A Soweto township tour is a must-see for the visitor wanting to understand the freedom struggle.

A township tour of Soweto explains the history of how many black people gravitated to the cities, especially Johannesburg (Jozi) where they were housed in single-sex hostels attached to mines and factories. Some lived in multi-racial slums just north of Fordsburg, infamous for their poor living conditions.

Trend-setting Soweto loves to have a good time, and its suburbs abound with local eateries, shebeens (taverns) music venues and pumping nightclubs. Grab a bite to eat at a shisanyama (hot food) roadside barbeque, and if you’re up for it, try a smiley (boiled sheep’s head), a local delicacy. Follow the bling and the BEAT – marabi, kwaito, funk and blues all jostle for ear-space on the jam-packed ultra-stylish dance floors of this mega-party town. Jazz has been at the heart of Soweto since the 1960s, and performances happen all the time at local community halls, shebeens or in someone’s backyard, so pull up a chair.

How to get here

Soweto is well sign-boarded from the highways leading southwest from Johannesburg, but it's recommended you take an organised tour.

Around the area

Highlight in Soweto:  For the adventurour, adrenalin junkies can bungee jump off Soweto’s two distinctive colourful decommissioned cooling towers, Orlando Towers.

The Apartheid Museum is nearby and should be included as part of a Soweto township tour (adjacent is Gold Reef City for entertainment purposes).

Attend a local football match, the passion with which the beautiful game is worshipped here is infectious, and if you’ve backed the winning team expect things to remain raucous until sunrise.

What's happening

Soweto hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, ask your tour operator what's on. And don't miss the Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial or the Nelson Mandela Museum.

Who to contact

Johannesburg Tourism Company

Web: www.joburgtourism.com

 

Soweto Tourism Information Centre

Tel: +27 (0) 11 342 4316

 

Soweto Tours

Web: www.soweto.co.za

 

Soweto Bicycle Tours

Tel: +27 (0)11 936 3444

Web: sowetobicycletours.com

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UK TOUR OPERATORS
 

A&K
Web: www.abercrombiekent.co.uk/

 

Africa Travel
Web: www.africatravel.com


Freedom Africa
Web: www.freedomafrica.co.uk

 

Freedom Africa
Web: www.freedomafrica.co.uk

 

Native Escapes
Web: www.nativeescapes.com

 

Real Africa
Web: www.realafrica.co.uk

 

Steppes Travel
Web: www.steppestravel.co.uk

What will it cost

Cost depends on which tour operator you choose. Most are priced moderately by modern standards. Some are downright cheap.

Accommodation

Soweto has a range of accommodation options from home-stays to B&Bs, guesthouses and a 4-star luxury hotel. Here are some options:

 

12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel

Tel: +27 (0) 11 026 5601

Email: gm@urbanhiphotels.com

Web: urbanhiphotels.com/12-decades

 

Soweto Hotel on Freedom Square

Tel : +27 (0) 11 527 7300

W: www.sa-venues.com/visit/sowetohotel

 

Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers

Tel: +27 (0) 11 936 3444

Web: sowetobicycletours.com

What to eat

There are a number of good restaurants, mostly on Vilikazi Street, where you should try local specialities like tripe, mogodu (wild spinach), samp and beans and ting (a Tswana starch dish).

Wandie’s Place

Tel: (+27) 81 420 6051

Email: reservations@wandiesplace.co.za

Web: www.wandies.co.za

 

Nambitha 

Tel: +27 11 936 9128

Web: nambitharestaurant.co.za

 

Vilazaki

Tel: +27 (0) 11 936 7423

Email: dine@restaurantvilakazi.co.za

Web: restaurantvilakazi.co.za

 

Nexdor

Web: www.nexdor.co.za/

 

Sakhumzi Restaurant

Tel: +27 (0) 11 536 1379

Email: dine@sakhumzi.co.za

Web: sakhumzi.co.za

Best buys

Invest in any of the cheap, but well-made local arts and crafts found at the markets or on the streets.

Best time to Visit

Tours of Soweto can be done at any time of year.

Lenght of Stay

Half-day and 1 day tours depending on your interests, if you stay overnight, you can explore the area in more depth over two days.

A cycle tour of Soweto with Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers is a must-do activity for every visitor to Jozi. The cycle tour follows an easy route around Soweto and gives an immersive insight into this thriving township. Check out Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world which has been home to two Nobel Peace prize winners: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

But a short tour is not the best way to appreciate all it has to offer. It is so much better to take a Soweto tour that includes an overnight stay.  Then you can visit the struggle sites, after which you can sample the vibrant social scene and thrumming nightlife.

Did you know?

The discovery of diamonds and gold in the late 19th century caused many South African blacks living in independent chiefdoms to head for the gold and diamond rush villages. By 1899 none lived this way and as a consequence they lost their freedom, lands and ability to support themselves independently. But it was not the health risks so much as different groups 'living on friendly terms' that concerned the authorities. An outbreak of bubonic plague in 1904 gave the excuse to burn down the 'location' of Nancefield and remove the 1,358 black residents 13 kilometres from Johannesburg to Klipspruit, which would later become Pimville and eventually Soweto.

By law, no blacks were permitted to live in Johannesburg after the founding of this South Western Township (Soweto), situated in the bowl of the municipal sewage works (cynically chosen because it was the one piece of land that would be of no interest to whites). It expanded rapidly, attracting a range of people. Over the next 90 years it became the focal point of black urban culture and the struggle for freedom.

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