vendor from Mozambique. After he split open the coconut and we drank the water, he cut out the coconut for us to it. It was very fresh, almost like a jelly, because it was a young coconut. Once again, I could not finish the whole thing, but that’s what purses are for!

one day in johannesburg itinerary

Then we got mango juice at a juice shop that makes all their beverages fresh in front of you. This was made with mango, which was in season at the time, and sugarcane, which is perfect because it’s not too sweet. Plus it’s highly amusing to watch someone grind up sugarcane.

Pro tip! I got to try some avocado juice because I said I had never consumed any before. It was perfectly sweet and creamy. Maybe you’ll get to try a sample too, if you are nice. But I can’t make any promises, Internet Stranger!

one day in johannesburg itinerary
5) The World’s Most Surprising Dessert

Can you see those multi-colored candies up top? Well, they’re these candies that are super popular in Indian households, but the man who runs this store makes a special treat with them. He rolls them up in a green leaf, covers the leaf in some sort of sticky, sweet syrup, and then you pop the whole thing in your mouth!

It has a strong anise flavor, so licorice lovers only need apply, but I found it to be surprisingly enjoyable. Also it felt like it was freshening my breath after all that spicy food.

one day in johannesburg itinerary
6) Ice Cream!

So you might be thinking that the photo above looks like it’s of an alien’s genitals, but it’s actually ice cream. This ice cream comes in several flavors, but I chose the “barfi” flavor because it’s a very popular Indian milk sweet, but I had never tried barfi ice cream before.

As delicious as the ice cream was, after all the rest of the food, none of us on the group could finish the massive things. That’s how you know it was a good value food tour!

one day in johannesburg itinerary

One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary

Afternoon: Constitution Hill

After the food tour, just take an Uber on over to Constitution Hill, one of the most historic places in Johannesburg. No one day in Johannesburg itinerary is complete without a visit here. This area was once home to a notorious prison which housed many of South Africa’s most famous political prisoners.

But it’s also home to some buildings that are important to South Africa’s government today, like the Constitutional Court. Just buy a ticket to the one-hour tour online in advance, as you probably won’t arrive in time for the 1PM two-hour tour after the food tour. This way you’ll be able to learn much more than…

Three Facts: Constitution Hill

one day in johannesburg itinerary
1) Who Were Some Famous Prisoners Here?

Well, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Nelson Mandela was kept here while he awaited trial. (After he was convicted, he was sent to Robben Island, in Cape Town.) Mandela was the only Black prisoner ever kept in the white prison because they didn’t want him stirring up the other Black prisoners. But he was kept in a hospital cell so he’d be totally separate.

But did you know that Gandhi was also imprisoned here when he was living in South Africa? His thoughts and principles of non-violence were very influential on Mandela. Winnie Mandela was also imprisoned on the women’s side of the prison. (You can visit both sides when you go to Constitution Hill.)

one day in johannesburg itinerary
2) Why Were People Imprisoned Here?

People were imprisoned here for a variety of reasons, but most of them were political prisoners. There were some who were jailed for violent offences and were not political prisoners, like the notorious Daisy De Melker.

She was called the Black Widow of South Africa because she married two different plumbers and killed them for the insurance money. (Why only plumbers? Did a plumber sting her as a child?) The only murder she was convicted of was the murder of her son, whom she also killed for the insurance money. You know, I try not to judge people, but killing your own offspring for some cash seems about as low as it can get.

The prisoners were treated quite poorly here, especially the Black prisoners. The conditions were totally unhygienic–dishes might be washed only once every three months. And while the white prisoners were given a piece of cake on Christmas, the Black prisoners were only allowed to have a little sugar with some coffee or tea. Many of the Black prisoners died from this poor treatment because they became ill.

one day in johannesburg itinerary
3) What About the Constitutional Court?

You can actually go inside the Constitutional Court, and some of the tours of Constitution Hill take you inside. We learned about how the court system works in South Africa. They don’t have juries! I actually knew about that because Jess Day went off on this subject on an episode of New Girl, but it still surprised me to hear it said out loud.

The Constitutional Court decides constitutional issues, not criminal cases, much like the Supreme Court in the United States. For example, it was the Constitutional Court that decided that marriage equality should be the law of the land in South Africa.

My favorite case was the decision that a former President of South Africa owed the country money. He said that the money was for security, but it turned out he had spent part of it on a swimming pool. He claimed this was for security against fire, but the court wasn’t buying it and made him pay the money back. Well played, Constitutional Court, well played.

one day in johannesburg
24 Hour Tip

If the food tour isn’t available when you’re in Johannesburg, try the Hop on Hop Off Bus instead. It’s not as intimate or delicious as the food tour, but it will give you great views of the city.

And just nearby the Hop On Hop Off Bus ticket booth is the lovely Rosebank Craft Market. I always get compliments on the beautiful print skirt I got there that you can see pictured above. Plus it’s nice to chat with the local artists.

one day in johannesburg itinerary

One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary

Evening: Dinner at Clico

It’s getting to be around dinner time on our one day in Johannesburg itinerary, so let’s head to Clico, one of the most glamorous restaurants in Johannesburg. It’s located inside the Clico Hotel, but we won’t be spending the night here. We will be enjoying a lovely amuse bouche, like this aromatic venison amuse bouche…

one day in johannesburg itinerary

Followed by this refreshing chilled cucumber with goat cheese and peaches. As someone from the Northern Hemisphere, nothing is more exciting than being able to go down to South Africa in January and get a bowl of summer like this.

one day in johannesburg itinerary

With a lighter appetizer, you can balance it with a heavier main course, so I suggest something like the duck with glazed beetroot. This came with a citrus relish and bitter greens, so you had every flavor in one dish: umami from the meat, sweet beet, sour citrus, bitter greens, and then of course there’s always salt in any good duck dish.

I also enjoyed that the manager came out to talk to all the guests. He said he made it a point to get to know everyone who comes into the restaurant, so we had a brief chat about travel in general and my hometown NYC specifically. More restaurants should do this because it makes you feel really appreciated, especially as a solo diner.

one day in johannesburg itinerary

And for dessert, we have a pineapple bombe with lemongrass, coconut, and mango. This was extremely refreshing after the rich duck. Also, it’s our second mango helping of the day, but I say if you are lucky enough to be in South Africa for mango season, eat all of the mango. Leave none behind!

one day in johannesburg itinerary

That’s a Perfect One Day in Johannesburg Itinerary!

What would you do on a one day in Johannesburg itinerary? Are you ready to start booking your trip to Johannesburg now? And might alien genitals resemble ice cream? Please leave your thoughts below!

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have a one day in Johannesburg itinerary.

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