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Which is better for shopping-Capetown or Johannesburg?


Jul 12th, 2004, 05:48 PM
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Which is better for shopping-Capetown or Johannesburg?

My wife and I are planning a trip at the end of August. We have always wanted to go to S. Africa, so we have agreed to go there. Since shopping is our passion, and we are partial to Africa art, we would like to know if Capetown or Johannesburg is the better place to shop for these items?

Any advise is greatly appreciated!
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Jul 12th, 2004, 10:44 PM
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The best place to shop for truly SA art = the side of the William Nicoll highway in Johannesburg! Understandably a little daunting for visitors. What I like about it though is that you are buying just about direct from the artist, no middle man dealers making money in between.
Having said that, most craft markets will have local art also at most 1 step away from the artist. The Rosebank Market in Johannesburg (open on Sundays and public holidays) is a good haunt. There is also a small market shop with a limited range open during the week.
Cape Town has a number of markets where you can find art. If you are looking for better known artists then stick to the established galleries - and be prepared to pay! In terms of choosing between the two - I think you will find the prices in Johannesburg less geared towards tourists than in Cape Town, i.e. they are less likely to see you coming and maybe more willing to negotiate!
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Jul 13th, 2004, 01:23 AM
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Hmm, the cynic in me says that perhaps some of the William Nicol Drive roadside "shops" are so large, that there is a major operation behind the scenes. The new Jo'burg Metro bylaws limit each vendor to 6 square metres, and some of those vendors occupy 1000-2000! And now that those bylaws were at last gazetted in May (took almost a year since they were passed!), the days of those vendors are probably limited, or at least in their current form. They are most likely to disappear first South of the N1 highway, because North of it the road is still classed as a Provincial road, and there is some dispute at present as to how this should be controlled.

But they're still there at present. The biggest sites are at Grosvenor Crossing (where William Nicol crosses Main Road), and about 1km further down near the Bryanston Shopping Centre.

Rosebank is also a good suggestion, and as Traci says that permanent "African market" section is open all week. It is a more formal consolidation of what some time ago were kerbside vendors in the same area.
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Jul 13th, 2004, 01:56 AM
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Having not shopped in Jo'burg I can't offer a comparison but I can talk about the shopping we did in Cape Town.

Firstly you've got the upmarket shops in the shopping malls at the Waterfront. I didn't buy anything from these as they are a bit more expensive but they do arrange shipping etc and have pre selected only high quality stock.

Also at the Waterfront are two Craft "Sheds" (warehouses) - the red and the blue. These are a step down in price but still not the cheapest shopping. There are some very nice items here. We bought some inexpensive prints of watercolours for ourselves and for gifts.

Next down are the roadside markets and stalls, these offer great prices, especially in May, seems business was quieter than usual. The Greenpoint Sunday market was very enjoyable. I fell for some stone carved entertwined giraffes. I looked throughout the market at similar carvings before choosing the stall with the best quality stock (in my opinion). I was able to knock the price down by 50% easily. I am sure I could have pushed it down much further but didn't feel the need to since I was more than happy to pay the price I reached. This market really did have a wonderful range of items since there were vendors selling locally produced goods as well as vendors from across the continent selling crafts more typical to their region of Africa.

During our day drive down to Cape Point we encounter a market of carved stone that just blows me away. One tends to drive down one side of the peninsula and back to Cape Town up the other side. We came BACK via the Chapman's Peak side. Shortly after leaving the Cape Point reserve, going back towards Cape Town we came around a bend and encountered hundreds and hundreds of HUGE stone carvings. There were smaller ones too but the large ones are what caught our eye. Next time we visit I'm going to figure out how to buy one...
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Jul 13th, 2004, 01:59 AM
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PS In May the small line of stalls DIRECTLY outside the entrance to Cape Point were obviously experiencing a lack of visitors. I found some lovely small stone soap dishes with hippos "swimming" in them - I'd seen similar at the greenpoint market and not bought any - and the price fell quickly to about one third it's asking price.

Do be prepared to bargain...
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Jul 14th, 2004, 07:10 PM
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Thanks for all of the information you have all given. We purchased our tickets this evening and will be coming the last week of August.

I noticed that some vendors in Capetown are available that sell art not only from SA but also from other areas of the continent. It may be a little late, as we are booked to JNB, but are there vendors in JNB that sell art from other parts of the continent? We are really interested in some central African items, too. We have a new house and plenty of room (more room than funds I have to say) so the more variety the better.

Is it worth a couple of days in Capetown if there is not a good variety of art in JNB?

We are flying NWA/KLM from SEA to AMS then on to JNB. I asked, and NWA does not fly direct to Capetown from JNB, so they suggested SA Airways. Does anybody have any experience with SA Airways on this route? I have never flown them, and am wondering if it would be better to take a tour (or if one even exists) to take us to Capetown if need be.

Also, sorry about all of the questions, but is a trip to Pretoria a good idea? Not for art, but is there a lot of history (we love history, too) there?

Again, thanks for all of your help.
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Jul 14th, 2004, 10:47 PM
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Let me try to help you out ...

"are there vendors in JNB that sell art from other parts of the continent"
Yes, the Rosebank market (market and store) has many artworks from east, central and west Africa. Also, at Village Walk (opposite the JSE) is a small market area where I have only ever seen art from the rest of Africa.

"Is it worth a couple of days in Capetown"
For a change in scenery and something very different to Johannesburg.

