Tatler - Johannesburg
October 2014

City of dreams and 24-hour buzz. This is the NYC of the continent -- it’s modern, it’s ambitious, it rocks. Say hello to next-generation Africa.

Your bedfellow is...

...Candice Swanepoel
Stay in: AtholPlace Boutique Hotel
A colonial-style clapboard house, all white linen and handcrafted bowls and pretty silver teapots, with nine suites: some big and beautiful, some fronting the pool, all with Africology products in the bathrooms, which we LOVE. The company own the lovely Morukuru properties in the Madikwe Game Reserve, a one-hour flight away (perfect for a frisky weekend).

...Peter Gabriel
Stay in: The Satyagraha House
Fact of the day: Mahatma Gandhi spent 20 years of his life in South Africa. Today, his restored home is both a museum and seven-room bolthole. There are simple thatched rondavels, spinning wheels and wafting khadi cloth, plus morning meditation and yoga. It’s not for everyone -- no TV, meat, booze or pool -- but if you’re that way inclined, you’ll walk in, take a deep breath and never want to leave.

...Charlize Theron
Stay in: The Residence
Live the charmed life of a rich local at this smart spot. The suites overlook manicured gardens, two pools, a tennis court and spa, and are a mere putt away from the golf course. A Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit is at your service, and returning guests will find monogrammed pillowcases on their beds. We love the sumptuous breakfasts, G&Ts in the rooftop Sky Lounge, eclectic collection of model boats and cut-glass bowls filled with lollipops.

Rising star
Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff
A new Four Sesons will open in Joburg in early December, taking over the Westcliff hotel and its cliffside garden estate. To come: a three-Michelin-star French chef, pool and whacking great spa.

Shops we love

Amatuli Fine Art in Kramerville
Max out your credit card at Amatuli, stuffed to the rafters with Congolese beaded chairs, cushions printed with Barack Obama graphics and antique colonial maps. Owner Mark Valentine is as bewitching as the store is bewildering. “I just bought a palace from a maharaja in Jodhpur,” he tells us, “which is in a shipping container somewhere.” We want it all, and we want it now.

1886 at Maboneng
Lauren Winchester has sourced oodles of Johannesburg-branded merchandise to create -- genius! -- the chicest souvenir store EVER, from crockery featuring iconic Joburg architecture to purses printed with the local hand signs used to flag taxis.

Iwasshot in Joburg :) in Arts on Main
Brilliant project where at-risk youth are given a disposable camera to take photos of the Joburg they know and love. The best are for sale here. Seek out Pritchard, a darling poster boy for the enterprise, who works the till. He’ll tell you his story -- and make you want to buy the lot.

You’re hanging with...

...Dave Matthews: Head to Braamfontein
Get your student groove on in the streets around Wits University. Juta Street is where young artists and designers while away their days in coffee shops (Post and Fatherland are good). Pop into the groovy City Kitchen restaurant at the Bannister Hotel, and on Saturdays slouch around Neighbourgoods Market, cramming onto shared tables to drink and be merry.

...Desmond Tutu: Head to Maboneng
This once dodgy but now terribly cool district is where trendsetters and trendspotters hobnob under olive trees. Explore William Kentridge’s studio and Bailey’s African History Archive (selling covers of DRUM magazine, which reported on township life under apartheid). Then shop for New Brow’s men’s jeans and Anisa Mpungwe’s bold-print jackets at Loin Cloth & Ashes.

...Mark Shuttleworth: Head to 44 Stanley
This converted former flour mill is the place for one-stop one-of-a-kind shopping. Seek out Lisa Jaffe’s waisted dresses at Guillotine; furniture and accessories at Anatomy Design; Gallery AOP for sharp art; The Atelier for enchanting picture books and limited-edition prints; lascivious lingerie at Méchant & Gentil. Then slump with a fair trade coffee at Bean There.

You’re hungry for...

