Johannesburg is so much more than just the Gautrain, the Apartheid Museum and Gold Reef City. We chatted to Jo’burg locals to discover their favourite spots to hit up that you wouldn’t necessarily find in the usual tourist recommendations:
What do you wish more people knew about Johannesburg?
I wish more people knew that Jo’burg can be an amazing place to live as a student. Other South African cities are generally seen as more student-friendly, but I think being a student in one of the most diverse cities on the continent means that you can learn from what’s around you constantly. I also think that if you make an effort it can be an affordable place to live, and the transition from being a student into working life can be a lot easier.
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Where can you go if you’re broke?
When I’m broke I hang out in Emmarentia
, a beautiful green area with lovely big lawns and a ton of space for picnics, running around or just lying down in the sun. I also enjoy going to Zoo Lake Pool with friends. It’s only R10 to get in and there are always cute babies playing around in the water and lush grass to sit on and read a book before going for a quick dip in the massive pool. We always take a picnic, which is so much cheaper than going to a restaurant nearby.
Where can you go if you’re in need of some nature?
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. It’s beautiful and has some really interesting plants and gardens to wander through. The waterfall is lovely and really makes you feel like you’re lost somewhere far away from the chaos of Jo’burg. If I have more time I like to go to Magaliesberg for the weekend as it’s not too far away and is great for hikes.
What is your favourite hidden gem?
I really love this thai restaurant in Cyrildene called Thai Meals. People do know about it, but it’s super-underrated. I really doubt anyone would still be eating at Simply Asia if they had any idea how great and fresh the food at this place is.
For a shopping experience like no other you, have to head to ‘the piles’ around De Villiers Street. There you will find vendors with piles of second-hand clothes for you to dig through for hours. Items range from R2 each and can be anything from a 2011 Topshop dress to a vintage Prada skirt. You just have to be willing to put in the work to sort through everything. It’s an overwhelming place with lots of shouting people, so don’t go if that sounds stressful to you. I’d recommend keeping your money hidden safely, too – this is Jo’burg, after all.
Where can you go to sit on your laptop?
I love working at Service Station
in Melville. If you get to sit on the big comfy bench, you could stay there for hours. Croft & Co
is always full of people working on their laptops, so you can go there and not feel bad for sitting there all day long. They also open really early (6.30am), which is great if you want to seize the day, and their Wi-Fi is really fast.
What’s the best spot for a night out?
, where you are guaranteed to find good music and great people to jostle for space on the dance floor with. Otherwise, my new favourite place to take out-of-towners to is Glory
. It’s a restaurant by day but turns into a fun dance venue most weekend nights. It has quite a bit more space than Kitcheners and gives you a bit of a break from just going to Braam (which, if you’re a local, you soon get a bit tired of).
What’s the most Instagrammable spot in your city?
Circa Gallery. The exhibitions are usually pretty good but its main appeal is the architecture. I think it’s a crime to leave Jo’burg without getting a photo in the rounded walkway with the slatted walls (okay, it’s hard to describe so just see the below photo). Breezeblock
in Brixton has a really cool ’70s vibe to it and great lighting for photos in their courtyard.