It was the first week back after the December vacation and work was still a desert. A few lost souls still inhabited this barren land of dread and sadness. One of them was a new co-worker that recently moved to Jozi and did not have much leave. For his sins, he was hunched over his desk forced to read Wikipedia articles and datasheets for wireless transponders. It was a sorry site. Worse, he mentioned that it was pointless leaving work as there was nothing to do in Jozi.
Not really, but I did have a bout of heavy breathing as I attempted to explain the virtues of this wonderful website called Finding Jozi (you might have seen it – from what I’ve heard, it is pretty cool.) There even exists a list of things to do in Jozi on the site! Then it dawned on me that I am quite a lazy blogger and that this website is probably geared to the much more explorative individual rather than the average denizen of this city. Oddly enough, another co-worker had come up with this plan to visit the many sites and sounds that Jozi has to offer this year. These did not only include the obscure ones that require much driving but simple things like SAB World of Beer and Wakaberry in Lonehill.
That is where this list came from. I always say that there is a lot to do in Jozi. So here’s a list of the more “mainstream” attractions that I approve of. This list is NO WHERE CLOSE to being a comprehensive list and there are many places I have left out. Do some googling and you will be amazed by what you will find. By reading this sentence, you solemnly swear to do at least one thing from each category this year. Kapish? Let’s get to it.
1. Watch a show
There are about 10 million people living in Jozi which means they need to be entertained. Although the main form of entertainment is getting smashed courtesy of SAB, there are also MANY great theatres around that put on some exquisite shows. Go watch one.
- Joburg Theatre: Built in 1962, this theatre sits atop the Braamfontein Hill and is one of the best in South Africa. The present incarnation of this venue came about in 2000 when it underwent revitalisation and corporatisation. I think this was one of the catalysts that led to the changing face of Braamfontein. It is now a premium Jozi venue with some huge stage productions. There are four theatres in the complex with the largest showing more commercial productions.
- Market Theatre: Whereas the Joburg Theatre is grandiose and geared towards the large audience approval, the Market Theatre in Newtown is slightly different and special. It opened during the same week as the 1976 uprising and has become quite synonymous with some spectacular struggle plays. There also seems to always be an Athol Fugard play on the go. Or maybe that’s the case whenever I check what’s playing. The building was an old Indian fruit market and they’ve retained many elements of it. It looks so good.
- Peter Torien at Monte Casino: What’s quite awesome about this venue is that its nestled within the blandest structure in Jozi yet sometimes shows really cool (especially the comedic) shows. The theatre is rather cosy and, coupled with supper at Beira Alta or The Meat Company, should make for an excellent night out.
- *Theatre on the Square: This is yet another well placed theatre. It’s nestled in the corner of the oh-so-popular Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton. They regularly do live comedy and jazz sessions along with popular plays.
- *Linder Auditorium: This is the home of the acclaimed Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra and is situated on the Wits Education Campus. They are one of Jozi’s treasures and were almost lost a few weeks ago as funding dried up. I’m not too sure what the present status is but there seems to be a 2013 season planned but this will only be possible if we attend the concerts. I love the orchestra and used to attend the concerts regularly when I lived in Durban. I’m guilty of never going to the Jozi one. I intend to change that this year. You should join me. In February every year, they also run the Mozart Festival which is highly recommended.
- *State Theatre: You need to drive past this theatre in the heart of Pretoria to truly understand it. Imagine all the (white) folk dressed up in better than their Sunday best, traipsing into this beautiful building for a recital. The vibe may have changed (Sibongile Khumalo played there in December while Verwoed turned in his grave even more) but it’s still a must do venue.
The music scene in Jozi is okay. Just okay. I feel like there’s a lack of accessible venues in Jozi which nurture the local music scene. This is a topic that you can discuss with me in person. Pretoria, though, has become known as a great melting pot for bands. It’s worth the drive if you are into good local music.
