Loving Jozi: Best kept secrets

EGOLI- “The City of Gold” a name so reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. And when you begin to
explore its lengths and breadths you discover a city full of hidden treasures and gems. Places to
explore and for the most part – friendly faces! Except maybe during peak hour traffic when even the
nicest people get tested…

With the busy lives we lead it can be very easy to just end up in a rut, doing the same-old thing and
never really steering too far from home. Joburg is a rather large place and to experience some of its
gems you need to take a drive out occasionally, in the name of exploration! I promise you will be
rewarded time and again as you find new spots to enjoy!
Here are some of my favourite spots to explore around our city…

1. The Great Outdoors
When I mention a park in Joburg most people think of Emmarentia or The Walter Sisulu National
Botanical Gardens. These are both lovely spots to visit but today I want to introduce you to
another hidden outdoor gem in our city (if you have not already discovered it), and that is THE
WILDS. This 16-hectare park in Houghton is not like any other park in our city. Whilst it is
technically a nature reserve that is divided into East and West, the West has a distinctly park like
feeling to it.
It is a beautiful place to explore with its gorgeous stone pathways, fountains and SPECTACULAR
views of Joburg. There are sculptures by local artists and beautiful indigenous plants on display.
It regularly hosts walks for all ages, dogs on leashes are welcome and there are even full moon
walks to take in those evening views.
Hard to believe a few years ago this wonderful space was overgrown and unsafe. Then in 2014
local artist James Delaney and his dog Pablo began going for walks here and he quickly saw the
potential in this space. Inspired by the transformation of Central Park in New York he began to
take clippers with him on walks and employed some help. In 2017 hundreds of Joburgers arrived
with tools in hand on Mandela Day to see this evergreen beauty restored and turned into a
desirable and beautiful space in our city (thanks fellow Joburgers!).
As I mentioned earlier the park is divided into the East Wilds and the West Wilds. For those
starting out, the West Wilds is more park-like and a great option to explore. At its peak is a
sundial marking a variety of skyline views. Note these views come with a hilly walk so it is
advisable to wear comfortable shoes; promise the views make it totally worthwhile.
The East wilds were considered less safe to explore in the past, but many more people are
venturing out that side and recent fence upgrades have added to the safety.
For regular updates on groups heading out on various walks and for maps and updates you can
follow ‘Friends of the Wilds” on Facebook or Instagram.

The Wilds is typically open from 6am – 6pm dependant on season. There is parking on site and
across the road in the lower St John’s parking. Whilst there is no fee to enter one does need to
sign in and follow covid protocols.

Image Courtesy of James Delaney

Image Courtesy of James Delaney

2. The Arts and Culture Scene
Joburg has a very active arts and culture scene. Rosebank has undergone significant transition over
the past few years. Whilst there are many galleries to visit throughout the city the Keyes Art Mile is a
wonderful place to start. Situated in Keyes Avenue there are galleries, restaurants and the occasional
market on offer in this one space. The Everard Read Gallery and Circa across the road have regular
exhibitions that one can pop into and enjoy. The Keyes Art Mile regularly hosts a market called
Trumpet on Keyes where you can find delicious produce and locally made items, think Tonka bean
doughnuts and the most amazing sourdough from Treviso. If you love markets, then the Linden
Market and Field and Study Markets nearby are also well worth a visit.

There are plenty of great spots to grab a coffee or a decent meal after filling up on your dose of
culture. At the higher end of the budget is Marble restaurant by David Higgs which includes some
rather beautiful views. For equally beautiful views but a slightly more budget friendly option head up
the secret staircase to Momo Kuro for delicious Bao buns. There are so many incredible culinary
options to choose from in the area, but I will restrain myself and mention just one more – Luke Dale
Robert’s of Test Kitchen fame has recently opened the Shortmarket club in Joburg – lucky us!

Keyes Market Photo Credit: rosebank.joburg

Momo Kuro Photo Credit: Eat Out

Circa Gallery Photo Credit: FourSquare Guide

3. Out to the Countryside

Lucky for us it’s just a short drive to leave the city behind and get out into the countryside. There are
so many beautiful spots to visit but one of our favourites is the Nirox sculpture Park.
Nirox is a gem out in the cradle of humankind. This 30-hectare sculpture park was once a trout
fishing farm which has been transformed into the beautiful green space of manicured lawns and
waterways it is now. This park like area is filled with over 50 sculptures to explore. Every year they
host the annual Winter Sculpture fair where one can explore the park whilst restaurants and
wineries from Franschhoek showcase their produce from the region.

The park is open on weekends. Whilst there is an entrance fee to visit this is reduced if one has a
booking at their onsite restaurant called ‘And then there was Fire…’. The restaurant has a budget
friendly tapas side as well as a more comprehensive menu for their grillhouse. The restaurant is
open air and has a distinctly Argentinian flair- think deliciously prepared meats and Dulce de leche
for dessert. After filling up one can walk around and enjoy the beauty of this incredible space!

Photo Credit: www.joburg.co.za

Photo Credit: www.andthentherewasfire.com

Photo Credit: www.andthentherewasfire.com

Photo Credit: Robyn Sassen

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: www.andthentherewasfire.com

4. City Vibes
I know heading into the city is not everyone’s cup of tea; but there are so many beautiful,
transformed spaces that are totally worth a visit! Maybe you know of 44 Stanley Avenue (best
breakfast -Salvation Café) and the Maboneng precinct. But have you visited Victoria Yards yet? This
once dilapidated space has been transformed into a home for art studios, local designers, a coffee
roastery and an urban farming project. They host a market called First Sundays on the first Sunday of
every month, allowing you to come and explore all its nooks and crannies whilst supporting social
upliftment in the area. There is secure parking available and entrance is free. And when you are
finished exploring you can always pop into their famous fish and chips shop – the good old-fashioned
kind that comes with with vinegar drenched slap chips.
Especially good for a rainy day is a trip to the Sci bono Discovery Centre– this one is for the young
and young at-heart! Whilst our kids absolutely love this place so do most adults that have visited! Sci
bono is a centre full of intrigue and options to explore. Here you ARE encouraged to push the red
button and see what happens. Where else can you make a hot air balloon rise, go through a proper
mirror maze, and play with different electrical circuits to make things move? This place is hands-on
and FUN, allow for a few hours! If you get a chance to attend the free science show it is rather
entertaining even for adults! Whilst there is a little café on site, I would thoroughly recommend
taking a trip back over the Nelson Mandela bridge, seeing the wall mural of Miriam Makeba and
stopping at the WITS club at Olives & Plates for lunch in a beautiful Cape Dutch style environment.
Their cakes are a sight to behold!

Photo Credit: In Your Pocket

Photo Credit: Victoria Yards

Photo Credit: Sci Bono Discovery Centre

Urban Farm Photo Credit Julius Baer

Photo Credit: Olives & Plates
So, there you have it, a few of my favourite go-to spots in our beautiful city. I hope that you have
been inspired to fall more in love with this beautiful city we call home.