While South Africa has enjoyed an extensive range of LEGO products and services for years now, this month will see a certified LEGO Store opening in Sandton City, which is a first for both the country, and the continent as a whole.

This store – which opens to the public tomorrow, 28th July 2018 – offers visitors the opportunity to buy previously unreleased sets such as 42083: Bugatti Chiron and 10261: Roller Coaster. Even sets already available in the country are being offered at a more competitive price here.

75192: Millennium Falcon, for example, has been available in very limited quantities at high prices, but this store has the most stock and lowest price we’ve seen yet. We’ll have coverage of all of these new sets and their local prices soon.

Aside from offering almost the entire range of current LEGO sets, the store also brings with it the elusive Pick A Brick wall and Build A Minifigure station that have not been available in this official capacity before.

We will also be receiving our own version of VIP points in a loyalty programme that’s being called “Brick Rewards”, which awards one point for every rand spent, with a R250 voucher given at 5 000 points – an effective 5% cashback.

Alternatively, 5 000 points can also be exchanged for the exclusive 40145 set.

Mosaic Magic

While these international standards are great, we’d expect a local store to have some South African elements, and this one certainly does.

Occupying one wall at the end of the store is a giant mosaic of the Big Five. This was created by LEGO themselves, taking 130 hours to assemble and requiring 15 041 bricks.

The finished piece weighs 30 kilograms and, thanks to the effective “resolution”, you have to get really close to figure out that it’s made of individual bricks.

The next display piece was created by local LEGO creative coalition zaLUG, and it’s a miniaturised version of the city that this LEGO Store is based in – Joburg.

This recreation of The City of Gold features three large buildings that dominate the skyline of the real city. Our favourite is the cylindrical Ponte City, featuring “Joburg” in the familiar top banner which usually displays the Vodacom logo.

Hillbrow Tower is, of course, represented and the Carlton Centre features the zaLUG brand at the top.

Closer to the floor there’s the Nelson Mandela Bridge, with an impressive set of train tracks running underneath it.

Iconic Taxis

On the other side of the display you’ll find the most iconic South African builds yet: minibus taxis. For our international readers, these are our equivalent of the London black cab or yellow taxis in New York. Countless people ride these to work every day and they’re an important pillar of the South African economy, on top of being infamous for bad driving.

There are two minibus taxis here, each sporting their familiar livery and creating a unique scene around them. One of the taxis can be seen in the header image at the top of this page, with the second (together with more details about the city build) below.

While scale is not consistent here, and the layout is obviously condensed, this build is immediately recognisable to locals and those visiting the country get a quick tour of the city in just a few steps.

Looking past the local attractions, the rest of the LEGO Store features other unique details worth mentioning.

The roof, for example, is built to represent the underside of a brick. The main lighting rig resembles a 2×3 brick with each cylinder being its own source of light. The main counter has the same setup, but with a 1 X 2 brick layout instead.

An AR setup promises to “make a LEGO set come to life” thanks to a camera, a screen, and some clever software. Holding certain sets in front of the camera will display the finished build projected on top of the box. It’s rather impressive when it works and gives potential buyers that extra look at a build before they decide to spend money.

The rest of the attractions here are the displays showing off built sets. It may seem like a small detail but we don’t think any other store offers this many creative displays, especially not of larger sets such as 76105: The Hulkbuster: Ultron Edition.

A must-see

While you can always look up images and videos of any set you like, certain builds just need to be seen in person. The Bugatti Chiron is the best example here as the biggest set on show and a prominent place right at the entrance. Even after seeing full coverage of this set for a long time, together with knowing the exact dimensions, you can;’t appreciate the size and engineering that went into this until you see the real thing.

Even if you don’t intend to spend any money, we strongly suggest visiting the LEGO Store, and there’s really no excuse to miss it if you’re already in or around Sandton City. It’s an experience and seeing a favourite brand of ours represented in the country full us with a bit of national pride.

For those who live farther away, there is talk of more official stores opening around the country pending this initial offering’s success. There will also be an online store going online soon, so the exclusive sets can be had without being in the physical store.