- Tanz Café: In a way, it’s quite sad that Tanz, conveniently situated at The Buzz in Fourways just above Hooters, is probably the premium venue for live music. It’s too grown up and doesn’t have the nitty gritty feel of a real live music venue. But the fact remains that Jozi’s live music scene relies and thrives on this setup. All this being said, there is something about it that makes it really likeable. UPDATE: Tanz has closed their Fourways branch and will soon be opened in Emperor’s Palace. I’m pretty sure the space vacated will be occupied by something worthwhile…
- Town Hall/The Woods: Although Tanz is for the older, more upmarket crowd, these two venues in Newtown still retain the gritty edge you want from a live music venue. They have bands playing every week. Go. Just go.
- A Rooftop in the CBD: In 2012, rooftop parties across the CBD popped up with DJs being the staple. I foresee a shift to bands in 2013 as more rooftops become available for gigs. The views are amazing and the atmosphere at these parties is truly special. If you hear of a party happening, don’t ask questions, just go.
- The Bohemian: IT’S STILL OPEN! This is probably the oldest live venue in Jozi and is in the Melville/Richmond area. I remember watching people dance upside down on the ceiling while Hog Hoggidy Hog played. Their pizzas are superb and are half price on Mondays.
- P.O.P. Art: This might be my favourite venue in the Maboneng Precinct. It’s just behind Chalkboard inside Main Street Life. Actually it might be because of the “A Night with a Songwriter” event that Josie Fields has put together every month. The setting is so intimate and, well, Josie Fields is there and I think I really like her music and stuff. I might be biased. Nevertheless, these sessions are some of the best live music I have ever heard. And that is saying something. They also have a comedy night here every Sunday which has “replaced” Sunday night comedy sessions in The Dungeon at the now defunct Cool Runnings in Melville.
- Wolves: Beer and cupcakes. Can you get a better combo? On Thursdays, they do better this and have a band. It is situated in on the top of Corlett Drive and is one of the prettiest stores in Jozi. But you already know this coz you’ve already been there for their red velvet cupcakes…
- Puma Social Club: Pop-up stores have had some fame in Jozi. The most recent incarnation was Union Bar in Melrose Arch which was a fantastic place for cocktails. This pop-up store on De Korte Street in Braamfontein is the current premium venue in Jozi for hanging out and catching the best bands that South Africa has to offer. Hell, even Civil Twilight played a gig here in December. It’s a retro mashup of the best in “after hours sports” with that extremely cool feel to it. I love it and will definitely be going back a few times before it closes in March.
- The Alexander Theatre: The original Alex dates back to 1951 and it closed its doors in 1997 as Braamfontein became notoriously unhip and unsafe. With the urban revitalisation of the precinct, the theatre was restored and is now one of the most awesome venues in Jozi. I’ve included it under the music section as I’ve only actually seen bands at this venue. I’ve also been privileged to attend a gig on the roof. The Alex is not a particularly tall structure and this means the rooftop was almost enclosed by the neighbouring skyscrapers giving it this unique feel. Sadly, this venue is only opened for set events (the last band I watched there was “Dear Reader” in late 2012) so you need to watch the press.
- *Radium Beer Hall: There are many claims to the “oldest bar in Jozi” title although I’ve kinda stopped trying to keep track. This is one of the oldest and sits in what looks like a really dodgy part of town in Orange Grove on Louis Botha. The area is actually not that dodgy although you should always take precaution. Many different artists across genres play here but from what I have heard, The Radium is best known for its ad-hoc epic Jazz nights where the crowd and the band just get into the groove.
- Soccer City: Odd venue? Not really. The amount of international artists coming to South Africa is astounding. So far in 2013, there are four huge stadium events scheduled for this venue (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Justin Bieber and Bon Jovi.) Going to the stadium is a fantastic experience and is something you should do this year. There are many other venues that showcase great international bands. So far this year, there has been an international act (or two) performing in Jozi EVERY weekend and this trend is not stopping anytime soon. Watch the press and pick and choose to your liking.
