15 Uniquely South African Souvenirs to Bring Home from Johannesburg
One of the most fascinating cities in Africa, Johannesburg is a showroom for all things South African - a mixture of native and European trends, deeply rooted in local habits and traditions. To find your way around many of the delights Jo'burg has to offer and to pick up some as a remembrance of your South African adventure, check out the list of the most notable local products worth buying!
Image Courtesy of: Swamibu
1. Gold Coins
Johannesburg is known as the City of Gold for a good reason – it is built on the biggest in South Africa deposits of this precious metal. This is also the reason why people flocked here in the first place. If you want to take some home, Kruger Rands and Mandela coins are popular options. The main dealer in this game is the South Africa Gold Coin Exchange, which runs a number of shops (referred to as The Scoin Shops) throughout the city. Most offer a variety of foreign coins from all the leading mints of the world. There is one in shopping mega-hub Sandton, in Nelson Mandela Square (open Mondays to Saturdays from 09:00 to 18:00, and from 10:00 to 16:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays). It is easily accessible from Fifth Street, Maude or Maude West Street. Towards Randburg in the Northern parts of the city, visit The Scoin Shop in Cresta Mall, Beyers Naude Drive (open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 19:00 on Fridays, until 18:00 on Saturdays-Sundays, and Public Holidays until 15:00). The Scoin Shop in Clearwater Mall, in Roodepoort (on the corner of Hendrik Potgieter Drive and Christiaan de Wet Road), is open from 09:00 until 19:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 21:00 on Fridays, until 19:00 on Saturdays and Public Holidays, and until 17:00 on Sundays. Alternatively, just pick up a couple of coins on your way home. The Scoin Shop at OR Tambo International Airport is open from 06:00 until 22:00. Kruger Rands start at about R1700 per 1/10oz. Currently, 1oz goes for R1,4750. The prices are based on the gold exchange rate and Rand/Dollar exchange, so they change daily. Mandela medallions start at R7,500 for the Bimetallic version and can cost up to R370,000 for a troy pound.
Where to find it:Sandton City Shopping Centre, Sandton Drive, Sandton 2196, South Africa
The Scoin Shop in Cresta Mall, Beyers Naude Drive
The Scoin Shop in Clearwater Mall in Roodepoort
Offline reading and travel directions:You can carry this article in your mobile device to read offline and create a self-guided walk to visit the venues featured herein with the GPSmyCity App (available on iTunes App Store or Google Play Store).
Image Courtesy of: Ernst Vikne
The biggest rough diamond ever found hails from Cullinan, about an hour from Johannesburg. Now forming part of the British crown jewels, it’s a perfect excuse to take one of the little sparkly gems home with you. The easiest way is to take it as part of a piece of jewellery, and finding them today will not necessitate a lot of digging around – just walk into almost any mall in the city. Expect to pay anything from R3,000 upwards for white or yellow gold and diamond rings and just over a grand for diamond pendants. Poplar chain stores include Sterns and Browns. Sterns stores are located in Jabulani, Boland Road, Soweto (open from 09:00 until 16:45 during the week, and 09:00 until 12:45 on Saturdays) and in Lenasia in the Trade Route Mall on the corner of K43 and Nirvana Roads (open from 09:00 in the mornings, until 18:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 20:00 on Fridays, until 17:00 on Saturdays and until 15:00 on Sundays). There are numerous Browns jewellers scattered across the city, like at the OR Tambo International Airport (open from 06:00 to 22:00, seven days a week), Cresta in Beyers Naude Drive, Randburg (open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 19:00 on Fridays, until 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays and Public Holidays until 15:00), Rosebank Mall, between Bath and Cradock Avenues (open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Fridays, until 17:00 on Saturdays and from 10:00 to 16:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays) and Sandton City (open from 09:00 to 19:00 Mondays to Thursdays, 09:00 to 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays and from 09:00 to 18:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays). This shopping center is easily accessible from Rivonia Road, Sandton Drive, Alice Lane, Fifth Street and West Street. For handmade jewellery, contact Schwartz Jewellers on +27 (0) 11 783 1717.
