The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, which include the popular Emmarentia Dam, cover 81ha of parkland. Formerly a bare sports fields, the gardens are now among the city's loveliest and botanically diverse public spaces. Popular with joggers and picnickers, the gardens also provide the perfect photographic backdrop for newly-weds.

Did you know?

The outdoor Chapel Garden is one of the most affordable – and beautiful – wedding venues in Johannesburg.

The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens are an inspiring mix of open spaces that includes marshland, grassland, trees and cultivated gardens.

A central and popular feature of these botanical gardens in Johannesburg is Emmarentia Dam. Built in the early 19th century, after the South African War, the dam remains popular with urban canoeists, kayakers, boating enthusiasts, casual anglers and many aquatic waterfowl.

These botanical gardens are well known for a variety of specialist garden area. These include a Shakespeare Garden planted with herbs referred to by the bard in his plays, with a quote to accompany each aromatic; and an Herb Garden featuring separate sections for culinary, cosmetic, oil-yielding and African indigenous medicinal herbs.

Making these gardens amongst the city's most romantic spaces are a Chapel Garden and Rose Garden. The Chapel Garden is designed to accommodate bridal parties from all cultures and religious backgrounds, while the adjacent Rose Garden provides an idyllic setting for photos with its magnificent collection of roses and flowering Japanese cherry trees.

Ardent plant lovers will want to visit the Hedge Garden, which consists of 58 different hedge types, trimmed and growing in tree form. In the Arboretum, there are Californian redwoods, English oaks, silver birches and cork oak trees to admire.

The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens' most outstanding garden is, ironically, found indoors. Open for viewing by appointment only, the succulent collection is kept in six glass houses and contains 85 species of succulents and cacti from all over the world.

The central purpose of the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, however, is to provide an attractive outdoor recreational space for the public, including wheelchair-bound and otherly-abled visitors.

Jogging, cycling and walking dogs along the garden's well-marked tracks are popular activities, along with bird watching and walks through the gardens' evergreen, acacia and podocarpus forests.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Johannesburg City Parks
Tel: +27 (0)11 712 6600
Fax: +27 (0)11 339 2692

How to get here

From the N1 south, take the Beyers Naude off-ramp, turn left and go straight towards Roosevelt Park. Emmarentia Dam is opposite the West Park cemetery. The main entrance to the gardens is in Olifants Road. There are other access points off Thomas Bowler, Orange and Braids roads.

Best time to visit

The gardens are open all year round from sunrise to sunset. They are loveliest between September and April.

Around the area

The suburbs of Melville, Parkhurst and Linden are close to the gardens and popular for shopping, dining and late night entertainment. Nearby Greenside also has plenty of shopping and dining, and is close to the Parkview Golf Course.

What will it cost

Entrance to the gardens is free.

What to pack

Sun protection is advised throughout the year. Late afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer so take an umbrella along. Pack a warm jacket for winter mornings.

Where to stay

Plenty of accommodation is available in the nearby suburbs of Emmarentia, Melville, Northcliff, Parkhurst, Greenside and Linden.

What to eat

There is a tea garden serving light refreshments and snacks on site.

What's happening

Monthly music concerts, called the Old Mutual Encounters Series, take place at Emmarentia Dam throughout the year. Consult the local press for details.