A Hedonist's Guide to Johannesburg: Best Bars

By Andrew Ludwig

1) Radium Beerhall
The Radium Beerhall is the oldest surviving bar in Jo'burg and it shows, with Western-style swing doors and prison-esque bars affixed to its windows. Wood abounds inside, from the teak bar through to the creaky floorboards underfoot, while nostalgic records and photos of the Radium's history adorn the walls. Attracting the young and old, the crowds here are split between propping up the bar and spilling onto the street outside—it doesn't seem to matter where one sits, so long as they can be part of the scene. Down whisky with some of the more established residents and ask a few questions about times gone by. Busy, sometimes raucous and a real spit and sawdust kind of place, Radium manages to keep the party going way past bedtime.

2) Troyeville Hotel
Set in the south of the CBD, this restaurantbar concept is bit of a trek from Sandton but those who make the effort are rewarded with one of the best views of Jo'burg's skyline—particularly stunning at dusk. A favourite of artists, intellectuals and politicians, the bar offers a decent wine list and a selection of local beers, so chill and settle in for an alcohol-drenched afternoon. When the drinking gets a little too much the selection of Mozambican and Portuguese food goes a long way into filling the gaps and soaking up some of that excess booze. Recently nominated one of the top dining venues in South Africa, be rest assured anything you order is likely to be pretty damn fabulous.

3) The Baron Sandown
The Baron Sandown is another afterwork favourite frequented by sharp-suited business execs. Friday is buzzing, with the mature crowd using liquid psychology to ease the stresses and strains of office life. Prop up the bar inside or sit outside in the courtyard for the best people-watching opportunities in the venue. Those wanting to soak up the booze can order snacks from the bars—highly recommended is the bar platter—with the chirpy bar staff catering to your every whim. Expect things to get a little wild here after tough—or particularly successful—trading weeks. Come on bonus day to watch to watch things really spiral out of control.

4) The Circle Bar at The Rosebank Hotel
Accolades and awards have been thrown at the recently refurbished Circle Bar, and it's not hard to see why. As the on-site watering hole at the prestigious Rosebank Hotel, the property's well-heeled guests expect nothing less than excellence. And that's exactly what they get here, with plush leather seats, colour-changing pods and subdued lighting. Highly recommended on the extensive cocktail menu is the signature Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, served with complimentary biltong on a silver platter. The drinks certainly aren't cheap, but at least you know what you're paying for here; a sexy surroundings and a sexy clientele more than make up for the hole in your pocket.

5) Pool & Library Bar
Set in the super-stylish Melrose Arch Hotel, the Pool Bar is so very South Beach Miami and a no-brainer when it comes to supping drinks in the glorious sunshine. Tables and chairs are even built into the shallow end of the pool, with patrons rolling up their trousers and enjoying their cocktails ankle-deep, while tunes are pumped out from underwater à la Delano. The hotel's 24-hour Library Bar, however, is best used in the winter, with a cosy ambience and a bar serving cigars and cognac to a classy, upwardly-mobile clientele. Once you've propped up the bar for long enough, consider dinner at the hotel's restaurant or hankering down in one of its many sumptuous suites.

To discover more of Johannesburg’s hottest hotels, restaurants, clubs, and bars, order your copy of A Hedonist’s Guide to… Johannesburg here.

Published: 12 May 2010 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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