...something different
Lunch at: The Leopard
Opt for peri-peri quail. The Leopard is as cool as it gets, discreetly tucked away under a red-and-white awning down a side street in boho Melville, with furniture from a retirement home in Buenos Aires and a menu using only grass-fed beef, free-range poultry and sustainable seafood.

...a super-salad
Lunch at The Foundry in Parktown
The signature salad here is a maxed-up version of the Caesar, piled with avocado, white tempura anchovy, poached egg, pancetta, etc. This brasserie-cum-diner also serves steaks, seared scallops and sourdough pizza, and there’s craft beer on tap (don’t miss the Jack Black) and craft whisky (ditto the Peat Monster).

Lunch at: Five hundred at The Saxon Hotel
Super-chef David Higgs has a slick open kitchen and sensational tasting menu, including wagyu fillet and smoked brisket. And two of South Africa’s nine official sommeliers are on the staff here; we love Lloyd’s selections. More Babylonstoren chardonnay 2011, please!

Staying safe
Don’t over-fret about crime stats. Be street-smart and listen to local advice. For sightseeing, hire a driver-guide, who’ll know where to go when (and how to avoid traffic).

Swot up on...

...political history
Go to: The Apartheid Museum and Soweto
Make a beeline for this extraordinary museum, which covers everything from the rise of segregation to Mandela’s release. Then take a guided tour of buzzing Soweto, nowadays less of a township and more of a thriving metropolis.
No time? Visit Liliesleaf Farm & Museum, HQ of the liberation movement.

Go to: The Cradle of Humankind
An hour west of the city, the World Heritage Site sheds light on our earliest ancestors -- specimens date back 3.5m years. Wander around archaeological digs and timeline exhibitions and store away facts to drop brilliantly into future dinner-party conversations. No time? The downtown Origins Centre condenses the story of humankind in southern Africa, using rock art, ancient tools and state-of-the-art technology.

Go on: an art tour
The Wits Art Museum has arguably the finest African-art collection on the continent. Next go to the Goodman in Parkwood (under apartheid, founder Linda Goodman used to dress her artists as waiters so they could attend their own shows) and Everard Read, which has supported some of Southern Africa’s most important artists over the past 100 years.

No time? Artist Proof studio puts street kids through its printmaking courses and turns out limited edition prints.

You’ll hit the tiles in...

...spiky Aquazzuras
The uber-hip Sir James van der Merwe bar, in an old textile factory int eh Kramerville district, is open every Wednesday night 4pm till late (over-27s only), touting scantily dressed locals, skyline views and a cat named Tequila. One floor up, Katy’s Palace Bar is open the first Sunday of the month for the trendiest lunch in town, eaten at communal tables. Just across the street is The Collective, a clothes market held on the same day for afterparty revellers.

...battered Converse
Get all highbrow at the Bioscope independent cinema in Maboneng, which screens South African films and art house classics. There’s a restaurant and craft-beer bar, Chalkboard, where you can scribble on the table tops (for late-night brainstorming). Grab the all-in-one cinema ticket + pizza + beer combo.

...glittery French Sole pumps
Rammed on the weekend, the Kitchener’s Carvery Bar in Braamfontein is one of the oldest pubs in the city, with vintage-clothes sales from Wednesday to Saturday (on what is a dance floor by night). Bar-hop a few doors down to Great Dane, with its rocking DJs.

Best take-homes (that travel well)
A six-foot giraffe -- of course! -- made with wire and beads (it twists up into your suitcase like a pretzel). They’re colourful, characterful and will make you smile. A group of guys sell them on the corner of Jan Smuts & Chester in Parkwood. Ask for Telmore, whose giraffes are the jauntiest. And pick up handmade jewellery from Tinsel of Parkhurst, where Geraldine Fenn and Eric Loubser showcase toy-soldier cufflinks and wedding bands with punched-out hearts.

Michelle Jana Chan travelled with Steppes Travel (www.steppestravel.co.uk).