The best markets are not just about the food – they should include some cultural wow too. Shopping malls don’t qualify, and why would they, when you can buy artisanal food from the interesting, innovative, honest-to-goodness purveyors who grew or made it themselves? Here’s our list of the most unique and interesting food markets – from sprawling and crowded to neat and niche – to visit in Johannesburg.
Once on the rooftop of Bamboo Centre, this tiny, trendy farmers’ market can now be found under trees in the old parking lot. Stallholders are carefully limited to suppliers of excellent raw and natural ingredients and accredited members of the international Slowfood movement. Visit the cultured dairy stand for natural butter, yoghurt and cheeses; and look out for Rosemary, who has any herb you can think of. The Kitchen Gardener supplies heirloom seeds, plants and more unusual vegetables and fruit for culinary use; there’s a stand selling bone stock; and another of a banting baker. This market is good for spying actresses and TV personalities without their make-up, buying organic carrots alongside the current names in literature, music, art and film. Open Saturday from early morning to after midday.
Yes, this market may be on the ground floor of a shopping centre, but it’s attractive and accessible, and strict about featuring foods without additives, preservatives or colourants. There’s an international focus, with a very good Indian spice stall with rotis; freshly prepared Chinese snacks and veg; Albanian cheeses; ye olde English cottage breads still warm from a wood-fired oven; Italian pastas and antipasti; Polish pies; and French croissants. Before you leave, grab sweets like exciting toffees and cakes for tea. The crowd is smart-casual, sporting the ‘pullover around the shoulders and moccasins’ look. Open Sunday from 9am to 2pm.
The one that really started it all, this outdoor organic market is huge, with red-topped stalls and paved paths. It does many things well. The fresh, organically grown produce section is impressive, and you can find happily reared chickens, earthy and unusual flours, and whole dairy, like real clotted cream. There are artisanal pastas and breads, and ready-to-eat dishes made from these fine ingredients. The central area provides sit-down light meals, healthy snacks and bakes all day long, as well as coffees, juices and teas. (Be sure to try the famous lemon meringue pie.) There’s generally some Irish lilting, traditional South African jazz, or a haunting harp to listen to. The market is also renowned as a high-end crafters’ centre, with excellent wood- and fretwork, fantastic jewellery and glass artistry, pottery and clothing. Open Thursday and Saturday from 9am to 3pm, and for moonlit markets on Tuesday evenings from mid-November until Christmas.
Kramerville is one of Joburg’s designer districts, so much of this market is devoted to clothing and accessories. It’s good for posing, designer drink in hand, against the wall with the view of the city behind. Stop for coffee or breakfast at the top of the stairs and greet the new arrivals – it’s a very social experience. The food choices include salmon bagels, croissants and wraps, washed down with craft beers, bubbly, wine, coffee and Bos iced tea. The food trucks park below, with the market action on the rooftop – semi-covered with umbrellas – above. Open the first Sunday of the month from 9.30am until 3pm, when crowds shift over to Katzy’s across the road.
This large, rewarding outdoors market has a garden setting with over a hundred stalls, many of them selling food. People settle down at tables or bales of hay for breakfast, teas and lunches. The choices are laid out on either sides of your passage through the gardens: Dutch, German, Belgian, America, Mexican and South African. The rest of the market has an excellent selection of glistening vegetables and fruit, meat from the Karoo and Free State, Cape cheeses, free-range chickens and eggs, fudge and Propolis honey. Try some of the outstanding Mauritian, spiced seafood and poultry pâtés conveniently situated near the breads. Children will be happy here too, hurtling around in the lavender. Open Sunday from 9am to 4pm. (Look for the entrance at the Outdoor Living Nursery.)
This intimate market of about 40 stands is one of the best for foodie provisions. A highlight is the home-cured meat, bacon and trout made without preservatives. It’s worth a trip just for one of these hot bacon butties for breakfast. (The stand’s traditional little pork pies are phenomenal too.) Nearby find buttery bakes like shortbread and sell-out rusks of superior flavours. The Rustenburg farmers sell loads of fresh, organically certified fruit and veg; a man from White River distils liquor from local citrus, producing magnificent limoncello and orange-and-ginger liqueur; and another stand boasts only cherry products. The market is child-and-dog friendly. Open Saturday from 8.30am to 1pm. (There’s another Jozi Real Food Market on Sundays from 10am to 3pm at the Northcliff County Club.)
