As downtown Johannesburg – which went through a bad few decades – continues to grow in popularity as a place to both live and play, we asked Gerald Garner, who has long promoted the city through his company joburgplaces and owns a popular restaurant at its very heart, Gandhi Square, for his tips on where to go.

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View of Johannesburg from the Reef Hotel. Photo by Ted Botha.

This is only a starting list. There are many other destinations, coffee shops, art galleries, and walking tours to keep you busy. (In the coming weeks, we will publish another list of places that are also worth your attention.)

“Note,” says Garner, “these are merely 20 of my favourite spaces in the inner-city in random order. It is not a ranking list from 1-20.”

“In terms of inner-city regeneration, we are excited about a whole gamut
of new investments and projects in the inner-city,” he adds. “This follows on three
years of disastrous municipal management in the inner-city, during which
public space maintenance and waste management all but collapsed.”

While the Democratic Alliance partnership with other smaller parties after 2016 perhaps cleaned up finances in the city, many say former mayor Herman Mashaba ignored many facets of the infrastructure.

“We are glad to say, however the city seems slightly cleaner than it did last year, but lots needs to be done to get streetlights working, waste sustainably managed and
sidewalks fixed and made walkable.”

1. “Of course, the Thunder Walker on Gandhi Square with its Town Square Banqueting Hall, Zwipi Underground and Scatterlings Arcade (forgive us our obvious bias)!” All three are housed in the gorgeous 1904 Somerset House building.


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The banqueting hall at Thunderwalker. Photo: Facebook.

2. 999 Rooftop at Hallmark House in Maboneng (spectacular views! Watch the video below.)

3. First 15 Brewery in Newtown (“the easiest tasting beer in the whole
wide world”).

4. Bertrand Cafe in Maboneng/Jeppestown for the best street-side café vibes in the city.

5. 54 Houses of Africa for spectacular music and a beautiful space in an
unexpected place.

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Thursday Jam session

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6. Curiocity Backpackers “for a long-lasting mingling spot of diverse
people and cultures.”

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The front of the Johannesburg Curiocity.

7. Netsanet in Little Addis (Ethiopian Quarter) “for the most authentic
coffee and shopping.”

8. Cramers Coffee “for the sheer delight of street-side tables to enjoy
superb coffee.”

9. JFF Rooftop Farm in Braamfontein “for the most surprising and
delightful tea garden and nursery in the city.”

10. The JHB Culinary & Pastry School “for bringing a new lease of life to
the City Central/old Barclays Banking Hall at 87 Commissioner Street.”

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Photo: Johannnesburg Culinary and Pastry School.

11. City Perk Café “for lovely lunches under the trees in Main/Hollard
Street.” Sitting on the piazza in the terrific cafe run by Jacqui and Alexi, there’s a buzz of activity, impromptu bands and art and fashion sellers. A gem.

12. Little Fox Bar and the Ginologist “for inspiring drinks at the 1Fox precinct.”

13. Victoria Yards in Lorentzville “for merging the edginess of the city and the scale of
suburbia with a lovely countryside atmosphere.”

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Victoria Yards. Photo: Bruce Marais.

14. The Troyeville Hotel “for its old-world ambience and view towards
Hillbrow.”

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Seafood is a speciality at the Troyeville Hotel.

15. Hillbrewed Coffee near Ellis Park “for its trendy space and lovely
coffee.”

16. Market on Main in Maboneng “for reinventing itself with a greater focus on Pan
African Food.”

17. Hello Africa Marketplace “as a great gift shopping destination for
local, Jozi gifts.”hello africa marketplace johannesburg south africa

18. Bridge Books on the Commissioner Street side of the Rand Club “for great contemporary books.”

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Bridge Books.

19. Collectors Treasury in Commissioner Street near Maboneng “for its
astonishing collection of vintage books and more.”

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Inside Collectors Treasury.

20. Ravioli restaurant in Fox Street, Maboneng, “for surprisingly good
food and great service too.”