"Does anybody have any experience with SA Airways on this route"
That's a flight out of Atlanta - and I'm booked on it in November! I've flown SAA into JFK a few years back, they are a good airline although taking a lot of flack at the moment for changing to the Airbus on the N America routes which is not nearly as comfortable as the old Boeings. BTW SAA CEO Andre Viljoen resigned last week, 2 years short of his contract. There have been rumblings as to the reasons why, SAA had to be bailed out by the govt as they had banked on the Rand worsening and it didn't! But that's another thread entirely! SAA say that joining the Star Alliance is still on, despite Viljoen's departure, but how long this will take is anyone's guess. I've been assured that my flight on 16 Nov is still out of Atlanta so probably not before then.

"am wondering if it would be better to take a tour (or if one even exists) to take us to Capetown if need be"
Getting to Cape Town from Johannesburg should you decide that you want to go there will be very, very easy and you don't need an organised tour. SAA, BA, Kulula, Nationwide and 1time all fly this route direct and as it is still low season you will probably be able to get accommodation in Cape Town.

"is a trip to Pretoria a good idea"
Well Arthur is a Pretoria local so he will I am sure comment on this! Remember that Johannesburg and Pretoria are just about one city. Depending on the time of day it can take only 30/45 minutes from the Johannesburg northern suburbs (where I guess you will be based) to Pretoria. IMHO the only thing worth seeing in Pretoria are the Union Buildings - sorry Arthur! - and that you can do as a quick trip if you find you have time one day.

Now some questions from me:
How long do you plan to be in SA?
Where in Johannesburg will you be staying?

Recently Arthur posted a long list of things to do in Gauteng/Johannesburg so you may want to do a search for that. Also - just thought of this - a place of interest is the Cradle of Humankind in the Magaliesburg (west of Johannesburg). In this same area is the Magalies Meander where there are lots of artists studios, right up your alley!

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Jul 15th, 2004, 01:05 AM
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Nope, not a Pretoria local Traci, you've got me mixed up with someone else I guess. Durban born and bred (loosely speaking).

I used to say "but now living for my sins in Johannesburg", but on a travel forum that would give the wrong impression.
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Jul 15th, 2004, 05:28 AM
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We shopped in Cape Town, Zambia (market near Victoria Falls), and Rosebank. Because of weight restrictions, on small plane flights, we actually bought very little before Rosebank - but did get a good feel for what things cost.

We found, with a bit of back and forth, that items could be had at the Rosebank market as cheap as anywhere. Certainly 1/3 to 1/8 the prices in Jo'burg airport or Capetown waterfront area. Also, as traci_local mentioned, there are a wide variety of items from a broad area of Africa at the Rosebank market.

We were there in June on a rainy day and there were not many shoppers - this undoubtably helped us.
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Jul 15th, 2004, 10:36 AM
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We will be in SA a total of ten days. Wish we could spend more time there but with only two weeks off, and the travel time of 2 days to and from Seattle, we could not spend any more time.

We haven't made hotel reservations yet. We are looking at some of the guest house and B&B accomodations in Johannesburg, and would really appreciate any suggestions. One that we have looked at is Corlias Guest House in Kensington. Would Kensington be a good central location?

Thanks again for your help and everybody else's input. Luxury Accomodtions are low on our priority list. As long as a place is comfortable and safe, we are happy. We prefer to spend our money on the treasures we want to bring back here!

Thanks again!
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Jul 15th, 2004, 12:34 PM
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In Capetown Greenmarket Square is a fun scene, and a good place to shop. Better craft variety, and cheaper than the waterfront alternative. And its open every day except Sunday (I think...check with your hotel.)
It's got a nice vibe too...kind of like a street fair/art festival, with lots of stuff from all over South Africa, plenty from West and Central Africa, a bit from Ethiopia too. You can bargain a bit, too. This area is especially good for the small gifts that you might need to take back for people. (Not so great for fine pieces, but I found some cheap and very cool jewelry there.) Some interesting looking shops surround it, too. Also some casual restaurants.

My hotel (at the waterfront) was adamant that I needed to take a cab to and from --no walking! So I took a cab there.
After shopping, I stopped for lunch at a funky cafe with lots of vegetarian offerings-- wish I remembered the name. (I think it was on the south side of the square.) Started talking to the woman who owned the restaurant, and she was quite as adamant that it was perfectly safe and easy to take a minibus back to the waterfront.
So I did. And I must say I enjoyed just walking a bit in the Greenmarket area, and meeting a few local woman on the cheap but (very crowded) minibus.

I'm not recommending that you ignore the advice of your hotel...but I do think they overprotect tourists. Be careful, but don't be afraid to enjoy Capetown.
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Jul 15th, 2004, 10:49 PM
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Hi James

Kensington a good place to stay? No - no, no, no, no, no, and once again no. I have no info re the establishment you mention but the area is not a good place to base yourself.

If you don't want anything fancy search for B&B's and guesthouses here:
To be conveniently located look for areas like: Sandton, Rosebank, Melrose, Parkhurst, Illovo, Inanda, Sandhurst, Hyde Park, Sandown, Morningside, Rivonia, Morningside Manor, Bryanston, Hurlingham, Parkmore, Benmore.
Some hotel options are Rosebank Hotel - nothing fancy but well run and located - or in the Sandton Precinct try a City Lodge or Holiday Inn Garden Court. These are clean, functional and comfortable - but you won't be wanting to spend time lazing around in the room!
If you do want something with more creature comforts try one of my favourites: The Quartermain or Falstaff Inns. Very well located, wonderfully comfortable and extremely reasonable.

Sorry Arthur - I had you confused with another local, John. I'm also Dbn bred (Go Sharks!) and now for my sins living in Johannesburg!

James - if you don't want to bore everyone else here we can continue offboard. Contact me at: [email protected]
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