It’s likely your flight to South Africa will arrive in Johannesburg, so you should plan on spending a few days enjoying all this vibrant and exciting city has to offer.
Tourists to South Africa will most definitely want to take advantage of the primo-exchange rate. A nice mall with independent shops is at Newtown Junction (www.newtownjunctionmall.co.za). The vibe at most of the shops is decidedly hipster/street, which fits the neighborhood’s youthful feeling.
Afterward, grab an outdoor table at Pata Pata Jazz (www.facebook.com/PataPataJazz) in the area known as the Maboneng Precinct, which has been dubbed the Brooklyn of Johannesburg for its art culture, bohemian vibes, trendy restaurants, local markets, and a street style all its own.
Here, you’ll find Fox Street with handicrafts, art, music, and even photo shoots. We know we’re in the right spot when our graffiti tour guide skateboards right by us. I sit back, listening to the sounds of the jazz band outside, munch on a Mediterranean salad and a potjie filled with oxtail and rice, and soak in the South African sun and the street theater unveils itself.
We’re also fortunate to sit with Bangu Masisi the president of South African Tourism US who is eager to show off this exciting area, saying it is “Home to the city’s hottest new galleries, restaurants, bars, theater, and shops, [where] LGBTQ travelers alike can discover a wide variety of things to see, do and learn.” She also chats about why Johannesburg has become a trendy city for creative types including the LGBTQ community. “Johannesburg is truly the country’s epicenter, not only for business but also culture, and it is home to the most exciting developments in fashion, art, music, and more,” she says. “In addition to being home to the country’s (and likely the continent’s) largest and most diverse LGBTQ population, biggest collection of Pride events (Oct. 2019), and a wide variety of social spaces, businesses, and media outlets, Johannesburg is an especially exciting destination for the LGBTQ market.”
We’re also happy to hear that the South African Tourism is particularly eager to work with on-the-ground LGBTQ-friendly businesses to ensure a safe trip for North American travelers. Naturally, it’s the South African people that make the destination so enticing and welcoming. It’s also reassuring to know that LGBTQ rights are enshrined in their constitution.
At night, a diverse crowd fills the upstairs of The Orbit (www.theorbit.co.za) jazz club and bistro. Drinks flow to the beat of evening chatter and a piano getting tuned. The crowd reflects the area of Braamfontein, which has become another hip and arty epicenter of the city. We’re also lucky to meet a group of awesome men who comprise Johannesburg’s gay rugby team. After the team was formed, the boys needed to recruit more players. The idea came to create a viral ad campaign that debunked stereotypes and tore down stereotypical walls regarding the LGBTQ community. A burly rugby player, who happens to be gay, is plastered with the word “Fairy.” The campaign became a major success, receiving international press. “It went viral globally to over 140 countries and was seen by more than 350 million people worldwide. It was great to give us an identity. More importantly, players come and join us. As a club nothing is more important than players,” says Teveshan K. Kuni from the Jozi Cats.
With so many wonderful LGBTQ people to meet, and exciting things to experience in Johannesburg, you will probably want to add a couple of extra days to your itinerary here.