Best Tourist Attractions in Soweto
Soweto is an urban settlement in the Johannesburg metropolitan municipality, which was built in the early 1930s and today is a home of about 2million people and the houses range from shacks to mansions.
The first township to be established was Orlando where most black people were moved to as other cities were reserved for the whites. Soweto is situated in the south of Johannesburg and Soweto stands for South West Township.
The place holds an important role in the Apartheid history of the country because most of the struggle against Apartheid was fought in and from Soweto. It is a City of cultural interaction and a popular tourist destination.
One of the largest hospitals in the continent called the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is also situated in our beautiful Soweto township. It occupies around 173 acres with approximately 3200 beds and about 6760 staff members.
Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is one of the most well-known landmarks in Soweto and it also shows a great view of the Soweto Township.
Soweto is well known as the Centre of Political history as the 1976 student uprising (Soweto Uprising) started there and it spread to the rest of the country.
Soweto developed its own sub-cultures especially for the young and they have also created a local lingo, tsotsitaal, a mix of several local languages, Afrikaans and street slang which is mainly used by the youth.
There is also a township of Soweto named Diepkloof where you find four-roomed matchbox houses, this is where the locals who came from rural areas in search of green pastures lived.
Although these houses were small, some locals made them look amazing by extending them.
Other attractive sites in Soweto were the residents of our famous anti-activists. Other sites found there are Kliptown, Mandela House, Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum, Orlando Towers, Regina Mundi Church, Credo Mutwa Cultural Village, and these sites are now tourist attractions.
Regina Mundi Catholic Church
Regina Mundi Catholic Church situated in Moroka Soweto was officially opened on 24 July 1964 and it is one of the biggest churches in the country.
The church has a unique history as it became famous during the Apartheid era and it opened doors to anti-apartheid groups and activists. The church services held back in those days often ended up being political rallies.
The church played a crucial role and it continues even today as it is now a tourist attraction for tourists all over the world. On June 16, 1976, the students who were protesting fled to Regina Mundi Church to escape the police’s bullets and teargas.
The police followed the students firing arms and they damaged some of the church’s sacred things, the bullet marks are still visible in the church today.
Part of The Truth and Reconciliation Commissions hearings were held in Regina Mundi between 1995 and 1998. Nelson Mandela paid tribute to the church on 30 November 1997 during a ceremony marking its restoration and thereby making this day Regina Mundi Day.
The church can seat 2000 people and it has a standing room that can accommodate 5000 people.
The Orlando Towers
During the apartheid years, the towers were used as a coal-burning plant to generate electricity that supplied the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg while the residents of Soweto remained without electricity.
The only thing they got was the polluted air. High demands of power grew and could not be handled by other existing power stations, so the Orlando Towers was built and it was built between 1939 and 1955.
The construction of the towers took long to be completed because of the outbreak of World War 2. The area was chosen because it was close to a railway line for the transportation of coal and it also had a good water supply.
The towers started supplying electricity from the period of 1942 up until 1998 and after that, they were then transformed into an entertainment area, bungee jumping, and a restaurant.
There is a paintball course on-site and experienced base jumpers can apply for permission to take the leap from the top. If the activities sound intense, one can ride using an elevator to get to the viewing platform.
The towers also serve as giant billboards with artistic murals entailing the lifestyle of Soweto and its people and the picture of Madiba waving his hand. The towers form part of the Orlando Ekhaya Precinct, which will later include a shopping center, hotel, conference facility upmarket town-houses.
Credo Mutwa Cultural Village
The Cradle Mutwa Cultural Village lies in the heart of Soweto, in Central Western Jabavu, corner Ntsane, and Majoeng streets. The village was named after the painter, sculptor, environmentalist, herbalist, author, the prophet who was the founder of it.
It is located in the landscaped park of the Oppenheimer Gardens. Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa was born on 21 July 1921 in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. The artifacts in the village were created by him.
Mutwa is well known and highly respected for all his work in the conservation of nature and as an author of books on African mythology and spiritual beliefs. Mutwa began his work at the park in 1974, he used a combination of modern and traditional materials which included stone, reed thatching, recycled materials, and cement to create all that is found in the village.
He was not working alone but he had assistants he trained. The Mutwa garden has a variety of flora and fauna which have medical herbs used to make medicines. During the 1976 Soweto Uprising, some parts of the cultural village were damaged and many of the structures and sculptures
fell into disrepair. However, restoration began in 2005 and is still proceeding, returning the site to its former glory. The Credo Mutwa Village continues to provide education and entertainment for everyone and a tourist attraction for tourists. They are no entry fees charged and the place runs from 6 am to 6 pm.
The Hector Pieterson Museum
The Museum was opened in 2002 in honor of a youth by the name Hector Pieterson who died on 16 June 1976 along with other school children during the Soweto Uprising. Hector Pieterson and other students died in the protest against having Afrikaans as the medium of instruction in local schools, he was shot and killed at the age of 13.