- Black Dahlia: A few years ago, this Slovenian band named Red Five Point Star toured South Africa. They did play a gig in central Jozi but for some reason, I decided to go out to Boksburg to see them. The place was pretty scary but that’s just because the crowd is the alternative music crowd that wear copious amounts of black. I really enjoyed it though. They regularly have metal nights, so if you’re into that type of music…
- *Arcade Empire: This is one of the Pretoria venues that I was talking about. Their line-ups are brilliant. I intend on going there sometime this year.
2. Do a city walking tour
Jozi is not known for being a “walking city” like London (or even Maputo.) In Sunninghill, the taxi rank is just next to the N1 freeway whereas I stay a good 4km away from it. The night guard in my complex walks there and back every day. Even though many are told that Jozi cannot be done on foot haven’t seen the reality – millions and millions of people do not own cars and they walk the streets to get where they are going. So why don’t you join these millions of people and walk? Okay, none of us are going to do this, so instead, why not do a tour around the city on foot? There are MANY companies that do these tours. I love them! I seriously do. Jozi reveals its beauty when you’re on your feet.
- PAST Experiences: These guys offer some of the most awesome inner city and historical tours focused on the CBD and beyond. I’ve personally done a tour on the Rea Vaya to Soweto, Multiflora Flower Market, Sophiatown and even a tour of Pretoria. Their tours are quite reasonably priced so I think you should maybe do one of these once a month. It’s amazing how much beauty you will see and history you will learn. Most tours are on a Saturday morning.
- *Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust: Just north of the CBD is the Parktown and Westcliff area with some well-preserved mansions of the randlords of old. They’ve developed a trust and hold (I think) weekly walks in and around the area. These are quite well attended so book early!
- *Main Street Walks: They are based more to the east of the CBD primarily in the Maboneng area. One of the really awesome tours they hold is the Picnic in the Sky tour where you are taken to the Carlton Centre for a picnic.
- Dlala Nje: Not strictly a tour company, they are actually a cultural centre based at Ponte Tower in Hillbrow. They do some excellent work and now also offer a fascinating tour of Ponte that includes a walk through Hillbrow. I did this late last year and it really was special. You should do it too.
- Joburg Photowalkers: The best way to truly fall in love with Jozi is to get a camera and walk the streets. Joburg Photowalkers do much to help you along. It’s just a bunch of photographers from all walks of life and with vastly different equipment (you can gladly bring a point and shoot to a walk,) that tours the streets of Jozi and takes pictures. It is one of the best ways to truly appreciate the city. I seriously recommend you join us on our next walk. All you gotta do is pop by to the designated starting point and follow the group.
- Instagramers Jozi: Let’s call this a spin-off of the photowalking culture. Instead of bringing your large, bulky DSLR, you take your iPhone (or Android) along instead and snap away at the gorgeousness that the city holds. This group has become rather prolific and they hold regular walks. Bring your phone and pop by. I promise that you will love it.
- DIY: Do you really need to join a tour to learn about the city? No you don’t. Contrary to popular belief, the streets in many Jozi suburbs are highly walkable and are quite safe if you are careful. Seriously, don’t be stupid. Even some of the places you consider boring have hidden gems that are only revealed when you’re on foot. Public transport is also really good (yes it is) so you can even get to great places with ease. Go out and walk the city. You will be surprised at what you will find.
3. Get lost in books
One thing that really boggles my mind is the lack of second hand book shops in Durban. I’ve looked high and low and found less than a handful of these. Jozi, on the other hand, is littered with high-quality book stores. Moreover, there are a few independent book outlets so you don’t have to feed the monstrous Expensive Books.
- Collectors Treasury: Located very close to the Maboneng precinct, I’m pretty sure they contain more books here than all the second hand book stores in Jozi combined. Going here will change you. Your first time here will blow your mind but each subsequent visit brings about something new. I like going here to clear my mind and get lost in this world which vaguely resembles ours…
- Hospice Book Shop: If you’re driving north along Louis Botha near the Radium, you will notice Hospice Corner on your left. It’s a collection of stores that sell every type of wares at ridiculously cheap prices. The profits all go to the Hospice. The jewel of this collection of stores is the book shop. It’s well stocked, especially with classics, and the books cost virtually nothing. On the other side of town, smack bang in the middle of Braamfontein is this seriously pretty book shop which is also affiliated to the Hospice. They have a pretty great selection, also at a reasonable price. Next time you pop into Neighbour Goods, take a walk to this shop as well. You won’t be disappointed.
