Maboneng, an urban getaway

2015-01-12 10:14 - Dawn Jorgensen
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I had been on the receiving end of emailed teasers and news from the Maboneng Precinct for about a year before I got to visit it.

In my mind it was always an inspiring concept, an example of urban regeneration in a pocket of downtown Johannesburg; one gradually returning to its former and much hipper glory with renovated buildings and a progressive perspective. Brave tenants were opening top art galleries, it was home to the only independent cinema in Johannesburg, fashion stores, cafes and restaurants added flavour.

The very concept tugged at my rural-based strings and I longed for an urban getaway.

Also see: PICS - Maboneng - An urban getaway

(Dawn Jorgensen, Then Incidental Tourist)

When I got there I realised I was right in my imaginings. Every corner does offer a fresh approach and nothing thrilled more than to eventually walk the streets, camera in hand, eyes wide open, on a sunny afternoon. This is not a place you need to see, this is one you need to breath. Bright, clean, vibrant - Maboneng is home to a thriving community that embraces Johannesburg’s optimism, welcomes her visitors from around the world and inspires us all to dream big.

Meaning ‘Place of Light’, it is exactly that. Heightened by the beautiful people laughing and confidently living to the full, occupying bicycles and side street cafes. Here graffiti decorates walls, sculptures add character and street fashion boasts a rebellious expression of freedom.

(Dawn Jorgensen, Then Incidental Tourist) 

Some of my recommendations are Arts on Main, a hub for Johannesburg’s creative community, which includes David Krut Publishing. The design and vintage section upstairs has locally designed furniture, clothing, accessories and craft. Look out for leading designer Jacques van der Watt’s fashion label Black Coffee as well as NewBrow, who are creating pieces in collaboration with artists such as Willem Boshoff and Mileta Postic. Proudly Made in Maboneng and sold within a 5km radius. 

LoveJozi mixes urban fashion with social consciousness and I was shot in Joburg displays work born of a community project that placed cameras in the hands of students from Hillbrow, who were taught to capture what they saw…

Market on Main happens every Sunday and there is a night market on the first Thursday of each month. This brings a handpicked collection of culinary experts, striving food entrepreneurs and food lovers together under the olive trees with cuisine from around the world, as well as typical South African dishes on offer.  

The Eastern end of the neighbourhood has new restaurants opening; a Jazz club and Vodka Bar whilst The Living Room offers roof top views. The Poolside Cafe and Deli is the latest edition to the Museum of African Design

Also see: Rediscover the concrete jungle of Joburg

For accommodation I recommend The Twelve Decades Art Hotel, which chronicles the history of Johannesburg from 1886 – 2006. Each room playing host to a decade and conceptualised by a celebrated South African artist. I stayed in ‘Perpetual Liberty, 1996-2006’, a particularly good era, with my double king size bed right in the windowsill and the twinkling city lights seeing me to sleep. Twelve Decades Hotel. Tel: 0861226787.

Have you stayed here - we'd like to know what your experience was like, email

I also met Bheki Dube, a young entrepreneur who has Curiocity Backpackers an ever-evolving hostel offering an affordable way for urbanites to get a real taste of Joburg. His enthusiasm and vision for the area is bringing about noticeable change and he offers guests the opportunity to get an authentic feel for the area with volunteer projects and his Mainstreetwalks. Perfect for your first visit. Curiocity Backpackers. Email:

There are entertainment venues, loft apartments, offices, hotels, backpackers and creative factory spaces connecting this urban environment that was once factories and warehouses. It’s bottled, bursting hope. There’s a sense of belonging amongst the subcultures that live and flourish here, calling Maboneng home. Streets are lit, criminals are rejected and a new form of community living is embraced. You’ll want a part of it.

(Dawn Jorgensen, Then Incidental Tourist) 

As for Bright Lights, Big City, I am rather inspired to reread the 1984 American novel that talks of escaping the New York City fast lane. But the truth is, I’d rather be escaping to our fast lane, the sense of African optimism and urban wonderment that is found in this part of the city of gold.

My recommendation is that you subscribe to the Maboneng Precinct news and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Things are going down there and you don’t want to miss out!

Escape to the vibrancy of the Maboneng Precinct, but we warned. You’ll fall in love with this part of Johannesburg, its people, art, food and energy. It’ll be very good for the soul.

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