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An insider’s guide to Maboneng

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Planning a vacation is always exciting, but in a place like Joburg, with so much to see and do, you want to make sure you make the most of your adventure. Maboneng Precinct and its hidden gems will be the greatest find of your time in Joburg.

If you are familiar with the history of South Africa you will know that Joburg’s inner city was once a no-go area. The inner-city was left riddled with scars from a tumultuous past, abandoned and dilapidated buildings told a sob story of what was once a vibrant habitat and home to booming businesses that had since gone under. Well, that was before the birth of the Maboneng Precinct, a connected urban neighbourhood where a new community of South Africans and expats now live, work and play. The inner city has evolved into a collaborative hub of culture, business and lifestyle that rewards curiosity and promotes a sense of urban togetherness.

Maboneng, a Sotho word meaning ‘place of light’, is a fitting name for Joburg’s most unique and innovative area, offering creative energy for artists within a fully integrated urban environment. The area’s collection of old manufacturing buildings has been retrofitted with steel, glass and concrete. It now has welcoming street-facing retail, commercial work spaces and artist studios juxtaposed with additions of more unconventional modern architecture rising upwards. An architectural melting pot, I tell you.

Dive in and find out what really goes down in Maboneng.

Arts on Main

Arts on Main is a cultural oasis whose innovation comes alive when looking at concrete-coloured walls and a metal fire escape that rises up to the second level of the building.

Arts on Main includes a combination of advertising agencies, retail space featuring the Projects and local design brand Love Jozi, galleries such as Goodman Gallery and private studios. The world-renowned South African artist William Kentridge was one of the first tenants to buy a space in the building. It also features The Agog and David Krut workshop, a collectables shop, a printmaking studio, a photographic studio and a talent agency for aspiring actors and models. In short it’s an artist’s and art lover’s haven.

Market on main

You don’t want to miss out on Sundays at the Market on Main. Delve into a mix of restaurants, coffee shops and clothing boutiques. It draws the inner city and suburban crowds as well as tourists. My favourite thing is the tiny stalls that sell a variety of goods, bags, outfits and jewellery and also sampling gourmet food from different stalls. I love to head to the market around lunch time and then follow the stalls as they lead deep into the buzzing streets of Maboneng.

Even beyond Market on Main, Maboneng has all the right ingredients to be your one stop shop. Visitors can also shop for souvenirs, quality art, books, designer clothing, vintage wear, sneakers, accessories, hair and beauty products, urban gear and traditional wedding garments.

Restaurants

If you are like me and enjoy exploring the taste of the countries and cities you visit, Maboneng Precinct will take you on a wild food tour. It goes beyond South African cuisine, with restaurants serving Mexican, Ethiopian and Asian food, to name but a few.

This vision to cater for all saw the establishment of The Blackanese, a restaurant which fuses African and Japanese cuisine and the results are always fresh and flavoursome. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can take a pick at an authentic South African cuisine menu from Phata-Phata across the road. Phata-Phata offers an opportunity to sample value-for-money South African food.

Night Life

Whether you are visiting for business or as a tourist, as you take a stroll down the street trying to figure out which restaurant or bar suits your mood, you will be spoiled for choice.

If you opt to go on a bar crawl, there are many options. Those who prefer craft brews have plenty to choose from. JOJO Rooftop Lounge is a gift that keeps on giving as it has the restaurant side, a bar and a huge stage that comes alive every Sunday evening. What better way is there to wrap up a weekend than dancing the night away while enjoying some of the best tipple available?

Entertainment

There is a wide variety of events planned each month in Maboneng, however, your visit will be incomplete if you do not make time to go to the Bioscope. This is Johannesburg’s independent cinema that screens local, international and classic films that don’t usually make it on the mainstream cinema circuit.

For other recreational activities, Maboneng has its own thriving community of cyclists the ‘Maboneng City Cyclists’ that takes on the streets of Maboneng and down town Johannesburg on a quest of discovery. Find the best city cycling routes, from savvy commuter routes to leisurely city rides that take you to cultural hot spots and bike friendly cafes.

Collaborative work spaces

Maboneng Precinct’s creative and office spaces have sophisticated designs and a variety of users in mind. They are the office spaces you never even knew you needed. This space allows for locals and business travellers to keep their creative juices flowing. It is where collaborations and new businesses are born. Travellers and remote working millennials thrive in Maboneng’s co-working spaces.

Accommodation

The Precinct features luxury, loft-style apartments in uniquely industrial chic style buildings with a modern feel, and amenities like restaurants and boutique stores.

The top floor of Main Street Life is taken up by the 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel, a perfect creation and business destination. It chronicles the history of Johannesburg from 1886 to 2006 with rooms designed and conceptualised by some of South Africa’s most celebrated artists and designers. Each individually designed room represents one of the past 12 decades of Johannesburg’s history. Some of the designers that put together this masterpiece are Marcus Neustetter, Johnathan Lyman, Prospero and Anna Bailey.

For budget travellers, located at 302 Fox Street is Curiocity, a design hostel offering travellers a chance to stay in spaces that are not only affordable but also amazingly designed too. Its location serves guests a local’s experience, partnering with local businesses, designers and individuals to make your stay at Curiocity unforgettable. Curiocity is for the young and not so young, global travellers and South Africans alike.

Maboneng is undoubtedly one of the unique and innovative places that all travellers should enjoy when visiting beautiful South Africa. Its location in Johannesburg’s inner city, its story of renewal and restoration, its history and its ability to retain its industrial look and feel in an elegant way makes it more intriguing. This is where design meets functionality, with features intended to encourage collaboration and support innovation. Don’t miss an opportunity to look deep within the beautiful history of Johannesburg. You never know where the journey may lead.

Namukolo Siyumbwa – Eness Photography

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