Romance doesn't start and stop with Valentine's Day, and Joburg has no shortage of unique ways to celebrate your love all year long. Sure, we don't have the ocean views, the romantic, old cobbled streets, or even a river promenade to stroll along, but Joburg does have some fantastic restaurants and bars, beautiful parks, countryside getaways, and other fun places to go on a date.
Browsing a food market hand-in-hand or sipping sundowners with a spectacular view of the city, maybe even a thrill-seeking bungee jump in Soweto – here's our guide to some classic, and some less conventional, places to impress your date in Joburg.
FOOD, DRINKS, AND ENTERTAINMENT
Pull up a seat with a view for sundownersJoburg is the perfect city for sundowners. Even in the middle of winter the sun still sets relatively early. Order an ice-cold drink, find a table with a view, and enjoy one of Joburg's famously memorable sunsets at a local rooftop restaurant or terrace. You can't beat the tree-lined view from Flames at Four Seasons The Westcliff, while in Rosebank, David Higgs's renowned Marble restaurant on the top floor of Keyes Art Mile's Trumpet building offers views that stretch out to the Magaliesberg mountains. Sitting at the top of Africa’s tallest building The Leonardo, at a dizzying 234 metres, you can’t get higher than Alto234 Bar. It's an exclusive spot offering unparalleled 360-degree views of the entire city and of course, Moët is the drink of choice. For something different, check out the hip City Centre rooftop, Living Room in Maboneng, and for the very best views of the Joburg urban skyline, the rooftop bar and restaurant Rooftop at Hallmark Hotel is a must.
As you can tell, this is a city with a wealth of tall buildings to enjoy a sky-high view, but Joburg is also surrounded by rocky ridges. Some of them are topped with mansions and others are 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. Read our guide to Joburg's best viewpoints and rooftop bars here.
The Northcliff Boutique Hotel sits atop Northcliff Ridge, nestled inside a private housing estate. The distant Magaliesberg mountains form the backdrop, with a great spread of trees. Access the view by making a reservation at the restaurant. It is advisable to book well in advance as this is a popular spot. It’s undeniable the views are spectacular at any time of the day so we suggest a lunch picnic for two or a dinner reservation with sunset drinks for that pop of romance.
Built clinging onto the ridge overlooking the rugged Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, Pablo House is the brainchild of bassist Louis Roux from the Shadow Club band. It’s a hideout, with glam interiors and luxury touches. It also has a delicious restaurant, Pablo Dos Manos, renowned for great brunch, wood-fired pizza, and small-plate Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. Reservations are absolutely essential and subject to availability. In-house guests always come first.
Effusive reviews for this place all generally remark on the atmosphere or (that South Africanism) “vibe” of The Marabi Club, a combination of superb food, slick service from jauntily dressed wait staff, interiors that conjure Joburg in an earlier age, and a moodily-lit stage on which a jazz band plays. Every Thursday is date night at Marabi Club with a special three-course meal, complimentary wine, and live jazz music. Reservations are a must.
L'antico Giardino is a classy, weekends-only breakfast and lunch venue created by top events organisers The Forum Company, located at their beautifully restored Lanseria farm White Light (around a 30-minute drive from Sandton). The ''ancient garden'' or L'antico Giardino spreads out under mature trees and into a lush garden with the majority of seating outdoors. The kitchen serves breakfasts and flavourful lunches. Note this is a reservations-only venue.
Joburg's only independent cinema, The Bioscope at 44 Stanley, a boutique shopping destination in Milpark that lived its previous life as a light industrial complex, is devoted to bringing the latest in arthouse, indie, documentary, and foreign films to the South African big screen. Especially recommended for African films and documentaries, other regular events include classic movie nights and even sing-along cinema events.
Whether you’re on a first date or your hundredth, a cooking class is always a fun activity. Doing it at the top of the shiny Discovery HQ on Sandton's most prominent corporate boulevard is a plus. One of the things we love about Vitality HealthyFood Studio’s cooking classes is that they broaden your horizons on healthier meal options and make cooking delicious food accessible. They also have a great rooftop terrace. Rest assured you’ll be guided by professional chefs while making use of their fully-equipped kitchen. Plus, not having to clean the dishes is always an upside.
