Newtown Johannesburg
As with most major cities around the world, Johannesburg’s city centre has been through a period of stagnation and degeneration. However, in the past few years a number of initiatives have been adopted to reverse these trends. One of the most important of these is the Greater Newtown Development.

Newtown is one of five tourism developments aimed at inner-city regeneration. In partnership with Gauteng Agency Blue IQ, the Johannesburg City Council – through the Johannesburg Development Agency – is transforming Newtown into a safe and attractive place to work, live and visit.

Newtown is being developed into a vibrant, mixed-use area with a unique character based on existing cultural facilities – the indelible Kippies, the world renowned Market Theatre, Moyo Restaurant at the Market, the buzz of Nikki’s Oasis, the numerous international artists who have graced the Newtown Music Centre and not forgetting the unique shopping experience of the Oriental Plaza just around the corner from Newtown.

The project entails several improvements of the area, all aimed at making Newtown safe, accessible, and attractive. These include five housing developments catering for different income levels. Over 2 000 housing units will be built over the next three years.

This destination has been made accessible through the construction of the Nelson Mandela Bridge and associated M1/Carr Street interchange. The Nelson Mandela Bridge opened on 20 July 2003 and has become the new gateway from the north into Newtown.


At the turn of the 20th century, the Newtown Precinct was known as the Brickfields. This area was rich in clay, and brick making became the most popular form of generating income. By 1896, about 7 000 people of all races lived in the area, later named Burghersdorp.
As this land was close to the centre of Johannesburg and the railway line, many businesses and immigrants coming from overseas bought stands in Burghersdorp. Soon, trading companies, banks, brick companies, a brewery, and fisheries moved into the area.
In April 1904, the fire brigade set the area alight destroying everything in the inferno – a measure allegedly to combat the bubonic plague that had broken out. The area was surveyed, re-planned in unbecoming haste and renamed Newtown by October 1904, a commercial area where vast fortunes in milling, production of sugar and food merchandising would be made. Newtown has now become synonymous with the heritage and culture of South Africa and especially Johannesburg.


Located in the western sector of the Johannesburg city centre, Newtown covers an area that stretches from the marshalling yards and railway lines to the north, the M2 motorway in the south, West Street in the east and Quinn Street in the west.
This destination is now easier to reach with the construction of the Nelson Mandela Bridge and associated N1 / Carr Street interchange, co-funded by Blue IQ, the City of Johannesburg, National Roads Agency and the National Department of Transport.


The establishment of a City Improvement District, the installation of closed-circuit TV, the upgrading of existing buildings and public open spaces have turned Newtown into a safe, secure and attractive environment. Mary Fitzgerald Square constantly hosts public performances and gatherings. With lighting designed by renowned French lighting designer, Patrick Rimoux, Newtown has been transformed into a well-lit attractive destination.
The energy, innovation and vitality that were integral to Johannesburg’s past success, and which are still associated with the city today, do not only have a commercial dimension. They also find creative expression in the arts, the architecture, and the cultural activities of the city. These are richly represented in the theatres, studios, workshops, museums and buildings of Newtown – a historic area of Johannesburg’s central business district that has long acted as a magnet for creative and cultural activities.

Map of the area

Click here for a Map of Newtown [pdf]


Key Documents

Business Plan – July 2004 [pdf]
The Development of Turbine Hall
Super-Basement Project: Ground Investigation Report – May 2003 [pdf]
Traffic Study of Johannesburg CBD Western Sector, Newtown [pdf]

The Newtown Development is located in the western sector of the Johannesburg central business district. The re-development of Newtown is a major regeneration development within the inner city. It and aims to attract major investment, particularly in the creative industries, culture and tourism; create a vibrant mixed-use area; a destination centre for visitors and residents.
The development include the Nelson Mandela Bridge linking Braamfontein to Newtown; the M1/Carr Street Partial Interchange; the Metro Market; Mary Fitzgerald Square; new centres for arts and craft; multi-media; dance; music; and, film; improved security; upgraded parking facilities; and 2,200 new housing units, of which 50% will be subsidised rental units.


