Intro: Originally published in TAP MAG Issue 6
After living in North America for many years I came back to my home country, South Africa, and out of all the cities on the land; I decided to settle in Johannesburg, one of Africa’s buzzing economic hubs. Oh how proud I was as the airplane descended and flew over the streets that have survived the greatest struggle for freedom and democracy, Apartheid.
Johannesburg (Jo’burg) is quite the metropolitan city. It’s nickname, Egoli, meaning the ‘City of Gold’ is derived from the city’s beginning as a gold-mining town. As you drive down the highways, the iconic gold mine dumps are a beautiful reminder of the treasure on top of which we live.
Sundowners in the city of Gold
When the sun sets and the day dies’, Jo’burg stays alive. Creatives come out of hiding, young professionals pause the grind and go on the hunt for after-work sundowners. People are different, and Jo’burg gets that. After all, our land has come to appreciate both freedom and diversity. Let’s say you find yourself in Jo’burg one of these fine days and you want to experience the Jo’burg Night Life! Well, you’ve came to the right place. Below, find 5 guides you might enjoy based on what you’re into.
Local is Lekker: Yeoville, Maboneng and Braamfontein
Lekker is South African lingo for awesome. Whatever is lekker must be really good. This vibe is for those who want to immerse themselves in our culture and experience what it feels like to be a Jo’burger. You’re going to find yourself in Soweto (derived from South Western Townships), Yeoville, Maboneng and Braamfontein.
Visiting Vilakazi Street in Soweto is a must. This is the street where Nelson Mandela lived. It’s filled with Proudly South African restaurants and hang out venues. Enjoy dinner at Restaurant Vilakazi which serves traditional dishes with a modern twist, or hop next door to Sakhumzi and try a true South African menu.
Chaf Pozi is one of my favorites, an upmarket shebeen-style bar which is located at the base of the Soweto Towers. Shebeen refers to Illegal Township bars ran by black people during Apartheid. South African’s love their meat and braai’s (South African term for BBQ). Chaf Pozi is also a shisa-nyama (direct translation: burn meat). You personally select your meat from the butcher on-site and the chefs take care of the rest!
If you prefer to hang in the city, check out Blackanese in Maboneng. It’s an afro-asian sushi and wine bar you are sure to fall in love with. Lucky Bean in Melvile is also great, with a 6 course South African tasting menu sure to leave you understanding what bobotie, boerewors, and chakalaka all are!
Ready to hit the streets? I highly recommend Taste of Yeoville hosted by Dlala Nje (meaning ‘just play’). Yeoville is a neighbourhood in the city that has been stereotyped to be dangerous and unfriendly. Dlala Nje will take you on a night-time tour where you’ll experience Yeoville’s culture with an ‘unforgettable culinary experience’ that will leave your perspectives changed.
How to get around: UberX is ideal within the city, whilst renting a car for further Soweto is advisable.
Where to sleep: Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers in Orlando West, Soweto is very popular. Hotel Lamunu in Braamfontein is a vibrant hotel located in the heart of entertainment for city goers.
This is for the hippie at heart. Joburg has a rich creative urban space. You’ll find yourself in Newtown, The Maboneng Precinct (Maboneng), Braamfontein (Braam) and/or Melville.
Feeling for sundowners with a city view? Check out “Living Room” in Maboneng. It’s an ‘urban jungle oasis’, a beautiful green rooftop bar filled with hammocks, vertical gardens, trees and plants. You can also take it to the streets and head on to ANTI Est. in Braam to people watch and join in on South Africa’s craft beer craze. Chill on their terrace and observe Joburg’s raw urban culture whilst sipping on a “cold” one.
I’m hoping you’d be in town on the first Thursday of the month to enjoy “First Thursdays” evening art exhibition in Braam. You’ll hop from gallery to gallery, exploring the city’s art and culture on foot. If it’s not a Thursday, you can check out the Joburg Theatre and POPArt for live music, the ballet and theatre productions. At times you’ll find a poetry jam and stand-up comedy by the city’s very own.
How about a night market? Check out the Rooftop Night Market at the 27 boxes in bohemian Melville every Wednesday. It’s a shopping mall made of 27 colourful shipping containers! You will find local produce; enjoy gourmet food, cocktails and music. Be sure to also take a walk on Melville’s iconic ‘7th street’ full of quirky bars and restos.