- Book Dealers: As with most of Jozi, everything is franchised – even second hand book stores! However, each store still maintains the look and feel of a proper second hand book store. My favourite shop is the one in Rosebank. I’ve found some seriously great books there. Other branches are in Melville, Greenside, Gallo Manor, Bryanston, Benmore and Bedfordview.
- Books Galore: I really like these guys a lot. Their shops tend to me small and orderly yet intimate. They have a branch in Sunninghill and I never walk out of the store without a book. I need to stop this habit as my bookcase is already overflowing. They have nine branches in Jozi in Suideoorde, Edenvale, Ruimsig, Lonehill, Northcliff, Parkview, Randpark Ridge and Weltevreden Park.
- Chapter 1: Both branches of these stores (in Norwood and Melville) are fantastic. Books are packed in everywhere and it feels like a place you never want to leave.
- *Love Books: From time to time, I get these beautiful emails from this independent book store in Melville inviting me to a book launch or tell me about a wonderful new book from an obscure writer. I always tell myself that I want to go by but I just never have.
- Estoril Books: When I first moved to Jozi, I took a drive to Fourways Mall to do grocery shopping. It’s not a logical centre for me to do grocery shopping at but I wanted to see if this mall was of any use. I quickly decided it is of no use until I happened upon this shop tucked away on the Mezzanine. Their collection of new books (at a cheaper price than other new book stores…) was impressive but their stock beyond this made me gleeful. I spent about an hour perusing their massive selection. I could have spent longer until I realised I had margarine and toilet duck to buy.
- Kalahari Books: A truly independent second-hand book store with a beautiful library filled with all the books you said you would read when you started university but could not find. They have a little shop in Orange Grove but they also sell books at the Rosebank Rooftop Fleamarket every Sunday.
4. Find out about the past
Do I even need to explain how much of history lurks within this pained city? Don’t ignore these. Don’t…
- Maropeng – Cradle of Humankind: “It began in Afrika” Oddly, it began just 45min to the west of Jozi. Go visit the Taung Child, Mrs. Ples and the newest member of the family, Australopithecus Sediba (he always complained about the ridiculously long name he was given.) They have regular stargazing nights as well, but shhhhh; don’t tell any girls I know about that…
- Origins Centre: So what happened between Australopithecus and Homo Sapien? Go find out here and maybe take a walk around Wits University while you’re at it.
- Apartheid Museum: You now have found out where we came from, now see what atrocities mankind was (and still is) capable of. I think just hearing the name of the museum breaks me down.
- *Hector Peterson Museum: In 1976, the children rose up and were killed. I’ve not done this museum. I don’t think I’m strong enough to do it yet…
- *Natural History Museum: So I got off at the Pretoria Gautrain Station, took a walk down the road and in front of me was the skeleton of a whale. I mentally noted that I really need to visit this museum.
- *Voortrekker Monument: Jozi is what it is today due to the Great Trek undertaken by Boers in the 1830s. This monolithic memorial pays homage to these pioneers.
- Lilliesleaf Farm: In 1963, the farm was raided and 19 people were arrested. The evidence gathered led to the incarceration of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island. Apart from the historical significance, the farm is a reminder of how Jozi has expanded over the years. Back then, Lilliesleaf was akin to one of the farmsteads in Kyalami. Now, it’s in the centre of the richest urban suburb in Africa. This does mean you have no excuse not to visit it.
- Sophiatown: Actually there is nothing to see here. That’s how thorough the destruction of this vibrant suburb was. Around three original buildings still stand. Nevertheless, a visit to the Trevor Huddlestone Memorial Centre at the premises of Dr. AB Xuma’s house is a must. There still is something special about this suburb. You might just feel it when you’re there.
