Welcome to My Place . . . Johannesburg
Helen Greene recommends the historical sights to see, trendy food to eat and places to run in her city of Jo'burg
Cycling through the Maboneng precinct of Johannesburg. Photograph: Getty Images
Helen Greene is from Raheny in Dublin. She arrived in Johannesburg in 2013 with her husband after living in London for three years. She is an accountant and is currently on a project team in a Pan-African investment bank.
Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Johannesburg?
I always bring people to straight to Maboneng in the newly rejuvenated area of central Johannesburg. It’s a cool, yet edgy, area which embodies the vibrant atmosphere of Africa’s best city. There is everything from haute cuisine at the Cube restaurant, to Arts on Main street food. There is a small indy cinema which recently showed a documentary on the 1916 Easter Rising, and an amazing roof top bar to catch the beautiful African sunset over the city. It’s a must visit area in Jo’burg.
The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are. . .
Critical Mass JHB is a free monthly gathering in the centre of Johannesburg of people from all walks of life who cycle around the city (slowly and for fun) raising awareness of the viability of cycling as a mode of transport. It’s such a fun evening and you get to see parts of the city you would never normally venture to and meet some amazing people.
Vilakazi Street in Soweto is another must see – the homes of both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu can be found there, making it the only street in the world that can boast having had two Nobel laureates as residents. It’s now a busy street full of cafes, bars and the Nelson Mandela Museum.
While in Johannesburg, you should also go for a run, it’s now filled with bright purple Jacaranda trees and at high altitude it will be great training for that next park run back at sea level in Ireland.
Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Johannesburg?
Tashas is an iconic restaurant in South Africa, it’s the place to be seen and to gorge on milkshakes and prego rolls. It’s casual and relaxed, yet the service is always attentive, the staff are always eager to top up your skinny almond latte and to share a joke or a smile. I’m totally in love with Tashas and they have to open one in Dublin.
Where is the best place to get a sense of Johannesburg’s place in history?
The apartheid museum in Johannesburg South is a stark reminder of the recent history of Johannesburg and South Africa. It’s such a large part of the history of this country that everyone visiting should be aware of and learn lessons from.
What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Johannesburg?
The wine. South African wine is quickly becoming recognised among the best in the world and their take on Champagne, called MCC (Method Cap Classique) is to die for. The low prices may even tempt Irish people to extend their stay, or throw out their clothes to make room.
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