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A walk through Braamfontein

Published May 17, 2013

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Johannesburg - Almost 10 years ago, Braamfontein was an area desperately needing attention. Pavements were broken and filthy, littered with informal traders and unauthorised taxi ranks. Traffic was congested and crime was rife. It was an area no one wanted to visit, unless they had to. In 2004, the Braamfontein Improvement District was established, with the aim of addressing the urban decay taking over the area. Since then, the area has flourished, becoming a hub of activity attracting locals and tourists alike. Braamfontein is now one of Jozi’s hippest neighbourhoods, offering visitors everything from trendy fashion, gourmet food and cosy coffee shops.

The newly launched Joburg City Sightseeing Bus operates throughout Braamfontein, and is a great way to explore the inner city if you aren’t too keen to drive there yourself. You can park your car securely at Gold Reef City and catch the bus from there. Tickets cost R120 if bought online and buses depart every 40 minutes, seven days a week.

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The bus will drop you off at The Grove, a small public square overlooked by various eateries. Go on a Saturday between 9am and 3pm and visit the Neighbourgoods Market, on the corner of Juta and De Beer Streets. The market features a host of boutique food stalls. You’ll find delicious, fresh homemade produce – think quality, flavourful pestos and chutneys, samoosas, flatbreads and burgers – to name a few. If you’re in a large group, you can easily spend an entire day at the market, as the second floor has become an open-air bar of sorts. With views over the city and live jazz, on a sunny Saturday this really is the place to be.

If you’d like to have a sit down meal, there are many great options you can consider. Velo Gallery Café, situated in the Grove is one of these. It is a “gallery café” – offering simple sandwiches and salads within a space used to showcase upcoming artists with the objective of exposing untapped talent. For a more formal meal, try Narina Trogon, located on 81 De Korte Street in a century old building which used to be the original Turn ‘n Tender in the eighties. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu offers unique items like “whisky oats” – oat porridge served with honey, cinnamon and whisky.

Braamfontein is a coffee snob’s haven, with a number of dreamy coffee shops that look like they’re right out of the movies. Visit Double Shot, where the vision is to create an artisanal roaster and tea blending store that will offer the finest and rarest teas and coffees from around the world. The store also offers classes and education to both professionals as well as people who just want to enrich their tea and coffee experience.

For the best coconut cupcake in the world, try out newly opened Daleah’s – owned by 25-year-old Daleah, whose lifelong dream was to open an eatery. Daleah’s has a warm, welcoming atmosphere with food to match. With a reasonably priced chalkboard menu that changes every day, Daleah’s passion comes through in the customised coasters and serving boards, both ingrained with “D”, as well as in the books and hand-picked artwork on the shelves.

Just across the road, you’ll find Post, a contemporary café with simple soul food that is locally sourced. Breakfast options include chocolate flapjacks with nutella, or egg and brie crostini with napolitana sauce. The lunch menu offers a range of gourmet sandwiches, like grilled haloumi with tzatziki, tomato, onion and rocket or stripped sirloin with pesto and feta. If a sandwich doesn’t hit the spot, pop over to Great Dane, situated on 6 De Beer Street. This is a quirky bar with a gourmet hot dog menu and a floor covered in five-cent coins.

In-between all that eating, Braamfontein also has a number of interesting shops. The Braamfontein Bookshop, corner Juta and Melle Street, stocks second hand books, vintage clothing and other interesting items. Aspiring photographers will love the Lomography store, a photographic concept store that prides itself in being a platform for photographic inspirational products, cutting edge photographic artists and avant-garde photographic concepts. Lomography also does custom printing of photographs onto canvas, wallpaper and lampshades.

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Braamfontein’s most famous landmark is undoubtedly the Nelson Mandela Bridge, which starts at the intersection of Juta and Bertha Street. This is a striking architectural feature, beautifully lit at night.

It’s clear to see that the Braamfontein we enjoy today is far removed from what it was 10 years ago. Future plans include a gateway feature to the university campus, pedestrian linkages through to Constitution Hill, upgrading the alleyways between buildings, providing public art, reopening of the historic Alexander Theatre and new pavement coffee shops. - Sunday Independent

l For more ideas of things to do in Jozi, visit Hasmita’s blog: www.joziliciousblog.co.za

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