Joburg Nightlife – Historic pubs in Joburg

20 Oct 2017

Pub time has been a Joburg institution since the first dusty miner washed up in the city seeking their fortune. The oldest pubs are gathered near historic Ferreirasdorp in the city centre where the first mining tent camp was pitched and as the decades progressed the pubs spread out into new neighbourhoods.
Here's an historic Joburg pub timeline to drink your way through:


The members-only Rand Club, established in 1887, lays claim to the oldest surviving bar in the city, Main Bar, said to be the longest in Africa. This place harks back to a by-gone era of British colonial style and fabulously rich mining magnates and is still a members club - although nowadays membership is open to all sexes and races (so long as they obey the smart dress code). The club hosts regular non-members events such as theatre performances, lunches and concerts and the Main Bar is open every Thursday evening for non-members.


First opened in 1905 as a grand colonial hotel, nowadays Kitchener's is one of the most fun bars in town, located right in the middle of hipster Braamfontein, famous for its weekend DJ parties and young creative crowd. Most of the original interiors are slightly worn but still intact, lending it a special atmosphere that's inviting day or night. The name is derived from Lord Kitchener, who is believed to have once been a guest at the hotel.


Opened in 1929 as a tea room and secret shebeen serving liquor to black workers, the Radium has its fair share of history – most famously trade unionist Mary 'Pickhandle' Fitzgerald inspired striking miners with speeches delivered from atop the bar. The surrounding area, Orange Grove, has seen better days and looks a bit rough but that doesn’t deter fans from enjoying the Radium’s tasty Portuguese food, live music and distinctly lived-in interiors.


The Bender’s Arms is said to date to the 1940s and the regular crowd looks like they never left, still watching the cricket in this down-at-heel, subterranean hangout just off Gandhi Square. The regulars like to think of the place as Joburg's version of the fictional bar Cheers and strangers can always expect a warm welcome. Benders is a survivor and has pulled through some very rough times - for war stories seek out the bartender who has allegedly worked here since 1961.

1950s: LORDS BAR

Reminding one of simpler times, when Sandton was still farmland and coming here meant grabbing some fresh air and enjoying afternoon tea in faux English style. The pub's interiors are not original, this is a 1989 refurbishment of the old Cock & Hen which opened in the early 1950s, but the old-fashioned ambience is the same.
Open 10:00-23:00.


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