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Things to do in Johannesburg, South Africa: Shopping Guide

African souvenirs and sculptures bought home from your trip will remain conversation pieces in your home for years to come.

A vacation to South Africa is a life-changing experience for many people. It is not merely a holiday but a trip where you will see and experience things you’ve only read about or seen on television. With so much to take in, you’ll definitely want to stop by one of the many artisan markets to pick out some souvenirs. Having lived in Johannesburg, South Africa for the better part of 10 years, I know that these masks, giraffe sculptures, and hand-painted fabrics will quickly become some of our most treasured possessions.

Below are some of the best flea markets in Johannesburg where locals go to fill their homes with the sights and sounds of Africa.

Rosebank Mall

Rosebank Mall has become the go-to place for everything African-arts-and-crafts-related. The market is full of artists selling their hippo figurines, elephant tables, and ebony masks. The craftsmen and women pay a fee for their stall and as a result the market is clean and organized. Cash is the main method of payment here so make sure you bring lots. However, if there’s that one last piece you simply can’t go home without, many sellers will go to the market office with you where you are able to pay by credit card.

The Rosebank market has become a staple in South African souvenir shopping. If you only have time to visit one market, make it this one.

Melrose Arch

Melrose Arch consists of a cobbled street closed off to cars and perfect for romantic evening strolls. If boutique shopping and fine dining is what you’re looking for, than Melrose Arch is right up your alley. Small shops are nestled among gourmet restaurants featuring outdoor seating in the warm, evening air. The architecture is modern yet classic and fountains create a piazza atmosphere.

The stores cater to the rich and famous and are often over-priced. There is no hackling with artisans to be had here, and international delivery is the norm.

The V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront, also known as the Randburg Waterfront, was once a vibrant and popular dinner and entertainment venue. Originally named for it’s central lake, the water has since been drained and replaced by grassy mounds. Many of the stores have closed down but a dynamic flea market has sprung out of the economic bust experienced by the Waterfront.

The Waterfront has become the best place to get a good deal. Many of the vendors cannot afford the steep fees required to sell their works at more up-market venues and are often looking to make minimal profit. As a result, the Waterfront market may not be as fancy as some other markets, but it’s definitely worth a visit. If for no other reason than to support the new and struggling artists. Cash is king here so make sure to bring cash when visiting the Waterfront.

Montecasino

Montecasino was completed in November 2000 in the image of an Italian palazzo. Once inside, the cobbled streets draw you in as the ceiling fades from day to night. Old-fashioned bicycles and small, Italian cars litter the streets, which are filled with the bustling sounds of diners enjoying their spaghetti and tiramisu.

The stores are moderately priced and feature everything from furniture to jewelry to clothing. Montecasino is an experience all in itself. With a children’s gaming centre, a casino, a full movie cinema, and a broadway theatre, plan to do more than just shop when visiting Montecasino.

Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square

Sandton City is one of the largest malls in Johannesburg. Featuring international stores like Cartier, Gucci, Hugo Boss, and Lacoste, this up-market mall is a great place to pass the day if you’re looking to spend some serious cash. The mall complex is opulent and extensive, and is surrounded by a world-renowned hotel and several dozen office complexes.

The biggest draw for tourists to Sandton City may be its newly created Nelson Mandela Square. The outdoor area, modeled on an Italian piazza, features a dynamic fountain, outdoor restaurants, and a six-foot-tall sculpture of former President Nelson Mandela. The square is a great place to enjoy lunch in the sun and provides a great photo opportunity with the statue.

When on vacation in South Africa, set aside plenty of time for shopping. The general consensus among travelers is that no matter how many souvenirs you buy, when you return home, you never have enough, so pick up more than one of each curio to be on the safe side.