Joburg itinerary: An introvert's guide

20 Mar 2024
Joburg is a restless city that seems to be constantly on the move, and while we love the nightlife and unique spaces where you can get lost in the buzzy atmosphere of new people and experiences, sometimes you just need a comfortable bubble that offers personal space, and quiet.

Inspired by a series of posts some time ago by Jozi.Rediscovered, we've been on a mission to uncover the finest galleries for quiet contemplation and coffee shops, where even the coffee beans tiptoe around. So grab your noise-cancelling headphones and explore Johannesburg's introvert-approved gems, where 'mingling' is a word we use sparingly and ' serenity' is the currency of the day. Sssshhhhh... don't tell everyone.

Take a seat at Foakes Coffee Bar and Roastery in Lorentzville

Foakes Coffee Bar and Roastery. Photo: James Delaney.

A coffee shop, roastery and bakery tucked into a tiny corner of eastern Joburg's makers' community Victoria Yards, Foakes Coffee Bar and Roastery is a shrine to sourdough bread. It's also a place for delicious toasties and a good cup of coffee. With seating inside and outside, this is an ideal spot no matter the season. Just make sure you visit on any day besides First Sunday if you are avoiding the crowds. 

Join the birds at Global Cheese Continental Deli in Linksfield

Outdoor seating to spend the day. Photo: Global Cheese Continental Deli via Facebook. 

Global Cheese Continental Deli is a little gem in Linksfield where peacocks roam freely, adding unique colour. The coffee here is rich, aromatic, and the perfect companion for a leisurely afternoon. Their sandwiches are culinary marvels crafted with care on ciabatta bread, and you can customise them with a variety of ingredients available at the counter. Of course, there's plenty of cheese on offer. 

Coffee and art at Goodman Gallery – Exit via the Gift Shop in Parkwood

Goodman Gallery gift shop Photo Goodman Gallery
The Goodman Gallery gift and coffee shop is a great place to find quiet. Photo: Goodman Gallery on Instagram.
An artistic heartbeat in Johannesburg and a landmark on Jan Smuts Avenue, where Parkwood's art strip meets Rosebank, Goodman Gallery is the perfect escape into contemporary art. Just be sure to visit during the day and avoid the busy evening or Saturday openings. With a small but lovely set of sculptures in the garden and a roomy coffee and gift shop, this is a sunny spot in which to find some peace. 

Read cover to cover at Linden's indie lit darling Bridge Books

Bridge Books's friendly Linden space. Photo: Bridge Books.

Once based in Commissioner Street in Joburg's City Centre, introverts will be pleased to know that the primary retail outlet for indie booksellers Bridge Books now resides along Linden's charming 4th Avenue. Bridge Books sells new and pre-loved titles, with a focus on promoting African literature. It's a wonderfully cosy space to work away from home or get lost between the covers. 

To sweeten the deal, Bridge Books shares space in a retail complex with vinyl store Recordmad, film development studio The RGB Pixellab, and Melville transplant Junkie Charity Store – each a treasure in its own right. The Linden library’s not far off, and two second-hand book dealers are along the same stretch of road. Visit the brick-and-mortar Books Galore and the curbside pop-up shop outside the haberdashery Arthur Bales.

In addition to quiet reading in good company, Bridge Books hosts poetry nights, book launches, and story sessions. For details, follow @bridgebooks on Instagram or join their mailing list.

Contemplative moments at Issy's Coffee & Gift Shop in Forest Town

Issy's is a quiet corner you'll want to keep visiting. Photo: Ivan Landman.

Opened by Courtneigh Bernstein in memory of her grandfather, Israel Gurwicz – a Holocaust survivor saved by his Polish governess, Issy’s Coffee & Gift Shop is located at the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre. The café spills into the courtyard of the centre and serves wholesome food, sustainably sourced Rwandan coffee, freshly baked treats, bagels and salads. On Fridays, this is the place to pick up challah (kitka) bread (order in advance) and they also make a delicious babka. The café stocks a range of gift items.

Head to the Sandton Library 

Inside the Sandton Library. Photo: Sandton Chronicle via Sandton Central.

With a reported 92 000 books, audiobooks, videos, music CDs, language tapes, and local daily and weekly newspapers, Sandton Library is a great stop for introverted bibliophiles. The library also offers free internet access. Opened in 1994 on Nelson Mandela Square, this public library is also worth exploring for its architectural design, with impressive curved walkways spiralling to the upper floors.  

Visits by appointment only at the Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation in Forest Town

Wonders await at JCAF. Photo: Graham De Lacy.

