Most people fly into Johannesburg for just one night en route to safari—and many sadly spend that night at an airport hotel. I learned what a missed opportunity that is last weekend, when I spent two nights in Johannesburg when I was on my way to the We are Africa conference in Cape Town. Pockets of Joburg are bursting with energy and excitement and the weekend is the best time to take it all in. David Barillot, the general manager of the recently opened the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, is the city’s biggest proponent. He’s partnered with some of the city’s best guides and insiders to show guests a totally surprising side of Johannesburg. Here are his three not-to-be-missed highlights.
Every Saturday, this revived urban warehouse district hosts the Neighbourgoods Market, which is best described as the South African version of Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg and the Brooklyn Flea. Opened in 2011, the space receives 140 applications a week from food and craft vendors hoping to be awarded one of the 80 stalls. Eat your way around the multi-cultural food stands (dumplings, paella, charcuterie, bunny chow) then shop for vintage clothing, jewelry, and bamboo sunglasses. Factor in time for people watching—this city’s effortlessly cool hipster style easily rivals Paris or Portland. On your way out, caffeinate next door at Father Coffee, then peruse nearby art galleries such as Kalashnikov. Saturday night, visit the Beach, a hidden rooftop gem for cocktails, then catch live jazz at the just-opened jazz bar Orbit.
2. 44 Stanley
You could also start your weekend with a cappuccino or espresso on the patio at Bean There, a fantastic fair-trade coffee company that roasts its beans onsite. Next hit Salvationcafe for brunch. Then wander the unique shops like AYK, a Japanese clothing brand; Anatomy Design, a Scandi-inspired design shop; and Tin Table, a quirky shop that curates metal furniture such as benches, lamp shades and trunks. Stick around late afternoon for local beers and live music (hope that Them Particles is playing) at Kitchener’s.
3. Maboneng (pictured above)
You think your city is cool? Wait until you visit the Maboneng Precinct on a Sunday. Arts On Main, a mixed-use creative hub, hosts a food market with stalls selling everything from barbecue to burgers and vendors include vintage shops and cutting-edge designers as well as galleries from artists such as William Kentridge. The rooftop Canteen Restaurant can be a dangerous place with addictive cocktails and salsa dancing. Try to pull yourself away to check out neighboring shops. Don’t miss Loin Cloth & Ashes, a clothing boutique from two local fashion designers and 1886 a locally-inspired home décor shop.
Check out our ultimate guide to Johannesburg!