A December Staycation in Braamfontein

by | Dec 19, 2017 | Arts and Culture, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre, Lodging, Music/Festivals | 5 comments

For the longest time I have been meaning to blog about the Orbit, a jazz club in Braamfontein, and Once in Joburg, a posh hostel — aka “poshtel” — across the street from the Orbit. I’d been holding off on doing so because I wanted to experience the two places together as a downtown Jozi staycation.

I finally did that last week, spending the night at Once in Joburg and enjoying an evening at the Orbit watching my favorite Jozi band, BCUC. My staycation was organized by I Am Joburg, a new collective providing curated tourism experiences in Joburg.

Lobby at Once in JoburgThe lobby at Once in Joburg.

My friend Michelle and I checked into Once in Joburg, which is a cross between a backpackers and a hip budget hotel. I’d visited Once a couple of times before but hadn’t stayed overnight until last week.

One Night at Once in Joburg

I love the vibe of this place — it’s always busy and the staff are welcoming and fun, offering a range of social activities and tours for guests. Once is right in the center of Braamfontein, within a block or two of half a dozen restaurants, several bars, a fabulous bookstore and, of course, the Orbit.

Once in Joburg offers private rooms with ensuite bathrooms as well as dorm rooms with shared bathrooms. There is a large, comfortable communal area with kitchen facilities.

Double en-suite room at Once in JoburgOur double balcony room at Once in Joburg. Let me brag for a second and tell you that Kim Whitaker, founder of Once in Joburg, read about Basotho blankets on my blog and was so inspired that she bought them for all the beds in the backpackers. (Or so she tells me.) Rates at Once in Joburg range from R255 ($20) per night for a bed in a shared dorm room to R865 ($68) for a room like this with private bath and access to the balcony.

View of Braamfontein from the balcony at Once in JoburgView from the balcony on the second floor of Once. The balcony is shared among six rooms.

I loved everything about our room except one thing: The door to the balcony was made of frosted glass and didn’t have a curtain, so a lot of light came into the room at night. If you’re sensitive to light while sleeping I wouldn’t recommend a balcony room.

A restaurant called the Immigrant adjoins Once in Joburg. The Immigrant has a fantastic outdoor bar area, opening onto a public square called the Grove. I wasn’t wowed by our dinner at the Immigrant. My mac and cheese was a little soupy and the salad was uninspired, although I did enjoy the craft beer selection.

But I loved the Immigrant breakfast. Because the Immigrant serves BAGELS.

Breakfast at the Immigrant in BraamfonteinBreakfast at the Immigrant: a poppy-seed bagel with cream cheese, juice, fruit, and a cappuccino. This breakfast was complimentary with our stay at Once in Joburg.

If you are an American living in Joburg then you know a decent bagel is damn near impossible to find in this town. But our Immigrant bagels were delicious. The coffee wasn’t bad either.

BCUC in Braamfontein

Now for the purpose of my stay in Braamfontein — an evening at the Orbit watching BCUC. The Orbit is one of the only legit jazz clubs in downtown Joburg. It draws great performers, both national and international, and has shows almost every night of the week. A show at the Orbit is always one of my top recommendations for tourists visiting Joburg for the first time. (Peruse the Orbit’s 2018 performance calendar.)

And then there’s BCUC, which I’ve blogged about on many occasions (see here and here). I have so much love for this band — they played a special gig for my 40th birthday a few years ago and it was one of the best nights of my life.

Jovi of BCUCJovi, lead singer of the BCUC.

I don’t think I need to say more. The photos tell the story better.

BCUC at the Orbit

BCUC at the OrbitKgomotso.

BCUC at the Orbit

BCUC at the Orbit

BCUC at the Orbit

BCUC at the Orbit

BCUC at the OrbitThe band and the fans.

I needed a night like this. Thanks so much to Once in Joburg, the Orbit, BCUC, and I Am Joburg. Check out the I Am Joburg website for other cool local experiences.

My Braamfontein staycation was courtesy of I Am Joburg. Opinions expressed are mine.


  1. eremophila

    Oh yeah! Pure medicine for you Heather 🙂
    Did you take our timeshare handbag? Hahhaaaa……

  2. Catji

    🙂 Very nice.
    That last photo…is why we like SA regardless. 🙂
    The blankets…buying them for a hotel is a good idea, it means you can buy them all instead of trying to choose. …They’re good wedding presents too.
    The hi-rise photo is nice, because it looks like they cleaned all the windows that day. 🙂 Must’ve been the right time for the light.

    • 2summers

      Hahaha. That is all true! I also love buying Basotho blankets for wedding gifts.

  3. autumnashbough

    I need pitch black rooms, otherwise that sounds like the perfect hotel for the Joburg experience.

    One of these days I’m going to get to South Africa and I hope you have a book out called “The Perfect Week in South Africa” that tells me exactly where to go.

    • 2summers

      Haha, I’ll add that to the list of books to write. Except there is no such thing as a perfect week in South Africa! You’ll need at least a month 🙂


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