Joburg is a BIG city. There are lots and lots of areas and neighborhoods, and finding the right one for you can be intimidating, to say the least. It’s hard to know where to start.
As promised previously in Finding a House in Johannesburg: Part 1, I will now give you a list of suburbs to choose from. But first, have a look at this map. I would have loved to see a simple map like this before moving here, as it will go a long way towards giving you an idea where things are, not just for house-hunting but all sorts of other purposes. Like finding out where in the world your daughter’s netball match will be (even if you have no idea WHAT in the world netball is). Just remember that the map isn’t everything, because it doesn’t show TRAFFIC. What looks close isn’t necessarily so.
Ok, getting to the actual suburbs: The following is what I wrote for the website Expat Arrivals about Areas and Suburbs in Johannesburg, listing them all going from North to South. (You should definitely visit Expat Arrivals as it is an excellent resource for expats getting their bearings in South Africa.)
Including Waterfall, Kyalami
Technically Midrand might not count as a Johannesburg suburb as it is so far removed, but especially in the last few years it has become a popular area to live, offering affordable housing set in wide open spaces and still relatively easy access to the main hubs of business. If you like open areas and nice views at affordable prices, Midrand should be on your list. Close to AISJ, Midrand also has the advantage of being relatively close to Pretoria.
Including Dainfern, Broadacres, Fernridge, Douglasdale, Northriding, Beverley
These are also relatively recent developments in the eyes of long-term Joburgers, but today this area probably houses the vast majority of expats living in Johannesburg. It has more established (and often more expensive) neighborhoods than Midrand and a host of good private schools to choose from in addition to AISJ. It is here you will find one of the largest concentrations of security estates clustered around the Fourways area with its many options in shopping, entertainment, healthcare and recreation. It is fairly close to Sandton, but don’t be fooled – traffic going that way will be very heavy with daily commuters.
Including Morningside, Wendywood, Sandown, Sandhurst, Hyde Park
In the last twenty years or so, Sandton has replaced the CBD as Johannesburg’s hub of business and commerce, meaning many corporate headquarters, banks, and large hotels are located there. As a general rule, the closer you get to Sandton, the more expensive housing becomes, so expect to pay a premium in this area. Bryanston along the northern edge is less expensive, and is mostly known for its beautiful free standing homes on tree-lined streets which explode in a purple sea of blooming jacarandas in late spring. Further to the south, in Morningside, Sandown and Hyde Park one finds stately homes as well as apartment complexes. This area also sports a large concentration of renowned private hospitals.
Including Randpark Ridge, Cresta, Blairgowrie, Windsor East
Much quieter and less ritzy than Sandton, this area is nevertheless perfect in many ways – it’s close to Sandton; the centre of Randburg has its own assortment of businesses; the nearby Cresta shopping centre is one of Joburg’s largest; as well as restaurants and government offices. These are leafy suburbs with spacious homes and gardens in close proximity to a championship golf course as well as the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam (perfect for dog walking and summer picnics). Generally, this is a good area for families as well as apartment dwellers.
Including Blackheath, Auckland Park
These are older and more established suburbs with some of Johannesburg’s most beautiful scenery. Northcliff Hill with its winding roads and park-like homes nestled on the slopes is especially stunning, while next-door Melville is more trendy and has what some call a bohemian pavement culture. It’s definitely one of the most diverse neighbourhoods of Johannesburg, perhaps fuelled by the proximity of two universities. Here expatriates will encounter a lively nightlife scene, plenty of street cafés, antique shops, very unique restaurants, as well as the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve with its beautiful walks and views.
Including Parkhurst, Emmarentia
Similar to Northcliff and Melville, Parkhurst and Greenside provide the area’s nightlife while Emmarentia Dam and Zoo Lake offer beautiful scenery and recreation right within the city. Centrally located within easy reach of both central Johannesburg and Sandton via Barry Hertzog Avenue, its comfortable family homes are set in well-established gardens surrounded by some of Joburg’s most beautiful trees.Parkhurst especially is a trendy neighbourhood for young families pushing their strollers along Fourth Avenue on a Sunday morning, a place where one finds eclectic coffee shops, bakeries, interior design boutiques, antique dealers and some of the best restaurants in Johannesburg.
Including Houghton, Melrose, Saxonwold, Killarney, Westcliff
Expats who find a home in one of these historic suburbs will be living at one of the city’s best addresses in close proximity to three of its oldest and best schools – King Edward VII School, Parktown High, and St John’s College. The homes here are sizeable and dignified, set on large properties, and residents are very close to the popular, sprawling Johannesburg Zoo.
Including Oriel, Bedford Gardens, Edenvale
Located on the East Rand but still not far from the city centre, Bedfordview is ideally located for business travellers flying in and out of the nearby OR Tambo International Airport on a regular basis. It offers quiet, spacious and safe estate living in another one of Joburg’s leafy tree-lined areas, and is also conveniently located close to multiple shopping centres, including Cyrildene’s Chinatown.
Joburg City Centre
Including Bruma, Kensington, Lyndhurst
Most expats wouldn’t dream of moving into Joburg’s city centre, given its bad reputation and the crime problems of areas like Hillbrow, Berea, and Yeoville. However, just like in other big cities, this area has lately undergone some urban rejuvenation and many hail the Maboneng Precinct, Newtown and Braamfontein as the places to be, especially for professional singles and couples without children. There are plenty of renovated apartments and lofts available with good security, beautiful views, amazing nightlife and shopping within walking distance, and the campus of Wits University is just around the corner.And here, even though I have no connection to it and no special incentive to promote it, a promotional video about Lonehill, a suburb in the Fourways area mentioned above that is billed as one of Joburg’s safest open (i.e. not enclosed) estates:
A big thank you to Heather at 2Summers and Jo at Past Experiences for their valuable advice regarding areas of Joburg I knew nothing about!