The Hector Pieterson Museum is located in Orlando, Soweto, South Africa. The names of all the students who died during the Soweto Uprising are written on the inside walls of the museum and there are pieces of slates representing those students.
They are olive trees planted on the walkway by the entrance of the museum and these represent peace. The museum was unveiled by Mr. Nelson Mandela as it was the first museum to be opened in that area.
16 June is National Youth Day in honoring the young people who died during the Soweto Uprising and the museum is now used as a tourist attraction site. The museum operates every day and there is an entrance fee charge.
Nelson Mandela House Museum
The Nelson Mandela House is located in Orlando West, Soweto, South Africa. It is located in the center of Vilakazi Street which has got many restaurants, cafes, and bars selling different kinds of foods. It was where Nelson Mandela lived with his family in 1946.
Mandela first lived in the house with his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase and after they got divorced and he then lived with his second wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The house is built with red bricks and it comprises of four rooms and has paintings and photographs of the Mandela Family and honorary doctorates bestowed on Nelson Mandela from universities and institutions around the world.
There is also a boxing belt, a multi-colored cloak and his old boots which are put on display. Mandela himself did not spend much time in the house as his anti-apartheid struggle landed him in prison at all times.
After the arrest of Mandela in 1962, Winnie Madikizela Mandela continued staying in the house with their two daughters Zenani and Zindzi up until she was banished to the Free State town of Brandfort in 1977.
During this period the house was bombed and set alight and even today the marks from petrol bombs are still visible and the bullet holes are still visible as well. When Mandela was released in prison in 1990, he went back to live in his house in Soweto but it was for a short period of time which was 11 days.
After 11 days he then moved to his new home in Johannesburg Suburb Houghton. The Mandela House today is now a museum and it is now a tourist attraction in South Africa. The Museum opens during the week from 9 am to 4:45 pm and there is an entrance fee charged.
This is the most famous street in the township because every tour in Soweto stops at Vilakazi Street. It is where Nelson Mandela lived with his former wife Winnie Madikizela Mandela.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived here as well and even today he still lives there with his wife Leah. When the Archbishop is around town, he usually strolls the street. The Mandela House Museum, Hector Pieterson Memorial Museum is found on Vilakazi Street.
The street was named after Dr. Benedict Wallet Vilakazi who was a novelist and poet who wrote in different languages. He was employed as a language assistant at Witwatersrand and was the first black man to teach at the University.
There are also a few well-known restaurants on the street namely The Sakhumzi and Nambitha and it is a home of the television station Soweto TV broadcast.
The street is also a center of a cultural melting pot with different languages spoken on the street including Zulu, Xhosa, and Sesotho. It has also a vibrant offering of public art and cultural performances are also experienced on the street.
Kliptown is situated in Soweto and it is one of the oldest areas and it is where 3000 people came together to write The Freedom Charter, a statement that consists of the core values which served as South Africa’s liberal constitution.
In the area, we also find Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication which has shops, galleries, and traders of different things. In the heart of Kliptown, you can also find a place called Kliptown Open Air Museum.
An Open-Air Museum explains how the freedom charter was inspired by the wishes of thousands of South Africans from all walks of life. The sculptures raised on concrete plinths represent each of its 10 clauses.
The clauses in the museum are also engraved in bronze on the Freedom Charter Monument, which was built out of bricks that were taken from Sophiatown, a black suburb that was destroyed during apartheid.
The Soweto Theatre is located in Jabulani, Soweto, and hosts different kinds of activities such as fashion shows, musical performances, works by famous playwrights such as Athol Fugard, concerts, poetry, documentaries, as well as monthly craft and food markets.
The place is well recognized as an iconic South African Building. It is also recognized by its adventurous designs (three cubed shaped buildings).
This bold landmark represents a new era for Soweto and it also focuses on developing local talent from within the township of Soweto and the whole of the Gauteng area. The Theatre also hosts plays that are sometimes performed in indigenous languages.
Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers is one of the tourist attractions in Soweto and it allows you to have an amazing experience in exploring the Soweto Township on a bicycle. The bicycle tour runs for two, four and eight hours long and there is a fun, interactive and unique way to learn about Soweto’s history and culture.
The two-hour ride takes you to some of Soweto’s interesting historical sites. The four-hour ride will give visitors this historical experience and participants will see Soweto in all its contrasts, the developing side of the township and the suburban lifestyle.
The eight-hour tour takes you to historical sites of the 1976 student uprising. Throughout the tour the visitors also have an opportunity to taste the local township cuisine, stopping at different food stalls.
Soweto Outdoor Adventures
The Soweto Outdoor Adventures is situated just next to Orlando Towers and is also one of the tourist attractions in Soweto. The place offers tours of the country’s biggest township.
