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South African locals give us the inside scoop on the coolest, must-see neighbourhoods across the country.

Explore Cape Town, Joburg and Durban differently. This is how to find the best social spots, excellent foodie spots, hot places to shop and top coffee stops.

Also read: 7 of the coolest neighbourhoods to explore in South Africa

 

1. Kloof, Durban

Discover this serene green pocket of KZN’s capital. It’s most famous for the train trips that depart from the old station, so we asked railway enthusiast Ashley Peter from Umngeni Steam Railway to give us a local’s tour.

Image supplied by Umngeni Steam Railway

Grab a drink

Stokers Arms is a popular watering hole in the old train station (built 1912), known for its selection of craft beers. USR’s members often wind down here. The food is hearty and affordable too. Old Main Road, tel 0317646706

Best bites

Bellevue Café is modern and family-friendly. Chef Chris Black is known for his consistently superb dishes. The pasta is excellent and I can’t resist the mouth- watering liquid-centred chocolate puddings.’ 5 Bellevue Road, tel 0317172780

Get social

Tina’s Hotel, formerly the Beryldene dating from the 1940s, has a warm and cosy bar. There’s also a small theatre – an extension of the Rhumbelow in Umbilo. It often hosts local musicians and comedians, which I enjoy going to.’ 14 Beryldene Road, tel 0317647843

Explore more

Makaranga Lodge has Zimbabwean stone art and Italian sculptures in a magnificent garden setting. Sometimes there are music concerts here. 1 Igwababa Road, 0317646616. Krantzkloof Reserve has picnic sites, guided nature trails and breathtaking views across Kloof Gorge. 152 Kloof Falls Road

Take a ride

Umgeni Steam Railway has developed over the years into a favourite outing for Durban families. Running on the last Sunday of every month (and certain special weekends), if offers a genuine, old-time steam train experience, with a 1938 Class 19D locomotive and wooden carriages from the same era, making the 50km round trip from Kloof Station via the Valley of a Thousand Hills to Inchanga. The train spends at least an hour at Inchanga, where there’s a craft market, shady picnic areas, fun activities for kids and model trains at the station. Just up the stairs is the old Station Master’s House, dating from 1895, which has been turned into a museum.’ Bookings tel 0823536003

The inside scoop

Ashley Peter is the founder member of USR. He’s been a volunteer for all of its 35 years of existence. He keeps an eye on proceedings whenever the trains run and usually also perform the duties of train guard, so you will probably see him shouting “all aboard”, blowing whistles and waving flags about. “Durban is a great city, but when the humidity gets a bit too much, take a short drive up to Kloof – it’s drier here. It’s a leafy and quiet suburb, with no industrial activity and surrounded by undisturbed indigenous bush and forest. There are tremendous views over the nearby gorge towards the north, while the city and ocean can be seen below in the distance to the east.” he says.

 

2. Linden, Johannesburg

Nestled below Northcliff is one of the city’s oldest suburbs. But it has become pretty vibey lately. Store owner of Record Mad Kevin Stuart gives us a local’s tour.

Image from Himaji

Grab a drink

I don’t drink coffee but I like Gravity as it’s a little off the beaten track and slightly quieter. It serves solid cafe food, shakes, waffles. 51 Fourth Avenue, tel 0118883810. ‘But for coffee lovers, you can’t beat The Argentinian.’ Fourth Avenue, corner of Seventh Street, tel 0118889759

Best bites

This is a tough question as there are so many good places to eat [in Fourth Avenue] … sticky ribs at Brian Lara (No. 56), pizza from Satori (61A), tacos at El Jalapeno, deluxe sandwiches from The Whippet (corner of Seventh Street). You could eat at a different place every day of the week.

Get social

Steampunk-themed Choo Choo Junction has a good selection of craft beers and is a great spot to chill. 57 Fourth Avenue, tel 0729103000. Brian Lara Rum Eatery is a popular, vibey watering hole for after work – and it has lots of cocktails. 56 Fourth Avenue, tel 0763209739

Some unique finds

Ceramic Factory has some of the coolest stuff I’ve ever seen. Darth Vader, skulls, penguins – it’s all there and worth checking out. 59 Fourth Avenue, tel 0110574314