- *Wits Art Museum: A relatively new addition to Jozi’s landscape is this thoroughly gorgeous gallery in Braamfontein.
- Blue Plaques: You don’t need to visit a museum to learn about our history. There are between 150 and 200 of these plaques which have been installed on significant sites all around the city.
5. Experience some fine dining
The Cape may have the “certified” best restaurants in the country but that does not mean Jozi is that far behind when it comes to quality of food. I wonder what the people at Michelin will think when they finally get around to South Africa. People with money and who travel have a discerning taste and if you’re not serving great food, you need to do something very special if you want your establishment to keep staying alive. Oddly, there are still a few places that exist like this – crap food but great atmosphere. Hopefully, these crash and burn. (Muhahaha!) Anyway, one other phenomenon that occurred in 2012 is the prevalence of really good food that has resulted in the franchising of the establishment. I’m not a huge fan of franchises but when they get it right, I’m not complaining. Places like Adega, Col Cacchios, Turn & Tender, Lucky Moo, Tasha’s, Vovo Telo and Pizza & Vino make some seriously good food.
Anyway, I have a list of JUST 10 restaurants here which have great food around Jozi. There are gazillions more – you never will run out of good food in Jozi. My thinking behind this list is to have a place to take a date for a rather unforgettable dinner. Sadly this is more of a wish list for me as I’ve not delved into the world of fine dining in Jozi. There are some places here that I have been DYING to go to for years. Hopefully I will have someone to actually take (or take me) to these places in 2013! In the meantime, I hope these blow the socks off your date when you take them there. I’ve included blogs from my contemporaries to explain why you should go to these places.
- *DW11-13: I don’t think you can truly understand how badly I want to go here. I sadly cancelled a reservation on my birthday last year. http://purplelipsandperfectsmiles.blogspot.com/2010/11/date-night-at-dw11-13.html
- *Roots: The venue is stunningly places in the heart of the Cradle of Humankind. Apparently I was supposed to go here for my birthday as well. http://isafoodaddict.blogspot.com/2012/03/roots-restaurant-craddle-of-humankind.html
- Mount Grace: If you follow my blog, you know how much I love this place. I have regular dreams about their food. http://findingjozi.co.za/mount-grace/
- *The Saxon: It’s gorgeous. It’s opulent. Do it. http://www.wine.co.za/news/news.aspx?NEWSID=21694
- *Le Canard: It’s French. It’s opulent. Do it. http://www.travelmuse.com/pois/ZA/06/dining/le-canard
- *Cube: This is not just food, it’s an intimate mind and taste bud f*ck. If you’re lucky, on the night, you will get 14 courses to enjoy over a three or so hour period. A definite must try. http://foodographza.com/2012/08/07/cube-tasting-kitchen-parktown-north-restaurant-review-7th-august-2012/
- *La Vie and Rose: It’s so pretty! http://le1ghlo.com/la-vie-en-rose/
- *Café de Sol: It was a gorgeous summer day in the middle of the week back in 2007 when my two friends and I decided to drive up the coast to Ballito. Well, we didn’t plan on driving to Ballito but we ended up there anyway. Here, we happened upon this glorious cafe, called Café de Sol with a stunning view of the beach. What stood out was the water that they served. It was infused with mint and lemon and to this day, it was the greatest drink I have ever tasted – ever. I tried this infusion by myself but it’s not the same. It’s just not the same! That cafe sadly closed down. This cafe is not related to that one at all. I’ve only heard good things about this place and the outstanding food quality. The downside to this is that it can get rather busy. http://www.storyofbing.com/2012/09/cafe-del-sol-johannesburg/
- *Foundry: Newish, hip place that’s not exactly fine dining (it’s probably more of a gastro pub) but has had some amazing reviews and is worth trying out. http://mg.co.za/article/2012-11-09-the-foundry-good-food-on-tap
- The Griffin: Another gastro pub and THE BURGERS ARE THE BEST THING EVER! The place is geared to bigger crowds so if you want something intimate, rather take a walk around the area and go to the many restaurants around, then maybe pop upstairs here for a craft beer or two. http://www.joziliciousblog.co.za/2012/11/the-griffin-food-beer-and-view-what.html
6. Visit a market
Last year was the year of the market. Okay no, it was not. Much more important things happened like Marikana. But the novelty of weekend markets was lapped up by residents of Jozi. I actually love these markets. They provide such a great atmosphere for people to meet, talk, laugh and eat. I’ve just picked the five highly successful markets. There are new markets popping up everywhere all promising (and delivering) high quality experiences.
