Today the village of Melville is reinventing itself and is well worth a visit, especially if you’re into shopping, good restaurants and nightlife.
It’s one of the few places in Johannesburg that has a restaurant and café street life, so if you want to escape the ubiquitous city mall culture, then Melville, with its terrific location close to town, is the place to be.
Long the haunt of students from two of Johannesburg’s top universities – the University of Johannesburg and the University of the Witwatersrand – as well as visitors and tourists, the area teems with life, especially at night when the bars are buzzing, the restaurants rocking and the clubs crowded.
Catz Pyjamas – open 24 hours, seven days a week, and with a 24-hour delivery service – has been drawing people in for years, as has the laid-back Lucky Bean Restaurant, with its good food and live music.
The Leopard is the culinary home of author-chef Andrea Burgener, while a great family pizza place is Picobello Trattoria. Buzz 9 serves interesting cocktails in a vibrant atmosphere, as does Six Cocktail Bar, a Melville institution and one of its oldest bars.
Forget the big chain stores and upmarket labels when you come shopping in Melville. Instead, expect inviting little craft shops, quaint boutiques, second-hand vintage stores and antique shops, and the Bamboo lifestyle centre, where a contemporary South African theme rules.
Each of the shops at Bamboo, selling everything from decor, art and food to wellness products, collectables and clothes, is independent and owner-run. There’s a great second-hand bookstore and every Saturday a farmers’ market, open from 9am to 1pm, sells local and organic fresh produce.
27boxes, built of shipping containers, with 24-hour secure parking, is the first of its kind in South Africa and has an exciting mix of pop-up to permanent stores, set in landscaped gardens.
Unique to Melville and a place to unwind, hike or just enjoy the lovely natural surroundings of indigenous bush, is the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, a city heritage site, and the last remaining remnant of Johannesburg’s ridges as they were before gold was discovered in 1886.
Early Stone Age people lived here some 500 000 years ago and the geology goes back three billion years. Take a scheduled guided walk on a Sunday morning (only if you’re fit as the walks are strenuous), or amble at your own pace on weekdays and enjoy stunning city views.