Johannesburg - Lifestyle & Culture
Johannesburg Art Gallery, Joubert Park
From avant-garde British and European art to contemporary South African artists, mixed media pieces and vibrant super-sized canvases, this is one of the most exciting art collections - and certainly the biggest - in Africa. Well worth a visit.
Johannesburg has a thriving community of modern, well-respected artists, and attracts touring exhibitions from many leading international painters and sculptors too. This bright, modern gallery is the place to head for some of the city’s most engaging exhibitions.
Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, Soweto
Hector Pieterson, the first student to be killed in the 1976 uprising, was a catalyst for the country’s eventual overturning of the brutal regime of apartheid. The museum is an extension of the memorial, commemorating the 566 people who died during the student uprisings, and it offers a fascinating insight into the pivotal role children played during the Apartheid years.
Museum Africa, Newtown
In a vast series of galleries and exhibitions, the history and culture of southern Africa is presented in paintings, costumes, rock art, furniture, fashion, ceramics, bead work, basketry and carvings. Also represented is the city of Johannesburg’s commercial and industrial past. In short, if you’re after context to your trip, this is the place to find it.
The South African Theatre, in Pretoria, offers an eclectic and approachable programme of plays and festivals. It’s always worth checking out what’s happening at this vibrant cultural centre during your stay.
The huge and shimmering Johannesburg Theatre complex comprises three theatres, where you can find classical ballet, comedy, big name stars and intimate, studio-based performances. In short, when something big comes to town, this is where you’ll find it (unless, of course, it’s in the spectacular new football stadium!)
Bars and Clubs
As a rule, the best nightlife in Johannesburg happens around the cosmopolitan environs of the Newtown Cultural precinct in Soweto, to the south west of the centre, with its music clubs, pubs and cafes blazing until the early hours. The Melville student area is another safe, and popular, choice, for an artsy, laid-back vibe, or the up and coming Sandton and Rivonia areas, complete with cocktail bars, cool clubs and shooters bars.
Try the swish Manhattan Club, on Wessels Road, with its state-of-the-art sound system, snug VIP enclosures, and international DJs. The multi-million dollar Black Orchid, in Northriding, is a swanky affair too: three floors, chrome, cocktails, beautiful people and sophistication to spare.
For jazz and cooler vibes, the venerable Sophiatown, Newtown, is based on the roaring 20’s, when this corner of town was the hippest thing south of Cairo. Expect smooth jazz and smoother Mohitos.
Even more laid back, Mamma's Shebeen, Greenside, promises the authentic feel of an actual shebeen (an illicit, moonshine club) and offers true African food, Soweto musicians and refreshing (non-illicit) local beer.
The Blues Room, Sandton, is a dependable live-music venue, attracting big name local and international jazz and blues acts, plus an appreciative, lively crowd.
Science Frikshun, Newtown, is the place to head for tribal, earthy drum and bass, and dubstep - but only if you’ve got the moves!
Fashion TV café, Sandton, promises a good time for everyone, with its mix of top 40 tunes, karaoke and party vibes all night long.
House of Nsako, Brixton, showcases acoustic unplugged music, rock and hip hop music in the week, while, at weekends, it’s the best place in town to hear live African music.