The inside scoop

Kevin started out selling vinyl online from his house in Westdene. When a shop became available at Linden Place, he grabbed it. ‘Record Mad has been open for five years now. Linden has changed so much since then. It was pretty sleepy when I first moved here but has evolved in a very positive way, while keeping its suburban charm and authenticity. It’s an amazing mix, from old lady dress shops to the best biltong in Joburg (Rembrandt Butcher), a tattoo parlour, a cool bookshop (Books Galore), one of the best indoor pools in Joburg and great coffee shops and eateries. It’s a fun place with a lot on offer. Joburg is a far more beautiful city than people give it credit for, with extreme contrasts. I love the people – friendly, interesting and crazy, much like the city itself!’ Linden Place, 59 Fourth Avenue, tel 0834195912

Old Linden with Chris Schutte (ICS Estate Agency)

‘Linden has always felt like a village to me. I am now 74 years old – we moved here when I was five. It was very farm orientated, lots of smallholdings – Linden was known countrywide for its peach orchards. Back then, property stands were subdivided into three to be shops. My parents started this business about 65 years ago and two of my children are now in it. My only grandchild is the third generation, and he’s at the school I went to. I remember our headmaster, Mr Koos, used to herd his Jersey cow onto the rugby field to graze. Over the years, Linden began to develop. This has brought about change, introducing shopping centres and more restaurants and housing. But it’s still such a wonderful area; it doesn’t have a city atmosphere.’

 

3. South End, Port Elizabeth

On the rise again, PE’s ‘District Six’ is taking advantage of its central location overlooking the harbour. Marketing Co-ordinator of the Mandela Bay Development Agency, Zoleka Magingxa gives us a local’s tour.

Image supplied by Graeme Lund

Grab a drink

The Friendly Stranger is rustic and inviting (in an old harbourmaster’s house), perfect for meetings or after-work drinks. 1 Bridge Street, tel 0764376850

Best bites

At the harbour there is Shisa Restaurant – a cool hang-out for drinks and when I am craving African cuisine. I love the ulusu (tripe) and dumplings. Off Strand Street, tel 0604539790

Get the outdoors

Victoria Park is a wonderful place to spend the afternoon. The park has water-lily ponds, a bird-watching site and a beautiful garden. Weddings, live music shows and summer picnics also take place here. Ernest Walter Road, tel 0415822575. South End Museum has a lot of history on the previous dwellers of the area who were forcibly removed.’ Tours are conducted by former residents. Corner Walmer Boulevard and Humewood Road, tel 0415823325

Explore more with Daniel Huddlestone (The Bridge Street Brewery)

The Bridge Street Brewery was started by Gary Erasmus and Lex Mitchell (of the famous Knysna brewery). It was the first craft brewery in PE and we could not be more proud of our beer! My father has lived in South End for most of his life, so I have seen it change quite a bit over the years. A lot of that change has happened recently – since Bridge Street Brewery opened, in fact. It’s amazing to see this area starting to flourish, with new businesses and events popping up all the time. ‘Our spot is nestled at the bottom of Brickmaker’s Kloof, in the heart of the Baakens Valley. The Inner City Enduro takes place here every year, and the Valley Bash is a new auto rally we were recently involved in. We have plans for it to be bigger in the future’. 1 Bridge Street, tel 0415810361

The inside scoop

Zoleka oversees the Old Tramways Building, a newly renovated events venue. It’s most famous for The Valley Market on the first Saturday of the month, ‘which pulls in a diverse crowd and a lot of feet to an area that was previously quiet’. (The R10 entry fee goes to charity.) ‘South End was once a cosmopolitan community. All races, religions and cultures were united here, but with the Group Areas Act in 1950 it was destroyed. Now it’s rising again. There is also Food Truck Fridays (every second Friday), where all things locally crafted get sold – food, clothing, hair products – plus local bands play. Why do I love PE? For the friendly people, the beaches and that the place bears Nelson Mandela’s name.

 

4. Sea Point, Cape Town

Cape Town central’s seaside suburb has had its ups and downs. It’s super popular again these days, with many new spots alongside the old favourites. Ice-cream co-owner of the Dairy Den, Tasia Donaldson gives us a local’s tour.

Image supplied by Bootlegger

Grab a drink

Bootleggers is my favourite. If you’re there early enough they run a morning special of coffee for R14. 39 Regent Road, tel 0214340060. You can also get a great coffee with a delicious muesli biscuit at The Cascades boutique hotel.11 Arthurs Road, tel 0214345979

Best bites

Mykonos Taverna helps me get my Greek food fix. On the last Saturday of the month there’s dancing and plate breaking included! 343 Main Road, tel 0214392106. The newly opened Nonna Lina is also one of my favourites. All their pizzas are delicious, and
I love the classic tomatello pasta or the artichoke salad. 148 Main Road, tel 0606123520
Jerry’s, famous for its burgers, also has a really vibey bar which locals love going to for a drink. 148 Main Road, tel 0214331700. The Sea Point promenade is very popular. It’s especially beautiful early in the morning or as the sun sets.

