Joburg’s Cosmopolitan Hotel: Then and Now

by | Aug 8, 2016 | Arts and Culture, Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Museums and Buildings | 15 comments

The Cosmopolitan Hotel, at the corner of Commissioner and Albrecht Streets, is one of Joburg’s most legendary buildings. Built at the turn of the 20th century, the Cosmopolitan is big and Victorian, its columned, curly-cued cupola looming high above the street. The crumbling facade is strangely magical, like something from a Tim Burton film.

The Cosmopolitan, once a prominent gentleman’s club, was in a state of disrepair for decades, its lower-level windows bricked up to prevent trespassing. (Read more about the Cosmopolitan’s history here.) But there have been rumblings of change for a few years, especially since the Maboneng Precinct started sprouting up around the Cosmopolitan.

Now, the wait is over. The Cosmopolitan has been made over into a restaurant/retail/gallery space, and it’s officially open for business.

I was lucky enough to take some photos inside the Cosmopolitan in May 2014, when a soon-to-be-stalled renovation had just begun and the place was a complete mess. I’ve been sitting on these photos for two years, waiting for the renovations to finish so I can show the before-and-after. While the renovations aren’t 100% finished yet, I can’t wait any longer.

Outside the Cosmopolitan Hotel: 2014 and 2016

The front of the building looks more or less the same today as it did two years ago.

Cosmopolitan outside in 2014The Cosmopolitan, May 2014.

Outside the Cosmopolitan, 2016The Cosmopolitan, August 2016. I use a different camera/lens combination than a I did two years ago, which is why the proportions look different.

Cosmopolitan facade 2014
The Cosmopolitan facade, 2014.

Cosmopolitan facade, 2016The Cosmopolitan facade, 2016. The window bricks are gone and so is the graffiti. 

The area behind the building has changed more substantially.

Old Cosmopolitan parking areaBehind the Cosmopolitan, 2014.

Behind the Cosmopolitan, 2016Same view in 2016. The dilapidated walls have come down and the gravel parking lot is now a sculpture garden. One of those little white houses is about to become a coffeeshop/roastery called Firebird Coffee Works.

Cosmopolitan parking lot 2014Wrecked parking lot, 2014.

Cosmopolitan garden, 2016I didn’t always manage to capture the same angles. But you get the idea.

Jan van Riebeeck mural behind the CosmopolitanThe now-famous Jan van Riebeeck mural, painted by street artists Gaia and Freddy Sam, behind the Cosmopolitan in 2014.

Jan van Riebeeck and Cosmopolitan sculpture gardenJan van Riebeeck as he looks today.

Looking down from old CosmopolitanLooking down from a Cosmopolitan balcony, 2014.

Looking down from Cosmopolitan balcony, 2016Quite a different view today.

Inside the Cosmopolitan Hotel: 2014 and 2016

The most dramatic changes have occurred inside the building.

Cosmopolitan staircase, 2014The Cosmopolitan staircase in 2014.

Cosmopolitan staircase 2016The staircase in 2016. I actually miss that pink paint a little bit.

Cosmopolitan upstairs entry hall, 2014Upstairs entry hall, 2014.

Upstairs Cosmopolitan room 2016I somehow forgot to take a photo of the new upstairs entry hall. But here is a room next door, displaying some interesting art. The new Cosmopolitan is being run by Jonathan Freemantle and Daniel Liebmann from Maboneng’s Hazard Gallery, and hence has a huge focus on art.

Upstair hallway at Cosmopolitan in 2014
Upstairs hallway, 2014.

Upstairs hallway at Cosmopolitan, 2016Another upstairs hallway in 2016. Looks like they might keep the crumbling pink paint — yay.
 Crystal Birch shop in CosmopolitanI don’t have a “before” photo for this, but this is one of the cool new shops inside the Cosmopolitan, by designer Crystal Birch.

Black Dog ClothingAnother shop called Black Dog Clothing. There’s the Black Dog owner, Dino Perotti.

The Cosmopolitan Bar: 2014 and 2016

I’ve saved the best for last.

Cosmopolitan bar, 2014This was the Cosmopolitan Bar in 2014.

Cosmopolitan bar 2016This, my friends, is the Cosmopolitan bar today.

The new Cosmopolitan bar is actually much more than a bar; it’s a restaurant owned by the same chef — Dario de Angeli — who runs Cube Tasting Kitchen in Parkhurst. I had a quick chat with Dario on Sunday and while I was too early for lunch, the scent from the kitchen was extremely promising. I cannot WAIT (rare use of all-caps here — totally necessary) to try this restaurant.

Old Cosmopolitan bar carvingsCloseup of the amazing lion carvings on the bar, pre-renovation.

Lions on Cosmopolitan bar in 20162016 bar lions.

Old Cosmopolitan barOne more look at the old bar.

Moeketsi the Cosmopolitan barmanMoeketsi, the friendly new Cosmopolitan barman.

Did I mention that I can’t WAIT to try this restaurant? Oh yeah. I did.

There’s another whole half of the Cosmopolitan building that hasn’t been opened yet, and I’ve got before shots of that part too. I’m sure there will be a second before-and-after post — or, at the very least, a restaurant review — coming in the near future.


  1. autumnashbough

    I always love the before and after pictures! Nice job!

    • 2summers

      Thanks 🙂

  2. Gail Scott Wilson

    I love that they have left the front facade as is. Also great to hear that Fourthwall Books are opening up there. It was a long wait but so worth it.

    • 2summers

      I agree! I think it’s so exciting.

    • 2summers


    • 2summers

      Added 🙂

  3. Brett Magill

    I cannot wait to go back here! See you all soon 🙂

    • 2summers

      Me too!

  4. Marc Latilla

    Great pictures! Glad it’s up and running again

    • 2summers

      Thanks Marc. Love your blog.

  5. UnderAnAfricanSun

    We popped in last month for the opening and I was pretty impressed. Now seeing your photos from 2014 it is even more amazing!

  6. fragroom

    What a great post, Heather. Love your mix of words and pics! Thanks. R

    • 2summers




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