7 of the coolest neighbourhoods to explore in SA

Posted by Ondela Mlandu on 27 September 2017

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

Explore these cities differently. This is how to find the best social spots, excellent foodie spots, hot places to shop and top coffee stops.

 

1. Keyes Avenue, Johannesburg

This street has become a prime stretch of modern SA art, design and architecture – witness the landmark Circa gallery and new Trumpet building alongside it. Shopkeeper David Davey gives us a local’s tour of the Keyes Art Mile.

Keyes Art Mile

Grab a coffee

There’s still so much room in Joburg for good coffee. Instead, Milk Bar just next door to us makes good hot chocolate, for when the anxiety is peaking a little too much! 21 Keyes Avenue, tel 0105945128.

Best bites

At BGR you get a basic burger (R55) or cheeseburger (R60) and then select your own free toppings. The milkshakes are great and the frozen custard is something worth trying. 19 Keyes Avenue, tel 0105934545.

Shop here

Shelflife is a sneaker and streetwear store founded in 2006 with its roots firmly based in graffiti and street art. The store now exclusively stocks all the major footwear brands’ top lines. but David says they’re also working on their own label. The Joburg store opened in August 2016 in the new Trumpet building. Rosebank is probably the No. 1 up-and-coming area in the city. It’s super convenient for travellers to find their way around, everything is on your doorstep, and it’s surrounded by lovely suburbs.

Get social

Sin and Tax is a small, secret cocktail bar not too far away. At the back of Coalition Pizza, Bolton Road, tel 0109004987. MESH Members Club & Bar is cool for after-work drinks. The public are welcome to go there, just with a few less perks than members! 2nd floor, 21 Keyes Avenue, tel 0105945545.

Explore more

There are a few running crews in the area, such as the Nike+ Run Club on Tuesdays or our Shelflife Crew – we head out from the store at 6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There are also a lot of art galleries and design-oriented shops.

The inside scoop

Jake Read is the manager and curator at Circa and Everard Read Gallery. He tells us the Everard Read Gallery, established in 1913 by Jake’s grandfather, moved to Rosebank in 1980. In 2009 the Read family launched Circa nearby.

Recently, three other galleries have opened in the precinct: SMAC, What If The World and Southern Guild. Together, they’ve created a major destination for contemporary African art. The Keyes Art Mile has become a hotspot, a really fun and funky place to hang out. It’s bringing a lot of new people here. Every first Thursday of the month, the galleries stay open late, the whole street gets closed. There are food trucks and live music. It creates a nice young buzz in the area to expose everyone to the arts.
Also read: 12 must-see art galleries in Joburg.

 

2. Parkhurst, Johannesburg

Known as ‘Antique Alley’ back in the 80s, Parkhurst’s 4th Avenue has turned into one of the city’s key entertainment and shopping destinations. Shop owner Harry Fokker give’s us a local’s tour. Harry launched his parody and pop culture T-shirt label online in 2004, but now has a shop on Fourth Avenue. ‘There’s plenty of vibe and bustle here. See and be seen, but with a laid-back feel’.

Parkhurst, Johannesburg

Grab a coffee

‘I’m a straight-up espresso kinda guy. No frills, no fuss. At 4th Avenue Coffee Roasters they make it strong. It’s just such a cool and refreshing space in the classic street-café style. Cobbles Centre, corner of 11th Street, tel 0823782109.

Best bites

Rockets. It rocks! The vibe is incredible, staff are on the ball and the food, more importantly, is fantastic. It has two bars and on weekends Rockets quite literally takes off. I love the fillet au poivre, my wife enjoys the gravadlax of salmon.’ Corner of 10th Street, tel 0118806102.

Shop here

Hunter Gatherer has vintage pieces focused mainly on men’s interests and decor. It’s a must-see. You’ll understand when you walk in. 11 Fourth Avenue, 011-880-3036.

Macedonia-born Pepi Dimevski started SA Hardcore Tattoos, one of Joburg’s best, a decade ago. You’ll need to book well in advance. Tel 0113272812.