Some unique finds

Mash boutique (85 Regent Road, tel 0212861270) and Live, Love & Stuff (67 Regent Road, tel 0214331908) both have a beautifully curated selection of items. Decor, jewellery, clothing, gifts – mostly locally designed and made, which I love. The Mojo Market also has lots of restaurants and small shops to look through.

The inside scoop

Sisters Tasia and Lexi opened their ice-cream parlour in October last year, following in the footsteps of their grandfather, Andreas Spheris, who arrived from Greece in 1947 and started making ice cream. ‘What I remember growing up is my ice-cream birthday cakes. My dad would make them himself every year and all my friends would love them.’ The sisters chose Sea Point for their business because ‘it always feels like being on holiday there. It is definitely on people’s radar these days. You can pretty much get anything you want along the main road. Regent Road is more hipster, The Point Centre is more family friendly. It’s great to see people walking around everywhere. There is so much choice for dining out, from the established places like Posticino to trendy new ones like Three Wise Monkeys. For dessert, the obvious choice is a gourmet soft-serve from Dairy Den! 148 Main Road, tel 0764019895

Explore more with Pam Warrington (MOJO Market)

‘The market was the brainchild of Graeme Robinson and Robbie Lessem, who own the Mojo Hotel above the market. With prime sea-facing property, they decided to transform what was a conventional retail space into a creative market, focusing on food and locally designed goods. I have my usual large flat white every day at the Bagel & Coffee Company. The baristas are friendly and the Wi-Fi is free. I am also an ice-cream addict and Baskin Robbins serves the best pralines and cream I’ve ever tasted – like tiny angels dancing on your tongue. I love going for cocktails at the market’s bar, but it also has a wide selection of craft beers. There is lots of space, you’ll always find a seat and with live music every night and sea views, there really is no better place to sip a strawberry daiquiri.’ 30 Regent Road, tel 0647768832

 

5. The Silo District, Cape Town

Radisson RED Hotel Cape Town

The amazing rooftop area at the Radisson RED Hotel.

An underused part of the Waterfront has sprung to life around the conversion of old grain silos into an already iconic African art museum. Curator and Manager at the Radisson RED Cape Town Dale Simpson gives us a local’s tour.

Also read: Two trendy city hotels any millennial will want to check into

Grab a sweet treat

Become a chocolatier. Get down and dirty and make your own at the Lindt Chocolate Studio. Of course, the best part is eating it afterwards!’ Silo 2, Silo Square, tel 0218310360

Best bites

I enjoy my flat white with a basket of pastries at The Granary Café, while looking at some of the best views. For a meal, don’t even read the menu – you have to try their seafood briyani.’ 6th floor, Silo Hotel, Silo Square, tel 0216700500

Unique finds

Southern Guild has beautiful art and design pieces – creations by mainly South African artists. I love Andile Dyalvane’s ceramics.’ Silo Hotel, Silo Square, tel 0214612856

Explore more

Opus Botanical Florist is a beautiful little place filled with fresh scents and amazing plants and flowers. I can lose an afternoon in here, just pottering around. Silo 3, Silo Square, tel 0727856002.

The main attraction

Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) opened on 22 September. ‘Spread over nine floors, in over 100 galleries … with cutting-edge artworks on a scale never seen in Africa before, using technology, the moving image, live body art etc,’ says chief curator Mark Coetzee. ‘It’s a must-visit like Table Mountain or Cape Point.’ The building itself is a marvel: once the tallest in SA, built in 1921, the 9 500m2 museum has been carved from 116 vertical tubes. ‘The idea of turning a giant, disused concrete grain silo into a new kind of public space was weird and compelling,’ says designer Thomas Heatherwick. Entry R180 pp, free on Wednesday mornings and for kids at all times. R250 membership gets you in for free all year, plus other benefits.

The inside scoop

I am pumped when I’m in the Silo District, because of the artistic vibe. It developed with the Zeitz MOCAA at its heart, an incredible building, but the Silo and Radisson hotels will also make a mark.’ (Not least because of the views of the city and Table Mountain from the rooftops of these buildings.) ‘It’s becoming a social hub and cultural district, an environment for people from all walks of life. Everyone who visits can learn, spend time and connect with one another. One of my favourite things about Cape Town is the creativity, energy and innovation. I love how there is so much to see and do–even a visit to the weekend food markets brings out the mix of cultures in the city.’ Silo 6, Silo Square, tel 0870861578

 

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