Experiencing Joburg’s Inner City. Differently

Even though I’m from Pretoria, I spend a lot of time in Joburg. There’s just something about the city, the hustle, that grabs me. As fancy as Sandton and its surrounds are, I find myself venturing into Greenside, Braamfontein, Parkhurst and Maboneng more often than not. The ambience is a little more laid back and chilled out, yet still with an underlying hustle. Maybe I just find Pretoria a little too conservative for my taste. You can only see so many malls. And see the same people over and over again. This past weekend I went to experience the city in a slightly different way. Being an ambassador for Gauteng Tourism, my mate Alexi and I were given the ‘assignment’ of sleeping over at the newly opened Curiocity Backpackers in The Maboneng District, followed by a guided inner city tour. The backpackers is run by Bheki Dube of mainstreetwalks, an cool initiative that shows people Joburg’s inner city the way it’s meant to be seen: on foot and by using public transport. We checked in on Friday night and got shown to our room, which was a tiny little room with a double bunk, a desk and two chairs. It kinda reminded me of a jail cell. I guess it could have been worse. It was a backpackers, after all. Not the Hyatt.

We originally planned to do Critical Mass that night, but Bheki told us that he was hosting a pub crawl. Guess which option won? We met at Curiocity’s own Hide Out Bar for a briefing and hit the streets. Our first stop was the Taxidermy Bar at the Zebra Inn. The Zebra Inn is owned and run by a hunter named Swazi. The whole place is decorated with trophies, masks and animal skulls. There’s a very relaxed vibe about the place and the staff were great. We figured that we’d do the pub crawl properly, drinking good old Zamalek (Black Label). I left a cigarette in the ashtray on the bar, turned my back for a second, and the barlady quickly claimed it as her own. Oh, well. Alexi and I came back after the pub crawl, starving, and the barlady offered to make us some German sausages on a roll, even after the kitchen had closed. Least she could do after stealing my smoke, I reckon.

The Taxidermy Bar

The Taxidermy Bar

Next up was Fairview Restaurant up the road, which is actually just a tavern. By this time we’d graduated to quarts and we started acting like a bunch of misfits. We were out in the streets, misbehaving, and taking photos like the geeks we are.

Troyeville Hotel was next on our list. The place has been around since 1939, and has a Mozambican menu. Mozambicans drink Laurentina, right?

Laurentina at the Troyeville Hotel

Laurentina at the Troyeville Hotel

Our next stop wasn’t a bar, but the rooftop of Beryl Court apartments in Troyeville, which is said to have been home to many influential South Africans, including some members of the Bang Bang Club. The rain was coming down hard, so we rushed up, had a shot of Jaeger, took a quick photo and left.

The Beryl Court rooftop, with amazing views of Jozi

The Beryl Court rooftop, with amazing views of Jozi

Our last stop was the Don Building, which provided some welcome cover from the rain. More Black Label. The Don bar and restaurant was one of the fancier of all the pubs on our crawl, and had a DJ playing some local tunes. After a couple drinks, it didn’t take too long for the white boys to shake their groove thang on the dance floor.

The Don

The Don

After a quick final visit to the Taxidermy Bar, we headed back to Curiocity to get our sleep on. The next morning, Alexi and I hit the streets again to do a walking tour of inner city Joburg, starting at Kwa Mai Mai traditional healers market, followed by a visit to Collector’s Treasury in Maboneng (which has over a million books and is a hoarder’s heaven), a walk through Smal Street Mall and lunch at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant in The Ethiopian Quarter in town.

Catching a taxi ain't thaaat bad

Catching a taxi ain’t thaaat bad

If you’d like to see more of our adventures in Gauteng, follow @visitgauteng on Twitter and Instagram and look out for the #geepeeshotleft hashtag, where all the Gauteng ambassadors share their cool experiences.