For a long time Johannesburg was considered by many as just a stop-over point for connecting flights to Cape Town, Durban and the Kruger National Park. But recently, stylish and trendy Johannesburg hotspots—including these 10 restaurants, hotels, bars and cultural sites—are tempting travelers to stay a while.
Saxon Boutique Hotel, Villas & Spa
The Saxon sits on six acres of manicured gardens in the northern Sandhurst neighborhood. Since the new Guatrain mass-transit system was put in, the hotel is a quick 15-minute train ride from the O.R. Tambo International Airport. To give you an idea of the property’s soothing, reflection-inducing effect, it’s where Nelson Mandela completed his book, “Long Walk to Freedom,” after his release from prison in 1990.
Lunch for two at Moemas is just around $25, and that includes what feels like a private dining atmosphere. By the size, you could call it a “hole in the wall” restaurant, but this café and bakery in upscale Parktown North is too lovely for that term. Moemas serves up Instagram-worthy desserts like raspberry-coulis meringues and bread-and-butter pudding. But start with some sustenance: they make beautiful, creative salads like dill-infused couscous with butternut squash and caramelized onions.
David Krut Art Resource
If you want a slow stroll after lunch, take it through the up-and-coming gallery district in Parkwood—the same area as Moemas—centered around David Krut Art Resource. David Krut features constantly-changing exhibitions by artists who are pioneers their styles such as U.K.-born painter and sculptor Boo Ritson. The center also houses a masterfully selected collection of art books.
Parkhurst’s restaurant row
If you can’t decide what you’re in the mood for, peruse several inventive menus on Parkhurst’s restaurant row. This is one of the few blocks in the city that’s great for walking, and plays host to everything from sushi bars to rustic Italian restaurants. If you’re still undecided, the casual, retro-charming Attic restaurant serves an eclectic menu with items like French guinea fowl risotto, Namibian mussels and Scottish salmon.
Arts on Main
Renovations and investments have breathed new, vibrant life into the Central Business District, home to Arts on Main—a shopping and gallery complex featuring some of the top local artists like multimedia genius William Kentridge.
If you rise early enough to do your shopping at Arts on Main, put down your bags and rest awhile in the tree-shaded courtyard of Canteen. Breakfast for two costs around $26 here, and it’s a hearty one: order the Canteen breakfast that includes eggs, lamb sausage, mushrooms and tomatoes.
The Apartheid Museum
Just south of the city center is this museum housing exhibitions that do remarkable work in preserving the history of the apartheid-era race divisions, along with the 19th-century gold rush that lured international prospectors. The museum makes room for several traveling shows, like the recent cut-paper silhouette installation by New York City-based artist Kara Walker.
You’ve shopped, you’ve taken in history, and now it’s time for some good old people watching. Do it at Joburg’s popular lunch spot, Tashas. Tashas is a mini chain, but there is nothing “chain” about the menu items like the thyme- and white wine-infused chicken pot pie, served fresh out of the oven.
If you like to patronize up-and-coming designers, stop by 44 Stanley Complex in Milpark. It boasts some of the area’s best shopping with boutiques selling items from local, creative young designers. For some funky finds, check out local designer Tiaan Nagels’ elegant dresses and shirts at Vintage Cowboys.
Kitchener’s Carvery Bar
Now that you’ve worked up a thirst, a drink at Kitchener’s Carvery Bar is in order. Drinks for two are just around $5, and the place is full of history, once having played host to the titular commander of Britain’s Boer War force. But it’s also young and fun with a dance floor, a disco ball and a seemingly endless supply of the local Castle Lager.