This is the place for green and roasted coffees and an array of wondrous Ethiopian spices. Berbere sauce is well worth buying here because it’s seemingly impossible to make it taste the same at home. These are open-fronted shops more than stalls, where you can shop for vegetables, white cotton clothes, raffia products and plenty of silver jewellery before stopping for a brew at any of the coffee places. If you get too peckish, have an aromatic, interactive plating experience upstairs at Netsi’s, which serves the best injera, sauces and butters. Open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm. (If you’re not confident without a guide, ask at African Secrets on the corner of Jeppe and Troye streets.)
Think long and hard about what to wear, because you’ll appear in some pic somewhere. This is instagram land. Locrate has become one of the top have-to-be-there markets of Joburg. Food options include meals by Mother Truckers, snackier versions of shisa nyama, and Balkan burgers, washed down with drinks from Smack Republic. The music is always outstanding, with rapper-poets on mics in-between. If you feel underdressed, you’ll find statement pieces and Afro-chic prints in riveting designs. Between the slick designer stuff, also look for small stalls selling homemade sweets or mielie muffins. Open on the first Sunday of the month, from mid-morning to late.
This flourishing market is bursting with food and design stands. It pumps inner-city cool, though you’ll see visitors from all over Jozi absorbing the hip vibe. Know your art? Good, because you’ll be surrounded by galleries, studios, installations, art films, edgy design work and expensive graffiti. Eat at one of the café-restaurants around the olive tree courtyard, or brave the crush in the inner hangar of stalls and be rewarded with bunny chow, snoek on roosterbrood, raw chocolate, and Ethiopian and North African offerings. Open Sunday from 10am to 3pm and on first Thursdays from 7pm to 11pm.
This Neighbourgoods Market was, for a short while, a second bow to the one in Cape Town. Now it covers two floors and a passageway of a landmark Braamfontein building, whose façade was designed by Edoardo Villa. The place has outstripped the original purpose embodied in its folksy name: now 4000 people in a day try to get a glimpse or taste of things. It’s easiest to eat oysters, because the stand is in a space between the food hall and the upstairs level, but the dedicated will jostle amiably and queue for teriyaki sushi (yes), fresh coconut cocktails, madly popular paella and pretty much anything. And there’s even an after-party: later in the afternoon, crowds surge across de Beer Street to The Bannister Hotel, and when that’s full, there’s always Great Dane. Open Saturday from 9am to 3pm and on first Thursday evenings.
This location is so spacious that, no matter how crowded, the experience is much more pleasant than at many other popular markets. Look out for Happy Me, the bubbly tea people, and The Chocolate Fairy with her unforgettable chocolate dipped in chocolate, swathed in more chocolate, and so on. A patisserie of tarts and crêpes is hard to escape, as is a gelato stand that uses organic nuts and fruits in its intense flavours. Then comes the canopy section with long eating tables in the centre. There’s a long bar for wines and craft beers, surrounded by stalls doing burgers, pizzas and smoked foods, and the food trucks outside have even more consumables. This market always has something new: a recent addition is the deli, fresh fruit and veg section. Leave the plastic behind, unless it’s for snap-scanning from your wallet. Open Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 5pm and Friday (canopy section) at lunchtime. Keep an eye out for the bakery and wine route coming soon.
Apparently the oldest in Joburg, this food market occupies almost a whole block that used to house some cinemas. It helps if you can speak French, as most of the traders are Congolese. Expect nothing to be as you imagined or where you found it the time before. Full of the aroma of ripe plantains, this market is a fantastic source of African vegetables, foreign chillies, yams, cassava or ready-made cassava bread, nuts and nut oils, and baffling but intriguing tinned goods. There’s always something you haven’t noticed before – a culinary find to inspire your inner continental chef. Open daily.