Travel South Africa. Eyewitness Sarah Cangley, Publisher of Cheek2Chic talks about Johannesburg

Johannesburg, South Africa's secret capital and most important business metropolis is the country's largest city and the capital of the Gauteng province. The city is located in the eastern highlands, the Highveld, and is home to 3.8 million people.

Sarah Cangley, a journalist from Johannesburg worked for over a decade as a columnist for The Citizen, one of the 15 in Gauteng published newspapers, until she decided to start her own magazine. She saw a gap in the online luxury magazine market took it and now publishes her own independent publication Cheek2Chic, which showcases the best of South Africa in a global context. Here she tells us all about her hometown Johannesburg.

Sarah Cangley

Three words that characterize Johannesburg?

Entrepreneurial, bling, Afrocentric.

The Touristin: How do you get around Johannesburg?

Sarah Cangley: You really need a car in this city as it is so sprawling. The Uber/Taxify trend is huge. The Gautrain is fantastic for the airport (15 minutes from Sandton), Pretoria or the inner city.

The Touristin: What is the best kept secret about Johannesburg?

Sarah Cangley: Joburg is the world’s biggest manmade forest – and it contains a myriad of secret and very beautiful gardens which either belong to individuals, hotels, restaurants or venues. Visiting one of these gardens in the summer (like Beechwood Gardens in Hyde Park, which is a venue for weddings or champagne events) makes the hustle and bustle of the city fall away completely.

The people are also the city’s greatest asset. It is a giant melting pot and people come from all over the world. People are extremely friendly and will chat to strangers, unlike anywhere else in the world.

The Touristin: What is your favourite area in Johannesburg and why?

Sarah Cangley: Joburg is a city which has sprung up in a very short time and its energy and pace mean a frenetic lifestyle (mountains of work and seas of traffic, the opposite of Cape Town). As you look at the cityscape it is constantly changing. When I feel burnt out I love to go to Parktown and Westcliff where the original Rand Lords had their homes. There are many late 19th century houses with style, charm and history which were designed by renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker. There are regular heritage walks through the area and the Joburg Heritage Foundation also holds interesting tours.

The Touristin: The best place for a hot chocolate or coffee in Johannesburg?

Sarah Cangley: Johannesburg is full of independent roasters, and it is also hipster heaven. Try Bean There at 44 Stanley, Auckland Park, for fair-trade beans from across Africa. But you will find good coffee right across the city.

But sometimes I like drinking coffee in Pretoria, which is home to all the diplomats… like Tribeca in Brooklyn and Lynwood.

For hot chocolate, I head to Cramers Coffee, in Marshalltown, downtown Joburg, which also has great coffee, 17 Harrison St, Johannesburg, 2000, or the Lindt Chocolate Studio at the Design Quarter, Fourways (sheer decadence).

The Touristin: What is one restaurant we must try out while in Johannesburg?

Sarah Cangley: For a real treat try the Art Nouveau styled Restaurant Mosaic at the Orient. It’s eccentric and very chic (zebras grazing as you drive up to the main hotel which is situated in a stunning conservancy). Chef Chantel Dartnell was voted best female chef in the world this year, they have the best cellar in the country and an overnight stay is recommended if only for the breakfast Eggs Benedict (divine rooms and you get a Harrods teddy when you leave). There is a private cinema too and little Viennese style coffee spots. It’s fully booked though so you will have a wait to get in. It is an experience you will never forget.

The Touristin: Where would we meet you on weekends?

Sarah Cangley: I like to drive around the Cradle of Humankind, which is close by, and the Lanseria and Magaliesberg areas and discover interesting new spots to eat, shop and visit. Many artists live and work here and it has a fascinating history from the origins of mankind to the Anglo Boer War battles. The Nirox Foundation Sculpture Park in the Cradle often holds wonderful jazz and art events and there is an artist’s residency.

I also love going to weekend markets, like Neighbourgoods market in Braamfontein, nicknamed “BraanFUNtein”, and the inner city, Maboneng precinct, which is a great favourite, full of great boutique gin bars, an arthouse movie place and the Yswara tea shop.

Soweto is a really fun and vibey place to visit on a Sunday – I love watching the fancy cars arriving for their weekly carwash in Vilakazi Street as busloads of tourists come in to see Nelson Mandela’s old house. The Soweto Theatre is also well worth a visit and Regina Mundi Church is world famous.

The Touristin: Do you have a favourite museum/gallery we all have to visit when in Johannesburg?

Sarah Cangley: The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) has many valuable paintings by famous artists and is a beautiful, well-curated gallery. The Wits Art Museum also has very interesting exhibitions, as does the Standard Bank Gallery.

I love Gandhi’s house, The Satyagraha House which is a living museum. 15 Pine Rd & Garden Road, Orchard, Johannesburg. It is also a small hotel and completely vegetarian.

The Touristin: What are some of your favourite places to shop for A) groceries and B) clothes in Johannesburg?

Sarah Cangley: Groceries : Thrupps (they deliver), La Marina for exotic specialities, and the many weekend markets. In my suburb (North Riding). Woolworths is very consistent and there are branches everywhere (it’s like Marks and Spencer but the group also owns David Jones in Australia). There is a place called Freshhouse in my suburb (North Riding) where I find the best cuts of meat (can speak to the butcher) and great veggies/fruit.

Clothes: I like the vintage shops (Reminiscene in Melville), Poetry for clothing and homeware (SA brand), 2A in Hyde Park (for shoes).

Locals find the international brands at the Diamond Walk in Sandton exorbitantly expensive, but if you are in the know you can get invites to the sales.

The Touristin: What souvenir shall we bring back from Johannesburg?

Sarah Cangley: Local design: You need to get a design piece from felt designer Ronel Jordaan. She makes amazing statement piece felt pebble cushions, felt boulders, gold sheep and many other furniture and homeware items.

Also try and get one of the big or small wire- and beaded animals from the Zimbabwean beaders at the Rosebank Craft Market. They will recreate anything from a photograph (including the family dog) and are very skilled.

Avoid the wooden giraffes. No self-respecting Joburger has one in their home.

The Touristin: Thank you so much Sarah, Johannesburg through your eyes sounds simply devine. All the very best to you and Cheek2Chic Magazine.

Meet Sarah on Twitter and visit the Cheek2Chic website or browse the latest issue of the magazine here. Meet more locals from all around the world in the Eyewitness - City Guides series.