There are many tales of woe in Joburg right now: building fires, exploding streets, absent mayors, water outages, an ever-widening wealth gap, and a general spiral of doom. And these stories aren’t exaggerated. The struggle is real, people…The city is in a dire situation and it’s hard to stay positive sometimes.

But a walk through town with JoburgPlaces is a great antidote to the Jozi blues.

Downtown Jozi
Downtown Jozi, corner of Troye Street and Rahima Moosa Street.
Sketch of downtown Jozi
Sketch of the same scene by Thorsten, a.k.a. @TheThinking_Hand.

Last weekend, Thorsten and I took Thorsten’s parents on the JoburgPlaces “Fashion District and Little Addis” walking tour. I’ve walked through (and blogged about) these parts of downtown Jozi many times, but it never gets old or repetitive. Things are always changing. And it’s comforting to see that despite all of the inner city’s problems, people are still getting on with their lives.

Here are some pictures. I’ve divided my post into several points of interest — just a selection of the things we saw during our four-hour tour.

Point of Interest #1: Old Johannesburg Stock Exchange

Garden outside the old JSE
The lush, beautiful garden outside the old JSE.

Our tour, led by Jozi expert Charlie Moyo, started at the old Johannesburg Stock Exchange building at 17 Diagonal Street. This building was the fifth of six different buildings that the JSE has occupied since 1887, and it was the last stock exchange building in the Joburg inner city before the JSE moved to its current home in Sandton in 2000.

Inside the old JSE
Inside 17 Diagonal Street, which was built in 1979. While no longer home to the stock exchange, the building is still well maintained and occupied by several businesses.

Charlie took us onto the old JSE trading floor, which has been frozen in time for the past 23 years.

Inside old JSE trading floor
Thorsten walks along the ledge where JSE workers used to write stock prices on the chalk board. There are still some stubs of chalk littering the floor up there.
Stained glass windows in JSE
These pretty stained glass widows were brought over from the previous JSE building on Hollard Street.

Read a bit more about the old JSE building in this 2019 post about secret places in Joburg.

Point of Interest #2: Kerk Street Market

Kerk Street is a pedestrianized street running right through the center of downtown Joburg, where street vendors sell fruit and veg and a variety of other items. I’ve taken many photos on Kerk Street over the years (see some in this post); it was good to see the market is still going strong.

Kerk Street market
Neatly displayed fruit and veg on Kerk Street.

Point of Interest #3: Jozi Fashion District

I’ve written extensively about Jozi’s Fashion District (see here and here and here) but I always love taking photos there. Here are my two favorites from this outing.

Inside Dianna's Fabrics
Inside Dianna’s Fabrics on Troye Street — one of the best places in town to buy African wax-print material. I could spend all day taking photos in the fabric shops on this street (there are several).
Mbonise, a leather craftsman in downtown Jozi
The incredible Mbonise, who has a leather workshop in the Fashion Kapitol on Pritchard Street. I love, love, love the sandals (see the pair on his feet), bags, and belts this guy makes.

Point of Interest #4: Little Addis

I’ve also written extensively about “Little Addis”, the maze of Ethiopian shops and restaurants — mostly inside a former medical building — on Rahima Moosa Street in downtown Jozi. So I won’t repeat myself. But this place is always a delight to visit and photograph.

Ethiopian shop in Little Addis
One of many Ethiopian shops inside the former Medical Arts building in Little Addis. The reeds on the floor are in celebration of the Ethiopian New Year, which happened a few days before our visit.
This guy asked me to take his picture and I liked how his outfit matched the tablecloth.
Ethiopian frescoe
This striking fresco was painted on the ceiling of a room we walked through in Little Addis.
Butchery in Little Addis, downtown Jozi
A butcher’s station at one of the big restaurants in Little Addis.

Point of Interest #5: The old Joburg Sun

The old Joburg Sun hotel, like the Carlton Hotel a few blocks away, is a great Joburg mystery. Opened as a luxury hotel in 1985, with 672 rooms, the Joburg Sun closed only 13 years later and has been mothballed ever since. I don’t know a single person who has been inside the Joburg Sun since it closed, although many have tried. I’m so curious to know what it looks like in there.

Joburg Sun in downtown Jozi
The fabulously 1980s-style Joburg Sun.

It boggles my mind that a building this huge, which could house thousands of people in a city with one of the world’s most acute housing crises, has been sitting empty for the past 25 years. But such is life in Jozi: fascinating, confounding, maddening, heartbreaking. I’m still in love with this place.

This was a good tour. To book a JoburgPlaces walk of your own, contact Gerald at gerald@localplaces.co.za or +27-82-894-5216 (WhatsApp only).

17 Comments

  1. dizzylexa

    That little green space outside the JSE building is a hidden gem. I did once come across someone who had been inside the Sun hotel since it’s closing will see if I can find the pics. I was told the reason why this hotel and the Carlton are still standing empty and not repurposed is the fact that there are no windows that open so either that has to change which is not so easy on the Sun Hotel or it has to run on an upgraded air conditioning system – too costly and what with our electricity woes!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah, what a bummer that the windows were designed that way! Someone else just messaged me and said a similar thing.

      Reply
    • Alex Matthews

      I’ve moved down to the WC 13 years ago, but still when asked will say ‘ I’m from Joeys’ and proudly so…glad to see the positivity and the vibrancy is still strong..

      Reply
      • 2summers

        Thanks Alex. We’ve got our challenges but the vibrancy is still here!

        Reply
  2. AutumnAshbough

    The Old Joburg Sun Hotel boggles my mind, too, although there are a huge number of empty luxury apartments in downtown LA that were bought by rich citizens of Asia and Russia to preserve their capital. Plus plenty of second homes near the beach. It’s absolutely maddening.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah, American cities aren’t immune to these problems either. It’s just more drastic here.

      Reply
  3. Ms. Nancy Anne McDaniel

    I always love your positive attitude. Your intro about Joeys reminds me of some of the comments about Chicago lately. And I think your idea about the empty hotel is so smart. I wish they would do it (as is happening with SOME (but not nearly enough) of closed schools and motels for the migrants here.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah, American cities have serious problems too — I’ve been shocked by some of the news stories I’ve heard lately. It’s all just a lot more acute here.

      Reply
  4. Justin Chamblee

    The memories I have of traveling into the City with a heart of gold every day using the Gautrain and buses. Always such a vibrant place but also very sad experiences when I used to see so many poor people everywhere. If only they could fix JoBurg up and get things right 🙁

    Reply
  5. Lani

    A good thing to do during these dire times. xo

    Reply
  6. Fiver Löcker

    I love that ceiling fresco. We saw that style in churches in Ethiopia, the stylised heads and shoulders and repeat figures. I thought it was just a religious style. Great to see it in a secular setting.

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Yeah, I’ve also seen it in the Ethiopian church in Bertrams and was pleasantly surprised to see it again here.

      Reply
  7. Art

    You are a scribe for a (barely) walking dead city. Bless you.

    Reply
  8. Tshephy Kenny

    This is super lovely – an amazing blog. Your positive vibe regarding our “dead” Jo’burg! All we can do is to pray hard and wish for good administration in the future for that beautiful “City of Gold” of ours!

    Reply
    • 2summers

      Thanks so much 🙂

      Reply

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