- Rosebank Rooftop: As a tourist to Jozi, you cannot skip this market on a Sunday. It has everything a tourist would want when they visit Africa. Locals, however, have a different view and are now gracing the other, newer markets. I don’t fully agree with this. The locals are really missing out on a beautiful and amazing market. The offerings are as varied as Jozi and the food (especially of recent) is phenomenally good.
- Neighbour Goods Market: Do you love food? Of course you do! Everyone does! Although if you’ve not been to this market in Braamfontein on a Saturday morning, I am going to question your sensibilities. I’ve taken so many people here and everyone loves it. There’s something magical about being in town on a Saturday morning. The power exuding from the people is phenomenal. The foods on offer will dazzle your taste buds and make you want to go back every weekend.
- Market on Main: Situated in the Maboneng Precinct, this is what started the Jozi trend towards market culture. Unlike Neighbour Goods, this has more of a varied selection of wares on offer (although the food here is also phenomenal.) It is quite small but with the expansion of Maboneng happening at such breakneck speeds, once you’re done with the market, there is a lot more to do on the streets around it. If you have no plans on a Sunday, just take a drive here instead of staying at home. They also have a Night Market on the first Thursday of every month.
- Bryanston Organic Market: Where do hipsters go when they’re old? Here, of course. You could call this the yuppie market (they were the ones that came before the hipsters, right?) and it’s still a fantastic Saturday morning outing. It’s been fantastic since 1976 when it open (okay I don’t know how cool it was back then but I’m going to assume it was.) I really do enjoy coming by here on a Saturday morning as it just feels calm. Maybe it’s because my purchases from here include a soap made of milk and honey and some pink Himalayan rock salt.
- *Irene Village Market: Don’t ask questions – just go.
7. Walk down a High Street
I really hate mall culture. It’s just sad. I love High Streets but the general consensus in South Africa (as dictated by the large property developers) is that malls win. Jozi has way too many malls but you know what, there are a lot of awesome High Streets that are worth walking down. Granted these are not like Oxford Street in London but they are worth exploring.
- Melville: Melville, oh Melville. What a reputation you have. Everyone should have a whacked, drunken Melville memory. It’s nowhere close to its former glory but the eclectic mix of stores and fantastic bars will make you forget about past glory, and focus on its current beauty. Café Mexicho has 27 different tequilas on their menu (I think they still do) and Sixes do their legendary half price cocktails every day until 19:00.
- Parkhurst: A bit more upmarket and trendy than Melville, this is a collection of designer décor shops and some fine cuisine. Pop by to Jolly Roger for a beer and pizza (on a Sunday afternoon) or do breakfast at Espresso.
- Greenside: Need to party? The Office and Gin are ALWAYS full. Mama’s Shebeen is a great place to go with friends (get a bucket of cane and crème soda) and around the corner are some beautiful niche apparel shops.
- Emmarentia: This Street is actually really short but there are so many cool little shops and great food.
- Linden: Linden is like the remnant of a time long ago. It has this feeling of a suburb that’s long past its prime. But I think that’s what makes it great. You won’t spend much time on the road but you will spend a lot of time at Record Mad as it is everything you want from a tiny record shop. I also really wanna try the food at The Argentinian.
- Norwood: I used to love Norwood when I first moved up to Jozi and especially the 88, which has long since closed down, but if you went there back in the day; you will understand why it was a seriously good jol. Grant Avenue has changed a lot but it still has some fantastic eateries like The Schwarma Company.
