Johannesburg’s vibrant bar scene is a true reflection of the city’s diversity. Whether you’re after a quiet beer with a view or looking for an out-till-the-end night of cocktails, Jo’burg has a bar for every taste, mood and occasion. Here are the best places to have a drink and grab some grub as the sun fades below the horizon.
Drink in an urban jungle at Living Room
You won’t find better views of inner city Jo’burg from a bar than this. The rooftop jungle that is Living Room (livingroomjozi.co.za) is filled with plants and fairy lights, making this spot feel like cocktail hour in the Amazon. The buzz of traffic four floors below strongly contrasts with this urban oasis. Opening hours tend to be erratic, so check before you go.
Socialise in a book lover’s paradise at EB Social Kitchen & Bar
Unconventionally located inside a bookstore inside a mall, EB Social Kitchen & Bar (facebook.com/EBSocialKitchenAndBar) is a test kitchen and cocktail bar with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking some of Jo’burg’s most high-end suburbs. Laptops and tablets are not allowed, but reading a book or chatting with the stranger next to you is welcome. Sharing food is encouraged as much as sharing ideas.
Reimagine cocktails with a view at the Artisan
The Artisan’s (theartisan.joburg) cocktail menu reads like a classic fantasy novel: all the old favourites are there, along with some magical new creations, such as the Pink Panther and the Basil Dragon (a brave combination of craft beer, muddled basil, ginger beer, vodka and Cointreau). Head upstairs for an awesome view of Jo’burg’s loveliest and leafiest suburbs. When the munchies set in, scour the extensive tapas and snack menu.
Sip retro-cool beverages at the Cosmopolitan Hotel
The vintage charm of the Cosmopolitan Hotel (facebook.com/pages/Cosmopolitan-Hotel/429188043935838) stems from the antique bar that’s as much a feature now as it was when the hotel was built in 1899. Relaxing in the giant red wingback chairs and then moving on to fine dining at the attached restaurant ensure that a whole night can be spent enjoying this retro delight.
Track down the 1920s secret speakeasy at Hell’s Kitchen
Relatively new on the scene, Hell’s Kitchen (hellskitchen.co.za) is fast establishing itself as a Melville staple. Its speakeasy feel comes from rooms hidden behind bookshelves, while the décor and drinks menu will have you wondering whether you have time-travelled back to the 1920s. All the food is prepared on an open-flame fire, making it a haven for meat-eaters. Look out for the Sunday specials that include a meal and a drink at a handsome price.
Find good times at the Good Luck Club
The Good Luck Club (facebook.com/thegoodluckclubjhb) reinvents itself regularly by showcasing a different local artist on its walls every week. The majority of the bar spills out onto the pavement, making this is an ideal people-watching spot while you sip on ice cold craft beer and snack on Jo’burg’s best dim sum.
Discover inner city brews at the Mad Giant Brewery
Located in the up-and-coming 1 Fox Street precinct, the Mad Giant Brewery (madgiant.co.za) is bordered on one side by one of Johannesburg’s most notorious police stations and Apartheid detention centres and on the other by a double level highway, contributing to the urban energy and inner city vibe of the district. After a couple of cold ones, grab some burgers to enjoy outside in the beer garden, or for something a little fancier, head to Urbanologi (urbanologi.co.za) just across the path for a gastronomic feast.
Soak up old Jo’burg charm at Radium Beer Hall
One of the oldest bars in Jo’burg, Radium is a staple with journalists, seasoned daytime drinkers and hipsters alike. Radium has a great selection of drinks and pub grub, but its real appeal comes from the other patrons and regular entertainment, such as live jazz on Sundays. To get the most out of Radium, perch yourself at the bar and strike up a conversation with the guy next to you who’s bound to have some great stories about Jo’burg from back in the day.
Dive into African art at Milk Bar
For an immersive experience of the African aesthetic, Milk Bar (facebook.com/milkbarSA) in Rosebank is a must. With traditional African materials, art and design covering every visible surface, this colourful café and bar is perfect for a snack or coffee during the day or for a drink when the sun goes down. If you’re feeling a bit peckish, the re-interpreted traditional meals on offer give a great taste of South Africa. For a truly South African treat, try the miniature Bunny Chow (Durban curry in a half loaf of bread). Milk Bar’s twin brother in Sandton is just as charming.
Lounge at Crafters Bar for rooftop views and tapas
Overlooking Norwood’s bustling Grant Avenue, Crafters Bar (facebook.com/Crafters-650948095012512) at the Factory on Grant guarantees sensual sunsets from its third floor rooftop location, which are sometimes punctuated with the smooth sounds of live jazz. An open-air bar with views over tree-lined suburbs, sipping on a cold Chenin Blanc and enjoying fresh tapas – don’t be surprised if sundowners turn into a long night.