Going on museum tours may seem completely unexciting, especially considering all that Joburg has to offer in terms of entertainment. But, think back to your school days. When the dusty, old Putco buses pulled into the school parking lot to take you off on an exciting adventure. Remember the special packed lunches and joy of getting to miss a whole day of school. You can relive those days (minus the smelly school bus), by taking a trip around Joburg to one of our many free entrance museums.
Museum Africa provides the ultimate Joburg experience when it comes to museum tours. Situated in the heart of jazzy Newtown, it offers a unique Afrocentric perspective on all things historical – from the first African civilisations through to our more recent politically volatile past. The museum is four storeys high, so make sure to book out your whole day to explore. Our favourite floor is the very top one, which showcases quirky science exhibitions and other miscellaneous wonders. You will leave this place feeling thoroughly enlightened.
Details: 121 Lilian Ngoyi St, Newtown, Johannesburg | 011 833 5624
Worker’s Museum Newtown
Just a few blocks away from Museum Africa, you will find the Worker’s Museum. This museum pays homage to the migrant workers of the early 1900s, who left behind their families for the promise of wealth and prosperity in the city of gold. Instead, they were met with incredibly harsh living and working conditions under the reprimand of tyrannical compound managers. The museum displays the original workers dormitories, with their cold concrete bunk beds. There is also an exhibition that reveals the “punishment room”. While not for the faint of heart or sensitive of spirit, this museum offers an introspective look into the cruelty of humanity.
Details: Rahima Moosa St, Newtown, Johannesburg | 011 492 0593
James Hall Transport Museum
Now this is one for the whole family. The James Hall Transport Museum showcases the most comprehensive land transport collection in South Africa. Their display includes animal-drawn vehicles dated from 1870-1910, bicycles and motorcycles from 1786-1960, buses and coaches, fire engines from 1877-1960, motor cars from 1900-1980, steam-driven vehicles and trams and trolley buses from 1896-1986. There are a few picnic areas around the museum, so pack a picnic bag to take along with you. Booking is essential for group tours.
Details: Pioneers’ Park, Rosettenville Road, La Rochelle, Johannesburg | 011 435 9718 | email@example.com
Wits Life Sciences Museum
The Wits Life Sciences Museum is the only natural history museum in Johannesburg. The museum displays include research and teaching laboratories, a large herbarium and live plants and animals. The main display area has skeletons, models and preserved specimens. Just outside the building there is an abundant garden with a peaceful water feature. Also hidden inside a glass display case, a lazy iguana sits waiting to surprise those passing by. Museum tours take place only on weekdays, so be sure to book your visit in advance.
Details: 33 Station St, Braamfontein, University of the Witwatersrand, East Campus, Johannesburg | 011 717 1000
Wits Art Museum
Just a skip away from the Life Sciences Museum, the Wits Art Museum presents a wholly different set of archaeological treasures. This gallery space celebrates pan-African art and work produced in the diaspora. They frequently host international artists for exhibitions as well. Free museum tours take place between Tuesday to Sunday from 10 AM – 4 PM. If you are new to the world of art, tag down a nearby arts student (they will most likely be sitting off quietly to the corner thinking about the meaning of life). Alternatively, pop into the WAM Cafè for a bite to eat. Their mini quiches are to die for!
Details: University Corner, Corner Bertha and Jorissen Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg | 011 717 1365 or 011 717 3158 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Adler Museum of Medicine
The Adler Museum is situated in Parktown, on the Wits Medical School campus. The museum houses a vast collection of medical documents, art installations related to medicine and displays depicting the history of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy through the ages. Visit the exhibition dedicated to the development of African traditional medicine, featuring a replica of an African herb shop and a patient consulting a traditional healer. Or, explore your fascinations with the medical world at the museum unguided for free, or pay R20 for a guided tour.
Details: 7 York Road, Parktown, Johannesburg | 011 717 2081 | email@example.com
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is the official home of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Situated in Houghton, the museum offers visitors a vast archive documenting the life, work and writings of the former statesman. The centre was opened in November 2013, exactly three years to the day after Mr Mandela last used the building as his office. His post-presidential office has been kept exactly as he left it.
Details: 107 Central Street, Houghton | 011 547 5600 | firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSA Money Museum
The ABSA Money Museum is the country’s only banking and money museum. Situated in downtown Joburg, the museum traces the history of money usage back 4 500 years. The exhibition looks to when people exchanged commodities such as salt, seashells, beads and animals for services rendered. Coins and notes from all over the world are also on display. Ironically, for a museum all about money, the entrance here is free. All you need to take along is proof of identification.
Details: Barclays Towers West, 15 Troye St, Marshalltown | 011 350 4167 or 011 350 3003 | email@example.com
Credo Mutwa Cultural Village
Credo Mutwa is one of South Africa’s foremost traditional healers, believed to have the ability to foretell the future. He is also a respected artist and sculptor. The Credo Mutwa Cultural Village in Soweto is an open air museum display of Mutwa’s sculptures made between 1974 and 1986. These sculptures and buildings depict African folklore, Zulu and Tsonga chiefs, traditional dwelling places, healing clinics and Mutwa’s strange ‘aliens’. Although in slight disrepair, this outdoor curation offers a museum experience unlike any other. Entrance is free daily from 6 AM – 6 PM.
Details: 991 Bochabela Street, Central Western Jabavu, Soweto | 011 930 1813
Do you know of any other free museum tours in the city? Let us know about them!