Aisha Hillary, Founder and Creative Director at Hills & West, shares her top tips on where to eat, stay, play and shop in Johannesburg…
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of going to Johannesburg to visit a dear friend (and business partner – you can’t get better than that) and work on a new H&W future project (Shhh).
I had such a ball so I thought I would give you an EAT, STAY, PLAY and SHOP guide of the places I highly recommend from museums to restaurants, cafes and beautiful gardens. Keep reading for the best little hot spots of Joberg.
A little background…
Johannesburg is one of the biggest cities in South Africa and back in the 19th century, it was originally established for gold mining. It is also very well know form being the home town for the well known and much loved Nelson Mandela.
Something I didn’t know was that Johannesburg is known as South Africa’s Green City, not only because its the most sustainable city but also because of its overwhelming plant growth and the home of 10million trees. In particular, during October and November you’ll find the city in full bloom with purple Jacaranda flowers raining over the town.
So don’t forget to wander the streets and explore the parks they are truly worthwhile.
The food in Parktown North (where I stayed) was incredible so much around. In particular, my top favourites being Marble Restaurant with sensational views and of course the food. Marble celebrates the quintessential South African tradition of cooking on an open fire and not just meat, but all types of ingredients cooked on coals – including fish, springbok, poultry, vegetables and breads. Great for dinner to watch the sunset or just for a cocktail at their bar.
Another journey through a very different type of food experience (literally), was a remarkable degustation called a Cube Tasting Kitchen style menu. Each menu takes you to a different cuisine literally transforming your experience. Highly recommend Est Est Alia for something truly different.
A fabulous area for boutiques and cafes was Parkhurst, my friend Roz and I bought some gorgeous linen jumpsuits from Hannah Lavery that were super cute and practical 🙂
It was really warm during the day, and freezing at night, so I enjoyed wearing my Bassike dress and always travelling with my a Hills & West bag (Lunar Max with cowhide fold) and My Milliner hat 🙂
*Selfie was in Hannah Lavery store
For authentic Italian food, we’d recommend a quaint little area called Casalinga Ristorante Italiano, you’ve just got to try their desserts! Ugh my mouth is watering just at the thought.
Also Il Contadino in Parktown North, just near where I was staying, was delicious with fantastic great service. I had the fire roasted pumpkin salad and the truffle risotto on the side. Well worth it.
For a gorgeous pamper and spa day we went to The Residence, where we started the experience with champers in the hot tub with spectacular views and then had a foot clean and massage with rose petals before going into our private room for a massage. Life is really tough sometimes 😉
If you are looking for a nice healthy cafe after all your crazy travels I highly recommend Vegan Café – Fresh Earth where I got a healthy all green salad. Very delicious!. Right around the corner from there too I got my ears pierced to add some more ear bling to the accessories. Why not.
For some afternoon drinks in the sun and some great Sunday tunes, the garden rooftop at The Living Room was a killer spot where we had some delicious snacks (anyone say halloumi) and some cracking aloe vera cocktails.
We popped into The Four Seasons Westclif at sunset. Honestly, it’s a must as the view will take your breath away! Also, a little sneaky tip if you want a grand tour of this vast accommodation and the best views ask the concierge for a golf buggy tour (shhh you’re welcome).
Galleries viewing is always on the list and Rosebank is the hot spot, Everard Read and Circa gallery is a great place to start. All the others galleries are also just around the corner from each other including Frances Goodman, so you could easily spend the whole day walking around or visit them on the first Thursday of every month when they are all open until 9pm.
The Goodman Gallery was established thirty-two years ago to encourage contemporary South African artists to exhibit, despite apartheid. The policy of the Gallery was to foster the culture of the country under despotic duress.
Everard Read Gallery is known to have the finest art emanating from Southern Africa. Many of this region’s most celebrated painters and sculptors, both traditional artists of the past and emerging talent, even fine artists from elsewhere in the world. The Gallery its self is iconic for its curvaceous architecture, as well as the fabulous courtyard with filling with exotic sculptures.
I loved really unique and beautiful pieces, some of my favourites included Blessing Ngobeni (Taught to Corrupt, Not to Hunt 2018/ Gods from the Future 2, 2019), Deborah Bell (Betrayal is the Seed of Forgiveness, 2019), Nelso Makamo (Girls Dancing with Stripped Dress, 2018) and Phillemon Hlungwani (Vonani Ku Xonga Ka Swona).
Circa gallery, architecturally beautiful itself, is filled with moving artist who shares the stories of many past historical events in Africa in particular postmodernism. When I was there it was Conrad Botes, The Goliath Protocol exhibition.
Some of the other exhibiting artists include Barbara Wildenboer’s Evolution and its implications and Olivie Keck: Drop Dead Gorgeous.
If you are looking for a fabulous high tea and drink or boutique accommodation Fairlawns Hotel is highly recommended. We had a lovely time at the Fairlawn where we had high tea and sat outside in the garden area. It’s a gorgeous Victorian mansion with decadent balconies, spa, swimming pool and fabulous garden. You’ll feel right at home.
Plenty more to do at the Neighbourhood Markets, music clothes, culture and food. Walk to the Arts on Main, where you see local designers like nothing else you’ve seen before. 100% worth venturing to the vintage stores upstairs where I bought two vintage coats for $30 and even got to meet the designers!!
We visited 44 Stanley Street (known with the tagline of Eat | Drink | Work | Shop) was a gorgeous little pocket of boutique stores, interiors and outside restaurants on the edge of downtown. This little precident is a mixed-use development that fuses the downtown hub with a sophistication touch. A mix of carefully-curated, bespoke stores and independent restaurants gives the centre an authenticity around eating, drinking, shopping and a social open space with the gorgeous community.
The Storer is a must visit with beautiful homeware, fashion, accessories and plants sourced from smaller traders around the globe. I wanted to take everything home. Lots of inspiration for Hills & West Home.
Mad Giant Brewery was a great little joint for some local craft beers and pub food if you are looking for something low key.
For some more shopping locations, we recommend 27Boxes and Malview even just for a place to stroll around lots of cafes and boutiques.
Take your camera and your best outfit to Nirox where there were spectacular gardens where we spent the morning walking around in, even bring a picnic rug and book and have a relaxing morning in the sun! I hear they even do morning yoga classes there.
I have the pleasure of staying at my friends’ gorgeous house in Johannesburg, so if you go in summer I highly recommend a spot with a pool to freshen up after a long day of go go go.
Airbnbs are ideal for cosy accommodation with plenty of privacy. Check out some of these studio apartments and cosy cottages for a unique experience and at a very affordable price.
I didn’t stay here however had the pleasure of having nice afternoons tea in the restaurant of the Clico Boutique Hotel a great place also to stay. Very leafy suburban area, with all the rooms over looking the gardens below. Great restaurants inside and only a 5min drive from the Zoo.
Well we hope you enjoyed out little travel guide to the city of Johannesburg! It was so much more than I had expected and such a place full of culture and creativity.