Get social

Taphouse has a sterling spread of craft beers, on tap and bottled. My favourite right now is No. 3 Fransen Street Cream Ale, SAB’s crafter offering. Taphouse calls itself a ‘pint-sized pub’ but there’s a big, hearty atmosphere here. 7 Fourth Avenue, tel 0110268968.

Explore more

Parkhurst is fondly referred to as ‘The Village’ by residents and regulars. It’s in the heart of the green belt and geographically quite secluded, given the boundary. You’ll find me out on the cycling trails between Delta Park and Joburg Botanical Gardens. The parks in general have some amazing trails, and the suburbs are all cyclist-friendly. Joburg is a sprawling, rangy cacophony with a true, cosmopolitan heart and I love it.

The inside scoop

Do The Village Tour. It’s a great place to spend a day or night out. Start on one end of Fourth Avenue and make your way along. Hit off with a pint at The Jolly Roger (at No. 10), the legendary pub on the corner of Sixth, swing by Tshirt Terrorist, of course, then continue along arguably the trendiest high street in Joburg. There’s a superb mix of eateries – The Wolfpack (No. 21), Bottega (No. 22), Bistro Vine (No. 24), Craft (No. 33), Salsa (No. 38) and others. There are galleries and design studios along Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street, leading up into Rosebank. And on certain Sundays at Verity Park, there are social events such as picnics hosted by the residents’ association.

 

3. Rivertown Triangle, Durban

It’s got the CBD buzzing, with warehouses transformed into retail hubs, art galleries and bookshops popping up, and young entrepreneurs starting cool livelihoods. Business owner of Curiocity Backpackers, Bheki Dube gives us an insider’s tour. ‘Durban has a lot of hidden treasures, but what I love most is the beautiful architecture (Curiocity is in the gorgeous 1930s art deco building, Ambassador House). The city is so rich in culture; it’s an authentic, urban African city.’

Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth

Grab a coffee

The coffee at Artisan Coffeeworks is made from roasted beans from Ethiopia, South America and Jamaica. I always order a double espresso – it keeps me going throughout the day. 8 Morrison Street, tel 0822215143.

Best bites

I highly recommend Bon Bon’s Bake & Take. Durban is known for its curry, and at Bon Bon’s you get the best value-for-money curry in the city. My favourite is the lamb curry and rice or a lamb bunny chow. 14 Sylvester Ntuli Road, tel 0313682419.

Get social

I love The Chairman! It’s probably one of the best bars in the world. It has great design, a wonderful atmosphere and the best jazz. Open from 19:00 Thursdays to Saturdays, R150 entry. 146 Mahatma Ghandi Road, tel 0313682133

Explore more

The Curiocity Walking Tour starts off at the old Rivertown Beerhall, where we look at the history and heritage of the space. There’s great public art there too. Then you can venture off to Warwick Junction, one of the largest informal trading hubs in SA – you’ll find amazing curry here. Back in Rivertown, there’s Priority Zone, an urban rooftop garden where they recycle everything in the area and grow fresh produce to donate to shelters in the community. Afterwards, you can relax in our holistic urban spa, Nane, at Curiocity Backpackers. R420 per person.

The inside scoop

DOPEstore is owned by a guy called Andile ‘Scotch’ Cele. He collaborates with local clothing designers to create masterpieces. Ambassador House, 61 Monty Naicker Street, tel 073949401.

There is also The Vintager for unique vintage finds. 8 Morrison Street, tel 0823634444.

 

4. Station Drive Precinct, Durban

Formerly derelict industrial buildings in Morningside have been converted into the city’s first urban creative district and latest playground. ‘Street couture’ designer Sanele Cele gives us a local’s tour.

Station Drive Precinct, Durban

Grab a coffee

Parkside at The Design Factory is my favourite coffee shop. My regular order is an Americano, no milk or sugar, and the roast-chicken sandwich. 39 Station Drive, tel 0625018326.

Best bites

Going to The Morning Trade on Sundays (8:00 to 13:00) is my downtime and my day off. The market has great food – fresh produce, street food – and it’s a good vibe. The Plant, 5 Station Drive. I also enjoy Mooki’s Noodle Bar (inside Con Amore) for on-the-go food.

