Whether you want to sample the local cafe culture, enjoy a day out sightseeing or a night on the town, being on a budget doesn't need to mean missing out. There are plenty of great ways to experience the city on a small amount of money. The downtown suburb of Braamfontein (or 'Braam') neighbours the Wits University campus and has a large student population, as well as great museums, cafes, theatres, restaurants and the city's most energetic nightlife making it an excellent place to base yourself if you are travelling on a shoestring.
WHERE TO STAY: Once in Joburg is a ‘poshtel’ in the heart of ‘Braam’s student district, offering the comfort of a three-star hotel with the social scene of a backpackers hostel. There's free wifi, plenty of activities and tours to sign up for at the front desk and a great shared kitchen for cooking up your own meals (there's a Pick n Pay supermarket two blocks away). Choose from dorm, twin or family rooms, from R235 a night. Another good option is the stylish budget hotel The Bannister Hotel, located right in the heart of the action on De Beer Street, offering en-suite rooms, free wifi and a great bar and restaurant downstairs. Double rooms from R675 (including breakfast).
WHERE TO EAT:Galata Bakery and Coffee offers authentic Turkish cuisine in generous portions. Try the Turkish Breakfast for R50 with menemen (Turkish-style scrambled eggs) and gozleme (traditional flatbread) with cheese, tomatoes, olives and honey on the side. Next door is 86 Publicwhere you can grab a pizza to share from R65. A few blocks over at the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue pick up a great value lunch at the café in Wits Art Museum. Prices at the canteen-style WAM Cafe start from R30 .
FREE ACTIVITY: Take advantage of Braamfontein's many art galleries (all free to visit) such as Wits Art Museum or the edgy Kalashnikovv Gallery. On exhibition opening nights (usually on Thursdays) there’s also free wine and a chance to meet the artists. Everyday there are two free walking tours which leave from outside the Gautrain Park Station, the 10:30 tour takes in the inner city while the 15:30 tour explores Braamfontein. Tip your guide what you feel the tour was worth at the end.
WHAT TO SEE: Visit Constitution Hill to learn about South Africa’s dark past and the freedoms enshrined in its Constitution. For R65 enter all the museum and get a one-hour guided tour. Or, for no cost, you can explore the Constitutional Court and take in the view from the Old Fort ramparts.
MARKET SHOPPING: Mingle with the hipsters and cool kids of Braamfontein at the SaturdayNeighbourgoods Market. Join the queue for the always popular frozen mojitos, indulge in gourmet street food and enjoy live music with great city views on the market rooftop. There are also plenty of vintage clothing retailers who set up stall on Saturdays at the market and over the street at Kitcheners Carvery and Bar.
NIGHTLIFE: Braamfontein is a very popular student area and on weekends the streets are crammed with party-goers. For drinks tryThe Immigrant (part of the Once In Joburg hostel overlooking the busy Grove square) or head to one of the many bars clustered along De Beer Street such as Great Dane or the Bannister Hotel Bar. If you are a student take advantage of the 50% discount on tickets for gigs at the excellent jazz bar The Orbitand make sure to drop by after gigs on Fridays and Saturdays for the vinyl DJ set.