South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg - affectionately known to the locals as Joburg - is a highlight of any visit to this most southerly of African nations. From the thrills and spills of Gold Reef City and the gambling fun of Montescasino - for those thrill-seeking visitors - to the more sombre and reflective monuments of the Apartheid Museum and Hector Pieterson Museum - there is much to see and do during your visit to the city that Nelson Mandela once called home. But it isn’t just the impressive culture and history of the so-called ‘City of Gold’ that you’ll want to keep an eagle-eye out for - there’s also plenty of things to buy that will stir fond memories of Joburg in years to come. These are just some of the items you may wish to consider buying during your visit.
1. Gold jewellery from Henriette Botha
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Whether you’re looking for something classy to give to your loved ones, looking to indulge in a little retail therapy yourself, or simply wish to pick up some unique jewellery souvenirs, then you’ll likely want to make a beeline for Henriette Botha’s studio in Johannesburg. Run by an experienced fashion designer, the studio was set up in 2012 to bring traditional crafts to a wider international market. And its hand-made creations, which are all produced in Johannesburg by local artisans, will likely make for an impressive memento of your Joburg travels.
Henriette Botha Studio
Address: 60 Tyrone Ave, Parkview, Johannesburg, 2122, South Africa
Opening hours: 10am to 4pm (Mondays to Fridays); 10am to 1pm (Saturdays); closed Sundays.
Price: From 20 USD
2. Johannesburg sky-line mug
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
And speaking of unique mementos of your visit to Johannesburg, these souvenirs will remind you of your memorable travels every time you brew yourself up a cup of tea or coffee. These mugs, which are available in a number of different outlets across the city, immortalise the Joburg skyline silhouette with a series of colourful designs. They’ll also make for nice, yet inexpensive, souvenirs to give to friends or loved ones on your return home as well. Which colour will you plump for?
The Crazy Store Brixton
Address: High Street Shop 39 & 40, Protea Centre, Mayfair West, Johannesburg, 2092
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm (Mondays to Fridays); 9am to 4pm (Saturdays); 9am to 2pm (Sundays)
Price: From 12 USD (various online retailers)
3. A leather jacket from Vintage Zionist
If you’re a dedicated follower of fashion who craves something with its roots firmly in Johannesburg, then a visit to Vintage Zionist will almost certainly be a must. And its products will not only appeal to fashionistas, as the brand is also dedicated to restoring vintage clothing to create ‘new’ pieces that people simply have to have - so eco-aware consumers take note! The vintage pieces that the firm’s designers work their magic on date back as far as the 80s too - so those who crave something that isn’t just retro, but is also actually from the time you love, will find much to enjoy. So why not crack open your purse or wallet and buy a deliciously retro leather jacket, safe in the knowledge that you’re doing your bit for 'mother earth’ while you’re at it.
Address: Commissioner Street and Albrecht Street, Jeppestown, Johannesburg, 2043
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4. African craft
A continent, a country and a city as diverse and vibrant as Africa, South Africa and Johannesburg are simply chock full of culturally rich products - be it art, crafts, animal goods or music. And travellers eyeing up something that speaks of place will find plenty of unique crafts and more at the African Craft Market - which is one of Johannesburg’s more popular places to visit. Traditional masks, colourful designs and interesting curios all vie for attention in this one-stop-shop - just remember to barter with the sellers when looking to pick up your mementos.
Rosebank Art and Craft Market
Address: Cradock Avenue (next to Europa), Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196
Opening hours: 9am to 6.30pm (Mondays to Thursdays); 9am to 7pm (Fridays); 9am to 5pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
5. Ndebele art
And speaking of art, the Ndebele people of southern Africa are responsible for some arresting and colourful creations that have won many an admirer for their vibrant shades and impressive geometric designs. The Ndebele’s artistic talents even extend to their famed house painting skills, which came into their own after the 18th century when they moved from living in grass huts to ones with mud-walls that were ripe for external decoration. Their designs, which made full use of available colour dyes and geometric patterns, were often ways of reflecting shared cultural values, feelings or important milestones such as marriage. And the skills responsible for these memorable designs have also translated across to individual artworks that are available to buy in many forms - from artwork itself to clothing designs.
