Johannesburg is often overlooked when visiting South Africa, which is a pity, because it’s a bustling hub of food, art, nightlife and culture. Markets are the perfect place to encapsulate these wonderful aspects of the city, with hand-made items, art, clothing and a wide range of cuisines to choose from. The cultural diversity of the country is mirrored in these markets – stroll through and you will hear any of the 11 official languages and be greeted warmly by third generation Portuguese traders, Italian pasta-makers, Zimbabwean braai-masters (BBQ), Indian chefs and other lively characters. Markets are a great place to visit with friends or family. The weekend brings live music, fully stocked bars and a great vibe.
What I love about these markets is that they are a one stop shop for a day of trying different foods and booze. Several of the markets have rotating vendors, so you can go back and try something new. Here are five great markets in Johannesburg to visit.
Prison Break Market
The name Prison Break refers to their effort to break you out of your daily pandemic routine. Even the pickiest eaters will be satisfied, as this market has something for everyone. A mix between indoor and outdoor, this property houses seven huge sheds, each with its own theme. Three of the sheds are dedicated to artisanal foods, alcohol, and live music.
Shed 1: Star Food and Shed 2: The Yard Eatery
Visit the Star Food Market and the Yard Eatery for seafood, Indian curry, Turkish wraps, a German butchery, health food, plant-based options, bubble tea, shisha nyama (grilled meat), freshly baked bread and so much more. There is an outdoor seating area to enjoy your meal, which is very conveniently located next to the bar. You won’t go thirsty with a selection of wines, craft beer on tap, bubbles, or a Gin & Tonic. Come hungry, as there’s no way you can only choose one dish – you’ll eat your way through and go back for more. There are plenty of stalls to stock up on organic produce, meat and dairy for the week ahead too.
Shed 7: Pour House
The Pour House shed is dedicated to local beer, wine, and spirits. These are the three brands that call Shed 7 Home.
- The Noble Experiment: Craft distillery serving local handcrafted spirits gin, vodka, and rum
- Wildebeer Brewing Co: Microbrewery specializing in seasonal craft beer with a focus on eco-friendly and waste-free products
- The Wine and Spirit Library: Serving boutique wines & spirits from South Africa and abroad
Fourways Farmers’ Market
Located on a huge private reserve of dams and grasslands, this market is perfect if you want to take advantage of Johannesburg’s bountiful beautiful weather. The setting is a perfect escape from bustling city life. Walk down the entrance path surrounded by flowers, trees and bucolic views from the picnic lawn. This weekend market comes alive thanks to the efforts of over 100 vendors. With live music playing and a drink in hand, stroll through the stalls and chat with informative vendors. You’ll see lamb on the spit, chicken goujon bao buns, crafted cocktails, sweet treats like macarons and egg waffles, and South African favourites like vetkoek (fried dough bread with a filling) and boerewors (traditional barbequed sausage). Once you’ve made the toughest choice about what food to choose, you can choose to sit on the picnic lawns, in the garden, next to the lake or under a shady tree.
Same address, different name. The hugely popular Neighbourgoods market sadly shuttered windows due to the pandemic and is now back every Saturday with the new name The Playground. It has many of the old favorites as well as some new ones. Find out why locals and tourists alike flock to this particular market. Multi-story spaces, outdoor decks with panoramic views of the city of gold, and a young, trendy and fashionable crowd can be found on Juta Street. Take your pick of international and local cuisines and take a seat at the shared tables. You’ll likely make friends with the eclectic group next to you and get some more recommendations. The market fits in with the vibe of the area, a cultural space filled with galleries, museums, bars and great restaurants. The Playground is more than a market – it’s a platform for talented artists and creatives. If you want to feel the pulse of Johannesburg, then this is the market to head to. Bring your camera to photograph the amazing street art and murals, your finest threads, and dancing shoes.
Riversands Farm Village
This well-known old farm offers a laid-back space to enjoy a variety of fresh produce and home-made meals. Riversands is child and dog friendly too, so this is a market the whole family can enjoy. There is plenty of entertainment in the form of Playscapes for children, zip-lining, paintball and live music. Try the freshly-baked chicken pies and a coffee from The Broken Mill Café. Later in the afternoon, visit the craft brewery and try a selection of excellent beer and cider. Besides the market stalls, this market is great if you like to spend the day outdoors or get involved in events such as trail-running, kayaking, mountain biking or hiking. This market would be the ideal choice if you would like to spend a chilled Sunday with the family and enjoy some fresh air on a dog-walk or hike.
Born in Joburg
Keep an eye out for Joburg’s newest market, which features local food trucks and live DJs. This special event happens once a month, on a Friday night and Saturday morning, so check their social media pages for dates. Co-founders saw a niche in the ‘market market’ for food trucks. Set in the lush gardens of Black Brick Hotel, visitors should try the infamous kotas from Lumamonate – a dish using a quarter loaf of bread, filled with seasoned fries, sauce, cheese or meat. Besides that, there are smash burgers and fries available at Tjips, expertly seasoned chicken wings from The Wings Republic, fresh pizza from Napz Autentica Pizza Napoletana, artisanal ice cream from Paul’s Homemade, as well as coffee, wine and more. The big draw to this is the DJs, scooter tours for kids, and a rooftop that was made for sundowners to gaze upon the South African sunset that never disappoints.