Urban regeneration is reinventing inner-city Johannesburg, where dynamic neighbourhoods offer hip bars, restaurants, shops and galleries. It’s time to take a city break and feel the optimistic new spirit, says James Bainbridge
1. Out and about
This much-loved patch of greenery was donated to the city in 1904, on condition that it be used as a zoological garden and public park. Sure enough – as the name suggests – you’ll find both Johannesburg Zoo and a park with a boating lake (home to local icon the Coronation Fountain) here. You can stop for cocktails at Afro-themed Moyo or hit the terrace cafe at Zoo Lake Sports Club, where the playground keeps children entertained. The park hosts the monthly Artists Under the Sun open-air exhibition, as well as Jazz on the Lake in September and Carols by Candlelight during the festive season.
Prince of Wales Drive, Parkview, www.jhbcityparks.com
2. Out and about
This moving site, formerly a prison and now home to the country’s Constitutional Court, tells the story of SA’s long journey through colonialism and apartheid to democracy. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi both spent time in the Fort prison, where, today, guides evoke the daily deprivations suffered by the inmates. To progress from here to the modern court building – its windows representing transparency and its hallways exhibiting works by South African artists – gives a real sense of how far the country has come. Hourly tours give historical background and explain the workings of the Constitutional Court.
1 Kotze Street, Braamfontein, 011 381 3100, www.constitutionhill.org.za
3. Out and about
The Maboneng Precinct
Maboneng is the most exciting of Jozi’s regeneration projects, which are turning areas of the inner city into playgrounds for a cool multicultural crowd. At its heart is Arts on Main, one of the many derelict warehouses reclaimed by the Maboneng development – now transformed into a complex of hip galleries, boutiques and restaurants. The renowned artist William Kentridge himself has a studio here and, on Sundays, the Market on Main displays the output of other members of Joburg’s creative community.
Within strolling distance of this hub are more bohemian restaurants and bars, an art hotel, an independent cinema and murals by international street artists. Or take a walking tour for an insider’s view of the rebirth of the CBD.
286 Fox Street, CBD, 011 592 0515, www.mabonengprecinct.com
4. Eat and drink
The jacaranda-lined streets of Melville form one of the the northern suburbs’ livelier areas to grab a bite – especially 7th Street, with its casual cafes, bars and pizzerias, plus smarter spots such as Lucky Bean. Food here ranges from the highly recommended teriyaki ostrich fillet to popular vegetarian options such as the chickpea burger. Meanwhile, the cocktails, especially the mojitos, draw an after-work crowd. With its outdoor tables, stylish interior decor and chilled lounge atmosphere, Lucky Bean is also a popular spot at which to kick off the weekend. (As a bonus, it hosts weekly DJs and occasional live music.)
16 7th Street, Melville, 011 482 5572, www.luckybeantree.co.za
5. Eat and drink
Fear not if you miss the markets – there are plenty of local restaurants offering the same uplifting mixture of good food and cool urban atmosphere. On a small square in Braamfontein, ’86 Public (its name refers to the year when gold was discovered and Joburg was founded) is popular for its gourmet pizzas and draft beer. Order the bestselling pizza 18 – a combo of bacon, salami, mushrooms, roast peppers, chilli, avocado, onions and roast garlic. ’86 Public has regular DJs and live music on weekends, as well as two special events each month: We<3Brunch, a themed shindig on a Saturday; and Sundays Squared to liven up the day of rest.
The Grove, cnr Juta and Melle streets, Braamfontein, 011 403 3055
6. Eat and drink
A new crop of markets is giving switched-on locals yet another reason to leave the suburbs for the city. Every Saturday, The Neighbourgoods Market pops up in a repurposed office building near Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein. Like its Cape Town sibling, it offers a smorgasbord of local produce – from pestos and terrines to chocolates and wines – and yummy hot food to eat on the spot.
Another market offering lekker eats in a dynamic setting is Market on Main, held at Arts on Main in The Maboneng Precinct every Sunday and on the first Thursday night of the month. Look out for the Ethiopian stews and injera (sourdough flatbread) made by the crew from local restaurant Little Addis.
73 Juta Street, Braamfontein, neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za
264 Fox Street, CBD, marketonmain.co.za
AAQA Quality Assured accommodation in Johannesburg
Saffron Guest House
(AA Quality Assured Highly Recommended status)
This smart B&B lies in the heart of Melville, one of Joburg’s oldest and trendiest suburbs. Interestingly, the soapie 7de Laan is loosely based on 7th Street, where the guest house is located.
The Johannesburg CBD, the SABC, Wanderers cricket ground and many other noteworthy sites are just a short drive away. But, even closer to home, are the quirky spots that make this area so popular.
Breakfast (included in the rate) is served at Cafe de la Crème around the corner.
(AA Quality Assured Superior status)
House Higgo is a boutique guest house with excellent attention to detail. While the establishment is the ideal venue for conferences and other functions, the hosts also pay special attention to private guests who appreciate that personal touch.
Spend time relaxing on the patio next to the pool, laze away the afternoon in the jacuzzi or take a stroll through the landscaped gardens to unwind.
The selection of beautifully appointed suites have stylish decorative touches, DStv, and coffee and tea facilities, with most rooms featuring sliding doors that open up on to the garden.
The House Higgo staff will happily assist you with travel arrangements and advice, whether for local trips or expeditions throughout South Africa.
Visit www.aatravel.co.za to find more AA Quality Assured accommodation
Photography Alamy, Gallo/Gettyimages
(This article was first published in the spring 2014 issue of AA traveller magazine)