Johannesburg

Sandton Central – neighbourhood guide

13 Dec 2021
Just 50 years ago the Sandton Central Business District was little more than a convenient stopping point on the drive from Joburg to Pretoria, just about rolling farmland dotted with a tea house and a polo club. Nowadays it is the economic hub of South Africa, and Africa's, richest square mile. The location of the headquarters of many of Africa’s biggest companies, Sandton's brash skyscrapers have transformed the Joburg skyline. 

While Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square shopping malls can still be considered Sandton Central's centre, the district has grown considerably in the past decade. The Marc shopping centre with its pavement cafes and the soaring The Leonardo (Africa's tallest building), have cemented their place among the district's main lifestyle attractions, while Sandton Central's green space Mushroom Farm Park has never looked better.

GET THERE WITH THE GAUTRAIN: Sandton Central has its own Gautrain station at the corner of West Street and Rivonia Road. All of the biggest attractions are within a 10-minute walk. Turn left out of the station and walk one block down West Street to Nelson Mandela Square. One more block further is Maude Street where you'll find The Marc and The Leonardo.
Africa's tallest skyscraper, The Leonardo, towers over the Sandton Central district

The Sandton Central vibe 

From High Street brands to designer fashion labels, shopping is a major Sandton attraction. The huge interlinked Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square, Legacy Corner, and Michelangelo Towers malls together make up one of the biggest shopping precincts on the continent. Drinking and dining is another major attraction with a host of glamorous venues to enjoy a taste of the Champagne lifestyle. Don't forget to dress up and flash your designer labels. Sandton loves bling. 

Lazy lunch or casual dinner 

If you're in Sandton for lunch or dinner, you are spoiled for choice. The shopping malls of course offer plenty of local chain restaurants, but here we have highlighted those venues that are we think stand out in the neighbourhood.

Signature sushi dish from The Big Mouth 

The Big Mouth We love how this slick joint with its nod to Art Deco that replaced a tired Nelson Mandela Square tourist trap serving sad pizzas. The Big Mouth has an innovative Asian-inspired menu with plenty of variety, that includes signature sushi dishes (we love the fish 'n' chips roll), or choose from bowls, ceviche, grills, or pan dishes.  

Tashas' ‘African glamour’ inspired the Nelson Mandela Square branch of the chic local bistro chain Tashas. The decor is dramatically elegant (the rose gold and pink Flamingo room is favoured by the boujee crowd) and the menu is Mediterranean-inspired, and perfect for a lazy lunch. There's also a second branch at The Marc on Maude Street.

Stelle This Northern-Italian-inspired restaurant is located in Acorn Lane, a rambling and secluded estate on Rivonia Road, about 15 minutes walk from the Gautrain station. Ideal for lazy afternoon meals, the restaurant flows out into a large and picturesque courtyard and garden.  

Olives & Plates Embassy A popular spot for ladies who lunch, this bistro at 175 Empire Place has a bulging menu that runs to several pages and it may take you longer to choose from than it actually does to eat your meal. The food here is always good, albeit a bit fussily served. 
 
The beach style beer garden at Truffles on the park

Truffles on the Park Located in Mushroom Farm Park, this is a great spot for summer with a fun beach-style beer garden looking over the park. There's plenty of tapas and sharing plates on the menu and great summer cocktails.

Pablo Sandton is a brilliant brunch destination serving Mediterranean and Middle-Eastern-inspired dishes and excellent wood-fired pizzas. Located at the Mint Hotel, Pablo has a breezy space that offers outdoor seating looking onto a poolside.

Ribs and Burgers Another casual eatery, this family-owned chain hails from Australia. Enjoy juicy burgers and saucy ribs while sitting on the wide sheltered sidewalk at The Marc on Maude Street. 
 
Pablo Sandton Shakshuka
Pablo Sandton's Shakshuka

Where to enjoy the sunset 

The Grillhouse Admire one of the best sunset views in Sandton at Alice Lane Precinct, two blocks down the hill from Sandton City, on the terrace at the excellent steakhouse The Grillhouse.

San Deck. Another sunset favourite is Sandton Sun hotel's rooftop bar and restaurant. On weekend evenings DJ sets and a fire pit add atmosphere, although the view is not as unrivalled as it once was. Still, if you enjoy celebrity spotting, it's also a good place to be.

