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TThe Rand Club, in the heart of Johannesburg’s downtown business area, was born in 1887 just after gold was discovered on the reef. The brainchild of British empire builder Cecil John Rhodes, it’s still there today, changed in some ways, but still an illustrious Johannesburg constant.
Once upon a time, the area where the Rand Club has stood since 1887 was a windswept dusty area of farms and scrub. When the world’s greatest gold deposits were found there, the city of Johannesburg was born, grew at a lightning pace and prospered. Today the Rand Club sits plumb in the middle of one of the most important financial and mining centres in Africa.
Legend has it that when Cecil John Rhodes had firmly established that there was indeed gold in ‘them thar hills’, he walked to a point where the fledgling Commissioner Street meets the present-day Loveday Street and imperiously exclaimed, ‘here we must have a club'. And so, one of Johannesburg’s great institutions was born and took shape.
That shape has changed radically since the first brick-and-thatch structure went up in 1887. Less than 2 years later, that first single-storey club house became an impressive 2-storey building with a bar (of course), a billiard room (the pursuit of gentlemen in those days), a dining room, various offices and a kitchen.
The South African (Second Anglo Boer) War, where Boer battled Brit and was finally defeated, got in the way of further building plans, but in 1904 the Rand Club was reborn in an even grander manner, modelled on one of London’s top clubs.
It now boasted 4-storeys, imposing columns, a splendid stained-glass dome (it was completely restored with new stained glass after a disastrous fire in 2005), bars, billiard rooms, libraries, offices and a fine restaurant.
However, the presence of Cecil John Rhodes’ presence is still keenly felt in the Rhodes Room, where a life-sized portrait glowers over members and guests.
Although times have changed and even women members and lady guests are now allowed, the Rand Club remains a Johannesburg icon of tradition, status and opulence.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
The Rand Club
Tel: +27(0) 11 870 4260
How to get here
The Rand Club is situated at the corner of Loveday and Fox streets in downtown Johannesburg.
Parking is limited so it is advised that you get a taxi.
What to pack
There’s a strict dress code that disallows jeans, sneakers, tracksuits, golf and sports shirts and sandals for gentlemen. Ladieswear is smart casual.
Tours to do
An excellent way to see Johannesburg is on the City Sightseeing bus. It has 12 stops including one in downtown Johannesburg, the Apartheid Museum, the World of Beer, Gold Reef City Theme Park and the Origin Centre at Wits (University of the Witwatersrand).
Where to stay
If you are a member or reciprocal member you may stay at the Club, but there is a limited number of bedrooms and demand is high, so book well in advance.
What to eat
The Club has a restaurant with a resident chef.