Joburg Contemporary Art Foundation (JCAF) is a fascinating contemporary art space. It's a combination of an academic research institute, and, most crucially for Joburg art lovers, a platform for museum-quality exhibitions. This space is perfect for an introvert to lose an hour or two while marvelling at the current exhibition. These change each year and are open for a few months only, by appointment.

Listen in at the Library of Things We Forgot to Remember at 44 Stanley

The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember. Photo: Joy Faith Dlamini.

This hidden treasure beckons introverts seeking a haven to quietly reflect on history. The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember at 44 Stanley offers an escape from the bustling world, inviting you to immerse yourself in an interactive audio-visual archive of black resistance. Founded by Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai in 2017, this unique space offers an extensive collection of vinyl records, each a melodious thread woven into the tapestry of southern Africa's liberation movements from the 1970s to '80s. Put on those headphones and indulge in some listening. For those who relish solitude and cultural exploration, the Library's walls also bear witness to the past through vivid posters and pamphlets, evoking the spirit of solidarity during Zimbabwe's struggle for independence. Step into this sanctuary of forgotten memories and immerse yourself in history's symphony, as the Library's tranquil ambience and uncrowded space provide the perfect refuge in which to unravel stories at your own pace.

Indulge in a cinematic escape

A quiet cinema escape at Ster-Kinekor Cine Prestige. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

For the discerning introvert seeking a cinematic escape, we highly recommend indulging in a movie house visit at any cinema in the city during a weekday.  From independent cinemas like the Bioscope to more commercial franchises like Ster-Kinekor (but not forgetting Cinema Nouveau in Rosebank that specialises in art-house releases) and Nu Metro, the movies are a peaceful place, if you go at the right time. Imagine strolling into a dimly lit theatre, where the hushed anticipation is almost palpable. Think of it as the easiest way to get your own personal screening. Check out our guide to where to go to the movies.

An intimate must-visit at the Red Door Café in Edenvale 

An intimate must-visit. Photo: Red Door Café via Facebook.

This unassuming café in Edenvale started in 2013 and is a welcoming little eatery that reflects the close-knit atmosphere you'll experience in much of the East Rand. Visit the Red Door Café a few times and they'll have your order memorised down pat. Their menu boasts a build-your-own omelette, a pulled-pork Cubano and a collection of pastries that we haven't had the chance to try yet, but are definitely at the top of our list. They also serve one of our favourite roasts, Father Coffee. Consider it a perfect place to hole up for the day with a book or get some work done (although bookings are a must over weekends and perhaps too busy for an introvert's liking; the café is closed on Mon). 

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden in Roodepoort

Yellow kraal aloes at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

On a weekday seek solace amidst nature's beauty at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden, with its serene ambience and thoughtful layout. This garden is a haven for those who prefer a quieter escape. As you step through the entrance, you'll be greeted by vast expanses of perfectly manicured lawns that lead you on a journey through cycad gardens, all the way to the breathtaking Witpoortjie Falls. For those in search of a shady nook in which to bask in peaceful contemplation, the perimeter of the lawns is adorned with a plethora of trees. With an abundance of wildlife and a staggering array of bird species, the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden promises an idyllic retreat for introverts, where the whispers of nature drown out the noise of the world. 

Take in some art at Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Braamfontein

Culture and calm await at Wits Art Museum. Photo: WAM.

Just beyond the bustling campus of Wits University, the Wits Art Museum (WAM) is a haven of culture and calm during the week. With a quiet vibe and lack of crowds, this gem stands as a sanctuary for those who appreciate a tranquil space in which to contemplate a bit of art. While the occasional student may cross your path, fear not, they're probably just late for a lecture. Housing an exceptional array of African art, both contemporary and historical, WAM boasts a mesmerising permanent collection that's a testament to the continent's creative spirit. From thought-provoking exhibitions to engaging events, this landmark museum caters to introverts while offering an escape into the captivating world of African artistry.

Book a night at Satyagraha House in Orchards

A perfect place for quiet contemplation. Photo: Supplied.
Satyagraha House is the house Mahatma Gandhi shared with his friend Hermann Kallenbach, a German-Jewish architect who designed the space, between 1908 and 1909. Now a Johannesburg heritage site, it is a beautiful guesthouse and museum dedicated to Gandhi's principles and offers visitors a contemplative and spiritual experience. If it's a pocket of tranquillity you're after, we're sure you'll find it here. Rooms are pared back and minimalistic, almost inviting a sense of calm. With plenty of corners throughout the property where you can seek solace – both in the garden and the buildings – you'll find a space to be alone, even if just for a night.

Do you have other suggestions of places we should add to our list? Let us know by emailing

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