City experiences


South Africa: shopper's paradise

South Africans love to shop and to sell. Large shopping centres are to be found across the country's cities and towns, where everything from giant chain stores to small speciality boutiques sell all you could possible want.

These haven't forced out the smaller suburban high street shops, or the large flea markets found in all major centres.

And when shopkeepers don't have shops, they take to the streets: hawkers and craftspeople ply their wares at traffic intersections, minibus taxi ranks, along major thoroughfares and on inner city pavements, selling everything from sweets and fruit to elaborate sculptures and home furnishings.

Even as you move from the cities into the countryside, the selling doesn't stop. South Africa's rural areas are dotted with farm stalls, arts and crafts markets and more.

If you're into shopping, South Africa offers so much choice your credit card could start steaming especially with the country's favourable exchange rate.

Crafty buys

The first choice would be local arts and crafts. Wire sculptures are a feature of the streets of all our cities, but this art is best represented in the Eastern Cape, near the town of Cradock. Here you'll find windmills up to two metres tall made from wire and scrap, such as food tins and old aerosol cans. These innovative artists also make aeroplanes with working propellers.

At craft centres and roadside stalls all over the country, you'll find fantastic pots, basketware, beadwork, embroidery and carvings.

If you're after community arts and crafts, visit the Due South Craft Route. The site provides a wide-angled view of the arts and crafts available in the country, and is also invaluable in providing information to off-the-beaten track places in South Africa.

Fashion and finery

South Africa's sophisticated clothing industry manufactures garments ranging from high fashion to well-made safari clothing and sportswear, all of which are reasonably priced.

Our high-fashion designers tend to towards a fusion of classical European trends, with some subtle or not-so-subtle African touches and the odd, totally off-the-wall feature. So you could go home with something unique.

There is no better place to buy the essential safari gear before you head off into the bush. In South Africa we don't manufacture safari clothing for the once-a-year traveller, we make it for farmers and game rangers, who certainly would make their feelings known if it didn't make the grade.

And, of course, we do mine a pretty big chunk of the world's gold, diamonds and platinum, so it would be a shame not to investigate acquiring a piece designed especially for you.

At the Premier Diamond Mine at Cullinan near Pretoria you can sit back, sip sparkling wine and gaze out over the mine where the soon-to-be-yours stone was born, while a designer sketches ideas for you.

Flea markets, factory shops

If you're not into baubles and bustiers, you'll still find plenty to buy. Almost every town has its little craft markets, with the larger city flea markets selling unique and often handmade clothing, crafts, jewellery, ornaments, collectables and deli foods at cut-rate prices.

Bruma Market in Johannesburg is reputed to be the biggest in the southern hemisphere. It's enormous, and here you'll find all manner of clothes, trinkets whatever. There's also the Panorama Flea Market in Mulbarton, and B&B's Hillfox and Rosebank Rooftop Markets, both among the largest and oldest markets in the country.

Rosebank in Johannesburg is also home to the African Craft Market, where entrepreneurs from all over the continent sell imported African crafts and fabrics from an innovatively designed indoor market.

Cape Town's Greenmarket Square is a legend. Here you'll find handmade clothing, shoes, jewellery and much more. Other craft and flea markets in Cape Town include the Khayelitsha Craft Market, Pan African Market, the Milnerton market, the Waterfront Art & Craft Market and the uber-trendy Neighbourgoods market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.

Durban in KwaZulu-Natal has the Essenwood Flea Market, Church Square Market, Farepark Market and Victoria Street Market, where you can buy anything from curries, curios to CDs.

Arts and crafts are also on show on the magnificent Midlands Meander, which takes visitors from Pietermartizburg to the Drakensberg.

Then there are the speciality centres, a cross between shopping malls and craft markets. One of these is the Oriental Plaza in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, where for decades local Indian tradespeople have offered real bargains on pretty much anything from hardware to electronics to toys, although the real speciality is clothing and textiles.

Art Africa, in Parkview, is a legendary shop and popular tourist stop that's been selling rare and wonderful African art and crafts for over a decade.

There's also the extraordinary Kim Sacks Gallery in Parkwood, which offers handmade urban and rural objects, ceramics, textiles and other interesting artefacts from across the continent.

African, European and Indian artefacts and antiques are on sale at intimate 44 Stanley Avenue centre in Milpark. Art deco furniture, flowers, excellent restaurants and a gallery can also all be found here.

If you're after real bargains, though, check out some of the factory shops, found all over the country but particularly popular in Cape Town. Some of them can be difficult to find for the uninitiated, so author Pam Black has compiled a comprehensive list for the savvy shopper.

Shopping malls

We're a nation of mallrats. Shopping centres are everywhere. Some are so huge they'll give you a good day's hike from one end to the other. In Johannesburg there's Eastgate and Cresta, and in Umhlanga, just outside Durban, there's the mammoth Gateway Shopping Centre, which offers more than 400 shops in 166 000 square metres that's more than 40 acres.

Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with more than 450 stores, caters to all shopping needs in a huge range to suit any budget or taste. Other more exclusive centres are Johannesburg's Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square and Hyde Park.

Got to shop? Here's a list of South Africa's major shopping malls.

Johannesburg, Gauteng

Pretoria, Gauteng

Durban, KwaZulu-Natal

Nelspruit, Mpumalanga

Cape Town, Western Cape

Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

SAinfo reporter

Updated: 16 May 2012

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Wire sculptures, such as this lamp made from telephone wire, are a feature of the streets of all South African cities (Photo: Carnegie Art)

South African beadwork

At craft centres and roadside stalls all over South Africa you''ll find fantastic pots, basketware, beadwork, embroidery and carvings (Photo: Durbanet)

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, with over 400 stores, caters to all shopping needs in a huge range to suit any budget or taste (Photo: V&A Waterfront)

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