More than 2 200 new housing units, providing a range of accommodation, are planned in the form of Transport House, Metro Mall, Brickfields and Tribunal Gardens. COPE and the Johannesburg Housing Company have already developed the Carr Gardens and Newtown Urban Village offering mixed-income housing and are currently fully let.
Land, and under-utilised buildings, largely owned by the public sector, offer excellent opportunities for new developments. Infrastructure capacity to support new development exists.

A fast-track planning approval system offering appropriate and substantial development rights has been established by the local authority to support property development.

The Nelson Mandela Bridge
M1/Carr Street Interchange
Metro Mall
Newtown Music Centre
Mary Fitzgerald Square
African Bank Market Theatre
National Design And Craft Centre
World of Beer
Worker’s Museum and Library
Afrika Cultural Centre
Intel Computer Club
Dance Factory
Moving into Dance
Kippies Jazz Bar

The Nelson Mandela Bridge

The Nelson Mandela Bridge is a metaphorical representation of the stature of one of our country’s heroes. It is the centrepiece of the R300-million inner-city renewal project and provides a breathtaking sight when lit up at night.
The bridge spans the main Braamfontein railway yards, forming part of the new link joining Braamfontein in the north and Newtown in the south. Former president, Nelson Mandela, officially opened the bridge on 20 July 2003, as part of his 85th birthday celebrations.

Facts and figures

  • The total cost of the bridge is R120-million and construction took 18 months, after an international design competition.
  • It is the longest cable-stayed bridge in Southern Africa (295 metres long).
  • The bridge was constructed by the South African National Roads Agency.
  • The bridge was launched with a festival of running – the Blue IQ Joburg City Challenge consisting of a 21km half marathon, 10km road race, 5km fun run, 4OOm race for children and a celebrity race.

M1/Carr Street Interchange

The on- and off-ramps have greatly improved access to Newtown from the south of Johannesburg. With the new interchange, northbound traffic can gain easier access to Newtown. This improves the link to other important tourist destinations in Soweto, Gold Reef City and the west of Joburg.

Metro Mall

Opened in January 2003, this multimillion rand public transport and shopping complex has some of Joburg’s unique public art on display. Ranging from life-size sculptures, murals, mosaic and installations, the artworks are a fitting tribute to the numerous artists who work in Newtown and Joburg. They also enhance the shopper’s experience.
Once inside, the buzz will keep you enthralled for hours and you can shop for anything from the latest CD’s to fresh vegetables. There is a wholesaler on site to cater for the growing demands of commuters as well as the growing number of residents in Newtown.

The food on offer at the food hall located on the second level of Metro Mall is traditional local cuisine. Metro Mall is situated between Simmonds, Sauer, West and Pimm streets and incorporates the Bree Street taxi rank. The mall is open daily from 6am to 10pm.

Mall statistics

  • Metro Mall was built at a cost of R100-million and is managed by the Metropolitan Trading Company.
  • It has three levels – an integrated transport facility for approximately 3 000 vehicles, a trader’s market and formal retail shops along Bree Street.
  • An estimated 150 000 daily taxi and bus commuters go through Metro Mall.
  • This development accommodates 600 informal traders, 3 000m² of formal retail space as well as six hundred units of mixed income housing.

Newtown Music Centre

The Newtown Music Centre has long been a popular venue for music concerts, recording launches and performances. It has recently been refurbished and is now under management of the Music Industry Development Initiative (MIDI) Trust.
It is open for business and can be used for music rehearsals and dance training space, and has a resource centre. Great musicians like Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, Letta Mbulu, Sipho Hostix Mabuse, Salif Keita, Taria Maria and M’chelle N’dege O’chello, to name a few, have graced the stage of the music hall, which has also played host to varied genres of music, from hip-hop, mbaqanga, soukos, jazz, kwaito and kwasa kwasa. Under the management of the MIDI Trust, the Newtown Music Centre and indeed Newtown, holds a promising future for both established and up-and-coming performing artists.

The venue is also used for training for music and related industry stakeholders.

It is open from Mondays to Thursdays from 9am to 5pm and on Fridays from 9am to 4pm.

The Venue

  • Acts as the head office for the MIDI Trust which emphasises training and education, information dissemination and industry development.
  • Offers training and conferencing facilities.
  • The music hall has capacity to hold 1 000 spectators.
  • Has state-of-the-art recording studios for professional and demo recordings.


Situated in the heart of the Newtown Cultural Precinct, MuseuMAfricA is Johannesburg’s premier history museum. The museum is housed in what was once the city’s first fruit and vegetable market, a building constructed for this purpose in 1913 and which, at the time, was a fine example of the advances made in industrial building techniques.
MuseuMAfricA’s principal permanent exhibition is “Johannesburg Transformations” which examines some of the momentous changes that have swept through the city in the last century. The discovery of gold has played a seminal role in the birth and development of the city plot the political, economic and social effects of gold on the city’s history and people. Visitors can discover what the impact of gold was on the workers, how their struggle led to the emergence of a unique urban culture, and the punishing effects which the housing crisis had on their lives, resulting in the development of informal settlements across the city. Finally, the struggle for a democratic South Africa ends off this exhibition by detailing the long walk to political freedom.

Visitors can also see “Tried for Treason”, a display which deals with the five-year trial of 156 people, including Nelson Mandela, who were arrested and charged for their anti-apartheid activities. Although all 156 accused were acquitted, this trial marked a turning point in the resistance movement. Apart from its historical displays, the museum also houses the South African Rock Art Museum, the Bensusan Museum of Photography and the Geological Museum.

This is the only museum which attempts to tell the story of life in Southern Africa from the stone age to nuclear age and beyond. It tells this story with honesty and objectivity, using its extensive collections, recent research, and the advice of experts in the fields of geology, archaeology, anthropology and history. In addition to a gallery of ancient San (Bushman) rock art, there is an interesting section on a more recent phenomenon: squatter camps and shebeens.

The museum is open on Tuesdays to Sundays from 9am to 5pm. Closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday and Day of Goodwill

Mary Fitzgerald Square

Launched by President Thabo Mbeki in December 2001, to a 20 000-strong crowd who were treated to the best of South African jazz, this square has become a sought after venue for public performances and gatherings. Originally known as Aaron’s Ground, this former wagon site was used for the many strikers’ meetings at the turn of the 20th century. The square lies at the heart of Newtown. It was renamed Mary Fitzgerald Square in 1939, in honour of the first woman trade unionist who played a key role in the 1910 miners’ strike.
The new square has the capacity for over 50 000 people and provides an outdoor space for a wide array of activities, including outdoor film festivals, concerts, markets, carnivals and exhibitions. The square also boasts the biggest outdoor LED screen on the continent, measuring 55m². Two sky disks are major elements on the square. The first depicts the stellar constellation as at the birth of Mary Fitzgerald, the second depicts the constellation as at the first democratic election of 27 April 1994. There is a third, which can be found at the entrance to the MuseuMAfricA depicting the constellation as at the official launch of the square on 16 December 2001 – Reconciliation Day. The disks use unique optic fibre lights that glow in the dark.

Renowned French lighting engineer, Patrick Rimoux was commissioned to design the lighting for this square as well as for the surrounding public open spaces. The unique lighting provides essential street lighting whilst giving the area a distinct ambience. The lighting features elements that pay tribute to the original cooling towers that were once dominant in the Newtown area, 90% of whose components were manufactured in South Africa

The carved heads, visible throughout the square and the surrounds, were manufactured by Newtown artists from disused railway sleepers, depicting the different faces from the African continent.

African Bank Market Theatre

A visit to Joburg is incomplete without a night out at this internationally acclaimed theatre, made famous as the first integrated theatre, playing a pivotal role in the struggle against apartheid through the encouragement of debate and challenging ideas. It houses three theatres, a bar, an art gallery and the second of the famous Moyo restaurants.

The complex still retains the ambience and spirit of a marketplace. The theatre itself is infused with theatrical history, from the posters of Athol Fugard plays that premiered there to Grammy and Tony award-winning musicals like Sarafina.

The Market Theatre is open on Mondays to Saturdays from 9am – late and on Sundays from 10am – late.

National Design And Craft Centre

Situated at the historic Bus Factory, which was the city’s tram and bus sheds from the late 1930’s until it was decommissioned in the early 1990’s. This is ideal for those tourists who want a one-stop-shop for the best in South African arts and crafts. The building has been transformed into an integrated business co-operative specialising in manufacture, marketing, sales and export of South African inspired craft, jewellery and home decor products.

