Things Are Happening in Joburg City

by | Aug 6, 2020 | Arts and Culture, Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Johannesburg City Centre | 26 comments

Other than a brief visit to Hillbrow, I hadn’t gone to downtown Joburg city since before the pandemic started. Also today is the ten-year anniversary of my arrival in Joburg and I wanted to do something special. So I decided to devote the whole day yesterday to Joburg city explorations, and the whole today to blogging about it.

Joburg City as seen from the Wilds
A view of Joburg from the Wilds.

To my relief, other than all the face masks, downtown Joburg looks much the same now as it did five months ago. There is a lot less traffic, which makes driving through the inner city downright pleasurable. Parking is easier to find than before.

My Day in Joburg City

Stop 1: Jewel City

My first stop was Jewel City, a new development emerging between Anderson and Commissioner Streets on the eastern side of downtown, built on the site of what used to be the city’s diamond district. The old Jewel City was a mysterious, foreboding place, surrounded by high walls. If you’ve ever been to Maboneng, you probably parked next to it without realizing.

new Jewel City development in Joburg City
Jewel City as it looks now.

The new Jewel City will be a mixed-used development with apartments, retail stores, offices, and plenty of public space.

New building in Jewel City
New apartment buildings in Jewel City.
This new Jewel City mural by Dbongz is already becoming a favorite Joburg city Instagram backdrop.

Most of the Jewel City buildings aren’t finished yet, but I did stop into the newly opened Clicks (South Africa’s version of Walgreens) for some contact solution. I can confidently say it’s the friendliest, most well-stocked Clicks in the city. There’s a new Postnet about to open; Shoprite, Steers, and several other South African outlets are on the way. I’m not normally a fan of big retail chains but these stores should bring a much-needed boost to the area.

Stop 2: The Thunder Walker

From Jewel City I headed west to Gandhi Square to check out recent developments at the Thunder Walker. Inside historic Somerset House, this JoburgPlaces venue has become one of my favorite city spots in recent years.

Looking down on the ground floor of the Thunderwalker in Joburg City
Looking down on JoburgPlaces founder Gerald Garner in the “Town Treasures” hall at the Thunder Walker.

Running a tourism/hospitality business in the CBD is challenging at the best of times, and now is the worst of times. But Gerald, Charlie, and the rest of the Thunder Walker team are rising to the occasion. They have reopened the restaurant with mostly outdoor seating, refashioned the trendy bar to be completely non-alcoholic, and opened a beautiful new shop selling Joburg-sourced products and books.

Thunder Walker manager Siphila Hikwa behind the bar.
Lunch at the Thunder Walker
Outdoor lunch at the Thunder Walker: Cape Malay chicken curry and a “Tocktail” made with non-alcoholic aperitif and soda. It was lovely.

Stop 3: Bridge Books

Next I walked two blocks to the new Bridge Books, my favorite independent bookstore. Bridge Books has moved across Commissioner Street to a new location on the back side of the Rand Club. I love the space — it has a very “quaint bookstore in Paris” feel to it.

Inside the new Bridge Books in Joburg City
Inside the new Bridge Books.
My friend Griffin, owner of Bridge Books.

Stop 4: JHB Culinary and Pastry School

After a nice chat with Griffin, I walked across the street to 85 Commissioner. This space was once home to the original Bridge Books and the City Central food court, but it now houses the JHB Culinary and Pastry School.

JHB Culinary and Pastry School at 85 Commissioner Street
The JHB Culinary and Pastry School at 85 Commissioner Street.

I had been meaning to visit the culinary school’s new location before the pandemic hit. My friend Bulelwa Princess Mbonambi, who used to be the head chef at the Thunder Walker, is now a teacher at the culinary school.

Bulelwa took me on a tour of the school and I took pictures of her in her awesome chef’s hat.

Students hard at work in the kitchen. The school is open to the public for breakfast and lunch.
Bulelwa Mbonambi at the culinary school
Chef Bulelwa.

The school sells delicious pastries so I picked up some chocolate truffles and a Mexican churro for later.

Stop 5: The Wilds

I saved the best for last and ended my day at the Wilds, which I hadn’t been able to visit for nearly five months. Like Emmarentia Dam, the Wilds is a city-run nature reserve and hence didn’t re-open until this past Saturday.

Aloe in the Wilds
A perfect aloe bloom in the Wilds.

I can’t overstate how wonderful it was to walk around the Wilds again after all these months. There is something other-worldly about the place. It was nearly empty and I wandered slowly up and down the stone paths, munching my churro and gazing at James Delaney‘s animal sculptures, which I now consider old friends.

An owl in the forest.
Kudu in the Wilds
Hello, Mr. Kudu.
Which one doesn’t belong?

All in all, it was a perfect day in Joburg city. Happy ten years to me.

Ostriches at the Wilds

26 Comments

  1. AutumnAshbough

    OMG! It’s my dream bar–fancy and tasty and no alcohol. Also, that curry looks awesome (and it’s 3 hours until lunch).

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yes! Going to this bar actually got me excited for not drinking.

      Reply
  2. Margaret Urban

    Awesome Heather! Light within the general gloom to mark your ten years. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Maarten

    HAPPY ANNIVERSARY HEATHER. Let’s go for another 10 years in Jozi.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks so much Maarten!

      Reply
  4. Catrina

    I think I could spend hours in the Bridge Books store. It looks so inviting!
    And then the Wilds! Beautiful! Amazing that people aren’t flocking there to get some nature time. Maybe the weather.
    Good for you for getting out there.

    Happy 10th anniversary!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks! I think the Wilds was busy over the weekend but weekday visits haven’t picked up yet. But the place is also a best kept secret.

      Reply
  5. Albert

    What an uplifting post in this time of doom and gloom. The new Jewel City looks great! Congrats on 10 years in Crazy Town.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thank you! Yes, things were certainly looking positive in downtown Jozi yesterday. I guess we need to know where to look.

      Reply
  6. Nancy McDaniel

    Happy ten years. Looks like a perfect day. SO nice to see all these new developments and businesses (and the culinary school!) in CBD. Very exciting. And, ah, The Wilds- brilliant.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      I told you I’d get there soon 🙂

      Reply
  7. eremophila

    Happy Anniversary Heather💚

    Reply
  8. Momo Street

    Wow! Thank you for reminding me about our vibrant city! Your article energized me. I’m grateful!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      It’s a pleasure. I was also pleasantly surprised by what I found.

      Reply
  9. Peggy Laws

    Happy Anniversary Heather! Lovely blog and inspires us to “get out there” asap. Here’s to the next 10 years!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thank you Peggy! xxx

      Reply
  10. MA

    Love your posts! You’ve explored more of Joburg – and the changing Joburg – than I have in my decades of living here! Just one tiny thing: annus is “year” in Latin, and versus is “returning”, so it’s tautologous to say 10th-year year returning. Just 10th anniversary is fine.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Haha, thank you for that correction – noted.

      Reply
  11. Reitumetse

    Indeed, the The Wild Nature Reserve is well keep secret. I did not know about before reading your article. Happy anniversary

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thank you so much. Glad you love it too.

      Reply
  12. Lani

    What a great way to celebrate! Happy 10! xo

    Reply
  13. Alan Mason

    What a lovely write-up Heather, and I wish you all the very best for your next 10 years plus, in our wonderful City.
    All the best to you!!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thank you so much Alan! I hope you’re doing well.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: