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Newtown Tourism Information

Quick Facts: Newtown

  • Newtown is described as the 'creative capital' of Johannesburg
  • Newtown is an exciting destination with abundant cultural offerings
  • Outside art and memorials
  • Museums
  • Theatres and galleries
  • Market Theatre
  • Mary Fitzgerald Square
  • MuseuMAfricA
  • Nelson Mandela Bridge
  • Sci-Bono Discovery Centre
  • SAB World of Beer
  • Workers' Museum

Distance to Airport: 24 km

Distance to City: 2 km

Introducing Newtown

Described as the 'creative capital' of Johannesburg, Newtown is an exciting destination with abundant cultural offerings, from outside art and memorials to museums, theatres and galleries. Johannesburg's ongoing inner-city regeneration project continues to transform Newtown into a premier, heritage-rich tourist attraction, a safe and desirable residential area as well as a thriving business hub.

Originally named Burghersdorp, Newtown was settled at the turn of the 20th century, its rich clay deposits kick-starting a lucrative brick-making industry.  By 1904, Burghersdorp was bursting at the seams with brick companies, a brewery, fisheries, banks and thousands of mixed race residents.

When bubonic plague broke out in April of that year, the fire brigade burnt Burghersdorp to the ground. By October, however, a new commercial area was planned and named Newtown. In the same year, African and Indian residents were forcibly removed from Newtown to Klipspruit and Pageview respectively.

This marked the beginning of forced removals in the then Transvaal. With its new power station, mill, abattoir and fresh produce market, Newtown grew into an important Johannesburg power supplier and a key player in its agricultural trade.
In the 1970s, the power station and market moved out of Newtown and a community of artists, actors and musicians moved in.

The creative trade of music and theatre began to blossom. But this was not enough to stem the gradual decline of the inner city.  As Sandton's Central Business District drew business interest and people away from the city centre, Newtown fell into disrepair. Buildings emptied and crime escalated. This once prime location was in urgent need of attention. In 1998, the Central Johannesburg Partnership identified Newtown as a key inner city management district. As a result, several important buildings have been restored, including the Turbine Hall, the Bus Factory, tram and potato sheds.

Museums were opened, restaurants were upgraded, the streets cleaned and lit, transforming Newtown into a world-class tourist attraction.

Best Kept Secret

Newtown Heritage Trail

Download your own information sheet or join a guided tour and follow this trail through Newtown's fascinating history.  Highlights include all of the museums and galleries listed here, as well as a variety of public art installations by artists such as Angus Taylor, William Kentridge and Gerhard Marx. Phone 011-336-9190.

Getting there

Newtown lies to the west of Johannesburg Central, stretching from the railway lines in the north to the M2 motor way in the south.  The Nelson Mandela Bridge links it to Braamfontein and the north.