Around the time of the legislative end of apartheid in 1991, Johannesburg was falling apart from crime and urban blight, and the South African city became known as one of the most dangerous places on earth. But in recent years, with the stabilization and steady growth of Johannesburg’s economy, crime has tapered off and previously abandoned neighborhoods have once again begun to thrive. The perfect example of this is Maboneng, located on the eastern edge of Joburg’s central business district. A handful of easily walkable blocks up, down, and around the main drag of Fox Street, Maboneng is South Africa’s answer to Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
From a Sotho word meaning “place of light,” Maboneng has indeed brought new light to the city. It’s the best place to experience unique cafés and restaurants, exciting nightlife, and one-of-a-kind shopping. So next time you’re in South Africa, don’t just get off the plane and drive out of the city for a safari tour—take an afternoon or two to experience Maboneng and get to know a new “Jozi” that is anything but a stopover city.
Here, a sampling of Maboneng’s latest and greatest spots to eat, drink, and play.
Arts on Main The cultural hub of Maboneng, this multi-use facility was once a series of dilapidated buildings that have been renovated, connected, and turned into an atrium of smaller galleries, shops, and cafés. Come by around brunch time on a Sunday when the food market is set up and you can sample freshly made African cuisine and local produce.
Che Maboneng is a melting pot of the different cultures that pass through Johannesburg, and this Argentine grill restaurant has some of the best short ribs asado and sangria pitchers in town. Sample the empanadas humita salteña made with sweet corn, spring onions, and goat cheese—and be sure to visit on Friday or Saturday nights when a live band plays tango music.
Little Addis A favorite among locals, this hole-in-the-wall eatery serves up generous portions of spicy Ethiopian food. If you’re feeling brave, spring for the minchet beef—it’s smothered in a peri-peri sauce so hot that even the most seasoned heat lovers might break a sweat.
David Krut Projects David Krut has been a pivotal promoter of South African contemporary art for the last 30 years. Part gallery, part bookshop, David Krut Projects is the best place to discover Jozi’s rising art stars.
Tenfold Tucked away in a sculpture garden, this full-service beauty salon specializes in natural, formaldehyde-free, and cruelty-free products.
Living Room A rooftop eco-cafe serving a range of salads, mezze platters, and other light fare, Living Room is the ideal spot to grab lunch or perch out for an afternoon. With some of the best views of Jozi’s skyline, you’ll probably want to linger over a drink here until the sun sets over the city.
Newbrow There are quite a few clothing vendors running the entire length of Fox Street selling everything from sneakers to batik textiles, but the street wear and basics you’ll find at Newbrow are among the coolest. All the streamlined sweatshirts, tees, and jeans you’ll here are designed and produced locally.
Origin A world-class coffee shop offering single-origin beans from around the world, roasted in-house.
Hallmark House Equal parts trendy design hotel and neighborhood hub, there’s a lot more to explore here than its 46 rooms tastefully outfitted in artisanal African textiles. There are two restaurants (Eug’s Place and Pot Luck Club), a coffee bar, a speakeasy and barbershop, and a rooftop bar offering some of the best views in town.
Museum of African Design Although MOAD has no permanent collections, its exhibitions rotate every four months, highlighting the latest and greatest in African design from a variety of disciplines.
Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa While technically in the posh area of Sandton just a short cab ride north of Maboneng, no trip to Johannesburg today is complete without a night, a meal, or even just a round of drinks at this urban oasis. The spacious rooms, newly renovated spa, and decadent villa offerings (perfect for groups) make this property a clear leader of luxury hotels in Africa.