Newtown and Braamfontein Rejuvenated
Mary Fitzgerald Square - the centre of Newtown
(place you mouse over the window for further options - the full screen view is amazing!)
Until recently, if you mentioned you were off to spend a day touring Johannesburg's often chaotic Central Business District, you may well have attracted an upturned eyebrow. Yes, there are parts of the city that you want to avoid, and as in all major cities around the world, you have to remain vigilant and street-smart at all times. But in the last 5 years, much of central Joburg has seen remarkable changes, and they offer a wealth of attractions to the urban-minded tourist.
Newtown, on the outskirts of the city proper, is one such location, and thanks to its youthful, vibrant residents, and a selection of fine restaurants, some of the country's best museums and attractions, and a funky, off-beat nightlife, a trip to Joburg isn't complete without a day spent wandering the streets, and a night in one of the bars or clubs, in this unique part of Joburg.
Amongst the attractions to be seen at Newtown are:
- Museum Africa
- Market Theatre
- Afronova Contemporary Art Gallery
- Art Bank
- Rooke Gallery
- The Market Photo Workshop
- The Sophia Town Bar Lounge
- Gramadoelas Restaurant
- Xarra Books
- SAB World of Beer, and
- Zasekhaya Market - for African curio's.
The nearby Oriental Plaza is also well worth a visit, and, because each shop is privately owned, bartering is the name of the game!
Braamfontein, informally known as ‘Braamies’, is a growing and ever-changing section of Downtown Johannesburg.
Situated in the north of the City Centre, Braamfontein is linked to Newtown by the famous and magnificent Nelson Mandela Bridge – as a result it also forms part of the ‘Cultural Arc’ of Jozi. Braamfontein has come a long way since the early 2000s, by means of greening, development, and safety initiatives, in order to become the arts and culture district it is today. Not only is it a trendy place to hang out, it is also one of Joburg’s ‘corporate hubs’, where many office blocks and businesses are to be found.
Not only is residential property affordable; it is also becoming trendier, with first-time buyers flocking to reside in the loft-style apartments, which would easily remind one of Manhattan, New York. Many events are held in this region, including the Arts Alive festival, and Mandela birthday celebrations took place to honour the living legend.
There are various restaurants and eateries located in Braamfontein, which are perfect for breakfast, lunch, and enjoying that delicious cup of coffee.
Braamfontein is a safe and developed economic and entertainment hub. Main buildings and architecture include colleges, theatres, hotels; office blocks and student accommodation .There are various retail outlets, as well as art, design, fashion, and film studios in this city with its ‘Soho-like’ vibe.
Walk and talk tours provide an opportunity to experience a safe trip through the city; relaxing, walking and talking while doing so. This is a perfect means of exploring, for local and international tourists alike. Amongst the many sights and activities, such as the Arts and Culture Tour, the following sights and activities have lured many a tourist to this part of town:
- Constitution Hill: a site rich with South African history
- Jhb Civic theatre: a theatre where a world-class variety of productions are performed
- SAPPI Gardens: a place to relax
- Mandela Bridge: the link between the different regions of the city
- Origins Centre: showcasing humankind’s past through rock art
- Johannesburg planetarium: for young and old visitors alike.
Whilst a long day in Newtown will no doubt leave your legs aching and your ears ringing, it will also leave you totally satisfied that you've experienced one of the city's most vibrant and energetic cultural hubs. And one of the best ways of seeing Newtown, Braamfontein and other inner city precints, is to use Blue Cheetah Tours, who provide a number of fascinating walking tours in and around this area.
View Newtown, central Johannesburg in a larger map