If you would indulge me for a minute (this is the inaugeral post on this new website afterall), I would like to tell a little story. We all have our favourite mall. We also all have the mall we grew up in. In most cases, the two are the same. Sandton city is my favourite mall; It is also the mall in which I grew up. I remember spending entire days within this great centre, I would be dropped off by my parents in the morning and would just hang out. I would most times bump into people I knew and would also call friends to come and meet me. We would meet up in the designated area - the CNA book store. And then we would float gloriously through the day. We would read books and magazines at the CNA and then move onto various stores, such us the one that sold nothing but cool telephones and gadgets, various clothing stores, the one selling samurai swords and crossbows, listen to the latest hits at all three of the music stores, the one that sold all the latest computer gubbins and machines we would all drool over and discuss intently... However great all these stores were, they weren't as important as the experience. People-watching, spending careless hours when time didn't matter, enjoying the cool AC during those hot Highveld summers and just generally being the social beings we were!
An aerial view of the stunning Sandton suburb at night
Food was also important, be it a cookie or muffin during the more peckish moments of the day, or a delicious waffle with ice-cream or a magnificently piled mound of sundae, complete with rack full of various flavours of syrup at the Milky Lane ice-cream parlour. Later in the evening, after this sugar-hit, we would check out what movies were showing that night. The Cinema (in this case called the "Ster Kinekor", the biggest Cinema brand in South Africa) was so much more than a moviehouse; it had a movie memorabilia store attached, as well as a sweet store where we would buy the sustenance that would get us through the movie - berry liquorice, chocolate-covered raisins and jelly beans. All of these were like rituals, repeated tirelessly throughout our youth. It was glorious! After all accoutrements were acquired, more hanging out was in order. Seeing different groups from our school, groups from different schools, families and groups of girls (maybe even some of those rare creatures from the sister-school to our boys only educational institution!). Perhaps we would get lucky and get to see a celebrity - the most exciting of which were the KTV presenters who frequented the mall (KTV being the TV show all kids would watch on return from school, with a group of presenters who were the coolest beings on Earth!).
After the movie came the highlight of my evening, we would sneak onto the roof of the hotel that was attached to Sandton City. It was a garden reserved for residents of the hotel and it was stunning. We would sit on the benches and stare out over the yellow lights of the massive city in which we lived. We would languish for as long as it took for the hotel staff to approach and ask to see our room keys, at which point we knew the jig was up. After a totally successful day, we would go wait outside at the designated time in the designated area, the wall just outside the mall, sip our giant cups of leftover soda and chat about the day's events while awaiting our pick-up. It was utter bliss and an experience I would repeat above all others if given the chance. I am sure this is a very familiar scenario to a fellow mall fan who is checking out the site dedicated to these great Cathedrals of commerce! So, that is my mall story.
There is a huge variety of delicious food of which to peruse and partake
The new and stunning Protea Court
Sandton City first opened its doors in 1973, undergoing various refurbishments to keep it fresh, including the addition of the Nelson Mandela Square, Protea Court and the luxurious diamond walk which links the Mall with its attached hotel, the Sandton Sun. It is a large centre (at least 120 000 square metres) with over 10 000 parking bays and is a great mix of high-end and everyday stores that caters for every taste and budget. Of the 300 or so shops, there is a great mix of local (Cape Union Mart, Checkers, Clicks, CNA) and international brands (Burberry, Dune, Armani, H&M).
The mall feels great. It is enclosed enough to give that warm bosom feel that all good malls possess, while still maintaining a light and airy feeling to prevent any claustrophobia. Too often with more modern malls, there is a sameness about the architecture; not so with Sandton City. As one wanders, there are many nooks and crannies, all with a very particular feel. You could end up in a dead-end and wonder if you have entered a completely different centre. This is a great feature, perhaps caused by accident due to constant refurbishment, but great nonetheless. It keeps the mall fresh and always gives a new feeling no matter how many times one visits. Entertainment is also well catered for. Apart from the great 11-screen cinema, there is the Theatre on the Square showing off the local acting talent, as well as the massive Sandton public library. The facilities at the Centre are great. The restrooms are well finished and spotless (tip: if you want real luxury, hold it in and make your way to the restroom in the Sandton Sun foyer!), there is a baby room, electronic maps at regular intervals and there is even a Muslim prayer room when needed. The information kiosk is friendly and wheelchairs are available for free on request.
A vlog of a day out in Sandton
Most stores are open until 8pm in the evening, so it is quite possible to shop until very late and then catch an evening movie or go for a meal. There are multiple and varied restaurants both within and around the mall. There is the Portuguese Adega Express, the Walnut grove right in the heart of the mall on its own level up a set of stairs, the Ocean basket which serves enormous platters of seafood, even Wangthai serving up authentic Thai food. For those who wish to try some delicious traditional food, Bukhara is the place to try some African cuisine. Where else can you eat African food while being overlooked by a giant statue of South Africa's favourite son, Tata Mandela? If you are a steak lover, the Butcher Shop & Grill or Trumps Grillhouse is for you. The food court caters for all of the most famous fast-food brands (KFC and Macdonalds included), and also includes the local favourite, Anat's Shwarma. Unusually for a modern mall, you can even finish your meal with a cigar at Club Macunado - a world-class tobacconist.
The highest level of the centre, just as you enter from the roof parking
We here at Mallrate judge a mall by the ability to spend an entire day and night (let's just say, from when the doors open to when we are chucked out) without feeling the need to escape back to the cruel outside world halfway through the experience. I can happily say that I could spend a month in the mall and would be quite happy long after the search party has given up trying to find me; and with the addition of the attached hotel, I am seriously considering never leaving this place again! This is the quintessential mall, and if you ever find yourself in Johannesburg, I can safely say that spending a day in the mall at the centre of the richest square-mile on the African continent would be just as essential as going to see the Big Five at a game reserve. You can even get here straight from the Airport using the attached Gautrain metro service. Of course if you're lucky enough to be a local, you will always find something fresh and new to check out no matter how often you visit.
A great mall, highly recommended.
Address: Rivonia Road, Sandton Drive, Alice Lane, Fifth Street, West Street
Contact: 011 217 6000
Number of Stores: More than 300
Number of Levels: 5
Opening Times: Monday - Saturday 09h00 to 20h00, Sunday 09h00 to 18h00