Africa’s biggest brewery (and one of the biggest internationally), South African Breweries (SAB) calls Johannesburg home and produces, among many others, much loved Black Label and Castle. A Zamalek (as Black Label is also fondly known) is as good a reminder as any of the buzzing city. A six-pack costs about R40, while a court is bout R12. While you’re at it, you might as well make a memorable occasion of your beer shopping experience. The World of Beer (at the SAB, 5 President Street, Newtown Cultural Precinct) was opened by former President Nelson Mandela in honour of SAB’s centenary year. An exploration of beer’s world heritage, the World of Beer is enjoyed by local and international visitors and is apparently rated as one of the top two tourist experiences in the country. From Tuesdays to Saturdays, the first tour starts at 10:00 and the last at 17:00. The pub and restaurant is open from 11:00 to 16:00. A meal will set you back anything between R30 and R75 (excluding the drinks). Alternatively, pop into any liquor store that you see; SAB products are available almost anywhere. Liquor Cities are always a good bet. While there, you can stock up on a range of locally-produced drinks to entertain friends back home. The Liquor City in Bedfordview (in the Village View Shopping Center on the corner of Kloof and Van Buuren Roads) is open Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 to 18:00 and Saturdays from 09:00 to 15:00. There is also a branch in the Cresta Shopping Center, Beyers Naude Drive (open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 19:00 on Fridays, until 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, and Public Holidays until 15:00).
4. Blue Bulls or Golden Lions Rugby Jerseys
Joburg, just like the rest of South Africa, is crazy about sport, and has a number of world-class sporting facilities to boot. You can’t go wrong with a jersey from the local regional rugby team. This is Golden Lion Country, while the Blue Bulls claim their territory just next to Johannesburg, in Pretoria. Sports fans here border on the fanatical, and a range of your team’s gear, including jerseys, caps, sweatbands, stickers, posters and more, are widely available. Different types of jerseys and T-shirts range from R299 to R599. The official Golden Lions apparel can be bought online at www.lionsrugbyshop.co.za. The official Blue Bulls online shop is at www.thebullsshop.co.za. Gear is also carried by Sneaker stores in Bedfordview (in the Bedfordview Shopping Center, Smit Road, open from 09:00 in the mornings until 18:00 Mondays to Fridays, until 17:00 on Saturdays and until 16:00 on Sundays) and the OR Tambo International Airport (open from 06:00 to 22:00). You can also visit Sportsman’s Waterhouse at the Blackheath Pavillion in Cresta (located at the corner of Beyers Naude Drive and Pendoring Road). The store is open Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 to 18:00, on Saturdays from 08:30 to 17:00, and on Sundays from 09:00 to 16:00. Another branch is located at the Fourways Crossings Retail Center on the corner of William Nicol Drive and Sunrise Boulevard. Opening hours are from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Fridays, from 08:30 to 17:00 on Saturdays and from 09:00 to 15:00 on Sundays.
Probably South Africa’s most popular snack, this dried, spiced meat apparently evolved when the wagon-travelling trekkers left the Cape colony and British rule for the interior of Southern Africa. You can’t leave for home without it. Expect to pay anything from R120 and upwards per kilogram. It’s wonderful to buy a big piece and carve it at home, but you can also purchase carved biltong in a variety of flavours (like chutney or chilli). Any good butcher in the city will have biltong on display and debating about the best biltong around is sure to open a hornet’s nest. However, there are also a number of shops in Joburg that specialize in this delicacy. Try the butchery at the Bull Run in Sandton (opposite the Johannesburg Stock Exchange adjacent to the Protea Hotel Balalaika Sandton 20 Maude Street). They are open Mondays to Sundays, 12:00 to 22:30 (except for Saturday lunches). The Butcher Shop and Grill offers the finest quality meat prepared by skilled artisanal block-men (located in Sandton at the Nelson Mandela Square and open Mondays to Saturdays from 09:00 to 18:00, and from 10:00 to 16:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays). It is easily accessible from Fifth Street, Maude or Maude West Street. Another popular chain is Boesmanland Biltong (translated as Bushman country biltong). Shops are, among others, in Cresta Shopping Center (open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 19:00 on Fridays, until 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, and Public Holidays until 15:00), Fourways Shopping Center at the corner of Witkoppen Road and William Nicol Drive (opening hours from 09:00 to 18:00, Mondays to Fridays, from 09:00 to 18:00 on Saturdays, and from 09:00 to 15:00 on Sundays).There is also a branch in Rosebank. Visit on Sunday, when the popular Rooftop Market offers the opportunity to browse through over 600 stalls, including a food section (which also offers varieties of South African’s favourite dried snack).