Shop here

The decor for sale at Con Amore is beautiful – anything with artisanal craftsmanship gets my love. 15 Station Drive, tel 0313032531.

Get social

Andrew Rall of Distillery 031 gives us the lowdown. ‘The Foundry is the place if it’s bars you’re looking for. On the first floor is S43, home of That Brewing Co – they do amazing salted squid, which goes perfectly with their craft beer. (Sanele goes on Fridays for ‘good beer and pulled pork tacos’) Upstairs is the 031 Bar, which has a 1920s speakeasy vibe, and recently we opened a rooftop bar.

The inside scoop

On First Thursdays, Station Drive stays open late and hosts live music, exhibitions, street food and other entertainment.

 

5. Richmond Hill, Port Elizabeth

Just up from the harbour, the city’s first neighbourhood has a new lease on life, with talented chefs and a community of artists and entrepreneurs moving in. Sean Brito, third-generation business owner, gives us an insider’s tour. ‘PE is the best-kept secret in South Africa. The weather and beaches are great, and it’s not as congested as other cities. We say PE is a two-song town – that’s how long it takes to get anywhere!’

Rivertown Triangle, Durban

Grab a coffee

Richmond Hill has some great coffee shops. When the wind is blowing in the right direction, you get the amazing aroma of roasting coffee. Groundfloor Café makes the best cappuccinos, with a marvellous Eggs Benedict with salmon for breakfast.’ 20A Stanley Street, tel 0415822081.

Best bites

The delicious kudu steak (R125) at Backstreet Grill is the talk of the town, and you can enjoy it in a lovely ambience. I am never disappointed when I go there. My other favourite is the T-bone steak (R155). 19 Bain Street, tel 0415823015.

The Granary. I have deep roots in the area – my grandfather Manual, the son of Spanish immigrants, arrived in 1910, started his own bakery at age 16 and moved here to Stanley Street in 1925. In 2007 Matt Repton opened the first Vovo Telo around the corner, then Steven De Beer renovated Stanley on Bain, and we turned our old bakery into a multipurpose space for markets and functions. 20 Stanley Street.

Get social

Salt has some of the best jar and fishbowl cocktails, and is very affordable. The Chocolate Jar (a mix of vodka, Nachtmusik and Steri Stumpie) costs R38. 30 Stanley Street, tel 0415822402.

Explore more

Usen Obot of Galerié Noko recommends. ‘Richmond Hill is in close proximity to the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum (1 Park Drive) and ArtEC (36 Bird Street), which ties into the city’s vision of a cultural and art precinct. With my 18-hour work days, I spend a lot of time here.

For coffee there’s the original Vovo Telo in Raleigh Street. For food, I like Fushin’s delicate Asian cuisine (at Stanley on Bain) and Yiayias for savoury family meals (at 20 Stanley Street). Upstairs, at the same address, For The Love Of Wine has some of the best wines this side of the equator. A walk in Settlers Park (off Hallack Road) follows the route of PE’s last remaining stream.

The inside scoop

Richmond Hill and Central have many old buildings, like the Opera House and 7 Castle Hill (tel 0415822512), one of the oldest surviving settler cottages. Most are protected by the Heritage Trust. Shirley Pittaway of Art on Stanley offers fun art classes where you can order in food and drinks from the local restaurants. 1st floor, 20 Stanley Street, tel 0829333158.

 

6. Green Point, Cape Town

This harbourside neighbourhood has blossomed into a cosmopolitan, trendy playground, with several new mixed-use developments changing its look. Business owner Sue Vith gives us a local’s tour.‘Green Point has such an upbeat energy. There are always people out and about, from all walks of life – there is something for everyone here. It’s innovative and the creativity here is inspiring.’

Greenpoint, Cape Town

Grab a coffee

Go to Giovanni’s to get a coffee – the cappuccino is always a winner. Their food is real home-style cooking and the vibe is always great. The deli also has interesting ingredients if you want to make meals yourself. 103 Main Road, tel 0214346893.

