Johannesburg

Day trip with the Gautrain - Sandton

15 Dec 2020
The shiny-gold high-speed rail service, the Gautrain, swiftly links central Johannesburg with the northern suburbs and beyond to Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport. The diverse neighbourhoods linked by the Gautrain also hold many of Gauteng province’s biggest attractions and if you are looking for a fast and easy way to fill a day of sightseeing, using the Gautrain is unbeatable.

In this edition of our series of guides to what to see and do at each Gautrain station, we take a look at the many attractions waiting to be enjoyed from the Gautrain's busiest station, Sandton. You can read all our Gautrain Day Trip guides here.

Africa's richest square mile

 
Eclectic new skyscrapers at The Marc in Sandton. Photo by Rich T / Shutterstock

You’ll know Sandton Central by its gleaming towers and the profusion of construction cranes towering above the central suburb as it remakes itself into a global business capital. Just 50 years ago the Sandton Central Business District was little more than rolling farmland dotted with tea houses and a polo club. Nowadays it is the economic hub of South Africa and the location for the headquarters of many of Africa’s biggest companies who are steadily transforming the Joburg skyline with ever taller skyscrapers.

Sandton is not all business however. A shopping mecca, there’s also a huge selection of trendy restaurants and bars to choose from too. The huge interlinked Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square, Legacy Corner and Michaelanego Towers malls together make up one of the biggest shopping precincts on the continent while in recent years Sandton's outdoor space has much improved with plenty more spaces for al fresco dining beyond the busy Nelson Mandela Square, including at new developments like The Marc and the Alice Lane Precinct, while the Mushroom Farm Park has never looked better. 

Getting around from Sandton station

The Sandton Gautrain sits right in the heart of the Sandton Central business district at the corner of West Street and Rivonia Road and all of central Sandton's biggest attractions lie with an easy 10-minute walk.

Turn left out of the station and the entrance to Nelson Mandela Square will be one block away on the left. One more block down West Street is Maude Street where you'll find The Marc centre with its restaurants and bars and the impressive skyscraper The Leonardo, now the tallest building in Africa. For some respite from the concrete sprawl cross straight over West Street when you come out of the station and follow Rivonia Road down to the lovely Mushroom Farm Park.

Essential Sightseeing

Contemporary art at Africa's tallest building The Leonardo

 
Contemporary African art at The Leonardo

At 234-metre tall The Leonardo replaces the iconic Carlton Centre in the Joburg City Centre, as Africa's tallest building. While you can't yet visit the top floor (though plans for a Sky Bar are in the works), you do still get an incredible view from the fine dining restaurant Aurum on the 7th floor, where there's also a cool pool deck and The Legacy Balance Spa.  

The building was also designed as a showcase of art with an incredible selection of contemporary artworks by top local artists on display that were commissioned especially for the building. You can book to join a special guided art tour of the building every Wednesday and Friday at 18:00, a super way to explore this landmark building from a different perspective.

To book an art tour email Chenee Seeberath at cseeberath@legacyhotels.co.za. Tours cost R200.

Dining at The Marc

 
David Higgs' Saint restaurant at The Marc

Just down the road from The Leonardo on Maude Street is The Marc, a popular place for al fresco dining with loads of enticing options including the always popular tashas, the fun and friendly Wok n Roll, and for a casual lunch Ribs & Burgers. For something more glamorous book a table at David Higg's sophisticated Saint which attracts a fashionable crowd and serves fantastic Italian food in glitzy surroundings. 

Mushroom Farm Park

 
Truffles on the Park at Mushroom Farm Park in Sandton Central

A lush green hideaway in the heart of Sandton Central, this small park with its playground, hilly landscaped lawns and an outdoor gym is popular with families for weekend picnics. Making it even more attractive is the restaurant-bar Truffles on the Park which looks out over this lovely green space. Set over two levels Truffles on the Park has an upper terrace and below opening directly into the park, a beach-style beer garden. A fun place for lunch and afternoon drinks on a sunny afternoon.

Sundowners with a view

Sun Deck at the Sandton Sun Hotel

Just down the hill from Sandton City at the corner of Alice Lane and 5th Street is the Alice Lane Precinct, a neatly contained walkable precinct that combines soaring office blocks with a well-designed and shady piazza. The main reason to head down here is to admire one of the best sunset views to be found anywhere in Sandton from the terrace at the acclaimed The Grillhouse restaurant. Just across the road is the Sandton Sun hotel whose rooftop bar and restaurant San Deck is also a sunset favourite, although the views from The Grillhouse are arguably superior.

Shopping paradise

 
Sandton's bustling streets outside Sandton City Mall. Photo by Shutterstock / Rich T

Sandton is a shopping capital, with the biggest and glitziest shopping malls where you can pick up everything from chic local designer handbags to quirky South African souvenirs.

Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square are where you will find all the biggest high street names as well as a Ster Kinekor cinema and Gauteng's most fun toy shop Hamley's (the kids even have the option of entering the shop via a slide!). Connecting Sandton City to the Sandton Sun Hotel, The Diamond Walk is the place to find international designer labels like Gucci and Louis Vuitton.

Adjoining Nelson Mandela Square, Legacy Corner Mall and Michelangelo Towers Mall, are known for luxury brands and local labels like the colourful Ankara Textiles that bear the continent's stamp. It's also the mall complex for men's shoes – with an incredible array from Premier whose handmade shoes and leather goods are sourced in Paris, and Zifferelli Firenze known for bespoke tailoring and classic Italian menswear. 

After trawling the mall settle in for an evening at one of the many restaurants on Nelson Mandela Square and watch as locals and visitors line up to take a picture with the huge statue of Nelson Mandela. Sushi restaurant The Big Mouth, tashas, The Butcher Shop and Grill and Greek restaurant Pappas on the Square are all favourites.

Festive season in Sandton

Introspection - Art of Contemporary Africa exhibition at Diamond Walk, Sandton City

If you are in Sandton in December check out the Sandton City Christmas Village (open from December 10 to 22) outside the entrance to Sandton City on Rivonia Road and over on Nelson Mandela Square you can enjoy free live music performances on the square on Dec 22 and 23 (at 14:00) and on Christmas Eve at 18:00.

Also don't miss the impressive contemporary art exhibition, Introspection - Art of Contemporary Africa (open until Jan 30, 2021). Presented by The Melrose Gallery in the glitzy Diamond Walk, the exhibition presents dozens of works both big and small by leading contemporary artists from across Africa including new paintings by the iconic Esther Mahlangu.

How to use the Gautrain

You can now pay for all your Gautrain trips using a contactless bank card by simply swiping in and out of the turnstiles at stations and tapping the contactless touchpoint on the bus when you enter. Alternatively, buy a Swift Card at the station and top it up to pay for your trips.

The Sandton Gautrain Station opens at 04:35 and closes at 21:35. The first train departs the station at 05:32 and the last northbound train at 20:38, last southbound train 21:18 (21:05 on weekends). Trains leave every 12 minutes during weekday peak rush hours and every 20 minutes during off-peak hours. On weekends trains depart every 30 minutes.

Download the Gautrain app for real-time updates on when the next Gautrain and Gautrain bus is due or check online at gautrain.co.za.

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