Joburg’s genesis as a dusty mining town, and then rather swift transformation to become the country’s – if not the continent’s financial hub – is a testimony to her perseverance and resilience. Although not usually topping lists for aesthetics, the city certainly has its own charisma and appeal.
Thanks to the 1886 discovery of gold, Joburg quickly grew into the urban metropolitan with a population that now far exceeds Cape Town, founded 234 years before. 135 years old and Joburg is the world’s largest landlocked city, not built on a river, lake, or ocean. Despite this Joburg remains one of the most wooded cities in the world, with more than 10 million trees.
Notwithstanding her challenges, South Africa’s golden city has no shortage of energy. Even the weather with dramatic characteristic Highveld storms echo the vibrancy and dynamism of the city. After visiting some of the regular tourist attractions, here’s an insider’s guide to some of Joburg’s new, unique and enticing jaunts.
What to Do
Join a city supper club
For the socially adventurous and foodie curious, why not partake in one of the city’s pop-up dining experiences. Both SecretEats and Yeoville Supper Club offer the chance to dine with strangers over tantalising cuisine. SecretEats has bi-monthly dinners that are carefully curated in exciting locations with well-known chefs. The Yeoville Supper Club is based in a studio in Yeoville itself, with a focus on Pan African cuisine.
Sample wines at Joburg’s very own winery
If you didn’t know that Joburg has its own fully-fledged urban winery, don’t dismay – even Joburgers are caught by surprise. Gerakaris Family Wines is set in a leafy property adjacent to Delta Park. Choice grapes are brought up from the Cape, and then made at the Joburg cellar. Winemaker Kath Gerakaris’ range includes four Shiraz and two Chenin Blancs. Tastings are R80pp, Wednesday to Friday 12.30pm – 9pm, Saturday 11am – 4pm, and Sunday 11am – 2pm.
Browse artisan’s finest goods at the Victoria Yards
The Victoria Yards is a unique inner-city complex of artisans and other creatives and attracts interested visitors from all over Johannesburg. This urban ecosystem complex seeks to combine both social development and commercial enterprise, and has recently won the Urban Land Institute’s inaugural ULI Europe Awards for Excellence. The tenants include artists, food vendors, designers, distillers, and many more. Browse peacefully from 9am – 5pm daily, or join the buzz of activity at the monthly first Saturday market from 10am – 4pm.
Take a walk in the Wilds Nature Reserve
Bordering the edge of downtown Johannesburg, The Wilds is a 40-acre park that has seen a remarkable new lease of life over the last decade. Thanks to the dedication of local artist James Delaney and a community of concerned residents, The Wilds is once again a sought-after urban escape. Enjoy a variety of walks or a picnic on the lawns. Entrance is free, with the park open daily from 7am – 4pm.
Appreciate the history with a Heritage Tour
The Johannesburg Heritage Foundation aims to promote and conserve heritage in the city. One of the ways they do this is through regular tours. The tours – either virtual or in-person – are conducted by volunteer guides and cover both the physical heritage of Johannesburg and its associated social history. The Foundation is also able to arrange specific interest tours on request.
Where to Stay
Luxury at The Leonardo
Reaching a startling 234m, The Leonardo is South Africa’s tallest building set in the heart of the glitz and glamour of Sandton. The Leonardo features a collection of luxurious and indulgent residences and penthouses, with several for rent both short and long term. From South Africa’s highest hotel rooms (35th story and upwards) you can watch the city turn from green to become a thousand sparkling lights.
Bleisure stay at BlackBrick Club
With the increasingly blurred lines between business and leisure, the team at BlackBrick has engineered a rather unique modern offering. The Sandton-based hotel has apartment suites fully kitted with a kitchen, bathroom and workspace with short and long stay options (1 night, 1 month, or a lifetime). Whether you’re renting or staying 1 night, you can enjoy all the facilities and membership activities on the weekly-updated programme (i.e. yoga, boxing classes, screenings, rooftop drinks, and more).
Historical Stay at Satyagraha House
For a rare historical stay, Satyagraha House in Orchards extends the invitation to stay in Gandhi’s Johannesburg home. The home has been magnificently restored and now doubles up as a museum where you’re able to retrace Gandhi’s experiences in South Africa. There are seven rooms in the complex.
Where to Dine
With jaw-dropping architecture, set in South Africa’s tallest building, Aurum (Latin for gold) honours the discovery of gold that birthed the city of Johannesburg. Dine inside the triple-volume restaurant or alfresco by the pool. The artwork adorning the walls of the first story also makes for a grand entrance to this classy restaurant.
One of the newest additions to the Joburg dining scene, Embarc occupies a comfy spot on Parkhurst’s trendy 4th Avenue. In this high-street-cum-village setting Chef Darren O-Donovan and team offer a selection of persuasive and elegantly presented dishes. Don’t leave without trying his signature risotto.
This chic Rosebank eatery pays homage to Chef David Higgs’ fascination with, and dedication to, South African cuisine – particularly cooking over flames. Prepare to have every conceivable expectation blown, including some mixology magic courtesy of their tantalising cocktails. The dining space is elegantly appointed with generous views over Joburg – ideal for sunset snaps.