Fun fact: it’s the biggest city in the world not built on a water source—it was actually built on a goldmine—and the second biggest on the entire continent of Africa (after Cairo, obvs).
What’s the deal with Melville?
The leafy residential suburb of Melville is one of the oldest in Johannesburg, characterised by old farmhouse style homes on almost every block and the most diverse high street in Johannesburg. The eclectic and constantly evolving high street is a direct result of Melville’s location, diversity of residents and the neighbouring universities.
Seventh Street is a mix of decade mainstays restaurants Poppy’s Melville, dive bars like Ratz and student favourite Six Cocktail Bar. On the southside of the high street get a haircut at newly opened hipster barbershop Freedom Hair Barbering & Coffee. Newly regenerated Melville Yard brings the sophisticated upmarket clientele looking to have a fine bistro experience at Le Petite Maison. The Wes Anderson-inspired insterior at The Whippet Coffee brings a mix of cool kids, lifestyle bloggers and families to Melville for brunch.
Early mornings and late afternoons streets are filled with middle class families, moms and nannies pushing strollers, runners, dog walkers and the predominantly black workforce walking the hilly, green and Jacaranda purple streets. The appearance of antique stores and tiny coffeeshops is a sign the bustling high street is near.
If you only do one thing…
Take in the sun and quiet on a bench among succulents and lavender in the nursery set at the top of 27 Boxes shipping container retail center.
Photograph: 27 Boxes / Purple Pug Photography
If you only do one thing, have a laugh at the Melville Comedy Club in the Melville Yard on Melville’s high street, 7th. This performance art space also hosts award-winning director John Barker for a celebration of filmmaking every last Tuesday of the month, with either film screenings, table reading sessions or general industry discussions.
Go off the beaten track
Take a stroll down to the corner of 7th Avenue and 9th street and peruse Love Books indie book store at Bamboo Lifestyle Centre.
Across the street, Emporium of Curiosity, Decades and Oddz Bin are treasure troves for antique collectors. Just next door, Superella, a fashion label showroom studio frequented by those in-the-know is perfect for a whimsical and playful item.
Tilt Coffee on 4th is a tiny women run coffee shop frequented mostly by locals that serves the best flat white in Jozi alongside a small considered menu of smoothies, breakfast items and sandwiches. The pecan pie is a must try!
At Pablo Eggs-Go-Bar, a hipster enclave open daily for eggs, brunch on weekends is very popular, so go early to avoid the queue. The signature red and green shakshukas served with hummus, fatoush and Yemeni flatbread are oh-so-delicious.
Also visit Ba-Pita, a favourite destination for artists, poets and local activists for Mediterranean flatbread. Pita may be part of the name but the lesser known laffa is the real star on the menu both fresh out of the woodburning fire oven. Don’t miss the muhammara dip. Pro tip: Ba-Pita offers a paid shuttle service within a 2.5km radius. Call ahead or ask your waiter on arrival to arrange drop-off, especially if it's late at night.
In a lush residential home, you’ll find No.12 by Glory, an oasis that hosts constantly evolving South East Asian food concepts with the menu and chefs rotating every quarter. Book a table during sunset to savour a drink and panoramic views from the wicker laden deck.
Walk a step too fast and you’ll miss revolutionary mural walled dive bar Smoking Kills Bar, on 4th Avenue just off 7th Street. Locals know that a casual beer and the swankiest rum cocktails by master mixologists sit side by side here. Take advantage of Happy as F$$K 20% off between 5-7pm every day.
Or opt for Hell’s Kitchen, where tequila and rock (the music) are the order of the night. If you need a quiet reprieve, steal away to the secret room behind the bookcase.
On Sundays, cool hip-hop and R&B beats flow out of Lonely Hearts Club’s "For Beats Sake" day party from 1pm. Order the negroni and take a seat on the leather couch and then bob your head while people watching.
Photograph: The Lonely Hearts Club
How to get to Melville
Melville is a 15 minute drive or Uber from the Johannesburg CBD and 10 minutes from the Rosebank Gautrain station.
The Melville koppies peak overlooks Emmarentia botanical gardens to the North, Westdene on the West and to the East upmarket suburb Westcliff, home to the swish Four Seasons Hotel. Flanked by South Africa’s premier Universities on the South, Wits South East and University of Johannesburg (UJ) South West.