Jozi Maboneng – The City of Lights

by Zama Ndlovu

Only something special can make a woman choose JoziGoddess as an alias when she was born in KwaZulu-Natal, but I have loved the City of Lights since moving there at 18. There’s a reason why Johannesburg has been making a few appearances on the international publications such as The Guardian, Rough Guides Top 10 Cities and a favourite of the Travel Noir blog.

Joburg is expressive, loud, fun and reflective. Its urban, vibrant, colourful, and honest. Joburg is soul.

One thing that stands out about Joburg is the fast-pace of not only the physical changes– the Sandton precinct has a new building coming up every month – but also of the renewal of the old. Areas like Melville constantly reinvent themselves yet remain favourites for a good night out. Braamfontein was once an old commercial center and is now a vibrant place to hangout for younger adults. There is always something new in Joburg.

My first stop was Goliath Comedy Club, a quick walk from Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! by Marriott Johannesburg Melrose Arch. This is one of Joburg’s newest hangouts that cater to the sensibilities of the older amongst us. You can sit outside and enjoy a warm joburg night and slip in just before 8pm for a show.

Restaurants, Beer Yard, Salvation Café (it’s an institution), boutiques, art! All of this is available in this little corner of Jozi. This is one of the most relaxed spots in the city, perfect for a mid-week lunch or a weekend chill session. The neighbours are quite cozy with each other, so rather than compete, they co-create ambiance. So on any day there may be live music in one place for the enjoyment of all as you sit under the trees and enjoy one of the city’s best kept secrets.

Joburg has a number of museums and important historical sites such as Constitution Hill, Lilieslief farm and the Hector Pieterson Museum in Orlando West. The Apartheid Museum is by far my favourite, as it captures the history of 20th century South Africa in an emotive and hopeful way. At the entrance visitors are randomly assigned a race, and this awakens one to the horror that was the system of apartheid. Everything is beautifully presented and organized in a way that allows you to understand the rise and the fall of apartheid.

If you are staying in the Melrose Arch district and you are a coffee snob, the Arch got you! Naked Coffee sports some friendly baristas who know how to brew a cup. They serve excellent coffee, because despite what you may have heard, Joburgers are coffee snobs.

Markets are a big deal in Joburg, but amongst the very best is the Neighbourgoods Market in arty Braamfontein. The market is held every Friday evening and Saturday, and once a month it is also held on a Thursday. There. Is. So. Much. Food. You. Guys! So much! From the outdoor terrace you can look at the smiling face of Nelson Mandela and the rest of the city while enjoying a drink and a live band. Food, drink, a view of the city – that’s how to enjoy a morning in Jozi.