Joburg has always been a city for dreamers, entrepreneurs and rebels, and 130 years after the discovery of gold, nowhere is this more evident than in the downtown urban renewal. One such development is the ultra-trendy Maboneng precinct

Maboneng, which means ‘Place of Light’ in Sotho, is the brainchild of property company Propertuity and Joburg mogul Jonathan Liebmann. Opened in 2010, the area has grown rapidly and is now home to a vibrant array of art galleries, restaurants, bars, a hotel, offices and living space. Located on the eastern edge of the city in historic Jeppestown, the environs once housed a mine, later a residential neighbourhood and were more recently home to a number of car workshops and small factories. That is until Jonathan saw the undiscovered potential. Fast forward a few years and it’s now a fashionable precinct of converted industrial buildings, slick design, an artisanal market, quirky shops and stylish downtown living. Maboneng has so much on offer, and you will definitely need a few repeat visits to take it all in, but to get you started here’s a list of some favourite spots.
On a Sunday, Maboneng plays host to Market on Main, a bustling market that specialises in carefully curated local food and design stalls. Joburg inhabitants flock to the area en masse to see and be seen, do a little shopping and taste the delicacies on offer.
For foodies Planning a Maboneng adventure? Go hungry and get ready to eat, eat, eat. We are huge fans of James XVI Ethiopian Restaurant. Set among olive trees, it’s the kind of place where even first time visitors are met with a warm hug. The local Ethiopian community can be found enjoying delicious injera flat bread and spicy wot stew. Make sure you don’t leave without trying a seriously potent Ethiopian coffee. Next stop on the culinary journey is Soul Souvlaki, which serves the most scrumptious lamb, chicken or bifteki in a pita, all out of a converted shipping container. We also recommend the grilled haloumi plate; some of the best haloumi you’ll taste in the city. Looking for a quick bite? Try Eat Your Heart Out. This quirky little diner has fresh juices on offer and some really lovely Jewish-inspired food. Think kitka, bagels and totally indulgent latkes. Set in an old industrial building with exposed brick and roaring fires, Che Argentine Grill is the sort of place where you reserve a big table and plan a huge celebration with your nearest and dearest.  The empanadas (traditional Argentinian pastries) are the perfect way to start your meal followed by some ojo di bife cooked on the grill. Canteen is casual, contemporary and has an extensive menu, perfect for a lazy Sunday lunch. Set among the boutiques and galleries of Arts on Main and right next to Market on Main, this is the ideal place for some serious people watching. Cocobel is a delightful old dessert truck, decorated with bright and cheerful hanging plants. From frozen yoghurt to granita and over the top milkshakes, this is the ideal way to end off any meal. James XVI Ethiopian Restaurant Maverick Corner, 300 Commissioner Street | 072 340 2020 Soul Souvlaki 18 Albrecht Street | +27 72 300 0896 Eat Your Heart Out Corner Fox and Kruger Street | Che Argentine Grill 303 Fox Street | Canteen Arts on Main, 264 Fox Street | 011 334 5947 Cocobel Corner Fox and Albrecht Street Calling all coffee addicts You won’t struggle to find a decent cup of coffee in Maboneng, but we recommend you start at Origin Coffee. Part of celebrated Cape Town coffee brand Origin, these guys take their coffee seriously. We love the communal tables, where many an inner city cool kid can be found tapping away on a laptop. Uncle Merv’s, a ‘hole in the wall’ establishment, is also worth a try and serves some good coffee, smoothies and pastéis de nata. Origin Coffee Arts on Main, 264 Fox Street | Uncle Merv’s Corner Fox and Kruger Street | 083 659 4233
Revelry and fun On a Sunday, Maboneng plays host to Market on Main, a bustling market that specialises in carefully curated local food and design stalls. Joburg inhabitants flock to the area en masse to see and be seen, do a little shopping and taste the delicacies on offer. Joburg residents love a good rooftop, particularly if that rooftop includes some sundowners and a picturesque view. Maboneng’s top choice is The Living Room. This plant-filled, eco-friendly venue has great DJs and cocktails, and is the perfect place to enjoy a fun filled Sunday afternoon. Lenin’s Vodka Bar has a vast selection of vodka and vodka-based cocktails, suitably named after the KGB, the Kremlin and Chernobyl. This ‘revolutionary drinking joint’ (as it labels itself) also serves up delicious frozen vodka, which regulars can’t get enough of. Newly opened AGOG Gallery and Nine Barrels Wine Bar merge two of our favourite things: wine and art. Nine Barrels can be found on the ground floor and has a wide selection of wine and sparkling wine as well as a private tasting room. One floor up, AGOG Gallery is passionate about art and aims to connect artists and collectors. And if you like an artwork and would like to see how it looks in your home, why not enquire about the novel art rental scheme? After you’ve had your fill of art and wine, head up to the ‘members only’ rooftop whisky bar, Q Club, which offers a selection of fine whisky and cognac. Market on Main Arts on Main, 264 Fox Street | The Living Room Main Change Building, 20 Kruger Street | Lenin’s Vodka Bar Maverick Corner, 300 Commissioner Street | AGOG, Nine Barrels and Q Club 12 Lower Ross Street |
City break time Why not make a weekend of your Maboneng adventure and spend a night at the 12 Decades Art Hotel? This unique hotel boasts rooms that chronicle the history of Joburg, designed by a number of celebrated artists and designers. And for those on a stricter budget, Curiocity Backpackers has private rooms, dormitories and for the very adventurous, a lighthouse sculpture that doubles as a place to bunk down. 12 Decades Art Hotel Main Street Life Building, 286 Fox Street | Curiocity Backpackers 302 Fox Street | The shopping scene iwasshot in joburg started in 2009 as a photographic community project, working with 15 students from the Twilight Children’s Shelter. Fast forward seven years and the project is still going strong. The flagship store has some amazing Joburg-themed products, including t-shirts, canvases and postcards. For all those vintage clothing fanatics, VintiQueen is all about stylish vintage apparel. Softly worn and oh so flattering, stock is sourced on the owners’ international travels. If your look is feminine, bold and a little old school, then this boutique is a must visit. A favourite with the cool cycling set, Whippet Cycling specialises in custom-built steel frame bicycles using both new and vintage parts. And, best of all, they have two whippets that regularly hang out at their workshop and store. iwasshot in Joburg Arts on Main, 264 Fox Street | VintiQueen Shop G31, 5 Beacon Road, Access City Building | 072 835 1860 Whippet Cycling Shop 1 Maverick Corner, 300 Commissioner Street | Creative hotspot Art is everywhere in Maboneng, be it street art, public art or graffiti. Many top international and local artists have created masterpieces on walls in the precinct, including American artist Shepard Fairey and Joburg local Nelson Makamo. The Cosmopolitan Hotel (est. 1899), one of Maboneng’s most iconic buildings, has recently been renovated and reopened. It is now home to HAZARD, a gallery that aims to showcase pan-African artists alongside international talent. But this multi-use space is also home to some other very cool brands, including a bar, Firebird Coffee, Yswara Tea Salon and a peaceful sculpture garden. Home to a book store specialising in art books, a printing studio and gallery, David Krut Projects is a trusted name in the South African art world. The studio sells and prints the work of many major creatives, including leading South African artist William Kentridge. The Cosmopolitan and HAZARD Gallery 24 Albrecht Street | David Krut Projects and Print Workshop Arts on Main, 264 Fox Street |
Words Jo Buitendach | Photographs Channay Harvey
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