Braamfontein, 'the spring by the brambles', was declared a township in the late 1880s, and before that, was part of a vast Witwatersrand farm. Located north of Johannesburg's city centre and despite decades of fluctuating socio-economic fortunes, Braamfontein remains an important economic and entertainment hub.

Did you know?

At Wits University, there are museums dedicated to palaeontology, natural science, geology, architecture, rock art and fine art, as well as theatres to visit.

Braamfontein is a commercially and culturally diverse business district comprising a mix of office blocks, student accommodation, restaurants, retail outlets, colleges, theatres and hotels.

Colloquially known as 'Braamies', it is the seat of the City of Johannesburg’s local government and is the home of South Africa's Constitutional Court and a top South African university, the University of the Witwatersrand.

An area with working class roots, in the early 1950s, when the centre of Johannesburg declined, Braamfontein became the alternative metropolitan place to work and play.

Between the late 1980s and early 2000s, urban decay from the inner city spread to Braamfontein, causing an exodus of corporate and tertiary institutions northward.

In 2002, local government realised how important the location and function of Braamfontein was to the local economy, and embarked on a multi-million rand regeneration programme for the area, supplemented by significant private-sector investment.

Today, a city improvement district (CID), managed by the Braamfontein Management District, provides security and maintenance of the upgraded environment, including a high visibility uniformed security force, parking attendants, closed circuit TV cameras, and extensive greening initiatives.

Braamfontein’s transformation from a rundown business district to a revamped Soho style neighbourhood with chic hotels, art galleries, trendy bars clubs and restaurants, continues apace.

A number of Braamfontein’s buildings have been, or are being turned into student accommodation or Manhattan-style loft apartments. Repairs to infrastructure and public artworks have enhanced the urban environment.

Braamfontein’s allure is its mix of historical landmarks, like the Lord Milner Hotel dating back to 1906, and its bustling modern African mélange of hair salons, newspaper kiosks, fast-food restaurants, spaza (informal) shops and internet cafés.

Likewise, Braamfontein attractions range from cultural stalwarts like the Johannesburg Theatre, to the revolutionary Origins Centre that re-examines humankind’s past through the medium of rock art.

Braamfontein must-sees include the striking Nelson Mandela Bridge, the Constitution Hill complex, the Johannesburg Planetarium, and a whole new generation of contemporary creative spaces, like 70 Juta, that house avant-garde interior design, art, fashion, and film studios.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Braamfontein Management District
Tel: +27 (0)11 833 4053

How to get here

From OR Tambo International Airport, take the first Johannesburg/Pretoria exit. Stay on the R24 and take the left split (N3) at Gillooly’s Interchange. Take the M2 Francois Oberholzer on-ramp (Geldenhuys Interchange). Keep left onto the M1 (Crown interchange), then take the Smit Street off-ramp (M10).

Around the area

Nearby is Newtown, and about 9km away, Gold Reef City and the Apartheid Museum. Enoch Mankayi Sontonga, the composer of South Africa’s national anthem, Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, is commemorated in the Braamfontein Cemetery. In central Jo’burg, about 5km away, go to the top of the 50-storey Carlton Centre, and bargain shop in Fordsburg and at the Oriental Plaza.

Tours to do

Guided tours, by prior arrangement, can be taken at the Origins Centre, the Jo’burg Theatre, and the Constitution Hill Complex. Past Experiences is a tour company that specialises in Johannesburg inner-city tours. Contact Jo Buitendag on +27 (0)11 678 3905 or email past.experiences@hotmail.com.

Get around

If you’re reasonably fit, most Braamfontein attractions can be accessed on foot. You can also drive yourself around. There is ample parking at Constitution Hill, and you can use the Yale Road parking at Wits University to visit the planetarium, Origins Centre, and all the university museums, galleries and theatre.

Length of stay

From an afternoon, to a weekend, depending on your interests.

Where to stay

Lamunu, a hip new boutique hotel, or the classic Braamfontein hotels, the Parktonian, and the Devonshire. Alternatively, stay elsewhere in Johannesburg and just drive into Braamfontein.

What to eat

Braamfontein offers a wide range of dining options, from fast food to contemporary fine dining. Try Café de La Vie in the Bridge Precinct, La Menu café in Hotel Lamunu, Post deli and café in 70 Juta, Narina Trogon, and SP Café. For clubbing and cocktails go to Kitchener's Carvery Bar, One Bar, S Bar, the Grove, and Simply Blue.