Johannesburg’s Underground Pubs

I’ve been traveling for four of the last five weekends. Although the trips were great, I’ve really missed spending time in Joburg. I’m making up for it this weekend and having fun all over town.

On Friday evening I participated in an “Underground Pub Crawl”, led by Bheki Dube of MainStreetWalks. If you think you’ve already seen and done it all in Jozi, take this tour. I discovered several fascinating new places and learned a lot. Also, I consumed hardly a drop of alcohol and still had an amazing time — high praise for a pub tour.

Here are a few photos from the evening.

Pub crawl sunset

Sunset at the start of the tour. The pub crawl begins at Curiocity Backpackers in the Maboneng Precinct.

Pub crawl Fox Den

Our first stop: the Fox Den Pub on Main Street in Jeppestown. Unfortunately the bouncers wouldn’t let me take pictures (I had to sneak this one before they noticed me), which is a pity because it’s very interesting inside. The Fox Den is a raucous, locals-only kind of place — great vibe but not for the faint of heart.

Pub crawl Poolside

The pub crawl group at Poolside, a new poolside bar/restaurant behind the Museum of African Design in Maboneng.

Pub crawl Zebra Inn

An underground pub crawl would not be complete without a stop at the infamous Zebra Inn in Jeppestown. Read more about the Zebra Inn in my Quirky Joburg post.

Pub crawl Fairview Bar

A local plays pool at the Fairview Bar, a grungy shebeen hidden in the historic, rundown suburb of Fairview. (“Shebeen” is a South African term for an informal — often unlicensed — drinking hole.) This was my favorite stop on the pub crawl, as it’s the kind of place that I could never find on my own. The Fairview clientele were friendly and I loved the music playing on the juke box — a genre of traditional Zulu folk music called Maskanda.

 Pub crawl Beryl Court

A spectacular skyline view from the roof of the Beryl Court apartment building in Troyeville. Beryl Court was the only stop that isn’t a pub/bar; it’s the building where Bheki grew up. There’s a lot more to this tour than booze. Bheki does a great job of describing the history and culture of this little-known, much-misunderstood part of town.

Pub Crawl Don Buildings

Our last stop: The Don Buildings on Commissioner Street in Fairview. I can’t wait to go back to the Don Buildings during the day and write a dedicated blog post about it. The restaurant/bar is housed in a 1930’s-era building, nicely restored by a German businessman/restauranteur named Ralph. I had an interesting conversation with Ralph, but it was after midnight and my brain turns into a pumpkin after 12. So the longer story will have to wait.

The Underground Pub Crawl costs R200 (about $18) and includes a couple of drinks/shots. Be sure to bring your own money for extra drinks and food. I highly recommend booking a bed at Curiocity because the tour usually ends after 1:00 a.m. At the very least, book a taxi.

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7 Comments

  • Reply Ray of Sunshine November 30, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Superb photos it looks like so much fun! Wish I was there!! 🙂

  • Reply lebo December 1, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Interesting that even some of us locals miss a few of these spots!
    Thanks for the heads up…..

    • Reply 2summers December 2, 2014 at 11:21 am

      Looks like it’s working 🙂

  • Reply Jonker - Firefly December 2, 2014 at 10:44 am

    I’m not really a drinker but I am an explorer so I would love to do this experience one day

    • Reply 2summers December 2, 2014 at 11:22 am

      I think this is one of the view pub tours that you can actually enjoy without drinking. Although I still got REALLY tired at the end.

  • Reply UndeAnAfrcanSun December 18, 2014 at 8:48 am

    I have eaten at the Don, enjoyed it very much. Pub tour looks like fun, will have to try it.

    • Reply 2summers December 18, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Cool! How did you find the Don?

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