Spots of urban renewal are now not-to-be-missed attractions on Gauteng’s tourism map, writes Michelle Colman.

Pockets of inner city revitalisation continue to be unveiled in Johannesburg, but the good news is that similar developments are happening in Pretoria.

The capital now boasts the 012 Central Precinct, named after the city’s dialling code. “The precinct is fast becoming an attraction, most especially because of the Market at the Shed, a social market that showcases a true experience of local food, art, fashion and music,” says Kingsby Senoamali, Welcome Tourism Service’s USA & Africa Sales Executive.

Located across four heritage buildings’ outside areas, 012 includes conference and event space and music festivals.  Already attracting custom is the African Beer Emporium, a public art walk, a Saturday market, and a cinema club.

The venue, formerly used for purposes such as the storage of taxis, is across the road from the South African Reserve Bank at 381 Helen Joseph (Church) Street.

Back in Johannesburg, Maboneng grows from strength to strength with new features and, says Senoamali, has become must-see spot on the tourist trail, making for a great day’s outing particularly over weekends when visitors to the city can mingle with locals.

However, it is just one of a number of inner-city urban renewal spots that find their way on to visitor itineraries. Others are the Fox Street Sheds – a market shopping, dining and entertainment facility, Joziburg Lane in Eloff Street, and the suburbs of Newtown and Braamfontein on the edge of the CBD.

The Joziburg Lane at One Eloff, is a pedestrian lane that forms part of a larger retail, office and residential development. Growing in popularity here is Hangout Jozi, a combination of bar, braai-eatery and deli-foodhall, which began as a pop-up facility and is now a permanent tenant. It includes a tasting bar with a large range of South African-produced alcoholic drinks, a braai-based street food menu, food vendors and a deli with locally sourced products. An arts and crafts area is under development. 

Hangout Jozi is also a central chill space on the walking tours and city explorations offered by JoburgPlaces, says Gerald Garner who runs this initiative.

Braamfontein’s store of new features in old buildings increases all the time as developers recognise the potential of this student precinct on the border of Wits University. Josef Talotta, Executive Head of Precinct Development of property company South Point, which is involved in multiple projects in the area, reels off a whole list of enhancements introduced by his company and others, many of them having opened in the last six months.

“It’s no secret that Braamfontein is SA’s sneaker capital, with Puma’s South African flagship store, PumaSelect, Adidas Area 3, and a trio of multi-brand sneaker galleries – Dip Street, XTrend and Anatomy,” he says.

On the restaurant scene, Talotta mentions new Turkish bakery, Galata Bakery & Coffee, in The Grove on Melle and Juta streets; 86 Public for gourmet pizza in the same location; Velo Café and The Immigrant, a café-bar at the new Once in Joburg ‘poshtel’, a luxury backpackers. There’s also The Smokehouse and Grill and Metanoia, the new Greek eatery on De Beer Street.

Braamfontein is also building a reputation for its coffee culture with establishments Doubleshot Coffee & Tea, Father Coffee, Bean There Fair Trade coffee roasters and Post – all within a few blocks.

Bars include The Orbit, a jazz venue that also runs Latin dance nights; Great Dane; the new Republic of ’94 on Juta Street featuring a Corona beer garden, and Kitchener’s Carvery Bar which is Joburg’s second-oldest pub.

Also in Braamfontein is one of the country’s best Freedom Struggle sites, Constitution Hill. On certain public holidays (Human Rights Day, Freedom Day, Heritage Day and the Day of Reconciliation), the museum opens its doors to all visitors at no charge for self-guided tours. In addition, in June, when South Africans celebrate Youth Day, entry is free to all those under the age of 21. In August, the month of Womens’ Day, entry for women is free and in October all senior citizens get complimentary admission.

Constitution Hill

The facility has an ongoing programme of exhibitions and other events, a highlight of which is a family-friendly concert on June 24. There will be two staging areas for performances of top South African music acts drawn for a variety of musical genres and the day is expected to attract 8 000 people.

In Newtown, SAB World of Beer is a core attraction. The museum now offers a combined tour with Alrode Brewery south of Johannesburg – the largest brewery in Africa – one Saturday a month.  Participants meet in Newtown and are taken by shuttle to Alrode, where a brewer guides them through the brewing and packaging process. They return to the World of Beer by 12h30 for the beer tour, followed by lunch and refreshments in the Tap Room overlooking the city.

The museum, which is a stop on City Sightseeing’s Red City Tour, is also offering food and beer pairing lunches comprising five courses. These take place on one Saturday a month and dates and menus are published on the website.

Coffee too can be explored in Newtown nowadays. Craft Coffee offers a coffee appreciation course that can be run as a tour by arrangement, or a team-building session. It includes a guided tour of the shop’s roastery and a talk on the journey of the coffee bean from seed to cup. It ends with cupping – the coffee version of a wine tasting.

Although not in the inner city, some of the Johannesburg’s more established suburbs such as Milpark and Melville lay claim to regeneration projects that combine shopping, eating and entertainment. In Milpark, 44 Stanley is a well-established restoration of industrial buildings from the 1930s, hosting speciality shops and showrooms.

In Melville, 27 Boxes is known for its unique design of shipping containers painted in bold colours, home to art galleries, design and home décor entrepreneurs and artisanal food stores. Its Wednesday night rooftop market is recommended for craft beer, live music and relaxed shopping. 

27 Boxes

To wrap up, herewith some tips from James Delaney, an artist with a passion for inner city renewal.

•             Visit Capital Café for its exquisite stained-glass ceiling, in historic Corner House in the CBD.

•             Cube Tasting Kitchen, one of Johannesburg’s best fine-dining restaurants, has moved to dramatic new premises in Maboneng, in the Cosmopolitan building (1899).

•             The craft shop Piece has moved from Rosebank to Ellis House in New Doornfontein, between Ellis Park and Maboneng. The shop is known for its curated pieces of décor, clothing and art.  Next door in Morkel House is the Treviso Italian coffee shop, pizzeria and deli, formerly in Craighall.

•             Bridge Books in the exquisite historic banking hall at 85 Commissioner Street in downtown Johannesburg offers regular book readings by local authors.

A great guide to Johannesburg and its inner-city attractions is the website for Johannesburg In Your Pocket, from which a free printed guide can be downloaded.