• Bitten by the whale watching bug Bitten by the whale watching bug We don’t realise how lucky we are in South Africa, and in particular the Western Cape, to have the mightiest of the marine mammals visit our coastline between every year ...
  • The Whale Trail The Whale Trail The Whale Trail is not a new trail, having been around since about 2002, but it has become extremely popular. It is truly a unique experience, perhaps comparable with ...
  • 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa Combine your trip to South Africa with a relaxing, revitalising visit to a health spa and experience Africa at it's finest. Our favourite 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa are ...
  • Locals share their favourite getaways Locals share their favourite getaways We ask 30 local South Africans to share their favourite holiday destinations and getaways with us. From the more popular destinations like Knysna and the Kruger Park to ...
  • The Oude Skip hike The Oude Skip hike The Oude Skip walk shares portions of its hike with the larger Karbonkelberg Traverse, which is roughly seven hours of hard walk from Hout Bay harbour to Llandudno ...
  • 10 Amazing Game Lodges 10 Amazing Game Lodges South Africa is world renowned for her game reserves and wildlife. The lodges which allow us to experience these in luxury are no less awe inspiring. Our favourites are ...
  • 101 Things to Do with Kids in Cape Town 101 Things to Do with Kids in Cape Town As much as your kids will tell you they can’t wait for the school holidays, the words "I’m bored" inevitably cross their lips. Our "101 things to do with kids in Cape Town" will ...
  • "World's most beautiful Cities" "World's most beautiful Cities" Open space makes Cape Town special. Renowned English sea navigator Sir Francis Drake once referred to Cape Town as the fairest cape in the world. The city houses the ...

Find Accommodation in South Africa
Subscribe to our Feed
Posted on: Thursday, 22 January 2015

10 Reasons Downtown Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct is the Place to Live, Eat and Visit

Send to Kindle

Downtown Johannesburg is a dangerous place. In May 1999, not five years after the first democratic government was elected in South Africa, the Guardian published an article entitled: Johannesburg, the most dangerous city on earth? The chilling article gives personal accounts of death by car-jacking, muggings and rapes, and cites frightening statistics about the country’s daily murder and rape rates.

It presents Johannesburg as nothing short of a ‘rough, provisional kind of place’ that has ‘never quite shaken off its arbitrary, squatter-camp beginnings’. (ouch!) It is not a pretty picture.

Johannesburg’s downtown has attracted many illegal immigrants. The CBD, dense with skyscrapers, is also dense with people. If statistics are to be believed 217 000 inner city residents live in 37 000 dwelling units. The threat of vagrancy and crime keeps people away. But. Things are changing.

Fast forward to 2014 and news articles now convey Jo’burg’s downtown as ‘less dodgy’. They describe an urban renaissance transforming the city’s once-feared streets into welcoming urban spaces. One of the major contributors to this renaissance is the Maboneng Precinct.

Here are 10 Reasons Downtown Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct is the Place to Live, Eat and Visit…

 

Maboneng Precinct

ONE: MABONENG IS SERIOUSLY TRENDY

Maboneng is a regeneration of Johannesburg’s east end (what used to be Jeppestown and Troyeville). It is series of art galleries, collaborative work spaces, a theatre, cinema, markets, business people, students and artists. Here the streets are lit, security guards man restored pavements, and entrepreneurs are drawn by the vibrancy and urban chic of the place.

TWO: IT’S EVERYTHING THE NORTHERN SUBURBS ARE NOT

Maboneng’s neighbourhood is something completely different – a far cry from either the high-walled northern suburbs, or the no-go areas of the city. This is a community where people live, go downstairs to eat and watch a movie, walk or ride a bicycle everywhere (similar to the community for which we all long).

THREE: IT DISPELLS DOWNTOWN MYTHS

Maboneng dispels major myths about downtown Johannesburg – 1) that downtown Jo’burg is a thing of the past; 2) business cannot thrive there; 3) that it’s a no-go area.

FOUR: PEOPLE HAVE BEEN LIVING THERE SINCE 2010

The first resident moved into Maboneng, a place of Light, in May 2010. Grant Russell documented his first experiences in his apartment before going on to open Maboneng’s single-screen movie theatre, the Bioscope, in partnership with Darryl Els.

FIVE: IT HAS A LOT TO OFFER VISITORS

Within a two-block radius are restaurants (at least 10 of them, including my favourite – The Living Room – on the roof of the Main Change building with its own living wall and hanging gardens), themed boutique hotels, apartment blocks, an independent cinema, designer stores and a converted 1900s warehouse space that becomes Market on Main every Sunday (over 100 independent traders focus on food and design, but include locally designed furniture, clothing, accessories and craft).

SIX: ARTISTS SET THE TREND

Maboneng’s first project was Arts on Main – a collection of artists’ studios, creative office space and galleries. William Kentridge took up residence, and others followed. Find at least 14 galleries and private artist’s studios, as well as MOAD (the Museum of African Design) at Arts on Main.

 

Maboneng Precinct

SEVEN: EXPERIENCE AN ALTERNATIVE COMMUNITY

The second project, Main Street Life, is 194 apartments, a 12 room boutique hotel, a cinema, theatre and restaurants. Since then another 500 apartments have satisfied a big demand from those who want to live there. By the end of 2015 Maboneng anticipates 1 000 apartments. The projection: that by 2020, 20 000 people will live in Maboneng (apartments sell from R295 000).

EIGHT: IT DOES THINGS DIFFERENTLY

In May 2014 six artists lived and worked together for two weeks in Curiocity Backpackers, as part of a campaign by Absolut South Africa during which the artists were challenged to use Johannesburg as their inspiration around the theme ‘Transform today'; Chalkboard, the local craft beer and pizza spot with chalkboard walls and table tops – to inspire everyone to get creative – lies next door to the Bioscope; PopArt, the local theatre, is described as ‘bitesize’ and functions as the city’s only true fringe theatre. It hosts Stand Up comedy every Sunday at 7.30pm.

NINE: IT HAS ITS OWN BIOSCOPE

Russel Grant, the first resident of Maboneng, runs the Bioscope with his partner Darryl Els. It is an independent movie theatre providing a ‘stage’ for local and niche filmmakers. It grew out of popular monthly film screenings at Arts on Main (they have a healthy relationship with the Labia Theatre in Cape Town, if you were wondering).

TEN: THERE IS MORE…

Bheki Dube, who grew up in Troyville, is already regarded as the ‘minister of tourism’ for Maboneng (he is a partner in Mainstreet Walks that takes people on urban walks through the inner city) and now runs Curiocity Backpackers, developed for curious urbanites from all over the world and described by those who stay there as a place to ‘get a feeling for the ‘real’ Joburg and its people; a definite must’ (it gets rave reviews). It hosts inner city tours, and allows artists to stay for free in exchange for donations of their work (artist residencies).

 

Maboneng Precinct

 

Save

Wanda Coustas

About 

Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

Related Posts:

Tagged: