The Kensington suburb was established by Max Langermann in 1897 amongst the hilly slopes to the East of the city centre. Roads were laid in 1902, bringing an influx of families into the area. The streets were planted with broad Jacaranda shrubs and leafy oaks, which still line the streets today. Over the course of a century this large Joburg suburb has seen immense change. However, its many landmark monuments and historical sites give the area a feel of nostalgia.
Kensington is the perfect place to stay over for a night, as it borders the inner city and is only a 20-minute drive from OR Tambo International airport. The area boasts great artisan restaurants, antique stores deluxe and above all else a wonderful sense of community.
Kensington natives will be the first to tell you to head down to Queen street for a lekker bite to eat. This bustling street is home to a number of restaurants, cafes, antique stores and social hangouts.
One of our favourite Queen street watering holes is the Rusty Lady. She is a rustic, South African meets Mediterranean bistro with an indomitable spirit. Once a residential home, this restaurant is both perfect for a romantic night out and the place to watch weekend rugby with the boys on the big screen. Ask your waitron for an outdoor table to make the most of the experience.
Our favourite item on the menu is the droewors platter starter. This proudly South African snack is the best way to start a meal (you cannot convince us otherwise, so don't even try.) For mains we recommend one of the Rusty Lady's thin-crust wood-fired pizza's. If you have space for pudding, try out their variety of Belgian waffles.
Another Kensington favourite is Die Kneipe. This German pub and restaurant is a hive of activity, perched right at the top of Queen street. On Wednesdays they feature live music acts and often give patrons a delicious weekly menu special to feast on with their choice of ice cold beer. Don't expect gourmet dining here, just good old fashioned hearty food. We recommend the pork roast which comes with a variety of veg and roast potatoes.
If you are looking for something a little more Joburg authentic, pop into Jambo African Restaurant. This two-storey eatery come club serves up an array of traditional African dishes including, mogoudu (fried tripe), beef isiskopo (boiled cow head parts) and even Durban bunny chow. A section of the restaurant is reserved specifically for coffee lovers, too. They specialise in Kenyan coffee blends, perfect for when you have had a little too much to drink at the bar.
Lastly, for an upmarket, family friendly dining experience, visit Bennigan's on Langermann Drive. The Bennigan's family have been in the business of serving up American style steak strips since 1972. Their signature 400g fillet on the bone is a must-try. Otherwise, customise your steak dinner - once you have chosen your cut of premium quality beef, pick your basting sauce or spice crust option. From there, select your adds on such as onion straws, mash potato or straight cut fries. For an extra treat, add a decadent sauce to your meal. We would go for the classic Bearnaise or creamy peppercorn.
Bennigan's also serves up a range of in-house desserts. These American diner inspired puds are the ultimate way to end off a big meal. From the key lime pie to the Mississippi Mud pie, there is something for every kind of sweet tooth.
If you visit only one antique store along Queen street, Barter Buy is the place to go. This seemingly never-ending antique wonderland boats collections from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras, as well as fine reproduction furniture. Make sure to explore every nook and cranny of the store to find some of the most magnificent treasure troves. There is an upstairs too, which houses a coffee shop and a collection of retro mannequins adorned in the best of yesteryear's fashions.
We know that not everyone is into antiquing. For a more commercial shopping experience, head out to Eastgate Shopping Centre. As a world-class retail mall with over 300 stores, an IMAX cinema and a large outdoor food court, Eastgate is your one-stop shopping haven.
Kensington is a history buffs paradise. This suburb is home to a secluded castle (yes, a castle), a Scottish Horse war memorial, a spooky sanitarium and Johannesburg's oldest public school. There are also lots of fun community activities to take part in, such as open day social bowls at the Kensington Bowling Club and group walks through Rhodes Park.
Walk & Talk Tours offer a self-guided tour through Kensington and its neighbouring suburb Troyeville. You can book for a party of eight or more and Walk & Talk will provide you with a handy route map and electronic guidance. Visit the Scottish War Memorial, which commemorates officers, non-commissioned officers and men killed in action and died of wounds, disease and accident, who were members of the Scottish Horse Regiment, in the South African War (1899 - 1902). The view from the top of Calendonia Hill is worth the hike alone.
For those of you not inclined to hike, take the Mystery Ghost Bus Tour of Johannesburg. The tour passes right through Kensington, stopping off at the old women's sanitarium, the castle and the aptly named Poltergeist House. Passengers board the bus at sundown and travel through the spookiest spots in Joburg, ending the night off in the Braamfontein cemetery at the call of midnight. Are you brave enough?
Finally, for the rest of us easily spooked adventurists, there is an annual Spring walk that takes place along the purple blanket streets of Kensington. The event is organised around early October every year by fitandfunnow.com. Check out their Facebook events page for details on this year's walk.
Charity stores often stock some of the best vintage items finds around town, and fortunately for us, Melville is stocked with these kinds of places. One that stands out is the Junkie Charity Store on 4th Avenue. To give you an idea of what is on sale here note the following: turn of the century furniture, quirky lampshades and hospital beds... pretty cool, eh? The vast array of items marked for sale is so big that you could call Junkie a department store.
Greymont is the go-to place if you're antiquing. On weekends cars flank Long Road on both sides as people rush to get their hands on the finest old-school wares. One of the shops that stand out the most is Modern Antiques which specialises in collectors' items and the restoration of old furniture.
We're staying in Greymont for now because there's just so much to see. Hunters Rest Antiques is the candy store we've all been searching for. From rustic Coca-Cola signs to old-school petrol pumps, it's all here. Welcome, you have arrived at the coolest place on earth, and it's within driving distance from home - what a win. Hunters also specialise in artwork, jewellery, furniture and everything in between. Also, be sure to check out the coffee shop while you're there.
Nothing hurts quite as much as the vintage we didn't buy. From loungy armchairs to tracksuit pants purchases, all the cash goes to a worthy cause. HospiceWits provides care and support to the communities within the Johannesburg Metropolitan District, primarily Johannesburg and Soweto. Be sure to check them out and maybe score some cool deals while helping someone in need.
This list will not be complete without mentioning the store with all those cats in Melville. Two stories of yesterday's treasures are waiting for you to be discovered among a mountain of kittens. Be sure to know that the money you spend here will be used to better the lives of feline friends all over town. The shop sells everything from hand me down clothes, tonnes of books to random items such as wetsuits and dirty playing cards.
Barter Buy is a wonderland of antiques and collectibles. This furniture refurbishment specialist store is housed within a two-storey former residential property in Kensington. The ground floor alone stretches on for what seems like at least half a kilometre. Barter Buy are experts in Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian furniture restoration and stock a vast collection of antique utensils, decorative pieces and unique statement furnishings.
Another Kensington antique store to check out is Kensington Trading Antiques. This is a vintage clothing and music lover's paradise. Their vast array of vinyl collectibles alone makes visiting them well worth your while. For the ladies, there is an entire section of the store dedicated to vintage clothing and accessories, some of which date back decades. These unique fashion items are not only in fine condition, but are generally fairly priced. The store also stocks bespoke furniture, Art Deco light fixtures and retro gaming stations.