Soweto The township of Johannesburg
The township Soweto stands for South Western Township and is the most famous township in South Africa. Located a few kilometres outside the center of Johannesburg. There you will find one of the poorest parts of the city. The place where South Africa’s painful history comes to life.
A visit to Soweto should not be missed during your trip to Johannesburg. This is the real South Africa and you get a lively history lesson about apartheid. Our tip? Set out with a local and listen to the compelling stories about this place on an unforgettable bike ride.
History of Soweto
Soweto is South Africa’s most famous slum and is home to over a million black Africans. This so-called township was the center of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. And therefore had many famous inhabitants. Such as Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The district was the scene of the well-known Soweto uprising in 1976. When residents of the district protested against government plans. This event was the beginning of the end of apartheid. Still, Soweto is one of the poorest parts of Johannesburg. Dominating makeshift shacks with corrugated iron roofs on the streets here, but at the same time there is hope on the horizon and life is slowly getting a little better.
The main and most famous street in Soweto is Vilakazi Street. It was home to two of the most famous inhabitants of all of Soweto, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The future president and archbishop lived together in the street and were both an important link in the fight against apartheid. Mandela’s former home is now a museum and still looks exactly like it did in the 1950s. Desmond Tutu’s house can only be viewed from the outside. You can recognize these by the round blue sign on the façade.
Hector Pieterson Museum & Memorial
Hector Pieterson was a 13-year-old boy who was shot dead by police at the time of the uprising in 1976. It is the blackest page in Soweto’s history and an event you simply cannot ignore. In the 1990s a memorial was made and in 2002 the Hector Pieterson Museum opened. Mandatory costs for everyone who visits Soweto, because here you get an impressive glimpse into history. You will learn more about the uprising in question and get a clear picture of the circumstances at the time.
I am sure you have seen the Orlando Towers in a picture. These two giant cooling towers are part of the former Orlando Power Station. One of the most famous landmarks in Johannesburg and its surroundings. The Orlando Towers are completely taken care of by a bunch of local artists and are worth visiting for that matter. But it’s even more fun to go upstairs. Not only do you have great views of the city from here, you can also bungee jumping or abseiling down.
One of the best ways to explore Soweto is by bike. Soweto is very extensive and from the bike you can see a significant part of this township. Preferably do so during a bike tour that you undertake with a local guide. Because that way your money will end up with the right people. Such a bike tour is the most fun way to see Soweto. You will also get to know the locals. Listen to the residents’ stories and see Soweto’s most interesting sights.
Credo Mutwa Cultural Village
Soweto is a source of special encounters and attractions, because in every street there is a new surprise waiting. Take the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village. A cultural breeding ground where you can see the artworks of local artist Credo Mutwa. The old artist makes imaginative sculptures and also works as a medicine man. His Cultural Village is a special attraction and a place where you can keep looking around.
Stay overnight in Soweto
A visit to Soweto is not something all tourists will undertake. In recent years a visit to this township has been included in more and more travel programs. You can choose to take a day tour, but it is also possible to stay in the township. That sounds more dangerous than it is. There are now a few B&B’s where you will be welcomed with open arms by the locals and get a special glimpse into the daily life in the township. Do you have the time? Then it is definitely recommended to stay overnight in Soweto.
Want a guided tour? Learn more
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