My Favourite Part of Johannesburg – Newtown

I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been feeling jittery in the last few days.

There have been several unpleasant incidents in Johannesburg and it shook me up a little. When life is good and peaceful, it’s easy to forget that there are problems in this city. But news reports of 8 armed men terrorising a suburban mall that we frequent with bullets flying about next to restaurants and retail shops, a video of a 17 year old gang-raped by 7 men that went viral, and a friend of ours being mugged at gunpoint in her car was just too much to take in.

It was a sharp reminder that we have to be careful and not ever take our security for granted.

I wish there weren’t such bad news in the city because last week, I had a really good time exploring the streets of Joburg and I didn’t need to feel like I had been delusional about being safe. I like being able to go out in Joburg because when we had first arrived, life had been quite dreadful. We never went anywhere that wasn’t a shopping mall with patrolling security guards.

I remember the day I felt my attitude towards the city change. It was the day we went on our first photo walk in Newtown – see Graffiti Photo Walk. It was the first time we had ever ventured out for some street photography in Joburg. That day, my mother read my blog and commented that I looked happy. That part of the city had immediately become one of my favourite parts of Joburg.

I have another set of photos to share on the second day I walked with Past Experiences. Which continued the walk from Troyeville and Maboneng Precinct into Newtown and Braamfontein.

This was an exploration of possibly my most favourite location in the city. It’s crazy but I really think this particular corner of Henry Nxumalo Street and Gwigwi Mrwebi Street is the most interesting place I’ve ever been to. When our little gal was visiting last year, we took her there at night for a session of Painting With Light. She had loved it too.

We started from Braamfontein and took a walk along the Nelson Mandela Bridge. This was really exciting for me because I’ve never thought I would ever have the chance to walk this bridge.

The view was magnificent and I saw the Metrorail trains from the bridge.

The old abandoned Park Station was also in full view. This is one place that I would really love the chance to go up close to see it. It’s locked up and needs like a bunch of permits to enter. Sigh.

Click on picture to see larger version

I really like the walls in Newtown because they are decorated with the most amazing art. They change every few months.. or rather, they get painted over by other artists.. and every time I visit, I see something new.

The above wall used to look like this – see old wall art.

You’ll see the quirkiest artwork here and they’ll make you wonder who these talented people are, and why they’ve hidden their talents away like this instead of selling their art for big bucks on canvas.

Standing in front of such magnificence, you’ll begin to appreciate their dedication to their craft and their superb eye for detail.

Whenever someone asks me about interesting places to visit in Joburg, I always direct them here. It’s befitting that the article that was published in one of South Africa’s national newspapers about me yesterday used a huge picture of me lazing in Newtown, right in front of these walls.

Click on picture to see larger version of article

Although I have to clarify here that they misprinted me as a New Zealander. I’m a SINGAPOREAN!! And I didn’t say “Joburg Is Where I Belong” as seen in the headlines. Those words were by a fellow blogger in the same interview. I have and will always belong in Singapore. Living overseas is a temporary arrangement.

I do have to admit that I’ve come to have quite a big amount of affection for Joburg. Crime and problems aside, it is a wonderful city. It has the loveliest people, the most fascinating corners and lots of surprises. It has energy.

And just like the day before where we bumped into the artist, Rasty. In Braamfontein, we stumbled into a huge wall where Solo One was painting at.

I could have spent the day watching them work their magic on these walls. It was such an amazing experience. A huge privilege to see them transform a plain wall to a piece of gorgeous art.

As mentioned before in my previous post on The Inner City, if venturing into these parts of the city makes you nervous, then join a tour with Past Experiences. They are a great fun duo who knows heaps about the inner city and will give you an incredible experience in one of my favourite parts of the city.

Even my good friend, Thando loved it.

Here is a selection of the shots I took on this walk. Check them out and see the stuff I love about this city.

Click on the thumbnails to view the pictures.














  1. Wonderful snapshots of the city!
    It’s nice to read about first-hand experiences from someone staying there now.
    How’s it been so far? :)

  2. Hi, I enjoy reading your blog. Coincidentally, I will be staying in Cape Town for 3 months due to work. I am thinking of bringing my mom and toddler along with me but am worried abt the safety and security of my family. Is it safe for them (a senior citizen and toddler) to be out and about duringt he day in capetown, like going to the park, strolling in the city etc? I am starting to get worried….

    • Hi Debra, I understand your concerns. Unfortunately, I don’t live in Cape Town and isn’t familiar with the place enough to give you more information. Generally, I would not recommend a senior citizen and a toddler to walk by themselves in the city unless it is a well known safe route/location, i.e. busy or patrolled by guards/police. I go to many places on my own but usually to places I am familiar with or know that it is a safe location. I don’t carry any valuables with me if I will be walking by myself. Keep in mind that Asians are the minority and we are likely to be subjected to stares. It’s mostly because people are curious. Just look at people in the eye, smile and say Hello, how are you? And you’ll find that they will smile back and greet you back. Cape Town is a beautiful city and you will definitely enjoy yourselves there. But South Africa is NOT Singapore and you cannot expect to live in SA with Singaporean habits. We take too many things for granted in our country, security being on the top of that list. Learn to look after yourself when you live in a foreign country and keep a look out at all times, you’ll be fine and will have a great stay here. Good luck! Feel free to email me at if you need more information.

  3. Hi bing,

    I loved to read your blog,, even it’s little bit too late :)
    I stay in centurion..
    Is johannesburg a safe place to come?
    Because many people around me said we must extra aware if we want to come to johannesburg.
    My husband always ask me to go there, but i am still afraid..

  4. Hi Bing
    What a great article. When I grew up downtown Jozi was still a fairly safe place to visit, and I absolutely loved it.
    Although it’s a little different now, nothing fills me with as much nostalgia as our beautiful skyline.
    I sometimes still get lost coming from the airport, and find myself in the city, but I don’t mind. I love the energy you described and the little things most people miss in their rush to get out. The buildings and the art and the people.
    Thank you for sharing this and reminding us what we have. I’m going to post a link to this on my facebook, and on my blog. I hope that’s ok with you.


  5. Hi Bing

    I love your blog so interesting to see these pics and info you’ve blogged on the very home city that we’ve lived in since birth. This is what we like to see from tourists that come here or even our locals that never publicise the nice places and places off the beaten track in Joeys. It’s full of it’s problems but has so much to offer….thank you for this insightful blog and hope you keep blogging :-)


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