The craft centre is also home to Create SA, Visual Arts and Crafts Academy (VACA) and the Drum Cafe. Visitors can learn the age-old art of the making of African drums and can choose from a dizzying array of arts and craft that South Africa can offer.

Crafty facts
The Bus Factory was refurbished with funding from Blue IQ and the Gauteng Department of Sports Recreation and Arts and Culture.

The centre is open on Tuesdays to Fridays from 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays and Sundays from l0am to 2pm.

World of Beer

A visit to the South African Breweries World of Beer in Newtown will yield an informative tour that traces beer origins about 6 000 years back and demonstrates the beer making process.
The SAB World of Beer offers an exciting beer tour that allows visitors to trace the journey of the golden brew from ancient Mesopotamia through Africa and Europe to its place in modern society.

Daily tours, hosted by professionally trained tour guides, take you back in time to a turn of the century pub in Johannesburg’s mining camp and a traditional Soweto shebeen. Also, the brewing process is revealed in a climatically controlled greenhouse, where hops and barley are grown side-by-side and the art and science of brewing is demonstrated in a full-scale interactive brewery.

It also features a pub where visitors can enjoy refreshments after touring the facility.

The World of Beer is open on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 6pm.

Worker’s Museum and Library

For those who are interested in the development of Johannesburg and the role played by the migrant workers who were pivotal in building this city, this is the place to visit. The worker’s museum and library is situated in a restored municipal worker’s compound, which served the electricity department for the city. The east wing of the building was developed into a worker’s museum that commemorated the history of the African migrant workers. It also provides a faithful reconstruction of the conditions in the single-sex hostels in which black Joburg municipal workers lived and struggled, for the better part of the 20th century.

The Worker’s Museum and Library is open on Thursdays to Saturdays from 9am to 4pm.

Afrika Cultural Centre

The old potato sheds behind the Market Theatre Complex have been converted into an arts centre, focusing on the needs of children and young people. It hosts a year-round Child Active Programme, designed for children and young people who are interested in learning creative ways of making the world a safer, loving and friendly place to live in.
On offer are programmes such as visual arts, craft and design, dance and music, media as well as a children’s parliament. The programmes are designed to encourage participation, initiative and innovation in children and the youth in general.

Intel Computer Club

The first of its kind outside of the US, it was launched in Newtown in November 2002. The club focuses on young people living in the inner city from the ages of nine to 19, offering an opportunity to learn about computers and technology and how it can be of benefit to them.
The club was instigated by the Youth Development Trust and sponsored by Intel Computers for Youth Development. This child-friendly environment encourages children and youth to learn in a creative and stimulating environment and parents are known to leave their children under the supervision of the talented club staff.

Dance Factory

This is a unique concept in the fostering of a dance culture and developing dance audiences in Joburg. Funded mainly by well-wishers, the Dance Factory has had successes in the establishment, equipping and administering of a dance centre through classes, workshops and performances, and in particular to the communities that have been culturally, educationally and economically disadvantaged. The Dance Factory frequently hosts performances by acclaimed local and international dancers.

Moving into Dance

Established in 1978 by Sylvia Magogo Glasser as a form of cultural resistance to apartheid, this trailblazing company has developed into the foremost professional dance company and training institution in South Africa.
Moving into Dance has a professional performance company, runs teacher training courses, provides teachers of edudance to schools in their out-reach programme as well as open dance classes to the public.

Moving into Dance is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5.15pm to 6.15pm, on Saturdays frmo 9.30am to 11.30am, 11.30am – 12.30pm open classes

Kippies Jazz Bar

Kippies in Newtown situated next to the Market Theatre, is an international jazz venue of note. Named after saxophone player Kippie Moeketsi, the venue was opened in the mid 80’s and became popular among local musicians who held gigs and workshops
It’s a cosy venue with its walls painted a pleasing sky blue. Its original old section has attractive small arched windows, and a small domed roof. It is modelled on the classic architecture of the Edwardian public convenience, lending to the feel of the neighbouring market building.

Originally Kippies could only accommodate 80 people. In 1992 the City of Johannesburg donated money for extensions to the club, which now seats 180, or 300 people standing.