A pocketful (and more) of Johannesburg
Why Johannesburg in Your Pocket?
Johannesburg is only waking up to its potential as a tourist city; for much of its existence as a city it has been under-covered and underrated. Johannesburg In Your Pocket is an independent city guide aimed at visitors to the city (and locals). More than a guide, it also includes events listings so that you can land easily in the city, understand its context and find ways of enjoying your time here. From luxury and business travellers to families, adventure junkies and budget travellers, it has something for every taste.
What does it consist of and how often does it come out?
It has vital information on how to get around, safety, where to stay, what to see and do, what to buy, and the best places to eat out. The content is updated regularly online and refreshed for each print edition. The first edition carried a special focus on Nelson Mandela’s Joburg. The upcoming edition looks at Fordsburg and Indian Johannesburg.
Have you always lived in Joburg?
A number of years ago I started a blog called 'Nothing to do in Joburg besides ...', spurred on after hearing that expression once too often. I actually grew up in Benoni (on the East Rand), always dreaming of the city. I moved to Johannesburg at the age of 17 and have been in love with this crazy place since.
For a first-time visitor to the city, what are the top five things/attractions/experiences you would suggest?
Joburg is all about contrasts, and the juxtaposition is what makes this African city unique. For a first-time visitor, I suggest:
- Spend time in hipster Braamfontein at Saturday’s Neighbourgoods Market. Top it off at the new jazz club, The Orbit, and in the surrounding streets. Or spend a Sunday in Maboneng for lunch at Market on Main with the cool kids, where you can pop into the great selection of galleries and stores in the area that offer local work and goods.
- Experience Soweto – try a quad-biking tour with Soweto Outdoor Adventures that takes you to historical sites and the famous Vilakazi Street (the only street in the world to have been home to two Nobel Peace Prize laureates), as well as some offbeat places.
- Walk the inner city with a local guide to explore the incredible collection of public art; and if graffiti is your thing, you can’t do better than Newtown.
- For an understanding of what shaped South Africa, the Apartheid Museum is a must-visit; or to get to grips with our human ancestors at Maropeng and spend time in the Cradle of Humankind.
For an understanding of what shaped South Africa, the Apartheid Museum is a must-visit; or to get to grips with our human ancestors at Maropeng.
- If you are a mall junkie, own up to it and head to Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square. Take a walk past the country’s financial heart, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and admire your imposing surroundings while you sit on the pavement at Mam Lindy’s Fast Food, served out of a trailer, and eat meat and pap (maize porridge) with your hands.
(I have another five for your second visit and more for your third.)
For those who love nightlife, what are the highlights?
A night out at Randlords, a super-glamorous club at the highest point in Braamfontein with jaw-dropping city views. Mostly used as a function venue, it has occasional events that you have to watch its website for.
Best shopping experiences?
Markets, markets markets. Take your pick from the guide.
And for art lovers, the best galleries/museums?
Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein is not to be missed, with its extraordinary collection of African art spanning the continent. And then there’s gallery row along Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood, with so much to choose from. Stops on the way include David Krut, Goodman Gallery, Circa Gallery, Everard Read Gallery and Res Gallery.
Please tell me about different or 'alternative' experiences
Bay of Grace offers a birding tour of Soweto where you get to walk up Enoch Sontonga koppie (hill) and experience a sense of awe at the beauty of this tranquil space high above the busy-ness of Soweto. Dlala Nje’s dinners in Yeoville, where you get to sample tastes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, are also a fascinating way of understanding the city’s urban mix.
How can one follow in the footsteps of Gandhi and Mandela in Johannesburg?
A visit to Satyagraha House in Orchards is a great way to connect with Gandhi’s philosophy. And Joburg is Mandela’s city, with so many sites that connect to the great man’s life. A must-see is Chancellor House, a museum on the premises of Mandela’s offices that he shared with Oliver Tambo as a young attorney in Johannesburg. Across from Chancellor House there is an incredible metal sculpture of Mandela as a boxer, by Marco Cianfanelli. It presents the perfect photo-op.
How would you explain the Joburg experience to foreign travellers?
Joburg can be crazy and chaotic, but also warm and welcoming. Travel here with an open mind.