What to Do on a Layover in Johannesburg

O.R Tambo International is Africa's busiest airport | ©Leio McLaren/Unsplash
O.R Tambo International is Africa's busiest airport | ©Leio McLaren/Unsplash
Photo of Carina Claassens
10 September 2018

Whether you’re in town for a few hours or spending the day in the City of Gold, here are the top things to do on a layover in Johannesburg.

O.R Tambo International Airport is situated approximately 25 kilometres (15.53 mi) from Johannesburg’s inner city. The Gautrain can get visitors to Sandton within 20 minutes, so it’s definitely the recommended mode of transport. If you travel from the airport using Uber, meter taxi or rented vehicle, remember that Johannesburg is notorious for its congested traffic. Make sure you set aside at least an hour travel time on both ends of the journey.

There are many different transport options from the airport | ©Peter Kasprzyk/Unsplash

3 Hours

As the airport is not as close to the city as many travellers would like it to be, the best option is to remain inside. Luckily, O.R Tambo International Airport is the busiest airport in Africa, meaning it has much to offer international as well as local travellers.

There are many duty-free shops and restaurants range from Indian to bakeries and fast food. The nine lounges offer members a chance to freshen up, grab a bite to eat and perhaps even get some shuteye.

5 Hours

If you’d like to spend your time seeing one of the country’s most historically charged sights, you’ve come to the right place. As mentioned earlier, the quickest way into the city is via the Gautrain. Get to the station, adjacent to the airport, and catch the first train to Park Station in Braamfontein. From here you can walk or order an Uber to the must-visit Constitution Hill.

Constitution Hill is home to the South African Constitutional Court as well as an old military fort and prison which housed a number of globally recognised men and women, including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. Take a guided tour through the Old Fort, Women’s Jail, Number Four and the courthouse to learn about the country’s tumultuous past.

The women's jail cells | Courtesy of Constitution Hill

7 Hours

During a seven hour layover managing your time is a bit easier, and so is navigating the city. Johannesburg is a large metropolitan with much on offer, so make sure to plan ahead and know exactly where you’re going to avoid wasting any time trying to get back on track.

Jump on the Gautrain and head over to Maboneng, a gentrified neighbourhood that combines art, music and culture and will give you a feel for the city and its locals. Grab a bite to eat at Pata Pata or Mama Mexicana before wandering the streets in search of a one-of-a-kind souvenir.

Finish off your trip to the coolest part of town with a drink at Living Room, where you’ll have panoramic views of the city you’re soon to leave.

The view of the city from Living Room | Courtesy of Living Room

12 Hours

How about booking a tour through City Sightseeing South Africa which includes exploring Soweto, the country’s most popular township? Soweto is home to more than one million people, which once included Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It also boasts the only street in the world where not one, but two, Nobel Prize winners (Mandela and Tutu) lived. The guide will take visitors to significant sites, such as the Hector Pietersen Memorial and the Kliptown Open Air Museum, where thousands came together in 1995 to adopt the Freedom Charter.

The Hector Pietersen Memorial | ©Willem van Valkenburg/Flickr

It’s important to note that all Gautrain passengers need a travel card. These are available for purchase at a nonrefundable price of R16 (£0.85). Cards can also be topped up at stations; from the airport to Sandton costs R151 (£8.06) while traveling to Park Station costs R162 (£8.64).

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