This is a city with a wealth of tall buildings to enjoy a sky-high view. Joburg is also surrounded by at least a dozen different rocky ridges, some of them topped with mansions and others declared as nature reserves, meaning you are spoilt for choice when it comes to interesting vantage points to enjoy a different perspective on the city.
Where: Radisson RED Rosebank, Oxford Parks, 4 Parks Blvd (entrance on Rosebank Rd), Rosebank
Alto234 Bar at The Leonardo
The Leonardo is Joburg’s latest love-it-or-loathe-it landmark and the tallest building in Africa. Alto234 is its open-air sky bar sitting right at the very top. At a dizzying 234 metres, you can’t get higher than this. This is an exclusive spot offering unparalleled 360-degree views of the entire city. It is said that on clear days you can see all the way to Pretoria and even watch planes taking off from OR Tambo airport. Of course Moët & Chandon Champagne is the drink of choice and for a snack there are gourmet nibbles like oysters, wagyu beef biltong or langoustines. Prior booking is essential and a R300 entrance fee applies (this includes a complimentary glass of Champagne). There are different time slots starting from 11:00 that you can book. Book a visit online at alto234.co.za.
Where: The Leonardo, 75 Maude St, Sandton Central
The Troyeville Hotel is an historic favourite in the east, known for its tasty Portuguese food and (pre-Covid) lively pre-rugby match afternoons at the bar. Now under new ownership, in 2021 this somewhat grungy but always atmospheric destination has undergone a major renovation that includes the addition of a new cafe, a second sports bar area and a new rooftop bar. The formerly unused rooftop of the building has been transformed into a huge beer garden called the Sunset 1403 Rooftop Bar. On weekends live music and sunset DJ sets are planned. Entrance to the rooftop costs R200 on the door and includes a R100 voucher for food and drinks.
Where: 1403 Albertina Sisulu Rd, Troyeville
The third wave really did a number on Joburg nightlife and the temporary closure of one of the city's coolest rooftops, 999 at Hallmark Hotel in New Doornfontein, was a blow. This venue truly has one of Joburg's most incredible city views. Keeping their eyes on the summer season, during the 15th-floor rooftop bar's down time they've been working on a makeover (including a revamped food menu) and are preparing to reopen to the public on September 25. The bar will be open every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Bookings are essential, book online here.
Where: Hallmark House, 54 Siemert Rd, New Doornfontein
A little garden in the sky with a fantastic urban view, filled with exotic plants and trees snaking over the eco-friendly furniture and an organic menu to match. More of a cafe-bar than a late-night venue, the Living Room is at its most happening on Sunday afternoons during the always popular Sundays in the Living Room party when the rooftop fills up for sundowners against a spectacular urban backdrop with hot DJs providing the soundtrack.
Where: 20 Kruger St, Maboneng
Enjoy a spellbinding view of the Joburg skyline at sunset (and the all-time best view of the impressive cityscape of Hillbrow) while you sip a beer or a cider quart with shebeen-style snacks. The venue is this 51st-floor apartment venue, 5101, on the top floor of Ponte, Africa’s tallest residential building, operated by tour company Dlala Nje who also operate a community centre in the building. The Sundowners' Experience (booking essential) includes a guided walk around the residential building of Ponte and a visit to its most famous core, a Joburg landmark, plus a talk on the remarkable story of this most distinctive Joburg building. You'll also learn more about the fascinating history of the densely populated neighbourhoods that surround the building, Hillbrow, and Yeoville
Where: Ponte City Apartments, entrance off Joe Slovo Dr (turn off at Abel Rd and Lily Ave), Berea
The buzz of a busy 250-seater restaurant that generally requires reservations at the weekend provides that all essential extra ' the vibe' as Joburgers say, at star chef David Higg's live restaurant on the rooftop of Keyes Art Mile. Tables on the wraparound balcony with a view are prime spot at sundowner hour and the whole space, with its turquoise ceramic-tiled wall and light wooden floors has the impression of being suspended in a cabin in the sky. If you can't quite afford to dine with Joburg's high rollers, you can also find the same views next door at the considerably more casual Asian street-food spot Momo Kuro (note they are unlicenced so bring your own).
