I recently had the privilege to go on one of Past Experience’s Johannesburg Inner City Tours– the Ka’Ching Tour. Our guide was the very knowledgeable and passionate Tania Olsson, a guiding guru with a degree in Archeology and Linguistics and a tangible love for arts.
Tania met our group of 10 people outside the prestigious and private Rand Club (formed in 1887 just after gold was discovered) and showed us some of Johannesburg’s oldest buildings, mining houses and banks as we strolled around the Marshalltown area. Tania took us back in time and we learned about the discovery of gold and the huge impact it had. She pointed out some incredible public art, regeneration and architecture. The two-hour tour went past very quickly and was finished off with tea and scones at the Rand Club, a fabulous finish to a fantastic tour.
Gold was discovered in the Johannesburg area in 1886. The city of Johannesburg was the real hub for all major businesses from then until the mid-1990’s; this was where the Stock Exchange and all the banks were based. Then came a period when some businesses moved out of the city, mainly to the new financial district – Sandton, which was perceived to be a safer area. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange moved to Sandton in 2000 and some of the banks followed suit. When I moved to Johannesburg from Sweden in 2004 I was advised to stay away from the CBD – it was considered dodgy and quite unsafe. People did not seem to go into town unless they really had to for one reason or another.
Yes, there are areas of Johannesburg that one should avoid, and you do need to be street smart and vigilant – like in most big cities in the world. However, Johannesburg’s inner city is changing fast and some areas have seen an amazing revival in the last few years. Old buildings are being torn down or revamped into very stylish penthouses that sell for millions of Rands to young and well-off professionals.
There is A LOT happening in town. Newtown is one of the up-and-coming trendy areas – which boasts Museum Africa, the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, the SAB World of Beer, the Market Theatre, art galleries, restaurants, craft markets and clubs.
The magnificent Nelson Mandela Bridge links Newtown to Braamfontein, an area with office blocks, theatres, hotels, restaurants, galleries and shops that have seen an upswing in recent years. A visit to Constitution Hill and the Origins Centre is a must – and the Neighbour Goods Market on Saturday mornings with delicious food stalls etc is not to be missed!
The Maboneng Precinct with the creative hub Arts on Main is definitely worth a visit – here you will find plenty of artists’ studios, galleries, shops and restaurants.
Past Experiences offer many different tours, I have my eyes set on the ‘Shopping Tour’ next, and maybe the ‘I love Jozi Tour’, or the ‘Spicy Fordsburg Tour’…
They all sound so exciting and will definitely help me make more sense of this vibrant, crazy, friendly city that I now call my home: Joburg.
Jenny Faber, SW Africa