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City guide: Johannesburg

Debonair finds the essential places to drink, eat, explore and stay in South Africa's largest city

The City of Gold shed its frontier credentials a long time ago. Today, it’s one of the most exciting cities in Africa, with iconic properties, history galore, fabulous food and easy access to the country's natural wonders – a safari is only a short drive away.

Where to stay

Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff

Comprised of low-rise buildings surrounded by three hectares of landscaped gardens and courtyards cascading down a hillside with panoramic views, the hotel (pictured above) features 117 rooms and suites with modern interiors enhanced by a contemporary African art collection. It’s become known for its striking design aesthetic, marked by accents that connect it to its location. The hotel is close to two major airports and the main business and recreational hubs, but provides a luxury escape from the world.

The Michelangelo

Adjoining Nelson Mandela Square in the heart of Sandton in Africa’s richest square mile, the Michelangelo is an iconic property that epitomises the essence of class, elegance and sophistication. Sculptured and built in Renaissance architecture, it makes the most of its location, providing guests with access to a variety of restaurants, shops and boutiques, as well as cinemas and theatres — all within walking distance.

The Saxon Hotel

Originally a private home, this boutique hotel merges the finest culinary experiences with the most luxurious accommodation, either within the main hotel or the more private villas in an exclusive garden setting. Each villa has its own lounge and dining room with seating for up to 18 guests, and offers a butler service. The Saxon Hotel is a patron of the arts with an inspired vision of the creative arts.

Where to eat


Situated in Keyes Art Mile, the growing art and food hub of Rosebank, the concept combines the open-fire trend, seen internationally, with an added pinch of true South African flair under the helm of David Higgs. Marble Restaurant (pictured above) collaborated with local artisans for all the interior design, while celebrating South Africa’s love of cooking with fire.

Reuben’s Restaurant & Bar

The newest of favourite local celebrity chef Reuben Riffel, the venue opened in August, bringing his signature fair to the City of Gold. Reuben’s Restaurant is down to earth with a sophisticated culinary style that celebrates food in its entirety. The menu has a worldly theme with strong Asian and Cape Malay influences that showcases the modern, eclectic and contemporary restaurant, while being true to its South African roots. The wine list is the envy of any connoisseur.


Under the helm of executive chef Johannes De Bruijn, Winehouse focuses on French cuisine while acknowledging its South African roots and making the best use of fresh produce from the abundant Ten Bompas vegetable gardens. A double-volume glass-fronted wine cellar overlooking the hotel gardens houses several thousand South African vintages including rare wines sourced annually from the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction in Stellenbosch. The restaurant offers a la carte options as well as a five-course tasting and nine-course degustation menu.

Where to drink

3SIXTY° Liquid Lounge

Located at the child-friendly adult playground Montecasino, 3SIXTY° Liquid Lounge is a trendy venue offering some of the best cocktails in Johannesburg. The concept is based on unique innovation using premium food and drinks that come together to create the ultimate in opulent indulgence. It features a unique frost-top bar, high-end cigar and cognac lounge and live entertainment.

Living Room

Situated in the vibrant precinct of Maboneng, the Living Room is a unique blend of the natural and the urban. Born out of the urban revival of inner city Johannesburg, it places an emphasis on the “living” part, and is home to a number of green themes. The lush, serene rooftop terrace boasts panoramic views of the city, underpinned by a large selection
of drinks.

Mad Giant

The Mad Giant Tasting Bar and Urbanologi Restaurant is set up in a rejuvenated industrial precinct. Take a tour of the award-winning brewery or relax at the bar with some limited releases that you’ll struggle to find elsewhere while sampling unique Asian-inspired street food. As night falls, head over to the highly acclaimed Urban Garde restaurant for paired tastings of their craft beer.

Where to explore

Visit the Apartheid Museum

Opened in 2001 as the first museum of its kind, the Apartheid Museum (pictured above) illustrates the rise and fall of apartheid and offers an in-depth look at 20th century South Africa and its state-sanctioned system based on racial discrimination. The exhibits include provocative film footage, photographs, text panels and artefacts illustrating the events and human stories that are part of the epic saga known as apartheid. The museum is a beacon of hope showing the world how South Africa is coming to terms with its oppressive past and working towards a future that all South Africans can call their own.

Take a township tour

Johannesburg is a city of contrasts, and the wealth disparity is nowhere more clear than in the townships. Alexandra and Soweto are important sites, and the latter home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners (Vilakazi Street) and steeped in cultural history. Sign up to cycle or walk with a company that offers an up-close experience of where Nelson Mandela once lived.

Go on safari

In addition to a host of privately operated lodges and game reserves, South Africa also has 21 national parks across the country, some easily accessible from the City of Gold. The main draw is the Big Five — the lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo — all targets wildlife conservationists due to dwindling numbers.

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