Alto234 Bar For the most superior sunset views head to Alto234, the dizzying Sky Bar situated on the very top of Africa’s tallest building The Leonardo (234 metres above the street). Offering unparalleled 360-degree views, booking is essential. 
Spectacular views from Alto234 Bar at The Leonardo 

Dining and nightlife hotspots 

If you really want to get into the Sandton spirit, then we recommend getting dressed up and making a booking for a blow the budget evening out at one of Sandton Central's glitzy dining hotspots. Charge those credit cards and don't expect low key. This is after all Africa's richest square mile and Joburg is forever the gold rush city. Extravagance is the order of the day.
Statement cherry blossoms arrangements at Tang in Sandton Central

Tang Launched in winter 2021 Tang is an ultra-glam luxury Asian restaurant and bar overlooking Nelson Mandela Square. The menu designed by Chef de Cuisine Wesley Chen focuses on Japanese Izakaya-style dishes, sushi and other delights. Start by taking a seat at the luxurious Moët & Chandon Champagne bar and toast the evening with bubbles. 

Aurum On the 7th floor of  The Leonardo, Aurum is an elegant dining and leisure destination in a cathedral-like setting with vaulted ceilings and soaring windows. There's an extensive global wine list and the menu offers easy all-day eating options and more refined dinner fine dining options. For sun-worshippers there's also an expansive pool deck.

Saint Star chef David Higgs' Saint is a knockout super-sexy space at The Marc, packed with atmosphere. In the evenings the bar fills up and of course Champagne is the drink of choice. The menu is Italian, and their wood-fired pizzas are excellent.
 
Zioux Champagne Bar in Sandton Central

Zioux Located opposite Saint restaurant, Zioux (pronounced "zoo") is also led by David Higgs'and the Marble group. It's a glitzy bar and bistro serving fancy cocktails and a small plates menu focused on the tastes of Latin America, particularly Peru.

The Greenhouse The name is a nod to the impressive feature garden wall and ceiling and on a warm evening this bar's wide-open terrace is a great after work place to soak up a cocktail or two. On weekends DJs turn up the heat while accompanying the party is a classy menu of contemporary small plates, many of them Asian inspired.
 
Solo Sandton For those Sandtonistas who love dressing to the nines to head out for an evening of fine food, Champagne and lots Instagramming, this wine restaurant with its Insta-famous wine cellar tunnel is the spot.
Oysters at Solo Sandton

What to see

Between the abundant offices, hundreds of shops and some of the city's priciest restaurants, Sandton Central is in many ways a shrine to capitalism. However, there are pockets of art and culture that are worth seeking out such as Artyli.com Gallery in the Nelson Mandela Square mall which promotes emerging local artists and The Melrose Gallery's contemporary art exhibition space, conveniently located inside the designer shopping arcade Diamond Walk in Sandton CityThe Leonardo has a fantastic private contemporary art collection and you can book a guided tour. ​​​​​
Contemporary artworks in the lobby of The Leonardo

Where to stay

As a business capital, Sandton Central has Joburg's biggest offering of hotel rooms, most of them largely focused on the business traveller and conferencing market. Major hotels in the district include: Sandton Sun, Intercontinental Sandton Towers, Da Vinci Hotel & Suites, The Leonardo, Protea Hotel Balalaika, Garden Court Sandton, Hotel Sky, Signature Lux, Radisson Blu Gautrain, Radisson Blu Sandton, Holiday Inn Sandton, Hilton Sandton, The Maslow, Capital on The Park, Capital Empire and The Mint.

SANDTON CENTRAL IN THE FESTIVE SEASON

The district gets in the festive mood this December with a packed programme of family-friendly events happening at the Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square malls. Events to look out for include:

Festive Live on the Square Free live music evening performances on the Nelson Mandela Square, happening Sat Dec 11, Sun Dec 12, Thu Dec 16, Fri Dec 17, Sat Dec 18, Sun Dec 19, Thu Dec 23, Fri Dec 24. 

The City Drive-In at Sandton City – Christmas Edition The Sandton City mall rooftop hosts a drive-in cinema showing Christma favourites like Love, Actually, Home Alone and Elf. Screenings Thu through Sun from Dec 9 to 19.

Toyland  Factory A massive toy extravaganza opens at Sandton City from Dec 9 to Jan 9. In addition to activations by brands such as Hamleys, Build-a-Bear, Toy Kingdom and Lego, Toyland is also the venue for a live daily acrobat show (at 12:00 and 16:00 from Dec 9–24) and live ballet dance performance (daily at 14:00 and 18:00 from Dec 16–24). Santa Claus is also there daily to meet kids and hear their wishes.

Diamond Walk at Sandton City

Entrance via Sandton City or Sandton Sun Hotel (cnr 5th St and Alice Ln), Sandton Central

Aurum at The Leonardo Sandton

The Leonardo (7th floor), 75 Maude St, Sandton Central

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