Cambanos and Son
Address: 34 Richards Drive, Opposite Gallagher Estate, Halfway House, Midrand
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm (weekdays); 9am to 1pm (Saturdays); closed Sundays.
6. South African Breweries
South Africa may have built up quite the reputation in recent years for its impressive wines, but aqua vita is by no means the only alcoholic beverage for which the nation has a flair. Johannesburg is home to South African Breweries (SAB), which is a major player in the beer industry, and has been operating since the late 19th century (when it was set up as the Castle Brewery). Today it operates seven different brewery sites across South Africa and is responsible for a truly eye-watering share of the market - indeed, 20 years ago it accounted for 98 per cent of all beer sales in the country. Naturally, this means you’ll find plenty of the company’s products during your visit to its home city. It also runs a beer museum - the SAB World of Beer - and tours.
SAB World of Beer
Address: 15 Helen Joseph Street, Newtown, Johannesburg
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm (daily)
Price: 8.91 USD for a tour (adult); 8.23 USD (pensioners or students); 3.43 USD (children aged 17 and under).
Food fans will likely want to try one of South Africa’s famous culinary creations - biltong. This dried, cured meat - think beef jerky but with a wider array of potential ingredients - is popular across the country and initially evolved as a way to keep meat from going off in the days before refrigeration. And unlike beefy jerky, biltong’s base meat can be all manner of different species - from ostrich or chicken, to fish and even game like the springbok. Its popularity means it is widely available in many grocery stores and butchers - so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to grab a bite, whether that be as a snack on its own or woven into other dishes such as stews.
Address: 73 Juta Street, Johannesburg 2001
Opening hours: 9am to 3pm (Saturdays only)
8. Zulu shield
These ox or cowhide shields are a truly iconic image of Africa, their simple yet effective and lightweight design making them popular among a number of peoples on the continent, who didn’t just utilise them in battle but also as status symbols and other uses. Perhaps most closely associated with the Zulu - the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 forever cementing their fame through the likes of the battles of Isandlwana and Rourke’s Drift. Naturally the shields’ fame and striking design have made them a popular item to pick up during a visit to South Africa, and craft shops in Johannesburg sell them should you wish to buy one for yourself.
Kwa Mai Mai Market
Address: Berea Road, City and Suburban, Johannesburg, 2094
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm (Mondays to Fridays); 9am to 2pm (Saturdays); closed on Sundays.
Price: Varies depending on stall
9. Shweshwe fabric
Say hello to the ‘denim’ of the South African fashion world. Shweshwe fabric is widely used in traditional attire. And it’s this ever-present popularity that has earned it its description as Africa’s denim. However, unlike denim, shweshwe is available in a far greater array of colours and designs - including the geometric designs so beloved of South African art and culture.
Address: 112 Helen Joseph St, Johannesburg, 2000
Opening hours: 9am to 4.30pm (Mondays to Fridays); 9am to 1.30pm (Saturdays); closed on Sundays.
Price: From 4.10 USD (for loose cloth); varies for clothing
Anyone who watched the 2010 FIFA World Cup cannot fail to have noticed the vuvuzela. These simple horns are popular among football fans who use them en masse to cheer on their players during a soccer match. And, when international football fans flocked to South Africa to watch their teams, the wall of sound the vuvzelas created was quite unlike anything they had experienced before - truly unique in point of fact. So, if you’re a football fan - or are looking to pick up a keep-sake for someone you know back home - you may wish to snap up one of these.
The Crazy Store Southdale
Address: The corner of Landsborough Street and Alamien Road, Shop F23, Southdale Shopping Centre, Southdale, Johannesburg South, 2091
Opening hours: 9am to 6pm (Mondays to Fridays); 9am to 5pm (Saturdays); 9am to 3pm (Sundays).
Time to splash the cash
Whether it’s culinary treats or striking pieces of art and history, there are plenty of fascinating keepsakes for you to pick up on your travels through Johannesburg in South Africa. What do you plan on buying?
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