6. Shwe Shwe Fabric
The streets of Johannesburg are usually bright with the colours of printed fabrics in traditional patterns, worn as skirts or head gear. Although originally from the East coast, shwe shwe has become a local favourite. Quite commonly available, a great place to buy yours is Johannesburg’s self-acclaimed fashion district, the Fashion Kapitol. Here, you’ll find, among others, the city’s first outdoor fashion ramp and a stylish square with 30 shops providing space for the city’s upcoming and established designers. The Kapitol takes up most of the block, which is situated in the heart of the district. The district itself comprises about 26 blocks on the eastern edge of the CBD – boarded by Market, Kerk, Von Weilligh and End streets. There are over 200 fashion-related outlets in the area, including cut, make and trim operators, a budget clothing retail industry and the studios of several established designers. The Kapitol’s office hours are from 09:00 to 16:00. Visit Studio 109 at 109 Pritchard Street for fabrics, and be sure to stop by popular spot, The Fashion Shack, at 136 Pritchard Street (Mondays to Fridays 08h30-17h00, Saturdays 08h30-13h00).
7. Zulu Shield
Before the city reached mammoth proportions, the area was ruled by variety of African tribes, like Zulus and Shangaan. Traditional gear, mostly from a range of animal skins or intricate beaded work, can still be bought around the city. A popular choice (in either a small, decorative variety or bigger versions) is a Zulu shield. Such a unique purchase calls for a unique shop. Few can compare to the ‘KwaZulu Muti - Museum of Man and Science’. Not a museum, this traditional muti or medicine shop, at 14 Diagonal Street, sells over 100 types of dried herbs, but also interesting things like tire sandals, walking sticks, assegais, knobkerries, bead necklaces, Zulu pots and drums. The Museum of Man and Science is open from 07:30 to 17:00 Mondays to Saturdays. You can pick up a small shield here for about R195, while larger varieties can cost anything up to R350. Another interesting experience, that will doubtlessly be worth more than just your shield, is a visit to the Kwa Mai Mai Market on the corner of Anderson and Berea streets in the city center. Most of the 176 units are dedicated to traditional healing, but many also offer traditional garb in various shapes and forms. You can visit seven days a week, from 06:00 to 20:00.
8. African Pap
A local staple, this maize-based porridge is a must and accompanies almost any meal this side of the country. Available in anything from 500 g to 10 kg packets, the uncooked product looks similar to fine polenta. Often eaten with chakalaka (South African vegetable relish, usually spicy) it’s also a favourite with milk, butter and sugar for breakfast. Presented either in a smooth consistency (slap pap) or very thick (stywe pap) or even crumbly (krummel pap), this will be a definite conversation starter back home. Pap really is available anywhere and everywhere in South Africa, from corner cafes to big grocery stores. Indeed, it would be hard not to bump into it. You can buy a 1kg packet for under R10. If you haven’t visited the area yet, pick up your pap at the Pick ‘n Pay at the Braamfontein Center on the corner of Jorissen and Bertha Streets (open from 07:00 to 19:00 Mondays to Fridays, 08:00 to 17:00 on Saturdays, and 08:00 to 15:00 on Sundays). There are lots to see in Braamfontein, but some of your time should definitely go to trendy 44 on Stanley, a series of industrial buildings that have been revamped to accommodate 25 specialty restaurants, boutiques and design studios. Alternatively, visit any of the city’s convenience stores, like the Checkers in Cresta (Beyers Naude Drive, Randburg, open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 19:00 on Fridays, until 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, and Public Holidays until 15:00). Another option is the Checkers Hyper in Sandton, Rivonia Road (open from 09:00 to 19:00 Mondays to Thursdays, 09:00 to 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 09:00 to 18:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays).
