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, romantic countryside escapes or 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 sundowners
Joburg is the perfect town for sundowners. Even in the middle of summer 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 view from Flames at Four Seasons The Westcliff, while in Rosebank you can't beat the views at David Higgs' famous Marble restaurant on the top floor of Keyes Art Mile or for something a bit different check out hip downtown rooftop, the Living Room in Maboneng. For the very best views of the downtown Joburg 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. Joburg is also surrounded by 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. Read our guide to Joburg's best viewpoints and rooftop bars here.
Lunch or dinner under the stars at The Northcliff Boutique Hotel
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.
Experience nature’s views at Pablo House
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 wood-fired pizza and small plate Middle Eastern-inspired dishes. Reservations are absolutely essential and subject to availability. In-house guests always come first.
Up the love stakes at sleek and seductive The Marabi Club
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.
Take a drive for a lunch date for two at The Forum Kitchen at L'antico Giardino
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 30 minutes drive from Sandton). The ''ancient garden'' or L'antico Giardino spreads out under tall mature trees and into a lush garden with the majority of seating outdoors. The kitchen serves breakfasts and flavourful lunches.
Treat yourself to a classic movie date at The Bioscope
Joburg's only independent cinema, The Bioscope at 44 Stanley 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.
Take up a cooking class at Vitality HealthyFood Studio
Whether you’re on a first date or your hundredth, a cooking class is always fun activity. One of the things we love about Vitality HealthyFood Studio’s cooking classes is that it broadens your horizons on healthier meal options and makes it accessible. It's also got 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. Find out more details here.
Entertain your inner children with 90s nostalgia at Cracker Zacs
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, and a small pizza menu.
Mix Cocktail Bar
Music and love have always been intertwined and at Mix Cocktail Bar at Keyes Art Mile in Rosebank has a an interesting line-up of music events Wednesdays through Fridays – from jazz and vinyl to DJ sets.
Entrance is free although booking is essential at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paint and Sip at The Playground Market
Head to Braamfontein's popular Saturday market The Playground for a Paint and Sip session on the ground floor of the market (where the food vendors are located) with a nice long table set-up. You can make this shared experience unique by painting something memorable. Rest assured, no artistic ability or prior experience is necessary.
Learn to dance in Joburg
Put on your dancing shoes and take up some lessons with the guidance of South Africa's best dance teachers and choreographers. 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.
Unwind in one of Joburg's many green spaces
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 Gardens and Emmarentia Dam. For more venues check out our guide to Joburg's most beautiful parks.
Enjoy a night market with Fridays@Farmers at Fourways Farmers Market
Close to the city but with acres of space to enjoy long walks in nature, Fourways Farmers Market located at Modderfontein Reserve has become a favourite with Joburgers. The huge open-air market is a three-day weekend treat open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and boasts dozens of tasty food stalls presented by weekend market favourites such as SumTing Fresh and Che Argentine. Arrive early (it can get busy).
Houseboating on the Vaal with Old Willow No. 7
Gauteng's water playground is the section of the Vaal river that forms the border between the Gauteng and Free State provinces. On any given weekend you can book one of the Old Willow No. 7 Houseboat Charters with a 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.
Ride a cable car up to the top of the Magaliesberg mountains
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. Taking you to the top of the Magaliesberg mountains for panoramic views over the dam and Gauteng.
Take to the skies in a hot air balloon with Bill Harrop's
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. For maximum exclusivity, make sure to book one of the private, one-hour flight options for two passengers only. Read our review here.
Get your thrills at Orlando Towers
These two huge cooling towers covered in colourful murals are Soweto's most recognisable landmark and the area 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' freefall (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).
Lunch, shopping and art at 44 Stanley
A former 1930s industrial complex transformed into a boutique shopping destination, 44 Stanley offers an enticing selection of designer clothing and artisanal homeware stores, plus great coffee shops and cafes, spread across a series of pretty interlinked courtyards. For more see our full guide on how to best enjoy 44 Stanley at night.
Enjoy sunset at Northcliff Ridge
From Sandton Central, look out on the horizon and off toward the south-west 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 recently renovated Northcliff Ridge Eco Park has new wheel-chair 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 sunset.
Row out to Zoo Lake
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 among the central Parks suburbs, and is popular among families, walkers and runners, and picnic-goers.
Spa dates and countryside getaways
Check in for a "staycation" at one of Joburg's luxury spas
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 the 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 full guide to Joburg day spas.
Lunch and a hike in the Gauteng countryside
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 in the Gauteng countryside. 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.
Among the most beautifully located are Kleine Rijke on the shores of Hartbeespoort Dam which opens on select weekends for gourmet picnics, the Ground venue in Muldersdrift which has an excellent cafe and a brilliant wine selection and the gorgeous Nirox Sculpture Park which opens on select weekends for events such as concerts and opera performances. 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.
Book a stay at a countryside getaway
Between the substantial Big 5 Dinokeng Reserve in Tshwane near Pretoria, the pristine Highveld landscape of the Cradle and the rolling valleys of the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains and the Magalies Meander, the Gauteng Province has plenty of quiet places to enjoy a relaxed countryside escape away 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 the 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 feature on the best hotels, lodges and cottages in Gauteng for a countryside getaway.