Dating back to the Witswaterand Gold Rush of 1886, Johannesburg or Egoli: the city of gold, is the modern day hub of South African commerce. Rich in history and diverse in culture – it certainly has a reputation, and it’s a place full of stories well worth getting to know.
Inner City Revival:
Starting at the heart of it all, the central business district and the inner city of Johannesburg underwent a massive decline in the late 1980’s and continued on until the start of the 2000s when a new mayor began to address the issues with a number of initiatives. Since then, and in recent times, millions have been injected to “develop a better inner-city experience.” What’s been going on in Maboneng, Newtown and Braamfontein is nothing new, but it’s certainly a starting point for highlighting the young culture and innovative spaces being created.
The creation and development of 100 Rooftop farms in the city by the Urban Agriculture Initiative and supported by the Department of Small Business – the very first of which has been established on top of the Chamber of Mines building.
Cross-border shopping initiatives to boost international demand within the CBD for services, products and good infrastructure and the Inner City Property Development and Management Advocacy which is financing entrepreneurs through the Trust for Urban Housing finance.
Newtown consists of the Mary Fitzgerald R1.5 Billion Newtown Junction – a mixed-use urban development featuring retail, hospitality, and standing alongside the Iconic Market Theatre and M1 Highway, “although unconfirmed, it is believed that the Newtown Junction is the biggest private development in the Johannesburg CBD since the Carlton Centre was constructed in the 70’s” (engineeringnews.co.za).
One of the Forbes Top 12 Coolest Neighbourhoods, Maboneng boasts the fantastic Sunday Market on Main, a foodie haven on the ground floor of an old warehouse and a collection of local designers on the floor above. Step outside and you have street art, craft vendors and a variety of local cafes. There’s also the refurbished Cosmopolitan building which features the Hazard Gallery and a variety of premium lifestyle brands. Make a stop at the Bioscope Independent Cinema to catch a cult classic or local indie film – and if you stay long enough you can enjoy the fantastic cityscape sunset from Living Room, an eco-urban oasis on the rooftop of the Main Change building on Kruger Street.
Braamfontein too boasts it’s weekend edition of gourmet food and local design talent. Across the road from Joburg’s oldest bar – Kitchener’s, lies the delightful Neighbourgoods Market, the sister of the Old Biscuit Mill in Cape Town, going by the same name. Here you can find live music, a variety of global cuisines, fashion and craft. Then there are the coffee roasters around the corner: Father Coffee and Doubleshot, arguably some of the best coffee in the city, and the Kalashnikov Gallery, a contemporary fine art gallery challenging the South African Contemporary Art scene and trying to change perceptions about art – both for the artist, curator and public. Because of its close proximity to the University of Witwatersrand and University of Johannesburg, this area is fresh with new ideas and up and coming spaces.
Because of the sheer size of Johannesburg, being one of the fifty largest urban areas in the world and standing strong as the largest landlocked city in the world, each neighbourhood and suburb has developed its own heritage and culture over time.
A vibrant bohemian suburb located close to both University Campuses and flanked by the stunning Melville Koppies. The area has always been a space filled with Cafes, Restaurants, Bistros and Bars. This year there was even an international contender with the Mootee Bar being listed by the Spirit Awards as one of the Top 10 Best New Cocktail Bars in the world. There are also wonderful breakfast spots with Pablo Eggscobar serving up the neighbourhoods favourite Sunday brunch.
Traditionally a strong family neighbourhood with great local schools and a strong sense of community, the area has seen some fantastic creative additions to their neighbourhood in the recent years starting with No End Contemporary Gallery, an artist-run gallery showcasing work in a variety of media from young and emerging South African artists. The opening of Tonic Gin Bar, serving up artisan and craft gin mixed with a variety of artisan tonics, is a great stop at the end of a long working day and any evening wouldn’t be complete without dinner at the Brian Lara Rum Eatery – bringing Caribbean cuisine to humble Jozi, served with a splash (or two) of select Rums.
For any art and design aficionado, Keyes Art Mile located in Rosebank is a dream come true. With a collection of galleries – ranging from the TMRW Digital Art Gallery to the big and bold CIRCA, and featuring a variety of designer shops and foodie destinations. The frontrunner for anyone looking for exceptional dining is Marble, self-proclaimed meat and flame enthusiasts backed by Chef David Higgs – the idea to offer more than just food, but a theatrical dining experience.
Beyond the suburbs and towards Magaliesburg lies the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which boasts human history dating back 3 million years – including the famous fossils of “Mrs Ples”, “Little Foot” and an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton. The Maropeng Visitor Center provides a focal point for those wanting to learn more about the region and located nearby are the incredible Sterkfontein Fossil Caves. Beyond the heritage, Cradle is also home to South Africa’s only private sculpture park, featuring a diverse range of installations and artists, as well as beautiful sculptured lawns. Time everything right, and on the way there, or on the way back, you can stop for lunch at Leafy Greens – a gourmet vegan restaurant serving up one of the most wholesome and delicious menus in Johannesburg.