Bowling alley and retro arcade Cracker Zacs at The Zone@Rosebank is an exclusively 21+ arcade hidden within The Fun Company. Think '90s nostalgia meets modern tech with a neon Pac-Man ceiling and augmented reality dart booths. There’s a fully stocked bar with signature cocktails like the Smoked Cinnamon Old-Fashioned (which promises to taste like a Christmas Party in your mouth) and a small pizza menu. It's the perfect spot for an out-of-box date night, and daily walk-ins are usually fine unless there's a private event happening.
Music and love go together like Joburg and expansive skylines, and mixologist-led Mix Cocktail Bar at Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank has an interesting line-up of music events Tue – Sat, from jazz and vinyl to DJ sets. Plus, you get to enjoy a memorable view with your swanky drink. Entrance is free although booking is essential at email@example.com or via the online link.
Not for the faint of heart, the most extreme seat in Joburg hovers 50 metres off the ground at a 22-seater table suspended from a crane – full service and a fine-dining menu included with unbeatable, 360-degree panoramic views. Parked on the sprawling campus of St. Stithians College in Bryanston, the crane is the show-stopping feature of Sky Dining, where you are strapped in like on a roller coaster ride and, as the first course is being served, pulled up to a cruising altitude of 50 metres. Experiences range between 60 to 90 minutes for a multi-course lunch, dinner, or champagne breakfast, and the chef is even on board with you preparing select elements of your meal on-site. Check out upcoming events here.
With its large, wraparound balconies, outdoor deck, and great city views, The Playground at 73 Juta Street in Braamfontein is the place to hang out on summer weekends, and the perfect spot for a date. What was once Neighbourgoods has now become The Playground – and 2024 sees it re-emerge as a play space for adults thanks to Play Braam's new editions. It's reimagined to be less of a market and more of an entertainment and cultural attraction, with great food and retail selections, bars, live music, and plenty of ways to stay entertained that include the popular Paint and Sip sessions, board games, a pop-up roller rink, a sky-high basketball court, and swanky The City Beach Club – all in the heart of Joburg.
Put on your dancing shoes and take up some lessons with the guidance of South Africa's best dance teachers and choreographers. A great couples' activity, dancing is a universal language of joy that everyone speaks, and there are plenty of 'happiness narrators' in this city to help you communicate. Check out our guide to dance lessons here.
While the gold rush defined the city’s early years, the dust kicked up by mining spurred the desire for greenery and today Joburg has the distinction of being one of the world’s largest human-made forests. According to Johannesburg City Parks, there are presently more than 2,000 parks and an estimated 10 million trees in the city. The result is a magnificent sea of green that spreads out from the city’s central ridges in all directions. Pack a picnic basket, lace up your walking shoes, and head to one of Joburg's most beautiful parks. Local favourites that are perfect for a picnic date include The Wilds, Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden, and Emmarentia Dam. For more venues check out our guide to Joburg's most beautiful parks.
Gauteng's water playground is the section of the Vaal River that forms the border between the Gauteng and Free State provinces. About an hour's drive from the south of Joburg on any given weekend you can book one of the Old Willow No. 7 Houseboat Charters, with its fleet of nine 'LeisureLiner' houseboats available for full-day and overnight rentals. As your own captain out on the water you get the pleasure of being able to simply sail away from the crowds for maximum peace and relaxation. Read our review on this unique experience, for a different kind of romantic getaway.
Harties Aerial Cableway is one of the most popular activities in the Hartbeespoort Dam area, just over one hour's drive north of Sandton. If heights are your jam, you’ll love the Aerial Cableway experience that takes you to the top of the Magaliesberg mountains for panoramic views over the dam and Gauteng. Get a two-seater ticket and take it all in.
Whether you’ve got a proposal planned, celebrating an anniversary, or simply want to surprise your partner with something unique, gently floating across the countryside in a balloon will do it with the legendary Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris. For maximum exclusivity, make sure to book one of the private, one-hour flight options for two passengers only. Read our review here.
Orlando Towers are two huge cooling towers covered in colourful murals and they're Soweto's most recognisable landmark. The area around the towers is now a magnet for thrill-seekers looking to go bungee jumping, paintballing, power swinging, and rock climbing. There's nothing quite like a terrifying jump from a great height to get your heart racing faster and if your date is the thrill-seeking type you can't go wrong with that. One of the most popular attractions is the SCAD Fall, where 'divers' free-fall (completely unattached to anything) for 70 metres through the centre of one of the towers, landing on a Suspended Catch Air Device (a kind of giant springy net). Our palms are sweaty just thinking about it.
