Friday, 7 June 2013

01.06.2013 Bar hopping in Johannesburg CBD

Gerald is a bubbly Johannesburg tour guide, who has also written a popular book detailing all the best that the city has to offer called JoburgPlaces. Gerald had the genius idea of combining drinking with touring the city centre and after a tough few days of moving chaos we certainly needed those beers.

Unfortunately due to a long and tortuous morning of getting involved in something we hadn't really thought we had signed up for (we were just trying to make the TV work, we ended up with a satellite...) we missed the start of the tour.

Here's where we went (excluding a bar in a gold vault in the Mapungubwe Hotel and Darkie Cafe which is opposite it). Note we travelled around in a mini-bus. According to Gerald it is now safe to walk in the CBD after dark, but it is not safe to cross the bridges:

Guildhall Pub
Corner Market and Harrison Street
Downstairs at the Guildhall
Reputedly the oldest pub in the city, the Guildhall first opened in 1888. The bar itself and the panelling surrounding it is all around 100 years old, while the building's facade, including a wrought iron balcony, is also an important historic relic of old Joburg.

We sat up on the balcony overlooking the library square and the Nelson Mandela Building (the place were Madiba first got a job as a legal clerk at a Jewish firm). Most of the locals tend to sit downstairs at the bar. I've actually popped by here before whilst strolling the inner-city and can confirm that it's got a proper bar buzz in the post-work hours, is safe and the owner is lovely. There's also karaoke on Thursdays (I haven't been...yet).

I read that back in the 1970s the Guildhall was the bar of choice for foreign correspondents working in the city. It was reputedly a bit rough at the edges, but an essential venue for journalists getting their teeth into reporting the madness of apartheid and swapping war stories. How things change.

Reef Hotel 
(not to be confused with Gold Reef City), 58 Anderson Street

The funny tower on the right is all that remains of a grand old Joburg building. It was demolished to make way for a new bank HQ, but the project fell apart after demolition and now it's just a car park.

This is a lovely business hotel, with outstanding staff, very close to the main mining headquarters (hence the name). The restaurant on ground level does an excellent lunch buffet deal on weekdays for local office workers. Meanwhile upstairs there's a very respected gourmet restaurant where they train youngsters from poor backgrounds to become top chefs.

We headed all the way up to the roof (currently only open for private parties) for our drinks. The views from up there are incredible. Hopefully they will open it up soon as a proper bar. It is seriously one of the best 'sundowner' locations in Johannesburg.

6 De Beer Street
After picking up my poor husband (who had only just escaped the TV fiasco) we went to Great Dane, a very popular student joint in Braamfontein. It is next to Kitcheners which is probably my favourite bar in Joburg right now and has a similar crowd. The Dane was absolutely packed and everyone was dancing to Cee Cee Peniston's 90s house hit Finally, even though it was only 7pm. A proper party place filled with outrageously hip looking African students.

120 De Korte Street

For our final drinks gazing out over the lights of Saturday night Hillbrow, we went to the roof of the Protea Parktonian Hotel in Braamfontein. Again I think this place is only open for guests and private parties and again they are really missing a trick.

As this was our final destination we all had a Springbok shot (mint liqueur and kahlua) and listened with amazement as Gerald explained to us the ins and outs of how downtown Johannesburg fell into decline and why business and upmarket living is now spread across the 'northern suburbs' instead. I'm not going to go into the whole incredible story here, but in a nutshell - this city is changing all the time, and in the CBD things right now are only changing for the better.

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