Maboneng district: 24 hours in the 'Place of Light'

Lauren Said-Moorhouse, for CNNUpdated 18th August 2015
(CNN) — Much has been made of the regeneration of Johannesburg's Maboneng district.
A former crime hotspot, now the inner city precinct has been transformed into a community of creatives -- think South Africa's answer to Williamsburg of New York and you'll get the idea.
Here's what to do if you've only got 24 hours to explore Maboneng -- meaning "place of light" in Sotho.


Courtesy Curiocity Backpackers/Bheki Dube
0900: Rise and shine at Curiocity Backpackers -- the building is reputed to be Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders' refuge during the apartheid years. Fast forward to present day and it's now a haven for hipsters and backpackers alike.
"Curiocity came about as a collaboration between me and [property developer] Jonathan Leibmann. I've always had an idea of having a space where I could host people. Organically we realized it's both our passion and we put our heads together to design the first inner city backpackers in Johannesburg," says Bheki Dube, founder of Curiocity Backpackers, which opened its doors in 2013.
Dube says that each month around 1,000 travelers stay at the premises, which has a variety of room options, including private, female-only and mixed dorms. There is also a communal kitchen, restaurant and skate shop (run by other neighborhood entrepreneurs) on site. Most visitors hail from Germany and The Netherlands but recently there's been a rise in travelers from South America and Australia.
1030: Grab a late breakfast or mid-morning snack at "Eat Your Heart Out" -- a delightful neighbor deli with a menu of Jewish-inspired food. The business started life after it was given as a 40th birthday gift from the owner Stacy Kirshenbaum's brother. And while that might be an unconventional way to begin your startup, it's a move that's proved successful.
The deli is considered by many as a great spot to start your day or spend a few minutes people watching. Visitors should try the latkes or Israeli omelette -- two dishes tried and tested by Joburg residents.
'Woven Bench III' by South African artist Conrad Hicks is displayed at the Museum of African Design in Johannesburg on October 24, 2013.
'Woven Bench III' by South African artist Conrad Hicks displayed at the Museum of African Design.
1100: Once you've had your fill, a must on a tour of Maboneng is to explore the Museum of African Design -- or MOAD -- described as the continent's first design museum. Inside you'll find a myriad of wonderful exhibitions carefully curated to explore the design landscape of Africa and the diaspora.
"The goal for it is really to become a cultural hub," said Aaron Kohn, director of MOAD previously to CNN. "A place to showcase what's going on the continent that's innovative but also to encourage that kind of thinking, design and creativity to young South Africans and to people visiting Johannesburg at the same time."
Market goers pose for a photo at Arts on Main in the Maboneng.
Market goers pose for a photo at Arts on Main in the Maboneng.


1300: A spot of shopping and artistic inspiration before lunch? Why not take a walk over to Arts on Main -- a multi-discipline space offering artists a place to showcase their creativity. And don't forget to stop and admire the beautiful street art on the way!
Built in 1911, it was previously a bonded liquor store before its redevelopment; today, a collective of local designers, artisans and trendsetters congregate here. Pushing the community hub atmosphere, developers hope the premises will become a place where the city's creative community can develop and share ideas.
Courtesy Collectors Treasury
1430: Head down Commissioner street and lose all sense of time in the Collectors Treasury -- an eight-floor booklovers sanctuary.
This tribute to the written word is home to nearly one million items -- the largest second-hand and rare bookshop in the southern hemisphere. And if books aren't your thing, don't worry; there are small antiques, collectables, maps and an incredible 300,000 vinyl records on sale here too.
1600: Next, wander towards the corner of Anderson street and Berea road to check out Kwa Mai Mai, a traditional medicine market where dozens of stalls sell their wares daily. Run by the Gauteng Tourism Authority, the market is said to be one of the oldest in the city where travelers can rub shoulder with traditional healers -- or Sangomas -- while picking up a cure or two for their ailments.
Eco-dining at its most eloquent
Eco-dining at its most eloquent
Courtesy Cara de Kock/The Living Room


1700: Enjoy a meal in an urban jungle when you take a table at "The Living Room." Open since 2012, the rooftop venue has become a popular cafe-cum-bar that also caters for special events like weddings and and corporate gatherings.
The space is open to the public Thursday through to Saturday. But the pinnacle of the operation is the notorious Sunday sessions where you can socialize with friends against a stunning backdrop, and with a rotation of DJs providing a soundtrack to your night.
Recycled car seats make up the cinema seating inside The Bioscope.
Recycled car seats make up the cinema seating inside The Bioscope.
Courtesy The Bioscope
1930-2000: Head to The Bioscope, the city's first independent cinema where you can catch anything from a summer blockbuster to the very best of local independent films and documentaries. The enterprise was one of the first to move into the development outside of Arts on Main back in June 2010 and since then it has become a thriving hub for film aficionados. The venue has also diversified to present gigs, festivals and workshops -- one particular highlight is the Noodle Box cinema nights where kung-fu classics are screened and locally-produced Asian dishes are offered.
Russell Grant, co-founder of The Bioscope, says it's the community spirit amongst entrepreneurs that really keeps the things ticking over.
"(Operating a business) certainly comes with its challenges as the precinct develops and the city works towards regenerating itself. For many of us business owners, its the first permanent space or first business -- so we do try help and support each other wherever possible."
Inside "The Hideout"
Inside "The Hideout"
Courtesy Curiocity Backpackers/Bheki Dube
1030: It's been a busy day and no doubt you want to rest your weary head before moving on to your next destination. So it's off back to Curiocity Backpackers to get a well-deserved rest. But not before stopping by the on-site budget bar -- The Hideout.
Drink in the local nightlife in a bar designed for travelers on a shoestring budget. You'll meet an entertaining mix of people and no doubt you'll hear stories given the local legends behind the building.
Have you ever visited Maboneng? Send us your thoughts on Twitter: @CNNAfrica.