A hot favourite, this spiced tomato, onion and vegetable relish is a must to go with your pap (porridge), bread, samp, meat, stews and curries. Wonderful if you can make it at home, the canned variety is just as good, and come in a variety of mild to extra-hot flavors. Chakalaka (at about R11 a can) can be bought at all groceries stores, including Spar, Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay, and Woolworths. These are dotted across the city. Why not try the Woolworths in Greenside for your can? They are in the Village Green Shopping Center in Greenway Road, Greenside. Woolies (as it is popularly known) also sells a beef chakalaka sausage at R33.79 per kilogram, if you have a chance to light a barbeque during your stay here. Just down the road, in quirky Greenside, is the restaurant Mamas Shebeen (described as an authentic shebeen experience). Bustling and fun, you can try chakalaka here with a variety of dishes. If you’re already in Cresta (Beyers Naude Drive, Randburg), both the Checkers and Pick ‘n Pay here also stock it (open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 19:00 on Fridays, until 18:00 on Saturdays and Sundays, and Public Holidays until 15:00). Or, if you’re in Sandton City in Rivonia Road, visit the Checkers Hyper (open from 09:00 to 19:00 Mondays to Thursdays, 09:00 to 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 09:00 to 18:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays).
10. Sowearto Clothes
Playing on the name of Johannesburg’s most famous township, Soweto, the So Wear To chain of shops, scattered across the city, defines their clothes as Afro-chick. Only available online or in Johannesburg, a stand-out trip is sure to justify a stand-out item from one of their shops. Sowearto shops are located in the Bedfordview Shopping Center in Van der Linde Road, Bedfordview and in the Campus Square shopping center in Auckland Park (both of these are open from 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Saturdays and 10:00 to 14:00 on Sundays). A third is at The Zone in Rosebank in Oxford Road (open from 09:00 to 19:00 Mondays to Thursdays, 09:00 to 21:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, and 10:00 to 18:00 on Sundays). You can expect to spend anything from R200 to R1000 at the Sowearto shops for proudly South African T-shirts to delectable dresses and even kiddies wear.
Who can forget the loud monotonous sound of the vuvuzelas trumpeting through the entire world during the 2010 FIFA World Cup? A vuvuzela is a colourful, plastic horn, about a metre long, and you can pick it up for around R50. Uniquely South African and still heard throughout the city whenever a big game is on, you will definitely stand out in a crowd (outside of South Africa) with this instrument. If you’re a quieter type, fans suggest you can also use it as a cricket bat, hearing aid or petrol funnel. Buy yours at the Total Sports in the Jabulani Mall in Bolani Road, Soweto (open from 09:00 to 16:00, Mondays to Thursdays, Fridays from 09:00 to 19:00, Saturdays from 09:00 to 17:00, and Sundays from 09:00 to 15:00). They sell them for R39. Alternatively, just pick one up on your way home at the OR Tambo International Airport. The Total Sports shop here is open from 06:00 to 21:00, seven days a week. Total Sports also has branches in Midrand, in The Boulders Shopping Center in Old Johannesburg Road (open 09:00 to 18:00 Mondays to Fridays, 09:00 to 16:00 on Saturdays, and 09:00 to 15:00 on Sundays).
12. African Masks
Almost synonymous with every African experience is the African mask. Johannesburg is a great place to shop for yours. Visit the African Craft Market at 33 Bath Avenue in the Rosebank Mall (open every day from 08:30 to 18:00). Craftwork from all over Africa is sold in this double-storey craft market. Prices are negotiable, but you should look at spending about R300 to R400. Another option is the African Queen at 137 Corlett Drive in Bramley (open Mondays to Saturdays from 08:00 to 17:00). They are also well-known for their wonderful bronze sculptures; the collection is extensive and includes masks, figurines and so forth. Also visit here if you’re looking for Zulu pots and baskets or zebra and Nguni skins, drums and animal horns. Just down the road, in Corlett Drive, is Amatuli Fine Art (170 Corlett Drive, open Mondays to Fridays from 08:30 to 17:00, and Saturdays from 09:00 to 13:00). Thousands of pieces are on display, including carved crocodiles, dug-out canoes, headrests, masks and more. Another option is the Kim Sacks Gallery (153 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood, open Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 to 17:00, and from 10:00 to 17:00 on Saturdays).
