Once the exciting heart of Johannesburg's nightlife, Yeoville today is a little frayed around the edges but remains exciting thanks to its cosmopolitan mix of African cultures where you can buy goods from all over Africa, and hear a Babel’s Tower of languages.

Did you know?

In Yeoville you will hear a multitude of African languages being spoken, from isiZulu, Swahili and Yoruba to Amharic, Ibo and Wolof.

Yeoville was born in 1890, after gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand and Johannesburg – the City of Gold – was founded.

UK-born Thomas Yeo Sherwell advertised his suburb as a ‘sanitarium for the rich’ because he claimed that Yeoville’s air was cleaner than in the dusty streets of the mining town below. But his promises failed to lure the wealthy and Yeoville became – what it is and has always been – a melting pot of class, creed and culture.

Once a Jewish suburb, filled with early immigrants, Yeoville took on a new identity in the 1970s, as the hippy, happy, thriving centre of music, bars, restaurants and clubs.

By the 80s, it had started its downward economic slide, but also became a hotbed of liberalism, where whites and blacks mixed defiantly in the face of draconian apartheid laws.

One legend goes that in the early 1960s, Nelson Mandela, on the run from the police, found refuge in a Webb Street flat belonging to one of his white comrades.

But that is all in the past. What is Yeoville like today?

Don’t expect glitzy or stylish. However, if you want a taste of the real Africa, in all its colours, moods and aspirations, make your way to Rocky and Raleigh streets, the epicentre of pan-African life in Johannesburg.

If you’re hungry, try local mphokoqo (corn porridge), attieke from the Ivory Coast (similar to couscous), or injera (pancake) from Ethiopia, and wash it down with African beer or Ethiopian coffee as music blasts from car stereos, clubs, bars and restaurants – kwasa kwasa, highlife, kwaito and jazz battle for supremacy over your ears.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Yeoville Bellevue Community Development Trust
Cell: +27 (0)82 373 7705 (Maurice Smithers)
Email: ybcdt@yeoville.org.za

How to get here

Yeoville is off Louis Botha Drive, adjacent to the suburb of Houghton, and is well-served by taxis and buses.

Best time to visit

Any time, although the area roars into life in the evenings.

Tours to do

Past Experiences offers excellent walking tours in and around the city, including a tour of Yeoville.

Length of stay

A few of hours, longer if you plan to eat.

What to eat

Mystic Yeoville/Sanza Good Food has great vegetarian food. Ekhaya Pub & Restaurant specialises in traditional South African dishes such as pap and vleis (mealie porridge and meat), mogodu (tripe) and, if you’re very brave, isikop (ox head).

Best buys

African music, much of it hard to find anywhere else, is everywhere. Excellent – and cheap – fabrics from all over Africa. An African outfit of your choice can be made in just a few hours.