One of Joburg’s most vibrant examples of inner city regeneration, the student district of Braamfontein (or simply ‘Braam’ as locals know it) is defined by edgy galleries, abundant street art, busy nightlife, shopping, café culture and an addictive creative energy that attracts a youthful alternative crowd at any hour of the day. A day (or night) spent exploring Braam’s lively streets is one of the best ways to get a taste for Joburg’s fast-paced urban regeneration and the creative and ambitious energy that is transforming this city.
If you are planning a Braamfontein stayover, here are five cool places to stay.
A hip budget hotel perfectly located right in the heart of all the Braamfontein action. The popular Neighbourgoods Market is a neighbour as is 70 Juta street, with its fashion boutiques, cafes and art galleries. Great coffee is to be found in every direction. The rooms are bright with crisp white linen, free wifi and artistic touches. Hotel owner Andrew Bannister is a former photographer. His iconic album cover image of Zimbabwean singer Oliver Mtukudzi graces the entrance. With great foresight Bannister ran what was formerly the Metro Hotel long before the hipsters arrived and declared Braamfontein the capital of cool. The bar and restaurant downstairs is humming at all hours and the long counter window facing the street is a great place for people watching.
Once of the best kept secrets in the city is this hotel's rooftop (for guests only), offering breathtaking 360-degree views of the skyline from the pool deck and gym. The lobby is vast and the 300 suites are all one bedroom units. The buzzy Orchards Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets, as well as dinner à la carte. The Park Station Gautrain Station is within walking distance and the hotel offers complimentary evening shuttles (midweek) to various nightlife and entertainment spots.
Braamfontein's 'poshtel' (a posh version of a hostel) is Once in Joburg (a sister property to Once in Cape Town on Kloof Street), offering the equivalent of three-star hotel accommodation and amenities, but with the informal and social atmosphere of a backpackers. With its quirky and colourful design finishes and a choice of inviting hangout spots including a bar and a self-catering kitchen, as well as a movie room and a large outdoor deck that overlooks the adjacent city square The Grove, this is a welcoming space for solo travellers or groups. Meanwhile in the rooms (which include dorms and twin rooms) local artists were commissioned by Once in Joburg's artist residency programme to add colour to the walls, staying for free at the hotel in exchange for leaving their artistic mark on the hotel. Once in Joburg also offers a variety of city experiences such as walking tours and hosts regular events at the adjoining bar The Immigrant.
CITY TREETOP STUDIO (AIRBNB)
Highlighted by Airbnb as one of its 'rare finds' the City Treetop is a bright, colourful and perfectly compact one-bed studio located at 26 Juta Street, a few short blocks away from all the Braamfontein action. There's a cute astroturfed balcony overlooking the street, while floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the tops of the trees that line the street (hence the name) ensure the whole studio is filled with light (there are also full black out blinds for when you need to get some sleep in the morning). Extras include free WiFi and one parking space in the basement car park.
URBAN ESCAPE (AIRBNB)
Architect Dieter Brandt's open-plan one-bedroom apartment looks onto the iconic Nelson Mandela bridge and comes with the classic minimalist mix of cool concrete and warm wood that you would expect from an architect-decorated apartment that has been featured in magazines like Elle Decor and Home & Leisure. Aside from the awesome view, the apartment's winning feature is its private north-facing courtyard, a very rare find in this part of the city.