- Hatfield Square: If you want to rekindle your lost youth and get drunk for under R100, you must do a party in Hatfield Square. Take the Gautrain there on a Saturday when there is an early rugby match, get smashed then take the last train back.
- Alberts Farm: You want antiques? This road just west of the city is the place to go.
- Melrose Arch: This is basically the only real high street on the list. It’s high fashion whilst you mingle with people from all over the world. I really enjoy every visit here. I do think the best food on this strip is JB’s Corner. Also take a walk into the hotel. I’m not telling you which one because I want to keep this one a secret…
- CBD: Actually, the Fashion District in the Jozi CBD is probably like Oxford Street. It covers 26 city blocks and is always buzzing with activity.
- Kensington: It was a summer’s morning when I first stumbled across Queen Street. I took in so much from this street yet I sat in front of my computer and could find no words to explain how beautiful it was. I felt like I had FOUND Jozi. The cosmopolitan nature of this street made me smile from ear to ear. I felt something amazing. You might not but hey, give it a try…
8. Relax in a garden
Yes, there is no beach in Jozi (there is but I’m not telling you where it is) but we have some great parks where you can chill out at.
- Emmarentia Dam/Johannesburg Botanical Gardens: This Park is really one of my favourite spots in Jozi. Take a book and a picnic basket and just lie in the rose garden for hours on end.
- Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens: If you want to be a bit more active by taking a hike and you want some great photographs, go to these gardens instead. Don’t worry, there is enough space to just chill as well.
- Pretoria Botanical Gardens: Being in Pretoria, I guess you would call this our national botanical gardens. My visit to it was rather unplanned. During the Easter weekend, my family intended to go to Freedom Park. Weirdly enough Easter is the only time of the year when it is closed! So we ended up here instead. I’m pretty glad we did. The gardens are breathtaking. I would say this is a must-visit.
- Zoo Lake: If you watched the movie Material, you know that Zoo Lake (which is not actually in the Johannesburg Zoo but across the road) is a regular braai and picnic spot for many families. It is quite a great place for a picnic and there’s a lake to row a boat. If you don’t feel like picnicking, the Bowls Club and Moyo are nearby and are worth a visit. The park is quite open so you should be careful.
- *Delta Park: There are a LOT of parks in Jozi but some are better than others. This park in Randburg is one of those which is better than others. They have an environmental centre and it’s a fantastic place to run (with strangers.)
- *Lory Park Zoo: OMG THEY HAVE TIGERS! AND YOU CAN TOUCH THEM!
- *Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve: So apparently there are two Lion Parks around the Lanseria area. This is the less famous, cheaper and apparently better one. And you can touch the lions (although touching tigers is much cooler.)
- *Waterfall Estate: If you live in northern Sandton, you’ve probably been bombarded with advertising for this new “city” in between Sandton and Midrand. The scale of this project is impressive, although I’m not the biggest fan of enclosed suburbs. Nevertheless, the Jukskei River runs through it and because of this, there will be some picturesque walks along the banks interspersed with serene picnic spots. I’m quite looking forward to experience these.
9. Explore the diverse culture
Jozi is probably the most cosmopolitan city on the African continent. Walk through Sandton City and you’ll actually have to play the game of “spot the local.” The same can be said when you walking through the CBD. Africa converges in Jozi. So does most of the First World. Who can blame them though?
- Chinese New Year: Regular followers know how much I enjoyed the festivities in Cyrildene in 2012. The New Year falls sometime in January and February. Watch the press and do not miss this! Another option is going to the Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit for the festivities.
- Lusito Land: I think it was 2009 when I ventured down South to Wemmerpan for this annual Portuguese Festival held at the end of April each year. I didn’t really know what to expect and as a result, I got plied with the most delectable Portuguese cuisine and about ten caipirinhas. I ended up buying a Ben 10 wallet. Good times. It runs for about a week or so and do not miss it. Seriously, do not miss it!
