South Africa

Johannesburg’s Best Bars

Johannesburg’s Best Bars

get lost recently took on Johannesburg’s nightlife, and although we found it difficult to compete with the Afro-hip chic or smooth moving that permeates throughout the city’s nightlife, we’re pretty confident we’ve found a few of the best when it comes to grabbing a drink in Sun City.

Alto234 Rooftop Bar

Situated in the clouds above the city is Alto234, the highest urban bar in Africa.

Alto is so high that it takes three different elevators to get there, but once you reach the summit it’s clear that the transit is well and truly worth it, with 360-degree views over one of Africa’s most bustling cities. Six million or so people will be going about their nightly business below you as you sip champagne or a wide range of cocktails...thinking: "yep I've made it". There’s some very Instagrammable fires here in case it gets cold, and there’s also the most epic vending machine you’ve ever seen: filled with Möet Chandon and nothing else. Dreams do come true.

Chandon in the clouds 

57th Floor, The Leonardo 75 Maude Street, Sandton

A vending machine from heaven.


Zioux is weird, but good weird. Gigantic, cloud-shaped lampshades cascade from the ceiling and there’s huge portraits of animal/human hybrids on the walls, but none of this is low-brow – there are statements of wealth all-throughout this quirky cocktail bar (none more so than the glitzy mirrored walls of the toilets, which are about as impressive as toilets come). Keeping with the eclectic theme, get lost tried The Aclarada: Parmesan infused Absolut vodka and spicy tomato consommé served with olive paper, preserved lemon, purple corn flowers and olive oil. It doesn’t sound like something that should be in a cocktail, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Get weird

The Marc, Corner Rivonia & Maude St, Sandton

Zioux is in the upmarket Sandton area.


Saint is the absolutely heaving establishment situated directly across from Zioux. It carries all the same flashy grandeur of its smaller sister bar (including unbelievable restrooms), but without the weirdness. Saint is a massive space is divided into two sections: an upmarket restaurant with an exceptional wine list and delicious pasta and meat dishes, and a heaving nightclub that sprawls out into the open air. Come here for dinner, pop over the road for cocktails and then back to the nightclub area when you’re really ready to throw down.

Pray to Saint Party, patron saint of the boogie

The Marc, Corner Rivonia & Maude St, Sandton

Saint is directly across the road from Zioux. Dress to impress here.

Four-ways Farmer’s Market

In the north of the city is the Four Ways Farmer’s Market, a farmer’s market offering exceptional local fare, as well as foreign dishes from all over Africa and the world. There’s also several bars with craft beers on tap, local gins, champagne and more, and all your usual market mainstays (vintage clothes,

The setting is serene - several grassy embankments to sit on which lead down to a little river, where live music can be heard in the afternoons. There’s no doubt it’s a farmer’s market: chooks and sheep meander close by as you enjoy a beer in the sun. This is the perfect place for a relaxed Sunday sesh with some mates.

Hot tip: In a dark corner of the market is Mankrii’s Mini-Kitchen, serving traditional South African fare. Try the Nhloko – we’re not going to tell you what it is, we’re just going to tell you that it’s delicious.

Sunday Sesh

Taroko Farm (Modderfontein Reserve) Norfolk Lane, Klipfontein 12-Ir,Lethabong, 1609

A paella at Four-ways Farmer's Market.

Any Shebeen in Soweto

No visit to Johannesburg is complete without a visit to a Shebeen: modest looking drinking houses initially set up as an alternative to pubs and taverns which played an integral role as meeting places in the resistance against apartheid. There are tons of Shebeens of all shapes and sizes in the famous Soweto township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, where 1.5 million people cram into just 200,000kms of ramshackle sheds, tiny laneways and Government-built housing. Here literally everyone seems to say hello to everyone else – you will likely never have felt more welcome.

Yebo in Soweto

Yebo! Locals aren't short of a word in Shebeens.



Get there

QANTAS and South Africa airways fly directly to Johannesburg from most major Australian cities.

Stay there

At Sanctuary Mandela, you’re not just in a museum dedicated to the legendary Nelson Mandela – you’re staying at his old gaff! Mandela lived here for six years following his release from prison, and his old chef is still here serving up delicious traditional fare.

Tour There

The best place to get under the skin of Soweto (on JoBurg’s outskirts) is Lebo’s Backpackers, which is hostel in name only. It is a four-star accommodation that organises tours by bicycle and tuk-tuk that take in tourist highlights like the house Nelson Mandela group up in, but also workers’ hostels, churches and community centres that give a feel for the rhythm of the streets.

Words Tim McGlone

Photos Tim McGlone

Tags: bars, south africa

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