I try not to get upset when people refer to Johannesburg as “dangerous”, or “dirty”, or “ugly”. Such attitudes do Joburg a huge disservice, but they usually come from a place of ignorance rather than malice. Most of the people who say these things probably haven’t been into downtown Jozi for years, if ever. And they don’t realize what they’re missing.

I suppose one could argue — in certain specific instances — that Joburg can be dangerous. One could even argue that some parts of Joburg are dirty. (Although most of the city is actually quite clean.)

But…ugly? Nope. Not ever.


Downtown Jozi reflected in a remarkably clear puddle of water.

Yesterday I walked the city from morning until night. I spent most of the day on a walking tour with JoburgPlaces, pounding the pavement between Newtown and Maboneng. Then I met up with a friend and checked out the new graffiti murals under the M1 highway. Then I climbed to the top of a building in the middle of town and took photos with the Instagramers.

Everywhere I went, I saw beautiful things. I’ll have more to say about what I saw, especially on the JoburgPlaces walk, in a future post. But for now I’ll just show you what I saw from the rooftops.

Heather on roof

This is my new favorite Jozi rooftop: 81 Rissik Street. Incidentally, the inside of the building is dirty (it’s about to be refurbished) but the roof is sparkling clean — so clean that I was compelled to lay down on it. (Photo: Tim Van Rooyen)

I’ve climbed onto a crazy number of rooftops around Jozi, especially over the last couple of months. Yesterday alone I climbed four, a couple of which are private and unknown to the public. (I’m f-ing lucky, remember?)

I challenge even the most hardened Jozi-hater to look at these photos and deny that Johannesburg is beautiful. Really now, go ahead and try.

Secret location view

This photo was taken from a secret rooftop location during the JoburgPlaces tour. I can’t tell you now where I took it. All in good time though.

Hillbrow view from Rissik

Hillbrow and the two towers, from the roof of 81 Rissik St.

tower shot

Hillbrow Tower.

Ansteys view from Rissik

Another view from 81 Rissik St. The art deco tower in the middle is the Ansteys Building. The tall building on the left (with the Transnet sign) is the Carlton Centre, the tallest building in Africa.

Andile on the edge

Instagramers like to shoot from high places. This is Andile (@buke_andile).

Rissik St skyline

Instagramer shadows.

Tim silhouette

This is Tim (@timvanrooyen). We shot a lot of silhouettes at 81 Rissik St., because of a weekend challenge issued by Instagram called the Weekend Hashtag Project. (This weekend’s hashtag was “#WHPsilhouettes”.)  Behind Tim is Brixton’s Sentech Tower.

group silhouette

Sunset silhouettes. That’s Gareth (@garethpon) with the camera and Spillly (@spillly) in the hat, and two of Spillly’s friends sitting down. (Spillly is a partial owner of 81 Rissik St. and he is the one who invited us up. #SpilllyIsAwesome,)

Gareth silhouette

Gareth shoots precariously over the edge of 81 Rissik St.

Alessio selfie

The best rooftop shot of the day wasn’t taken by me. Check out this epic self-portrait “jumpstagram” by @alessiolr. I’m in it too — can you see me? (Photo: Alessio La Ruffa)

I rest my case. Jozi is beautiful, people. Deal with it.

My only complaint about Jozi’s rooftops is that so few of them are open to the public. Do you hear me, Jozi rooftop-owners? Start letting the public into your buildings so we can dismantle these silly misconceptions.

Until then, please keep inviting me.

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