- Bunny Chows: Durban is famous for the bunny chow. It was invented there a hundred years ago and it has been perfected there. You really do get the best bunny chows in Durban. It’s a fact. However, with the recent mass migration of Indian youth up to the reef as they seek their fortune on the gold lined streets of Egoli, the Durban cuisine has followed them here. The bunny chow is one of the easiest meals to track down in Jozi. And it’s not only the Indian community that enjoy these delectable treats. Over the last five years, the quality of these has exponentially increased. My personal picks are: Curry Leaf in Buccleuch, Suriyans in Midrand, Cyber Curries at The Buzz in Fourways, Naickers on Jan Smuts in Craighall Park and R. Jana’s in Braamfontein. These are all great but the one that comes close to a Durban quality bunny is Curry and All at the Engen garage on the on-ramp to Grayston Drive in Sandton. Don’t believe me? Go there at midday and see how long (and cosmopolitan) the queue is.
- Rand Easter Show: Would Jozi really be Jozi without this? I don’t think so. Held annually at Nasrec since 18-voetsak, you need to experience this show at least once if only to see all the styling new tractors on offer.
- *L. Ron Hubbard House: A little known fact is that the founder of Scientology spent quite a lot of time at this house in Linksfield during the 1960s. You can actually go for a tour of the house.
- Alliance Francaise: French is actually one of the most spoken languages in Africa. This organisation promotes the French language all over South Africa and even offers language lessons. They also have many cultural events throughout the year. They’re situated just outside the entrance to the Zoo Lake Bowls Club.
- Goethe Institut: This organisation is focused on the German language and culture in Johannesburg. They also have a great exhibition space at Arts on Main.
- Fordsburg, Lenasia & Laudium: Being of Indian descent (although we’ve been here for five generations so I don’t really see myself as an Indian from the sub-continent) the Indian areas in Jozi are of some interest to me. Although I think Sunninghill, Midrand and Randburg more closely resemble what I am used to, these traditional areas in Jozi are quite interesting for everyone. The culture on show is really special. But you will visit mostly for the food. You can also do guided walking tours of Fordsburg if you prefer.
- Soweto & Alexandra: People from all over the world visit these places daily. You know there is history. You know this is the melting pot of South African culture. You know that you don’t really know South Africa unless you know these townships. There are countless tours and cultural happenings in both these places. Do a search on the internet and do something…
- Braamfontein & Maboneng: Just like Soweto and Alex, everyone has heard of these places and tell all their friends to go there but so many of us have not been! You need to do Neighbour Goods Market on a Saturday morning. I cannot stress how great it is to go there. It’s the same with Maboneng. These places are at the forefront of what is awesome about Jozi. Make it your duty to visit these two places.
10. Chill out with friends
You know, there is just so much to do in Jozi. I’ve compiled this supremely long list, but I even know I’ve barely touched the surface of the things to do. Going around the city changes you. My journey over the past few years has been akin to travelling to a country and being completely taken aback by the culture and sites. This happens to me almost weekly. And I love it. But I do regularly sit back and think about what truly is important – relationships.
As humans, we’re not solitary individuals and we rely on other humans through everything we do. Our fondest and most cherished memories are not the sunset you saw from the top of the mine dump looking westwards over Soweto but the people you shared it with.
Jozi has this ability to break down relationships as we have this one-tracked drive to make as much money as we can and spend it on all these experiences. We forget our closest friends and think it normal to see people once every two months when at varsity, you saw each other daily. We then validate this by using the phrase: “Life’s hectic. I’m just so busy.” Both parties nod their heads as they make this lie into the truth.
This year, look at the relationships you have with people and work on building these. There is nothing wrong with calling up an old friend or long-lost relative and spending a Saturday afternoon with them instead of shopping in Rosebank Mall. That is where one of the negatives of blogging comes in. People assume I am always busy so they don’t contact me meaning I don’t see people as often as I like. Anyway, please don’t use the excuse that so-and-so doesn’t contact you so why must you contact them? We all use the busy trap so just put your ego aside and reach out. You’ll be surprised how great this can be. If you are new and alone in Jozi, don’t feel left out. Just join a Meetup club like the Joburg Book & Movie Club and meet some people that you can build relationships with.