A new breed of hostels have burst onto the scene in recent years, challenging the status quo in the process. With design forward spaces and modern amenities more akin to a hip boutique hotel, the hostels who do this best manage to sustain a sense of community in tandem. Unlike backpacker haunts of decades past, hostels leading this trend like Kex Hostel in Reykjavik or Libson’s The Independente aren’t just a cheap bed for the young backpacker set – they’re engaging spaces that allow travelers of all ages and demographics to better connect to the city they’re visiting. Johannesburg’s Curiocity Hostel embodies this fully.

Johannesburg is in the midst of a full blown transformation and Maboneng, the district that Curiocity is located, is playing a role in it. For decades the city was branded unsafe, and intrepid visitors would find themselves sequestered to the affluent suburbs away from the centre of town, which was essentially abandoned after apartheid. Several years ago property management firm Propertuity placed its bets on Joburg’s inner city and began the urban rejuvenation initiative of Maboneng. Since then, Maboneng has blossomed into a hip and creative enclave that’s bringing both locals and tourists back to the heart of Johannesburg, with Curiocity Hostel an integral component of its identity.

Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng Precinct
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Mandela Mural
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Street Mural
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Mural
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Arts on Main

Opened in 2013 by young local entrepreneur Bheki Dube, Curiocity is a hostel where comfort and community aren’t just afterthoughts. The converted industrial building at 302 Fox Street is steeped in history: the former home of iconic publisher Pacific Press, who printed anti-apartheid publications even though it was incredibly risky to do so, the building was also allegedly a hide out for apartheid resisters, including Nelson Mandela, during periods of turmoil.

Today, Curiocity treads the fine line between historical preservation and modern embellishments effortlessly, with the city’s heritage influencing aspects of the hostel’s design. The main complex features 70 beds among a mix of private rooms and dorms, while a dozen self catering units in a nearby apartment building have each been designed by a local artist or creative. Overall, the rooms are comfortable and design forward.

Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Lounge
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Plant Stairs
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Hut Tub
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - The Hide Out Bar

The communal spaces at Curiocity have been well thought out to best bring people together. Take the hot tub out back, where casual conversations amongst guests spark up out of nowhere, or The Hide Out, a bar occupying most of the building’s main floor and a nod to the building’s history, that’s a popular spot in the evening with guests and other Maboneng dwellers.

Before starting Curiocity, Dube founded Main Street Walks, a tour company focused on providing authentic experiences in Johannesburg’s inner city districts. The same mindset has been transplanted to Curiocity, with a number of tours offered throughout the CBD, Soweto, bike excursions and even an early morning run through the streets of central Johannesburg all offering guests a local view of this dynamic city. While travelers might be initially wooed by the appeal of Maboneng and Curiocity, Dube sees the hostel as a gateway for visitors to experience the real Joburg.

Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Tours
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Shuttle Bus
Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg Maboneng - Bheki Dube

Though the cool space and hip surroundings might be enough to attract guests, the crew at Curiocity is what makes the hostel so memorable. Dube and his team interact with guests more like friends than customers, taking pride in showing out of towners the best of their city. Perhaps it’s this distinction that explains why Curiocity has garnered such a considerable amount of attention and recognition – including being awarded one of the ‘best hostels in Africa’.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Dube has ambitious expansion plans. Curiocity Durban, set in a 1930’s heritage building, opened its doors in 2016 and has been very well received. The ultimate goal is a network of Curiocity hostels scattered across Africa, each with their own vibe representing the local culture and history, which will inevitably help to shape local tourism such as it has in Johannesburg. And when that happens, I’ll be first in line.

Book and find out more about Curiocity Hostel here. Read more about Maboneng in my recent article Hip Joburg, outlining the city’s top neighbourhoods.


Curiocity Hostel Johannesburg photos by JP Bervoets


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Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth

Lauren Barth co-founded Departful in 2012 and is the Managing Director of Departful Media. Since then she has worked between North America and Europe and has published content in partnership with a variety of tourism boards and businesses based around the world. Lauren is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

Departful is a travel magazine that provides accessible, relevant, and thoughtful travel tips and ideas to inspire people to explore the world around them. We feature travel articles, travel tips, and photography based on our own experiences from over 100 countries covering all things adventure, culture, food and drink, technology, and gear. Made with ❤ in Toronto.