Following our 24 Hour Guides to Williamsburg, Vancouver, Toronto and West End, Portland, our latest installment takes a trip to the South African cultural capital, Johannesburg.
As the cultural capital of South Africa, Johannesburg has come a long way since its liberation from apartheid, just over twenty years ago. The sprawling metropolis covers over 1,600km² and is home to over four million people, both of which are most noticeable if you’re ever unlucky enough to get caught in the throng of rush hour traffic. Claiming the residences of both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, and in large part due to its turbulent history, Johannesburg offers a wealth of cultural and historical activities. But there’s even more to the city. Its geographical location has isolated it from certain western influences, and so enabled the city and its people to carve out a wholly unique vibe and style, reflected in the shops, bars, restaurants and arts spaces that are constantly springing up all over the city.
Tourism has fast become a race to find the next hip holiday destination, and with the post apartheid generation at the helm of Johannesburg’s future, it’s looking like a strong contender for the number one spot. It’s hard to pin down just exactly what is so special about the city, but the indomitable spirit of its people surely has something to do with it. Rising up out of apartheid with a plethora of artistic explorations, musical endeavours and parties both within the city centre and further afield in the townships of Soweto and Tembisa, there’s so much to explore it’s going to be hard to tear yourself away. But here’s a little taster of some of the finest spots in the city, so you can get a head start on your itinerary.
9 De Beer, Braamfontein
Owned by former photographer Andrew Bannister, his artistic touches can be seen throughout the design of the Bannister Hotel, and his iconic album cover image of Zimbabwean singer Oliver Mtukudzi hangs in the entrance. The hotel is located in Jozi’s hip Braamfontein area, which is thriving with stores, bars, coffee shops and the popular Neighbourgoods market which is a perfect way to occupy your Saturday afternoon, while historical attractions like Constitution Hill and the Nelson Mandela bridge are just a stones throw away.
Breakfast: Cafe De la Crème
Corner 4th & 7th, Melville
One of the most enjoyable ways to get a feel for a city is through your tastebuds, and Johannesburg provides plenty to explore. Starting the day with breakfast,Cafe De la Crème is something of an institution in the central suburb of Melville. Famed for their delicious freshly baked goods, the charming cafe is divided in two, with one side acting as the takeaway patisserie/bakery and the second half providing a seated restaurant area.
Also check out Juiced Co., Yogi Berry.
Newtown 121, Lilian Ngoyi Street
Formerly known as Africana Museum, Museum Africa is a beacon of history filled with the ever-changing narrative of the past and present. Established in 1933, the museum deals with Africa’s historical narrative, natural history, and technology. It’s housed in what used to be the city’s fruit and vegetable market, and features an impressive block-long facade and towering pillar. It’s situated in the Newtown area, which is full of tiny thrift shops and reggae and jazz bars, ideal for exploring after you’ve got your fill of history.
44 Stanley Avenue, Auckland Park
Bordering Melville, L8 is the spot for the best burgers, beers and gourmet sandwiches in the city, and is situated in the charming sun lit courtyards of sprawling retail park 44 Stanley. The media hub of the city, 44 Stanley is surrounded by a collection of film and television companies, newspaper and radio stations. The space is home to several coffee bars, sandwich spots and boutique fashion stores, all at your disposal after you’ve refuelled.
Art: Wits Art Museum
1 Jan Smuts Avenue, 2000 Braamfontein
Established in the 1970’s, the Wits Art Museum boasts a collection of contemporary and historical artwork dating back to the ’50s from South Africa as well as West and Central Africa. As part of one of the most renowned education institutions in Africa, the museum has a long lineage of culture, curation and artists and hosts a dynamic program of events and exhibitions.
73 Juta Street, Braamfontein
One of the most consistently hip hangout spots in Braamfontein, Father coffee is not just a café but a roastery and an espresso bar, too. Scandinavian-style interior sees floor-to-ceiling wooden chevron panelling adorn the walls and industrial copper light fixtures hang from the ceiling. In true third wave coffee-style, Father has no power sockets in order to discourage the use of laptops and instead let people focus on the beauty of the coffee.
Shopping: City Outfitters
McIntyre Road, Jeppestown
For that authentic Johannesburg shopping experience a visit to City Outfitters is a must. With Italian shoes, kitchen suits, fishing visors and boat shoes, it’s certainly an eclectic shopping emporium. Style has always expressed itself uniquely in Johannesburg, with a mixture of sportswear, smartwear and traditional zulu-inspired garbs popular among young adults, and City Outfitters is packed to the rafters with an extensive range of clothing, footwear and accessories, all interjected with unusual fishing and Americana memorabilia.
Shopping: Punk & Ivy Motique
A new project recently launched by Punk & Ivy dubbed the “Motique” is a mobile retail experience and the first of its kind. After a while spent in commerce, founders Bianca and Khaya Sibiyia wanted to provide an alternative to their consumers, and so created something which turns traditional retail as we know it on its head. The Motique is a 9.3m long fully fledged retail space with a changing room, back office, seating and display areas, stocking African-inspired sports luxe and androgynous streetwear from Punk & Ivy’s own brand and other Johannesburg labels. Catch it trading at Johannesburg markets,
Dinner:The Wolf Pack
5th Avenue, Parkhurst
Located on 5th Avenue in Parkhurst, The Wolf Pack was started by a group of close friends whose mission was to start new friendships and help keep them over their homemade burgers. Opt for something a little more unusual in the form of the zingy chimichurri burger, or for the vegetarians among you the grilled artichoke burger with a deep purple aioli goes down a treat. To wash them down there’s strong selection of cocktails and beers on tap.
Juta Street, Braamfontein
The go-to watering hole for all hipsters, non-hipsters, sneaker heads, culture vultures and all the students you can fit inbetween, Great Dane, sits slap bang in the middle of Braamfontein. In the afternoon Juta Street is abuzz with crowds but as soon as the sun sets the hoards swarm to the bars. If you’re in town from Wednesday a party is just the corner, and Great Dane, with its floor made of dozens of tiny coins, the dart board wall and its open courtyard provides the foundations of a great night.
Hangover Breakfast: Daleahs
De Beer Street, Braamfontein
After the wild night you may or may not have had, not far down the road is salvation in the form of a babalaas breakfast. “Babalaas” is the slang around Johannesburg for a hangover, and Daleah’s is the joint. Established in 1987, the menu offers dishes such as omelettes, the full breakfast, the egg, haloumi, bacon and tomato filled pitta, and sliders, sandwiches and salads if you’re after something later in the day.
Written by Hakim Malema for Highsnobiety.com.
- Photography:Liam Lynch for Highsnobiety.com