A former 1930s industrial complex transformed into a boutique shopping destination, 44 Stanley in Milpark offers an enticing selection of designer clothing and artisanal homeware stores, plus great coffee shops and cafés, spread across a series of pretty interlinked courtyards. It's the ideal place to take a stroll with someone special. See our full guide on how to best enjoy 44 Stanley at night.
From Sandton Central, look out on the horizon and off toward the southwest and you'll notice a single water tower standing sentinel on a broad ridge. This is Northcliff Ridge, one of the most popular natural viewpoints in the city. The Northcliff Ridge Eco Park has wheelchair-accessible walking paths and a parking area (so you don't need to walk the entire way to the top), and boasts a panoramic view of Joburg that can't be beat for a romantic sunset.
Hire one of the colourful wooden boats on the shore of Zoo Lake, and row out to the gushing fountain and protected bird island in its middle, a quaintly romantic pastime that has been practised here by courting young couples for decades. This charming body of water and the surrounding green space known as Zoo Lake Park is conveniently nestled amongst the central Parks suburbs and is popular with families, walkers, runners, and picnic-goers.
Browse a local food market
Any day of the week is market day in Joburg. In this city, you’ll find great food, the widest variety of crafted goods, antiques, vintage clothing, and must-have souvenirs. Joburg markets have it all – from food trucks to all-natural skincare and artisanal gin – and there's a dizzying array of hipster markets and their more traditional counterparts to choose from. If you feel a bit overwhelmed, here's our guide to Joburg's best markets, and our guide to Joburg's best fresh produce markets.
SPA DATES AND WEEKEND GETAWAYS
Check in for a "staycation" at a luxury spa
Find serenity at one of Joburg's exclusive spas, where you can indulge in a romantic treatment for two, then lounge around the spacious outdoor gardens and pools pretending you're on a faraway holiday. From Four Seasons Spa Westcliff, with its luxurious wraparound outdoor lap pool that hugs the post-treatment relaxation room, to the exotic Balinese-themed garden oasis at the Fairlawns Spa in Morningside, the selection of high-end spas in Joburg will leave you satisfied and blissed out without needing to pack a bag. For more heavenly spas see our round-up of Joburg day spas.
On a sunny day, there's nothing quite like hopping in the car to escape the city for a few hours and slow down with lunch and a good walk beyond the city's outskirts. From the foothills of the Magaliesberg and the shores of the Hartbeespoort Dam to the rolling highveld of the Cradle of Humankind, there are dozens of lovely farmhouse restaurants scattered across Gauteng, ready and waiting to welcome harried Joburgers looking for a little slice of the country life, as well as hiking trails with plenty of fresh air and winding footpaths for those who prefer an earlier start to their day. For more ideas, check out our guide for hiking in and around Gauteng.
Amongst the most beautifully located venues for lunch are the Ground venue in Muldersdrift which has an excellent café and a brilliant wine selection, and the gorgeous Nirox Sculpture Park which opens on select weekends for events such as concerts and opera performances. Even without the stroll you take through the park on your way to the restaurant, And then there was fire is worth every kilometre of the drive for a leisurely weekend lunch in the Nirox Sculpture Park. Note that advanced booking is essential. For more ideas on countryside venues where you can enjoy a delicious lunch and a scenic hike, see our feature here.
Between the substantial Big 5 Dinokeng Reserve (around 100km north-east of Joburg), the pristine highveld landscape of the Cradle, and the rolling valleys of the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains, the Gauteng Province has plenty of quiet places to enjoy a relaxed and romantic escape from bustling Johannesburg.
In the Cradle of Humankind turn up the romance with a stay at the Cradle Boutique Hotel, Maropeng Boutique Hotel, or the Kloofzicht Lodge & Spa, or for something on a budget consider self-catering at venues such as Ibis River Retreat, where each cottage also comes with its own hot tub. Just outside Pretoria Rosemary Hill Farm has super stylish self-catering units that are ideal for a special break, or for a more active staycation consider a stay in historic Cullinan or the Big 5 Dinokeng Game Reserve.
For more ideas on romantic places to stay over just outside of Joburg, check out our round-up of countryside holidays in Gauteng or read more about where to go for a weekend getaway in Gauteng.