Live like a local - Johannesburg
POSTED BY Mavy | March 16, 2016
Label: Africa, City Breaks, Travel Tips
After decades of decline, which saw many locals up sticks to the suburbs, Johannesburg is back with a vengeance. Smart new loft apartments, a vibrant cultural scene and a welcoming vibe mean it’s once again a big draw - and this time they’re not just here for the gold.
Commonly known as Jo’burg or Jozi, this huge, culturally diverse and rapidly changing hub is home to around 3.2 million people. While crime and poverty haven’t been totally eliminated, the Inner City, once a no go zone, is once again a great place to visit.
When deciding what to do in Johannesburg, there’s a lot to be said for the tourist pursuits of the city’s hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus and the sobering Apartheid Museum, but to live like a local, here’s a guide to just some of the city’s districts you may want to explore.
Safety is rarely an issue in areas like Melville and Parktown. It is wise however, to visit potentially riskier areas such as Braamfontein and Newtown during daylight hours and to be extra vigilant if you decide to embark on a trip using city’s tricky to navigate, but very useful, network of mini buses.
Found on the industrial eastern edges of the Inner City, the urban, hipster-friendly neighbourhood of Maboneng was created as trendy live-work-play district and is considered as one of the most successful urban-renewal projects in the world.
Pioneered by Arts on Main, studios, art galleries and shops join restaurants and coffee bars to bring together a uniquely creative feel. Locals flock here on Sunday for Market on Main, a weekly independent food and design market and you’ll find live music and independent cinema The Bioscopy close by on Fox Street.
Grab an informal meal at the Joziburg Deli, where you can try a wide range of South African-produced delights including meats, cheeses, preserves and breads.
The recently redeveloped Braamfontein district is a both culturally and commercially diverse and is another spot where galleries and eateries have popped up alongside studios and shops. Saturdays sees many locals travel from the suburbs for the award-winning Neighbourhoods Market, a foodie haven where they can shop for farm fresh foods alongside other speciality goods, all housed in an imposing modernist building featuring a 15-story mural by famed artists Eduardo Villa.
Jo’burg locals love the village feel of Parkhurst, which feels a million miles away from the mall culture that once dominated this city. This small, cosy suburb is home to some chic shops and restaurants which is great for a bit of people watching from a buzzy pavement cafe, with most of the action happening around 4th Avenue. Enjoy a great burger at Hudsons, a current favourite with Jo’burg residents, or head to close by Parktown and try The Foundry for craft beers, coffee and casual dining or Cube Tasting Kitchen, where you embark on a spectacular 10-course menu.
More than just another place to head for trendy bars, restaurants and galleries, many consider Newton to be the heart and soul of Johannesburg's cultural landscape. A hotbed of protest theatre, music and poetry during the apartheid-era, Newton is still Jo’burg’s most culturally diverse neighbourhood, packed with vibrant live venues and creative spaces, including The Market Theatre, and home to huge celebrations for Diwali and Chinese New Year.
Once considered Johannesburg’s trendiest area, Melville has still got lots going for it, in part thanks to a buzzing student population. Browse the neighbourhood’s many antique and bookshops or hang around to see it come to life after dark. Once home to the city’s favourite nightspots, there are still plenty of good places to grab a drink or a bite to eat, including The Leopard, known for its fun approach to seriously good food.
Soweto, a collective term for the townships to the Southwest of Johannesburg, was originally mostly populated by native African workers who were not permitted to live in Johannesburg proper. These days Soweto is home to around one million people and is considered South Africa’s most metropolitan township, often a source of trends, from fashion to music. While many visitors see Soweto from inside a tour bus, Jo’burg locals favour being on the ground to appreciate the area in its full glory, hearing the kwaito music and smelling the kota (a local food favourite). Soweto Bike Tours are becoming a popular choice and will allow you to visit the vibrant community Meadowlands as well as major historical sites, including Vilakazi Street, once home to Nelson Mandela.