Johannesburg is a rapid, unpredictable shape-shifter, and we can’t help loving it. From the leafy tranquility of corporate offices and pavement cafes lining the Financial and Mining District, to the frantic hustle of of Pan African Jeppe Street and Little Addis, there’s always something to explore!
After serious deliberation and a completely impartial, uncaptured audit, we bring you our officially sanctioned top city spots (in no particular order):
Casual fine dining in the heart of the city. The delicious seasonal menu is sourced locally and sustainably, and showcased in a repurposed dynamite warehouse! Sample a craft beer from Mad Giant or a wide variety of gins produced in South Africa.
2. Neighbourgoods market
The weekend market and original hipster hangout in Braamfontein is still going strong, with food stalls of every cuisine (and plenty local concoctions) imaginable, and lots of people schmoozing. Try the chilli tequila for an instant weekend wakeup.
3. Rand Club
Like the city surrounding it, this grand Johannesburg institution is experiencing its own 21st century transformation. Stop by for lunch at the longest bar in Africa, or book a tour for a vignette of the club’s grand interiors, historical artefacts and intriguing art collections.
4. James Findlay Collectible Books & Antique Maps
Located in a Dickensian corner of the Rand Club basement, James Findlay’s shop displays antique maps and books, fascinating posters, artefacts and historical documents. The space forms the perfect setting for intimate book launches and discussions as well as monthly jazz events, showcasing up-and-coming and established South African artists.
5. Bank City Precinct
Recently reimagined, the FNB head office district includes pedestrian boulevards, indigenous gardens and urban fountains, adding a vibrant new layer to the downtown landscape. Sip an excellent latte on the deck at Flight Cafe, enjoy Pauls homemade ice cream, or grab a convenient sandwich at Foodlovers Market, but make sure you add Bank City to your downtown checklist.
6. Kerk Street Market
Joburg’s own African version of St. Georges Mall in Cape Town. Here you’ll find fresh veggies from City Deep, secondhand coats from Europe and even a mobile goldfish seller!
7. Ansteys Building
Once the tallest modern structure in Africa, Ansteys is a monument to the city’s Art Deco heyday. Watch out for tours to view the original brass monkeys in the lobby, and marvel at the only full 360-degree view of downtown Joburg from the 20th floor roof deck. (Ansteys is a private residential building, the interiors and roof deck are available to the public only on occasional guided tours.) Contact Past Experiences for more details on walking tours.
8. Carlton Centre
The famed Carlton Hotel may have closed its doors over 20 years ago, but the centre nextdoor still offers a retail festival, from high-end chains like Florsheim and Spitz to unique inner-city bargain boutiques. Despite recent hype surrounding other tall buildings, at 223 metres above Commissioner Street, the 50th floor ‘Top of Africa’ is still the highest observation deck on the continent.
9. Ben’s Pizza
Ben’s offers authentic Italian pizza and alfresco dining – just like the Via del Mascherino – but on Loveday Street.
10. 44 Main Street
Modelled on the League of Nations, the imposing neoclassical sandstone structures at 44 and 45 Main accommodate the Anglo American head offices. While many less public minded corporates may have decamped to the soulless north, Anglo remains in the city, preserving and celebrating their historic precinct.
11. Main Street Mall
Heading east from 44 Main Street is the eponymous mall. Upgraded in 2004, the mall houses several excellent coffee spots, including Cramers Coffee and City Perk Cafe. The pedestrianised node surrounding the Anglo buildings accommodates well tended gardens, the famous Ernest Ullman Springbuck fountain and various other South African art works from Anglo American’s collection.
12. World of Samoosas
Looking for a real Joburg institution? Then a visit to the World of Samoosas at the Oriental Plaza is a must. It’s a simple spot with plastic table cloths and no fuss, but the constant line of customers indicates that we aren’t the only ones who love it. Must try: Cheese and onion or coconut flavour.
13. Craft Coffee
This one is for the coffee aficionados. Joburg’s Inner city has some great coffee shops, so its difficult to choose But we definitely recommend a stop at Craft Coffee. Situated on the industrial side of Newtown, they both serve and roast coffee. Trust us, there’s no better place to get your coffee kick!
14. Iwasshot in Joburg 🙂
Situated in Maboneng, Iwasshot started in 2009 as a Hillbrow community project. They offer a variety of locally produced photographic and up-cycled products and quirky Jo’burg themed t-shirts. The project recently moved into a fantastic new space in Maboneng, where they offer delicious coffee and snacks as well.
15. Artist Proof Studio
Newtown is home to the APS, a community printmaking centre providing professional printmaking studios, training facilities and a gallery. This is one of our favourite places to buy art, with works by both established artists as well as the upcoming stars of the art world on display.
16. Brenda Fassie Statue
Johannesburg is home to a cornucopia of public artworks, making it difficult to pick a favourite. We love the iconic Brenda Fassie statue in Newtown. Created by Angus Taylor and commissioned by the Sunday Times, Ma-Brr has recently moved to a new spot, just outside the Market Theatre.
17. johannesburg art gallery
An often overlooked Joburg jewel. JAG houses an impressive international collection, including works by Rodin, Dali, Miro and Picasso, as well as celebrated South African artists like Penny Siopis, William Kentridge, Eduardo Villa, Gerard Sekoto, Jackson Hlongwane and others. If extraordinary art isn’t enough to lure you downtown, the gallery was designed by the internationally acclaimed British architect Edwin Lutyens… What are you waiting for!
18. Wits Art Museum
Including an extensive rotating permanent collection of contemporary South African art and artefacts, WAM is located in Braamfontein.
19. Johannesburg Public Library
Recently refurbished with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, JPL is modelled on the beautiful Public Library in Boston. Every bibliophile’s dream, the marble-panelled building includes several light-flooded reading rooms, an impressive music collection, the Harold Strange Library of African Studies and the Michaelis Art Library – the largest art library in Southern Africa.