Inner city Jozi
Johannesburg’s inner city is being seriously overhauled and upgraded, with many of the really derelict areas being made over into hip places to be and be seen. Tourists are now visiting these areas and businesses, conferencing and event venues are now situating within these precincts.
My first place to visit is the SAB World of Beer, which is in the Newtown Precinct area. It is certainly not a new venue, having opened its doors 20 years ago by Nelson Mandela. As well as being one of the top attractions, it is a top class conference and event venue. The guided beer tours offer a fun showcase of the history of beer, starting at the origins of beer and the origins of South African beer. An electronic Charles Glass starts off the tour in a multimedia room, and then you move through the various sections with lights, holograms and special effects, which include a tasting of sorghum beer, a visit to a turn of the century pub and a shebeen (although this specific exhibit is not wheelchair accessible). Then you move through to the living ingredients and into the hall with the big copper vats and finally the beer tasting, where you get to take home a sample glass.
This offers a specific tasting of five iconic SAB beers. There are accessible parking bays, an access ramp from the roadway onto the paved front portico and elevators, which allow access to all the various areas. Although the reception table and bar counter in the Tap Room are not compliant, at least there are accessible WC’s because everyone knows that you don’t buy beer – you rent it!
For private events, a SAB brewer and celebrity chef will create a food & beer pairings menu and host an interactive and entertaining meal for guests. The conferencing facility has been graded by the Tourism Grading Council as a five star conference and event venue. On your way out you can always pick up branded merchandise, and beer and sports gear and accessories at the gift shop. For us South Africans who love our beer – especially Castle - this venue is a must visit, but arrange transport so that you can take full advantage of the delicious beers and food and still get home safely!
The next area that I was keen to visit, is Arts on Main in a new inner city development called Maboneng Precinct, providing a vibey new centre for artists, combining studio, commercial residential and retail spaces in renovated buildings and warehouses. Arts on Main warehouse covers about 4500m² in a building originally built in 1911. It is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10h00 – 16h00 with a late day on Thursdays when it closes at 20h00. On Sundays the organic market is the main draw, offering all types of foodstuffs for tasting and sale.
This renovated warehouse area has caused an entire artistic upgrading of buildings surrounding it into the new precinct called Maboneng, which is growing and includes many restaurants and shops, some in containers and old trucks.
There is an unusual hotel and many exhibitions, dance and poetry performances. Art films are also presented at various venues. There are interesting eateries, offering Ethiopian and African cuisine and even a Boerie Shop! The clothing stores showcase local designers and styles, and the bicycle shop in a little treed courtyard is a delightful surprise. The seating throughout the precinct is original and such fun, with benches made from pallets to cushions on cement walls, and chairs made from plastic crates. Unfortunately, although this is a newly renovated area, there are very few facilities for people with disabilities with steep steps into most shops, no allocated parking bays and the curb cuts on the pavements are often blocked with parked cars in peak times. So take some friends if you are a “wheelie”, as you will need assistance to move through this precinct. But this should not deter you from visiting this cosmopolitan, artsy, historical and great new area. Note that it is on the Rea Vaya bus route as well.