The Soweto Outdoor Adventures specializes in adventure tourism and leads quad-bike and electric cycling tours through the streets of Soweto. The Soweto Quad-bike tour as one of the activities offered takes you through the famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.
The guides are local and they are well experienced and passionate about their home town. The Quad-Bike ride can also be tailored to suit one’s needs. Paddle Boating is also offered and it is done in the Pimville Dam near the Orlando Towers and it runs from land to water.
Soweto Adventures also has three paintball fields, players have two games per session. Rock Climbing is also part of Soweto Outdoor Adventures and the rock-climbing wall stretches up to 20m up the Orlando Tower.
Camping, concerts, indigenous township games, and hiking are also some of the enjoyable activities at a Soweto Outdoor Adventures camp. Soweto Outdoor Adventures also offers team-building sessions for corporates and facilitates CSI initiatives and charity giveaways.
Soweto offers the best restaurants that attract most of the tourist from all over the world. Eating in Soweto offers a great taste of township life. There are a number of restaurants you can find in Soweto.
Sakhumzi meaning “building a house” is one of the most famous restaurants in Soweto opened in 2002 which serves traditional food such as umngqusho (samp and beans), mogodu (tripe) and dombolo (steamed bread).
The restaurant also offers a range of self-styled signature dishes named after various Soweto locations. Restaurant Vilakazi is also one of the restaurants found in Soweto which offers tasty food and quality drinks.
It can accommodate 80pax inside and 80pax outside. The restaurant also offers traditional foods.
Nambitha restaurant, the most popular upmarket eatery is also based in Soweto, serves soul food recipes, great music venue and the ideal venue for Sunday luncheons.
The Soweto shebeen tour gives visitors a unique way of experiencing the Soweto culture and friendliness of the Soweto people. It was used as a meeting place for politicians where they could discuss some issues regarding the struggle.
The politicians conducted their meetings while they were listening to jazz music which was played in the shebeens. Today the shebeens in Soweto are selling the African traditional beer known as “umqombothi”, beers and other types of liquors.
The Lacrote Market has located on corner Moema and Kudu streets in the popular Vilakazi Crescent in Orlando West, Soweto. The Market gives a local platform to exhibit their artistic clothes, accessories, portraits, and food.
It is also one of the tourist attractions as it is located on great Vilakazi Street. The idea behind the market is to create an environment where young and aspiring entrepreneurs, creators and innovators can be able to showcase their products.
In the market, one gets to meet other minded people, share ideas and get tips from established brands. The market is hosted every first Sundays of the month and the entrance is free of charge.
Soweto Brewing Company
Soweto Brewing Company is located in the historical and emotional center of Johannesburg, Soweto, Orlando West. The brewery was founded in 2012 and it was created with the vision of bringing the success of local brewing into a township environment, to create a world-class beer that is truly Sowetan.
The opening of the brewery coincided with the 20-year celebration of South African Democracy and Freedom. The company honors the icons of Soweto the past and the present. It offers beer tastings and brewery tours as well as meet-and-greets with the team behind the iconic brand. The brewery tour includes a tour of how the brand’s various brews are made. The opening hours are from 10 am to 10 pm, Wednesday to Sunday.
Soweto Country Club
The Soweto Country Club was established in 1974 and it is located in Pimville Soweto. It was the first course that accommodated black golf players and it was in high demand for inclusion of players from different ethnic backgrounds.
The course was designed by a golfing legend Gary Player and it is about 6560 meters long. The facilities in the course include a bar and a house where golfers can prepare for their game with some welcome refreshments.
The park is located on the eastern side of Soweto, the park supplies picnic and braai areas and also provide children with a play area.
It is called an Xtreme park because it was built in 24 hours earning it a gold award at the United Nations in late 2008. The park contains a splash pool and a mini-soccer field.
The park also has big screens for locals to watch local sports programs. In the heart of the park is the Vuyani Mabaxa Memorial, Maxaba was an ANC activist killed by the apartheid police in 1991. On our Johannesburg Day Tours we will have an opportunity to Visit Diepkloof Park
Mofolo Park is found on Mzilikazi street in Soweto and is a popular park for Sowetans as it is well-known for hosting jazz festival concerts, gospel choirs, and other local and international musicians.
One of the latest concerts held was a music concert featuring Zahara and other local acts in celebration of the youth day (June 16) in memory of the students who died during the Soweto Uprising. The park is big and it has enough rooms for stands and a stage, as well as people’s camp chairs, picnic blankets and braais.
Despite the poverty the people of Soweto face, they have managed to build a strong sense of community. Soweto is a popular tourist destination with different sites and these tourist destinations are a must-visit as one would learn much history on what really happened during the apartheid era.