As the sunsets on another Saturday afternoon, the town of Maboneng comes alive with waves of laughter, the clicking of wine glasses and happy feet as they tour the exquisite little precinct.
I am overwhelmed with its beauty and its energy. It's one of those places in Johannesburg that one has to see if they ever make a pit stop here. It is also one of those places that makes Johannesburg a bit more vibrant and worthwhile as a destination.
Tshepo Mokone from Curiocity Hostels, a popular spot in Maboneng, greets us at the entrance of the backpacking spot. Inside are youngsters having a sundowner and lazing around in designated seating areas.
I love the carefree attitude of these local and foreigners, where choosing what type of drink is their only problem in life. The streets are wide, with artworks so big and bright at every corner. Maboneng has clearly done something right to get this much foot traffic on a chilly Johannesburg evening. Mokone tells our group that Maboneng was developed by Propertuity in 2009 with the aim to create a platform for businesses in the area. It started with a collection of abandoned warehouses where Sunday food market and art were held.
“Maboneng has also become a destination for international travelers who want to witness Johannesburg at grassroots level and engage with hidden treasures within the city. It is also a space where they could walk around feeling completely safe,” he says, as he takes us on a tour of Maboneng.
“Maboneng has set a great example of what the city could be. Once downtrodden, it is now a thriving junction of residential buildings, art galleries, restaurants, boutiques and commercial spaces with a buzz day and night,” adds Mokone.
As we wander the precinct, I feel a sense of South African pride, knowing that small places like this are being turned into something extraordinary for youngsters. It is similar to the Station Drive in Durban, famous for its night markets and craft beer.
Mokone clearly loves this little place. He takes us up a flight of stairs to "show us what happens when the sun goes down." After a trek up the stairs for what felt like hours, we reach the 12 Decades Art Hotel rooftop bar , filled with vibey music and young adults indulging in sundowners. There's some dancing, while others are in intense conversation. As we down champagne, Maboneng starts to light up.
There are more travellers exploring its streets, taking selfies by its majestic artworks and dressed to the nines for their evening out. We decide to dine at Che, an Argentine restaurant, famous for its tapas and empanadas, a type of argentine pie. Che is one of those places that you go to when you want good music and company. Some people are dressed in costumes, and I spot South African celebrities Sashi Naidoo and Poppy Ntshongwana at a table in the corner of the restaurant.
Once dinner is done, we take one final stroll along its street. I feel safe, even though it's approaching midnight. As we enjoy the breeze, I am excited at what Maboneng has to offer travellers in coming years.