Underground Booksellers of Johannesburg

Johannesburg, South Africa

Experience hosted by Griffin

2.5 hours, Hosted in English
Cultural immersion
Guests felt absorbed in a community or culture.
Expertise and insight
Guests say this Host shared top-notch knowledge.

What you'll do

Start: Bridge Books, 98 Commissioner Street.
Begin with coffee or tea at Bridge Books.

Visitors receive a 10-15 minute overview of our work with local booksellers, Johannesburg’s iconic place as a setting and inspiration in South African literature, and a discussion of where the walk will be going. (Bathroom if needed)

Along the way, the walk will see a religious bookseller, the site of the original Central News Agency building, and then visit James Findlay Collectibles at the Rand Club (please note, the club is sometimes closed for private functions). The visits booksellers in street markets, a spaza shop, a Nigerian importer, and the exterior of the beautifully renovated City Library. The library is currently closed for repairs to the roof.

The visit explains how books move through the underground economy, and discusses the history of bookselling Johannesburg -- from the first black-run library, through the days of censorship and book burning, to the ways new modern readers find books in inventive ways.
Other things to note
The walk lasts about three hours, but is mostly flat and goes at a leisurely pace. Inside some of the older buildings, there are no ramps or elevators.
Start: Bridge Books, 98 Commissioner Street.
Begin with coffee or tea at Bridge Books.

Visitors receive a 10-15 minute overview of our work with local booksellers, Johannesburg’s iconic place as a setting and inspiration in South African literature, and a discussion of where the walk will be going. (Bathroom if needed)

Along the way, the walk will see a religious bookseller, the site of the original Central News Agency…

What's included

  • Drinks
    Coffee and tea at Bridge Books

Meet your Host, Griffin

Host on Airbnb since 2016
  • 11 Reviews
  • Identity verified
Bridge Books is a unique little bookstore in downtown Johannesburg. We focus on African literature, and on creating connections between the informal book market and mainstream publishing.

Through our work, we change perceptions about what, and how, South Africans read. We're based in an underground literary hub, with about 70 booksellers trading within 10 blocks of the store.

Our work has been profiled in the Financial Times, BBC, the Sunday Times, High Life magazine and numerous other media.

We also run the non-profit African Book Trust, which provides new, local books to schools and libraries. We're working in a new partnership with the Johannesburg Development Agency to rebrand our neighbourhood as the Literary District, pulling together the fantastic City Library, booksellers large and small, and the city's literary heritage.
Bridge Books is a unique little bookstore in downtown Johannesburg. We focus on African literature, and on creating connections between the informal book market and mainstream publishing.

Through our work, we change perceptions about what, and how, South Africans read. We're based in an underground literary hub, with about 70 booksellers trading within 10 blocks of the store.

Our work has been profiled in the Financial Times, BBC, the Sunday Times, High Life magazine and nu…
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From $28
/ person
$35 per person
$35 per person
$35 per person
$35 per person
$35 per person
$35 per person

Where you'll be

James Findlay Collectibles: in the basement of the Rand Club, with a rich collection of antique maps and books.

Victory House: Home to Felix Books and a spaza shop bookseller

De Strong Tower: Nigerian booksellers who have filled a gap left by the move of one of the city's oldest bookshop.

City Library: home to 1.5 million books, stored mostly in a tunnel under the city

Joubert Street Market: a corridor home to about 50 booksellers

Rated 5.0 out of 5 from 11 reviews.

Aliasgher
October 2021
It was great to experience such a unique experience at the heart of Joberg City Centre. Thabiso not only provided us with the history of book sellers in the City but also knew a lot about the heritage of the area. I would definitely suggest this tour for anyone that loves books! The parking was a bit difficult to find; I assumed it would be inside a building. But Thabiso was super helpful and calm in explaining his location.
Peter
October 2021
Great way to get a walking tour of downtown with a focus on book selling. So much history and perspective in a small area!
Kay
September 2021
Griffin is a breath of fresh air, happy to discuss and explain the recent changes in the neighbourhood and how the book scene has evolved in Joburg. We started with the Rand club, which was absolutely stunning and fascinating, then we went to see various street booksellers- it felt vey safe and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
Natalie
January 2020
If you are passionate about books this tour is a must. Griffin and his colleagues welcomed us, were incredibly friendly and provided cappuccinos before the walking tour began. We learned a great deal about the history of booksellers and met a few as well. The main library is a beautiful building. Thabiso was a wonderful guide, interweaving stories with facts.
Derek
January 2020
A truly unique insight into an aspect of African culture - and into a part of Johannesburg that I would not have experienced were it not for the knowledgeable friendly and genuinely lovely people at Bridge Books.
Isadora
December 2019
It’s an awesome experience for any person who enjoys literature and history. Griffin is a former journalist genuinely interested in the city and its development over the past decades, especially focused on how the literature emerged in South Africa after apartheid. Would definetely recommend it.

Choose from available dates

10 available
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Things to know

Guest requirements

Guests ages 2 and up can attend, up to 10 guests total. Parents can also bring children under 2 years of age.
All participants must wear a protective face covering and practice social distancing.

Cancellation policy

Cancel within 24 hours of purchasing or at least 7 days before the experience starts for a full refund.