Where: Keyes Art Mile, cnr Keyes, and Jellicoe Aves, Rosebank
After a hard-day's designer label shopping and a quick manicure or grooming at the beauty salon, this is the bar to end your day at the upmarket Hyde Park Corner shopping mall with a glass of bubbles and a view. The views across the leafy northern suburbs stretch for miles and a lounger at the small pool deck is the most coveted location from which to enjoy it.
Where: Southern Sun Hyde Park Hotel, 1st Rd, Hyde Park
The steady construction of new tower blocks in Sandton's business district has meant that the panoramic view is not as impressive as it once was, but that doesn't detract from this being the biggest rooftop bar in Sandton and a neighbourhood favourite for several decades. Fire pits, hanging chairs, sofas, and a dining area are joined by dozens of trees, sun loungers, and even a small swimming pool atop the five-star Sandton Sun Hotel. A favoured hangout of local sporting celebrities, there's an excellent Champagne menu.
Where: Sandton Sun Hotel, cnr Alice Ln, and 5th St, Sandton
RIDGES AND HILLTOPS
The city's most famous luxury hotel is perched on the top of The Westcliff ridge and boasts some of the most fabulous 180-degree views over the city's urban forest to the north. In spring this is possibly the best place in Joburg to view the purple canopy of blooming jacaranda trees from above. Book a table for a long lazy brunch, perhaps with a glass of bubbly or two to toast the view, at the hotel's terrace restaurant Flames.
Where: Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, 67 Jan Smuts Ave, Westcliff
This pricey New York-style grillhouse and bar with branches in Sandton, Rosebank and Melrose Arch, is a Joburg institution. Serving excellent spice-crusted fillet and saucy ribs amid a constant buzz accompanied by a selection of single malts and fabulous local wines, reservations are recommended. What makes this Sandton branch special is the expansive bar and terrace perched on top of one of the steepest points of Sandton Central's ridge with panoramic views looking out north and west over sprawling greenery of the northern Sandton suburbs.
Where: 11 Alice Lane, Sandton Central
At 1,807 metres above sea level the steep Northcliff Ridge is the second tallest ridge in Joburg (pipped to the post by just one metre by the Observatory ridge in the east of the city). The Northcliff boutique hotel sits atop this ridge, nestled inside an ultra-exclusive housing estate. The view is entirely uninterrupted for miles and miles and you'll hear nothing but the tweeting of birds. The distant Magaliesberg mountains form a backdrop, surrounded by a great spread of trees with the rooftops of houses poking up out from the foliage. This most exclusive view can only be accessed by securing a restaurant booking, and it is advisable to book well in advance as this is a very popular spot. For non-hotel guests the restaurant opens Monday to Wednesday for dinner and Thursday to Sunday for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Where: 10 Solution Close, Northcliff Ext.25
This magnificent historic park with its stone-cut paths and water features, was brought back to life in the 2010s after essentially being abandoned by the public following a terrible crime wave that swept through the area in the 1990s. A dedicated team of 'friends of The Wilds' have worked tirelessly to cut away the thick overgrown vegetation that made an ideal hideout for opportunistic criminals and install colourful new public artworks, plant new succulents, fix fences, mend pathways and generally make this park a wonderful place to explore, loved by dog walkers and picnicking families alike. Follow the signs up to the top of the ridge from the car park for some of the best Joburg views.
Where: Houghton Drive, Houghton
Built clinging onto the top of a rocky ridge overlooking the rugged Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, Pablo House guesthouse is the perfect hilltop hideout. An uber-cool crash pad with a front entrance that gives nothing away about the glam interiors, luxury touches, a staircase that weaves across the ridge to a secluded pool down below and knockout Joburg views that stretch north to the Magaliesberg Mountain range. If you are not an overnight guest and would like to enjoy the view from the Pablo House restaurant Pablo Dos Manos (their pizzas are excellent!), note that reservations are absolutely essential and subject to availability.
Where: 3 4th Ave, Melville