Things To Do in Johannesburg and Soweto
Johannesburg, aka Jozi or Joburg is home to some of the best arts, food, culture and nightlife. Also, probably my favorite city in the world. Sure, Johannesburg is known to be a dangerous city, so if you're wondering if this city is safe or not, answer is yes and no. There's poverty here and some streets should be avoided completely. Nonetheless, It's a beautiful city that I'd like to call home one day. One thing I learnt from the five days I spent in October was, there was nothing much to do as far as "tourism" goes. I'll be going through some of the things to do in Johannesburg including neighborhoods of Maboneng Precinct, Mellville, Braamfontein and the Township of Soweto.
Maboneng is without a doubt my favorite neighborhood in Johannesburg. Which is why I spent around three weeks staying at the most recommended backpackers in Johannesburg by The Lonely Planet Curiocity Backpackers. Maboneng is located in the south eastern part of Johannesburg. Maboneng's mix of developments make this city unique and exciting for young creatives. I have to admit, I might have spent a little too much time here, but I have no regrets. After a while, you begin to form relationships with locals, you get familiar with the area and it becomes sort of like home.
Where To Eat
One thing you won't get tired of in Maboneng is the food scene. Even though its quite small, the diversity in food is almost unmatched. Since I was here for so long, and by so long I mean three weeks, I got a chance to try almost every restaurant in the neighborhood. Of course some were better than others, but I never felt like I wasted my money on any of them. I'm a huge foodie, so trying new places is always fun for me.
- Soul Souvlaki- (pictured above) is a Greek restaurant housed in what looks like a shipping container serves delicious fresh food daily until 5 pm. Believe or not, this was my first meal in Johannesburg, recommended by Curiocity staff Dudu upon arriving. It sure wasn't the last time either.
- Little Addis Cafe- You almost can't go wrong with Ethiopian food, Little Addis is no exception.
- Pata Pata- If you're in the mood for authentic South African food like boerewors and pap, chicken livers etc then Pata Pata is your place. Great food although waiting time is a bit long.
- Shaap Braai- My favorite place for braai and pap.
- Thali- South Africa is known to for Indian food, Thali does a great job of validating that.
- Origin Coffee- Every great neighborhood needs a coffee shop, Origin just so happens to serve some of the best Johannesburg.
- Che Argentine Grill- One word, MEAT! five stars.
What To Do
Market on Main- is a must if visiting on a Sunday. It's not only popular with tourists, but locals love it as well. You could be here for the abundance of food vendors, the art galleries or a little shopping found upstairs and outside the market on the main road. I've been to this market a couple of times and got a chance to try different types of foods including Paella, bunny chow, and this BBQ pork belly sandwich (pictured above). The market runs every Sundays from 10-3 PM.
Arts on Main- has heaps of art galleries, studios and creative spaces, and a restaurant called Canteen
Bioscope- The city's only independent cinema where you'll find local screenings, documentaries, live music and many more.
- The Living Room- This plant filled rooftop cafe is perfect for both food and drinks while enjoying stunning views of the city. It does get pretty packed to a point where it takes a while to order a drink. My advice, come a little bit earlier and secure yourself a table. Everything is great here, the music, food, drinks, and that sweet view. Perfect for Sundays after the market or as a pre-game spot since they close very early.
- Shakers- Come here if you're ready for a good time. Local tunes, American Rap, Nigerian music and more. Never a dull moment here, highly recommended.
Where To Stay
Maboneng's accommodation ranges from Airbnb's, Hotels, and a Backpacker. Depending on your type of travel, Curiocity Backpackers is most recommended. Curiocity is perfect for anyone on a budget, from groups to those traveling solo. Curiocity is owned by Bheki Dube, a skateboarding photographer turned entrepreneur, who also happens to hangout with guest. Curiocity not only offers accommodation, bicycle rentals, neighborhood activities, and daily tours organized by Tshepo Mokone. The vibes at Curiocity are unreal, thanks to the awesome staff and the Hide Out Bar located in the common area.
Braamfontein a.k.a Braam, is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Johannesburg, also pretty safe. You can find great coffee shops, restaurants, some of the best bars, and great boutiques. It also happens to be where the Neighbourgoods Market is held every saturday.
What To Do
- Neighborgoods Market- There's a lot of things to do in "Braam" as locals call it, and one of those things is Saturday's Neighbourgoods market. This awesome market is also in Cape Town. Come here for great food, goods and live music, sometimes a DJ.
- 44 Stanley- Boutique bars, restaurants, antique, art stores, and food, making it a perfect spot for lunch with some shopping.
- The Wits Museum- Contemporary and historic musuem showcasing thousands of pieces of African art.
Where to Eat/Drink
The Hill Cafe- This cafe located at The Old Fort in Constitution Hill is interior or should I say exterior goals. Come here to enjoy coffee or lunch while sitting on a covered terrace on a beautiful courtyard.
Father Coffee- Some call it the best coffee in Johannesburg, and it's damn good, with good vibes.
The Great Dane- They're great for their food, if you fancy hot dogs. Stay till the late night and it turns into a dance floor with DJ's on weekends.
Kitcheners Carvery Bar- This was the most recommended bar by locals, and it lived up to the hype, you're guaranteed an epic night. You can also stop by in the day to grab a beer and burger, they're also pretty good.
Mellville is another cool neighborhood in Johannesburg. This bohemian suburbs is where you'll find mostly students attending The University of Johannesburg. Although its a great area, there's not much to do but eat and drink, and I'm not complaining.
- Poppy's- A cool cafe perfect for any type of meal with great WiFi and conveniently It's located right on 7th st.
- Nuno's- A Portuguese restaurant serving everything from pasta, chicken livers and seafood. Generous portions too.
- Hell's Kitchen- Really good food, especially the lamb burger, and great bar. This is probably the best bar in Mellville, cool hangout spot but not for dancing.
Soweto Day Tour
A trip to Soweto is highly recommended while in Johannesburg, whether you go on your own or with a tour company. While it's not necessarily in the city of Johannesburg, getting there will only take about 20-25 minutes. Soweto, which stands for South Western Township, is the largest township in South Africa. There's an abundance of Soweto tours in Johannesburg, including Curiocity Backpackers, with Tshepo as the guide.
- Kliptown- The first stop on the tour is Kliptown, the oldest residential district in Soweto. You get a chance to walk through the neighborhood, see locals and see how they live. In case you're wondering, walking through Kliptown is very safe, the locals are very nice and will ask you to take a picture of them.
- Hector Peterson Museum- After Kliptown, you'll be taken to the Hector Peterson Museum, of a 13 year old killed in the 1976 Soweto Uprising. During the uprising, over 100,000 students from different schools marched peacefully chanting freedom from oppression. Unfortunately hundreds of those students were killed by police, including Hector Peterson, making him the youngest student killed during the uprising. Why the uprising? In the early 70's, all schools were required to teach Afrikaans. And Because the language was associated with apartheid, Black students preferred their native language or English, so they marched. In honor of the students who lost their lives during the uprising, June 16th is now a national holiday called Youth Day.
- Vilakazi Street- Just a few blocks from the Hector Peterson Museum comes Vilakazi street. Once home to Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, Vilakazi is the only street with two Noble Prize winners. Besides seeing their homes, you get a chance to see art on the streets, entertainment, the chance to try the traditional beer "Umqombothi," and traditional dancers (pictured below).
If you've been to Johannesburg and have more tips, comment below. I'll be visiting Johannesburg again, and would love to check it out.