13. Miriam Makeba CD
Mama Africa herself hails from this part of South Africa. Legendary singer, civil rights activist and performer, Miriam Makeba was born in Johannesburg in 1932 and rose to fame during the 1960s. Nicknamed Mama Africa, famous hits by this Grammy Award winning South African performer included Pata Pata, The Click Song (Qongqothwane in Xhosa) and Mailaka. Even though she sang in many languages, she became best known for singing in her native dialect. There are many Miriam Makeba CDs for sale in all of South Africa’s big music, chain-stores. These include Look and Listen, Musica and Top CD. Her CDs will set you back anything from under R50 to just over R200. Selections include “Miriam Makeba”, “The Voice of Africa”, “Guinea Years”, “Reflections”, “Pata Pata”, “Homeland”, a couple of ‘best of’ compilations and many more. Most malls in South Africa have some kind of record store, and all of them can offer you Miriam Makeba’s music. These include both the Look and Listen and Musica Stores in Cresta Mall in Beyers Naude Drive, Randburg (open Mondays to Saturdays from 09:00 to 22:00, and Sundays and Public Holidays from 10:00 to 22:00). Both Look and Listen and Musica also have branches in the Clearwater Shopping Center on the corner of Christiaan de Wet and Hendrik Potgieter Drive in Roodepoort (open Mondays to Saturday from 09:00 to 22:00, and Sundays and Public Holidays from 09:00 to 22:00). Another good place to buy your music, and almost anything else your heart desires, is Sandton City (Rivonia Road). The Musica Megastore store here is open from 09:00 in the mornings, until 19:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 18:00 on Sundays.
14. William Kentridge Painting (or Print)
Artist William Kentridge is one of Johannesburg's most famous residents. His art, now selling at prices few can afford, commands respect around the globe. He is also well known for his animated films and prints. Do not expect to pay under R15 000 for a Kentridge print, while most of his works fetch many, many more thousands of rand. If you’re on a budget but a fan, some of his work is also compiled in books. “William Kentridge Prints” at R550 and “William Kentridge Nose” for R550 from David Krut publishing. These, as well as the artist’s prints, are available at David Krut Projects’ Print Workshop and Bookstore at 140 Jan Smuts Avenue in Parkwood. They are open Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 to 17:00 and 09:00 to 16:00 on Saturdays. There is a second shop in Downtown City East, 264 Fox Street, at Arts on Main (open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:00 to 16:00, Thursdays from 11:00 to 20:00, Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 to 16:00, and Sundays from 10:00 to 14:00). You can also visit the White House Gallery in the Thrupps Center in Oxford Road Illovo. They are open from 09:30 in the mornings, until 17:00 Mondays to Thursdays, until 16:30 on Fridays, and until 11:30 on Saturdays.
15. Ostrich Products
The ostrich is a species of large, flightless bird native to Africa. The birds’ feathers and leather have been used to adorn women for centuries, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t leave the country in a similar fashion. The place to buy your ostrich feather boa is Ees Millinery at 57 Von Wielligh Street. They are open from 08:00 to 16:30 during the week, and from 09:00 to 12:00 on Saturdays. Apparently, they recently even supplied the presidential guard of the Zambian Army with headgear! For you, they can provide feathers, feather boas, hats and head-dresses. The price of the boa depends on the length and number of plies of feathers. Speak to owner Anton Ehrhartsmann (on +27 (0)11 33 4582) to discuss what you’d prefer. A two meter, ten ply boa will cost roughly R800. For handbags, visit Lorenzi – “where women, their style and their elegance are celebrated”. Lorenzi offers refined exotic skin creations, especially handbags. They are located in Sandton City (open from 09:00 to 19:00 Mondays to Thursdays, 09:00 to 20:00 on Fridays and Saturdays, and from 09:00 to 18:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays) and the Nelson Mandela Square (open Mondays to Saturdays from 09:00 to 18:00, and from 10:00 to 16:00 on Sundays and Public Holidays). It is easily accessible from Fifth Street, Maude or Maude West Street.