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Guide to Maboneng, Johannesburg

Johannesburg: worth more than a stopover?

Johannesburg gets a bad rep to say the least. Before I left Ireland to come to South Africa I was told horror stories about hijackings, robberies and assault. Of those that wished me well, they all said the same thing- stay out of Johannesburg.

I couldn’t believe that a city home to so much South African history had nothing to offer. Luckily, while in beautiful Hogsback we got talking to a lovely couple from Johannesburg who directed us towards the up and coming area of Maboneng.


Maboneng- cool cafés, swinging jazz and vintage paradise.


Our journey to Curiocity Backpackers took us past grey, run down buildings and we began to wonder if this area could possibly be safe. As we got closer I began to notice some street art.  We turned onto the street the hostel is on to find it bustling with people. I immediately wished I had cleaner (cooler) clothes in my bag but it didn’t matter. We quickly left our bags in and got out to explore.

Along the main street of Maboneng Precint, market stall holders sell everything from clothing to vinyl to traditional souvenirs. I spent our time their cursing the baggage allowance for my flight to Zanzibar.

In Maboneng eveneven the gutters have art!

In Maboneng you’ll even find art in the gutters.

Sunday is market day.


If you get there on Sunday, lucky you! We had some best food of the trip in Market on Main. It kicks off Sunday morning and winds down around 3pm. Downstairs there are tonnes of amazing food stalls. I wanted to try everything! Maboneng is home to some really cool restaurants and the market was a great way to sample some of their food for a fraction of the price.


Upstairs there are stalls selling art, crafts and vintage clothing. Music pumps out from the rooftop bar and people spend the day chilling out, eating and shopping. Definitely try arrange your stay for a Sunday to soak up the relaxed, artsy vibe.

Main Street life- where to eat and what to do:


If you’re not there on a Sunday, don’t worry. Just walking along the main street will give you a taste for Maboneng life. The cafés are a great way to people watch and take in the Maboneng style. We really liked Soul Souvlaki, a café in a converted truck that serves up fabulous Greek food and rooftops views.


Pata Pata is great for cocktails, dinner and jazz. The POPArt Theatre has weekly performances and a Sunday night comedy club that’s always a huge hit. Don’t be afraid to check out the local galleries and shops, even if you can’t afford what’s inside!

Be safe, but don’t let it keep you away.


In general, the street between Curiocity and the Market on Main is safe to walk. Security officers are present throughout the day and night. Of course, common sense should prevail. Where possible, don’t walk alone at night or carry valuables ever. Leave your passport at the hostel and ask the hostel staff if you plan to veer off the main street.

Now is the time for Maboneng to shine.

Maboneng is hipster central so my advice is go now! I overheard one girl say “I know in a year I won’t be able to afford Maboneng.” So get there while the artists and inventors can still afford to live there. Just don’t blame me if you don’t want to leave!


25 thoughts on “Guide to Maboneng, Johannesburg

  1. InterNATionalcaty

    I was in South Africa 3 years ago. My stay was concentrated in Capetown and only spent a day Joburg. Like you I heard negative things about Joburg. I definitely plan on going back and checking out the area

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I loved Cape Town! Joburg was a very different vibe- much less walkable but still definitely worth visiting. Thanks for reading!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I’m delighted to hear that. Of course its important to be safe but there is so much to see and do that its a pity so many people miss it. Thanks for reading!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      It really has everything from art, culture and music to fabulous hiking and adrenaline activities. I would go again tomorrow! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      To be honest we didn’t explore much outside Maboneng as we only had 2 days. Maboneng is totally safe to wander on foot though. Even on the same street as the hostel there are loads of cafés and restaurants without having to go too far. We spent 1 and half days in Maboneng and we also did a half day cycling tour in Soweto (I highly recommend this! So much history in this part of the city). We were told in the hostel not to walk down the street that runs parallel to the hostel. I definitely wouldn’t go wandering far on foot but Curiocity Backpackers was a great base. If you take their advice and have your wits about you, you can have a great few days in the city.

  2. Cynthia

    Beautiful street art! What a lovely find – glad you got some good advice on where to go and not just naysayers telling you to stay away. 🙂

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I’m glad too! We would have really missed out. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. Miranda

    Totally bookmarked this! Your advice is my kind of travel. I love street art and local markets! Also love the conciseness of your writing and the pics. Thank you!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Thank you so much for reading and for your lovely comment. Once I find a good market Im a very happy traveller! If you have any questions be sure to ask!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      It was a great base where we felt safe to wander around. I really recommend visiting Soweto too to get the historical side of things. Thanks for reading!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I’ll be putting up more posts about S.A shortly. I found it a fantastic place to travel. There arent many countries where you can go from desert to forest to city in a matter of hours. I hope you get there too!

  4. Katie @ The Budget Backpack

    You’re totally right – Joburg tends to get a lot of negative publicity, especially compared to Cape Town! I have a friend who is from there and he said that a lot of the rough things people hear about it are from the past and its become a lot more of a pleasant place in recent times. I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I can *finally* make it to South Africa!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      That’s very true. People focus on what they hear on the news which is almost always negative. While there are definitely safety concerns, my attitude to most places is that people live there so it must not be all bad! I also loved Cape Town and was surprised to feel quite safe there. South Africa completely took me by surprise. I hope it does the same for you when you get there!

  5. sabrina

    I read different things about Joburg, but I’m glad you had a positive experience over there. I’m adding a stop in SA to my long way home!! haha! thanks for sharing!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      I’m delighted to hear that Sabrina! There are definitely safety concerns. As I said, we didn’t venture off the street that the hostel was on but there are definitely ways to see the city while still being safe. Hope you enjoy it and thanks for commenting!

  6. Toni

    I am yet to make it here but I get why people will say be careful etc. But, from the looks of it it is a fun city and like anywhere, you need to be careful no matter where you are. Great post!

    1. Cliodhna Post author

      Thanks Toni! Glad you enjoyed it. I totally agree, you definitely have to be more careful here than in most other places I’ve visited but it’s still worth visiting and can be done safely!

  7. Rosi C.

    Always good to explore places where people don’t because you have a different perspective. Hope to visit this place one day. love street art pics 🙂

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