Sandton, in the north of Johannesburg, is the upmarket business, residential and shopping heart of Johannesburg and a municipality in its own right. It is home to the South Africa’s stock exchange, the JSE, and the adjacent Village Walk shopping centre, plus the Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square shopping malls (which are linked via walkways to each other and two hotels).
Night-time drawcards are the area’s restaurants, clubs and bars, as well as five-star hotels, all within walking distance of each other. Cuisine on offer ranges from prime sushi and steak to all-seafood emporia and Eastern European cakes and baked goods. Sandton City is the largest shopping mall in the north of Johannesburg and the place to shop for gold and diamonds, as it houses a circle of jewellery shops. Well-stocked bookshops have coffee-table souvenir books on Africa or southern Africa. It is the place for shoes, sunglasses, sportswear and fashion accessories – and the food court is extensive.
Nelson Mandela Square is lined with local and exotic restaurants (African, steakhouse grills, Indian, Italian, Greek) and is the spot to do international shopping at local prices (brand-name watches and fashion, ostrich leather bags and shoes).
A prime attraction here is the six-metre-high bronze statue of Nelson Mandela that overlooks this public space. The statue commemorates the first decade of democracy in South Africa and is a favourite site for visitors to have their photographs taken. You either love or hate this somewhat cheesy image of the great man.
The Sandton Convention Centre (across the street from both Malls) showcases important international and national events ranging from eco-gatherings and food shows to jazz festivals. Sandton can be accessed easily from the airport, Pretoria and Rosebank, thanks to the Gautrain Station close to the Nelson Mandela Square precinct between West Street and 5th Avenue.
Look out for
In the northeast corner of Nelson Mandela Square is the Old Mutual Theatre on the Square. Open daily, the 200-seat theatre hosts plays, musicals, comedy shows and a youth theatre training programme.
The nearby exclusive Saxon Boutique Hotel & Spa (a 10-minute drive from the two malls at 36 Saxon Rd) is part of modern history, for it is where Nelson Mandela secluded himself to write his autobiography – A Long Walk to Freedom.
In the Fourways area of Sandton, the Montecasino complex is a one-stop entertainment venue with cinemas, theatres, an international hotel, an extensive casino, restaurants, coffee shops and retail outlets.
A five-minute drive from Sandton, splurge on exclusive local and international fashion and lifestyle brands, jewellery and art at the elite Hyde Park Corner shopping centre. The shopping centre’s roof is the latest outdoor venue for boutique events such as the Food, Wine, Design fair and the Jozi Bubbles champagne festival.
Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia was the headquarters of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the now ruling African National Congress. Now a museum, it tells of the events that led to the infamous raid on the farm and the people who were captured there and tried on treason charges.
The Sandton Field and Study Centre on Louise Avenue in Parkmore is an attractive residential property turned community centre and pre-school that offers those in need arts and crafts training and serves as a recreation facility. There is also a great, kid-friendly restaurant.