Best bites

Have an exciting evening at El Burro, a fantastic Mexican restaurant with a warm, welcoming atmosphere. (It’s also renowned for having one of the biggest tequila collections in town.) I always have the churros for dessert. 81 Main Road, tel 0214332364.

Shop here

A cute new shop called Mash has lots of local designer stuff up for grabs. Portside Centre, tel 0212861270.

Out of this world. My mother-in-law, Paula, was one of the first people to sell authentic tribal art and furniture in South Africa in the 70s. The legacy continued after a South American holiday turned into a gathering of exotic artefacts for me and my husband Peter, and today the warehouse also stocks items from India and Oceana. 1 Braemar Road, tel 0214343540.

Get social

Gold Restaurant specialises in a 14-course African feast. With djembe drumming and dancing and puppets, it’s an incredibly cheerful way to engage with the culture. 15 Bennett Street, tel 0214214653.

Explore more

We love going for a walk in Green Point Urban Park, a little piece of paradise in the city. I love that it is an eco park that educates visitors about biodiversity (tours R35, tel 0214170111). It showcases a rich variety of Cape flora, and is perfect for exercising, romantic walks or playing with your children. There is a wetland that attracts a lot of birds – it’s really cool to sit on the benches and check out the birdlife. The Parkrun on Saturdays starts outside the stadium and winds its way into the park. Or hire a bike at the Waterfront or Sea Point promenade and ride through the park. From R60.

The inside scoop

Cape Town by day is beautiful but when you see it lit up at night, it is absolutely magic. One of my favourite places is The Vue Sky Bar & Lounge to have a drink and tapas. Try the peanut and chilli wontons. 15th floor, 40 Chiappini Street, tel 0214183065.

 

7. Observatory, Cape Town

An update on Cape Town’s original alternative enclave. This bohemian suburb has been attracting the young and the alternative for years, and has ridden the wave of many new cultural movements. Food entrepreneurs Tawanda Mushapaidze and Bo Tungamirai give us a locals’ tour.

Observatory, Cape Town

Grab a coffee

Try the Vietnamese coffee – an iced espresso with condensed milk – with any of the cupcakes at BillyBoo’s Cakery. You will end up having cake for breakfast every day! 61 Station Road, tel 0728461908.

Best bites

Big Momma’s. As two bachelors with limited culinary abilities, we eat out a lot. It was easier to find Chinese or Italian than the food we grew up eating. So we opened Big Momma’s in June 2016, offering authentic, simple meals. 96 Lower Main Road, tel 0214471256.

They also love the stuffed burgers at Jerry’s Burger Bar, in particular the Wrath burger with habanero chillies and cheese – but they like spicy food, so be careful with this one! 123 Lower Main Road, tel 0214478554.

Get social

At The Forex Bar you can interact, exchange ideas with and learn from people from all over the world. 96 Station Rd, tel 0214480083.

A Touch of Madness (in a beautiful old house) is a nice place to grab a beer and try something different. 12 Nuttall Road, tel 0214474650.

Shop here

Black Chillie Style has a wide range of African fabrics and ready-made garments, plus a team of tailors to make up something special for you. 98 Lower Main Road, tel 0214473020.

Also, there’s Ahem! Art Collective, a brand-new space for illustration, concept art and animation. 77 Lower Main Road, tel 0715853423.

Explore more

For some exercise, walking distance away (over the railway bridge, on Liesbeek Parkway), there’s the new Two Rivers Urban Park and The River Club’s golf course – with a great restaurant and 19th hole. Or join the Observatory Running Club on the streets every Wednesday and Friday, tel 0725331644.

Once a month, Art Thursdays in Obs showcases local artists, musicians and creatives.

The inside scoop

There is Touch Down Saturdays at A Touch of Madness with local hip-hop artists, plus wine tastings on Wednesdays, electro-swing parties, silent discos, the list goes on… The Irie Show at Trenchtown (96 Station Road) is every Sunday, with reggae bands and an open-mic for poets. That Place (76 Lower Main Road), a coffee shop-bookstore, has movie nights and talks.

 

Any trendy areas near you? Which neighbourhoods should we check out next?

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