Mission I’m On a Budget
Just because the pocket is a bit tight doesn’t mean you can’t have fun! This vibe is mixed with grungy venues, laisser-faire atmospheres and insane personalities. In order to accomplish this, I suggest you select one poppin’ cluster of neighbourhoods. That is Braam, Newtown and Melville.
I’d start you off on De Beer Street in Braam for a juicy steak at Smokehouse and Grill. We South Africans love our meat! Right across the street is Kitcheners Carvery Bar – ‘a local pub by day and legendary parties at night’. It’s a grungy 102-year-old bar with velvet curtains hanging down the walls. You can grab a local beer for about $2 and enjoy the afro-indie vibe. Next-door down is Great Dane, a well-designed artsy bar with eclectic lanterns hanging from the ceilings. Both have vibrant patios and dance floors where people aren’t shy to show-off their moves.
If you want an even better time, I highly suggest TOY TOY and Bassline in Newtown. TOY TOY has cutting edge underground house and techno music; you dance the night away for only $5. Bassline on the other hand is a legendary live jazz and reggae venue.
Where to sleep: Curiosity Backpackers in Maboneng is one of the coolest budget accommodation spots in Coburg for just $16 a night. Airbnb and CouchSurfing are also great budget options.
This is for those of you who want to do something they can tick off their bucket list. Every last Friday of the month, you can join hundreds of locals and visitors on a +_25km biking night through Johannesburg CBD with Critical Mass. You’ll be riding through about 10 parts of the city. This is how to get to know a city.
Want something a little daring and tasty? Try out Dinner In the Sky hosted at the Modderfontein Nature Reserve. They strap you onto your seat and your dinner table will be propelled up into sky, you will see breathtaking views whilst enjoying a delicious three-course meal.
If you want to get a little bit more extreme then you need to go bungee, abseil or climb the 55m vertical entertainment centre Play at Height in Fourways. What’s great is that you can continue to enjoy your night on-site at their Sky Bar which has beautiful 360 degree views.
How to get around: Renting a car is a good option. We have reputable car rental companies. Don’t worry, Joburg’s road infrastructure is excellent so buckle up and keep left! For further distances, catch our high speed train “Gautrain”.
Where to sleep: If you’re outside the city centre, Protea Hotel Balalaika, Sandton’s oldest country-style hotel is a go-to. Protea Hotel Parktonian is a good inner city option and is walking distance to the Gautrain.
I like it Fancy
Dine in the finest of restaurants and pop bottles in extravagant venues. You’re most probably going to find yourself in Sandton or Rosebank.
I’d start you off at Flames, a restaurant at the ultra-luxe Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliffe to experience Executive Chef Dirk Gieselmann’s take on the South African braai (BBQ). Kick it up a notch and pull up to the extravagant Five Hundred at The Saxon for a culinary adventure. Each dish looks and tastes phenomenal and most call it ‘edible art’. It’s a true Jozi gem.
It’s time to put on your dancing shoes. Joburg’s club scene is laced with the deepest house sounds and trippy electro vibes. We love our hip hop too! You can never go wrong with Cacoon in Sandton. It’s a smaller intimate club with DJs playing the hottest hip-hop and urban music. Be warned, you’ll probably be there until dawn.
For a more extravagant night you should head to swanky KONG. This one’s for the elite and often you’ll spot South African celebrities. Taboo is next on the list, boasting a beautiful venue with a stunning terrace. Those who visit Taboo often rave about the state-of-the-art sound and light system, one of Joburg’s best.
Where to Sleep: Ultra-chic Crown Plaza in Rosebank is designed for the club goers, with a ‘sleep floor’ allowing you to sleep in with no bother! If you want to sleep like royalty then you’ll be at the Michaelangelo Towers in Sandton.By
How to get around: Choose Uber Black where only luxurious vehicles are on call. If you really want to make an entrance then Luxury Seventy Seven will hook you up. From luxury cars to private jet hire. Carpe Diem!
By Thuli Mac
Thuli is a young South African who has spent years abroad and recently moved back home to pursue her dreams. She enjoys and writes about travel, fashion and lifestyle issues. Check out her blog and follow her on IG @tooandalee
Images by @Kgomotso_neto for TAP ISSUE 6