Johannesburg In Your Pocket Concierge Walk Day

01 Jul 2024
On Wed, Jun 5 2024, concierges from some of Johannesburg's top hotels swapped their front desks for a day of exploration, courtesy of Johannesburg In Your Pocket's Concierge Walk Day. This exciting event aimed to bridge the gap between the city and its tourists, as concierges discovered unique highlights to share with their guests. 

One of the key challenges to tourism in Johannesburg is undoing negative perceptions of the city for locals and visitors, and creating more inclusive neighbourhoods. For many people working in hotels, long commutes to work and limited free time during a demanding workday mean that it's a challenge to familiarise oneself with the hotel surroundings. And, many of Joburg’s best attractions are hidden behind closed doors. 

We launched our first Concierge Walk in 2019 in the Rosebank district and offered a number of these experiences until lockdown in 2020. This was our first Concierge Walk since then, and we are planning to organise these quarterly.  

Twenty representatives from Joburg's leading hotels joined us on the day, from establishments that included The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa, Four Seasons The Westcliff, Sandton Sun and Sandton Towers, The Capital Hotels, Rosebank Sun, 54 on Bath, Seven Villas Hotel and voco. We were also joined by a representative of City Sightseeing, who operate the Red Bus. Transport on the day was supplied by The Joburg Squirrel. For this event, we collaborated with the South African Concierge Forum with whom we have worked since we opened our doors in 2014. 

The day began with a brief meet-up at Keyes Art Mile, setting the stage for a series of captivating adventures, starting with a visit to the creative hub of Victoria Yards. Once a derelict complex of light industrial buildings, the now reimagined Victoria Yards (Vic Yards) in Lorentzville in eastern Joburg has transformed into a vibrant community of makers, artists, and artisans.

We were given a warm winter welcome by Lise Kuhle, owner of outdoor gear store Karibu and upcycled fabric enterprise Shwe at Vic Yards, tour guide Angela, and some coffee and toasties courtesy of Foakes Coffee Roastery & Bakery. Once warmed up, we set out to explore this creative wonderland.

We visited some of the 45 tenants who call Vic Yards home, including artist James Delaney, who personally showed us around his studio. Fashion pieces from Urban Flock, Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung, and Tsepho Jeans also caught our eye. Kuhle gave a fascinating talk on the unique history of shweshwe, South Africa’s unofficial national fabric, and its use in local businesses, including hers. We also learnt interesting bookbinding techniques from veteran bookbinders, Pulp Paperworks.
Gin-tasting at Primal Spirits Distillery at Victoria Yards. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

A highlight of Vic Yards was our impromptu visit to Timbuktu in the Valley, a pop-up school catering to children in the neighbourhood who have fallen out of the formal schooling system. They offer a curriculum based on equipping kids with key skills that include maths, indigenous cooking, coding skills, and even skateboarding. Our morning adventure at Vic Yards wrapped up with a gin tasting at Primal Spirits Distillery, perfectly priming us for the rest of the day's explorations and lunch. The trip fuelled us with new insights to share with those planning to visit Vic Yards.

Savouring history and flavour: The Troyeville

Enjoying lunch at The Troyeville. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

Our second stop was for lunch at The Troyeville, tucked along busy Albertina Sisulu Road in a historic neighbourhood once bustling with writers and activists during the height of apartheid. Raul Lima, our enthusiastic guide and co-owner of The Troyeville, took us on a whirlwind tour of this iconic establishment, highlighting its shift from accommodation and boarding to food, beverages, and entertainment, making it an ideal, fun stop for city visitors. Opened in 1939, The Troyeville was one of Joburg's original hotels. 

We started with Casa Das Natas, the hotel's café and bakery. Then we explored the conference rooms, banqueting hall, the Glass House, and rooftop decks which offer breathtaking panoramic views of the Johannesburg city skyline. Following the tour, we indulged in a sumptuous Portuguese feast at The Troyeville Restaurant that was nothing short of finger-licking good. The lunch spread included everything that The Troyeville has become known for: succulent prawns, flavourful rice and chicken, and tender steak, leaving everyone with full stomachs and satisfied smiles. The Troyeville not only offered a delightful culinary experience but thanks to the tour, a fascinating glimpse into Johannesburg's rich history and vibrant present.

Inside Out: Roger Ballen's 'End of the Game'

Inside Out Centre for the Arts' Alan Hayward and some concierges taking in the exhibition. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket.

Our last stop was the intriguing Inside Out Centre for the Arts in Forest Town, where we immersed ourselves in photographer Roger Ballen's thought-provoking exhibition, End of the Game. This powerful exhibition blurs the lines between animal and human, confronting viewers with profound questions about humanity's interaction with the natural world. The collection features historical photographs, artefacts, and films that delve into the origins of African safaris, the glamour of the golden age of hunting expeditions, and Ballen’s artistic response to the resulting ecological plight. 
The film shown as part of Roger Ballen's exhibition at Inside Out Centre for the Arts captured everyone's attention with its powerful imagery and messaging. Photo: Johannesburg In Your Pocket

As we explored displays featuring eerie part-man, part-animal figures, we were struck by the haunting emptiness and deviation from nature caused by hunting and violence. It was a chilling yet necessary reminder of the impact of human actions on the environment. The profound messages of Inside Out left a lasting impression, providing a powerful and contemplative end to our enriching day of discovery in Joburg.

Speaking about the experience, City Sightseeing's Gaboile Gabodirwe said: "When we go to hotels we don't get to meet the people on the ground. We spend our time talking to decision-makers who manage hotels. This experience gave us the opportunity to talk to the people who are running the show. It's such an important initiative."

As one person shared: "It opens your eyes to a different part of Joburg that you weren't familiar with."

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For all the latest news of what to do around Joburg, keep up to date with our weekly events and exhibitions guides.


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