Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
Cart is empty
Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
People travel to Johannesburg for business and Cape Town for pleasure, right? Not quite. “Jozi” has far more to offer than meeting rooms and briefcase-wielding businessmen. Although it may not be the first place that comes to mind when planning a holiday, those looking for an African city with a funky vibe, good food and interesting culture, will be suitably impressed. Johannesburg is cool, quirky and constantly evolving.
With pop-up art galleries and artisan craft markets springing up all over the place, the city oozes creativity. You’ll also notice a strong hint of hip, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the plethora of artisan coffee roasters serving brews from all over the world. Weekend markets are also a big part of the cultural fabric. Head down to Maboneng to find the freshest food stalls and the best of Johannesburg’s independent shops. You’ll discover everything from traditional beaded necklaces and African bush-inspired artwork to vintage jackets and shoes.
Just outside the city is The Cradle of Humankind, a stark contrast to the bustling centre. Home to about 40% of the world’s human fossils, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a vast natural wonder offering stunning views over miles of unspoiled South African countryside. Here, visitors can take refuge from the fast-paced Maboneng district with its electric nightlife and instead relax in tranquil surroundings. You might even be lucky enough to spot some game animals.
Whether it’s a wild night out, a profound cultural experience or a natural retreat that you’re after, Johannesburg certainly won’t disappoint.
With its stylish décor, impeccable service and restful atmosphere, if you’re looking for luxury there’s arguably no better place to stay than Fairlawns. Situated in the upmarket district of Sandton, the hotel feels like your very own private mansion, offering a serene getaway in the city. Spend the afternoon getting pampered at the spa and by the time evening comes you’ll be ready to sample some of the most decadent food in Johannesburg at their restaurant, Amuse-Bouche.
Linked directly to Rosebank Mall, 54 on Bath gives guests an ideal springboard from which to explore the city. Its convenient location and sophisticated design makes it the perfect spot to unwind by the pool after a hard day of sightseeing. You’ll be welcomed back with exceptionally warm hospitality and elegantly decorated rooms.
Fancy a break from the city? Then head out to The Cradle of Humankind to find inner peace. The Cradle Hotel has eight boutique rooms with thatched roofs and beautifully designed interiors. Each villa also boasts a stunning private viewing deck from which to admire the gorgeous African landscape. The hotel can organise on-site guided safaris, game walks and picnics so you can get the true bush experience without having to travel to the big reserves.
This boutique hotel is situated in the newly developed cultural hub of Maboneng and chronicles the history of the city from 1886 to 2006. Each room has been designed by a different South African, and its location invites the coolest crowd. During your stay make sure to catch a film next door at the independent cinema called the Bioscope.
The artisan coffee scene is exploding in Johannesburg, and Father Coffee is at the centre of it all. You’re sure to find the city’s best flat white at either of the roaster’s two locations. Check out the espresso bar in the upmarket Rosebank shopping mall, or if you’re further south, set your sights on the trendier Braamfontein branch.
For an upmarket evening that is reminiscent of London’s swankier side (but half the price) head to Marble. It has stunning views over the city making it the perfect spot for pre-dinner cocktails on the terrace. Not only that, the food is world class, with quality steaks cooked over an open fire. Expect a sophisticated vibe and don’t be afraid to dress up a bit.
For pizza, look no further than this sweet little spot in Parkwood with its wood-fired oven. It’s absolutely tiny, with just seven tables, so be sure to book ahead. Once inside, tuck into the best pizza Johannesburg has to offer, washed down with a truly Italian Aperol spritz.
When brunch calls there’s only one thing for it. Find a quirky spot in one of Johannesburg’s best suburbs and settle in for a morning of top-quality coffee and hearty dishes. The Whippet offers much more than just scrambled eggs on toast; here you’ll find interesting twists on the classics. Think stacked croissants, breakfast burritos and crispy flatbreads, as well as an impressive selection of breakfast mimosas.
Overlooking the Johannesburg CBD skyline, The Living Room offers the best spot to enjoy sundowners at the weekend among hot, young “Joburgers”. Expect potted plants hanging from the ceiling, fairy lights galore and thumping house music. Head there on a Sunday afternoon to toast the weekend in style.
Situated on top of an office block, Copper Bar doesn’t appear very impressive on first glance – at least from the outside. But after showing your ticket at the door you’ll be escorted to one of the city’s best rooftop bars. A beautiful tree in the middle is lit up at night, making for a dramatic panorama. This bar is normally used for private events but every Thursday it’s open to the public. Treat yourself to some delicious Asian food cooked in front of you and then dance all night, high above the city.
Fancy a proper night out on the tiles? Taboo has your name on it. Don your party dress (shirts for boys) and hit that dance floor. There’s a great outdoor area to catch some fresh air before returning inside where the tunes blast out until the early hours. Consider booking a table if you’re in a big group.
Johannesburg’s second oldest bar is located right next to Great Dane (see above). You can happily stumble out of the first and into the second, where you’ll party until the morning until the morning with the coolest kids on the Jo’burg block.
This institution has become the weekend hang-out for an in-the-know crowd. With aspiring DJs lining up to play, relax in the indoor patio area or hop on and off the dance floor. Best feature? The floor – it’s made up of 10,000 one-cent pieces.
Rosebank Mall’s best feature is undeniably the quirky Sunday market, when independent stalls take over the top floor of the car park to showcase their crafts. At the far end you’ll see a line of food stands offering everything from souvlaki to the renowned Durban-born curry dish, bunny chow.
Perched on the edge of downtown Johannesburg, 44 Stanley offers a unique shopping experience. The eclectic development showcases some of the city’s best independent fashion and homeware boutiques. In the decidedly European-looking shaded courtyard you’ll find a trickling fountain and a handful of quaint restaurants; the perfect lunch pit-stop.
If you’re looking for a contemporary art fix, head down to Rosebank’s Keyes Art Mile, an area of Johannesburg that is famed for its creative scene. Check out the oval-shaped Circa gallery and Trumpet Building, which houses a collection of galleries as well as fashion and design stores. Visit on the first Thursday of the month and you’ll find the street closed off to make way for pop-up bars and street-food vendors.
Any trip to Johannesburg wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous “Soweto” (South Western Townships). Take a bike tour to learn more about the history and culture of South Africa then visit the Orlando Towers, which the brave can bungee jump between while the rest sit at the bottom eating pap and chakalaka, a spicy local vegetable dish.
Down in Braamfontein you’ll find a vast space hosting the Neighbourgoods Market every Saturday. It’s a good opportunity to sample food from all over the world in a stylish atmosphere, where people tend to make a bit of an effort to look in vogue. Head down for an afternoon of cocktails and live music on the rooftop terrace.
You know how you have that one incredible friend who knows their city inside out? That’s us. We take the world’s most dynamic destinations, hand-pick the best bits and give them to you in one place. This is the kind of guide that you don’t need to run by a local – it was written by one. Eat your heart out, shop until you drop, drink like a fish, dance your socks off, sleep – then repeat.
Embrace the adventurous appetite of the next generation with an annual subscription. SUITCASE Magazine challenges travel perceptions with thought-provoking photo journals, city guides and articles by award-winning international writers.
We'll tell you where you can find the perfect boutique hotel in Paris for under £150, if you tell us about the best dive bar in your city. Deal? Share your stories and photos with #SUITCASEtravels.