Johannesburg in June is a time of bright, cloudless skies. Although one of the city's coldest months, the sun warms the air quickly and thermometers can climb close to 20 degrees in the afternoon, making Jo’burg surprisingly pleasant in winter for outdoor activities in all its many neighbourhoods. But don't forget to pack warm jumpers and socks for the evening!

The student-led 1976 Soweto Uprising, which took place on 16 June, forever changed the South African sociopolitical landscape and triggered the struggle leading to the end of apartheid 18 years later. The 16th of June is now commemorated as Youth Day, a South African public holiday, making June the perfect time to immerse yourself in Jo’burg’s rich historical legacy. Keep an eye out for announcements about Youth Day commemoration events throughout the month of June.

Johannesburg June - A brick walkway passes beneath a stone wall with raised black letters spelling June 16 Memorial Acre; a building stands behind
The June 16 Memorial Acre, set on the site where the student marches of the 1976 Soweto Uprising started © Heather Mason / Lonely Planet

Visit the Hector Pieterson Museum and the June 16 Memorial Acre

The Hector Pieterson Museum, in Soweto’s Orlando West neighborhood, is Jo’burg’s most high-profile memorial to the 1976 Soweto Uprising and a must-visit for anyone wishing to understand the broader context of the Bantu education system and its role in South Africa’s struggle against apartheid.

Five kilometres away from the Hector Pieterson Museum – at Morris Isaacson High School, where the student marches actually began – is the much lesser known June 16 Memorial Acre. This monument and its adjoining museum document the events of 16 June 1976 in striking visual detail.

Johannesburg June - Three people, two wearing black bicycle helmets, the other in a red baseball hat, walk in front of a huge stone wall - rounded cobbles of pinkish stone with dark grey mortar - which has the cast iron sign for the Alexandra Heritage Centre
The Alexandra Heritage Centre, a place to learn about the fight for democracy in Alexandra © Heather Mason / Lonely Planet

Check out the Alexandra Heritage Centre

The 1976 uprising began in Soweto but spread quickly to other townships in Johannesburg. Alexandra Township, the oldest township in Jo'burg, also played a huge role in the 1976 uprising and is a highly underrated tourist destination.

Visit the stunning Alexandra Heritage Centre, just opened in late 2018, to learn more about the culture and the fight for democracy in Alexandra. Tour guide Jeff Malaudzi of Malaudzi Alexandra Tours offers fantastic cycling tours detailing Alexandra’s complicated history.

Catch a Rugby Match

Rugby is a legendary South African sport, and its importance here was made world-famous in 2009 with the release of the film Invictus. The Super Rugby season – which includes teams from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Japan – runs from February to July, and June is a great month to catch a Lions (Jo’burg’s Super Rugby team) match at the iconic Ellis Park Stadium. Lions home games take place on 1 June and 8 June 2019.

Johannesburg June - A young man with a bright green baseball hat and blue t-shirt plays a trombone in the street with other revellers, some donning Venetian masks, others feathers in their hair
The Fete de la Musique, is a free music festival held in the downtown precinct of Newtown © Heather Mason / Lonely Planet

Dance at Fete de la Musique

Fete de la Musique is one of the city’s most popular music festivals – made even more popular by the fact that it’s free. The Fete takes place every year in the downtown precinct of Newtown, and always features top local artists alongside international headliners, often from Francophone Africa. The 2019 Fete is planned for Saturday 8 June.

Johannesburg June - Shot from the street looking upwards to a large modern tower block of pinkish stone, with its 1st floor clad in sculpted black metal; the ground floor is encased in glass, with the sign for the Wits Art Musum emblazoned in white lettering
The Wits Art Museum is one of the leading museums of African art on the continent © Heather Mason / Lonely Planet

Visit an Art Gallery

Johannesburg’s vibrant art gallery scene is a safe bet at any time of year. On the first Thursday of each month, galleries in the Rosebank and Braamfontein art districts stay open late and often have exhibition openings with free food and wine. Top galleries to visit include the Wits Art Museum, David Krut, the Goodman Gallery, CIRCA, and Everard Read. June’s First Thursday takes place the evening of 6 June 2019.

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