About Heather M
Lives in Johannesburg, South Africa
Since Mar 2010
35-49 year old female
I write a travel blog which is about 80% devoted to Johannesburg. I've also co-authored a guidebook on Johannesburg's northern suburbs, called SandtonPlaces, and write about Joburg frequently for various magazines and websites. I love exploring quirky, out-of-the-way places in Joburg and showing the world why I love living in this crazy city.
Historic Sites, Government Buildings
Observation Decks & Towers
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Historic Walking Areas
Besides being one of Johannesburg's most historically significant sites, Constitution Hill is conveniently located on the edge of the city center and provides excellent views of the city. Originally built as a military fort, Constitution Hill later became the site of the notorious Old Fort Prison, where Mandela, Gandhi, and countless other freedom fighters and activists were held. Today, the old prison houses an excellent museum as well as the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa.
Braamfontein has undergone a major transformation and is now one of Joburg's trendiest neighborhoods. Several of the city's best coffee shops are in Braamfontein, along with countless pop-up shops, galleries, restaurants, nightclubs, and the famous Kitcheners - the second-oldest bar in Joburg. Braamfontein also hosts the Neighbourgoods Market, a huge market offering artisan food, clothing and crafts, on Saturday mornings. Braamfontein is a great spot for simply wandering the streets and people-watching.
The Carlton Centre is the tallest building in Africa. Although the shopping mall on the bottom levels of the building has been renovated, the 'Top of Africa' viewing deck on the 50th floor remains shabby and in need of an overhaul. But don't let this deter you from visiting. Despite the outdated decor and smudged windows, the Top of Africa provides a jaw-dropping, 360-degree view of Joburg that every visitor (and local) should see. Like several of the other recommendations in this itinerary, the Carlton Centre is a stop on the City Sightseeing bus tour and provides great context for the city as a whole. Best of all, a visit to the Top of Africa costs next to nothing!
Maboneng is an excellent destination for diners, shoppers and art-lovers in downtown Joburg. Converted from run-down industrial buildings in a formerly neglected section of the city center, Maboneng has been transformed into a hip conglomeration of locally owned restaurants, galleries, small businesses, upmarket residential buildings, and a trendy weekend market. In many ways, Maboneng epitomizes downtown Joburg's recent transformation from a decaying no-go zone to an exciting fashion and culture mecca.
The Apartheid Museum is Johannesburg's premier tourist attraction and an essential stop for anyone who wants to learn about the turbulent, nearly unthinkable story of South Africa's harsh racial segregation laws. Apartheid is not an easy concept to understand and visiting the Apartheid Museum is bewildering and heart-wrenching, but worth it. The museum brings a complicated era of South Africa's history alive.
Vilakazi Street, in Soweto's historic township of Orlando West, is the only street in the world where two Nobel Prize winners - Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu - lived at the same time. Vilakazi Street is a great starting point for exploring sprawling Soweto, which has a population larger than some neighboring African countries. It might be touristy, but Vilakazi Street is the kind of place where it's okay to be a tourist. Visit Nelson Mandela's former home, haggle with souvenir vendors, and sample traditional South African food at one of the many busy cafes here.
Hector Pieterson was killed on Vilakazi Strret on June 16, 1976, during the Soweto Uprisings. Hector was only 13 when he died, and his death was immortalized in a famous photo by Sam Nzima. Today, near to the site of those fateful events, a museum and memorial stand to commemorate the death of Hector and so many others during the Soweto Uprisings. The memorial is beautiful and peaceful, and the museum presents a unique historical perspective on a period that changed South Africa forever.
Melville is a quirky, bohemian Johannesburg suburb just northwest of downtown, frequented by journalists, artists and students attending two nearby universities: the University of the Witwatersand and the University of Johannesburg. Edgier than the pristine neighboring suburbs of Parkhurst and Parkview, Melville is known for its diversity, its walkability (a rarity in Joburg), and the friendliness of its residents. The bars and restaurants along 7th Street, Melville's main thoroughfare, rotate ownership frequently. But there are a few favorite, locals-only joints that never change.
The Leopard is a high-end, quintessentially Joburg restaurant serving sophisticated, innovative food in a relaxed atmosphere. Owner/chef Andrea Burgener, a Melville local herself, creates South African dishes with a quirky, modern flair. Although the menu is relatively expensive by South African standards, prices are extremely affordable by international standards. The Leopard's decor, with mismatched tableware and antique prints on the walls, feels like a modernized version of your grandmother's dining room.
The Oriental Plaza is the best place in Joburg to get a feel for the city's vibrant ethnically Indian community. Located adjacent to the city center in the Indian suburb of Fordsburg, 'the Plaza' is a warren of fabric shops, tailors, clothing and kitchenware stores, food vendors, and Indian restaurants. It's impossible not to get lost inside the Oriental Plaza, but that is the point. Wander the Plaza's many halls and alleyways and see where they take you. You're unlikely to leave empty-handed.
Although there are now several developments like this in Joburg, 44 Stanley was one of the first industrial spaces to be converted into a fashionable food and retail complex. 44 Stanley's flagship restaurant, the Salvation Cafe, serves delectable breakfasts and lunches in a quaint courtyard shaded by olive trees. 44 Stanley also has several high-end furniture and design shops, a beer garden/restaurant serving craft beers and hearty American-style barbecue, plus some great spots for coffee.
Emmarentia Dam, which is adjoined by the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, is where Joburg's locals go for picnics and dog walks. The park is huge and very close to downtown Joburg, although it feels far from the city. The Emmarentia Dam side of the park has a large manmade lake, which South Africans call a 'dam,' surrounded by rolling green countryside and a smattering of ducks and geese. The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens consist of a beautiful rose garden - thanks to Joburg's climate, the roses bloom all year round - as well as several smaller gardens including an herbarium, a succulent garden, an herb garden, and a hedge garden.
Johannesburg has a rich history when it comes to jazz, but until recently it was difficult to find places to listen to live jazz at night. That all changed with the Opening of the Orbit in 2013. Located in the hip downtown neighborhood of Braamfontein, The Orbit showcases South Africa's top jazz musicians at very affordable prices.