Of course, no visit to Johannesburg is complete without dropping in on Soweto (an abbreviation of its official name South Western Townships). Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu both lived on Soweto's Vilakazi Street, making it the only street in the world that can claim to be home to two Nobel prize winners. Soweto has a rich and vibrant history and increasingly offers tourists a broad range of fun and culturally immersive activities.
This museum-cum-outdoor exhibition of astounding sculptures and buildings was created by African artist and traditional healer Credo Mutwa. The private collection of sculptures that he constructed from 1974 to 1986 juxtaposes African folklore and art faced with increasingly westernised influences. This unique take on art and society is a huge draw point for tourists hunting for a more authentic experience and sets the village as one of the more culturally immersive and enlightening attractions in Gauteng.
The Graffiti covered Orlando Towers are the largest and most colourful landmark in Soweto. You can also jump from the top of it is you like... Initially built for the Orlando Power Station at the end of World War 2 these towers were part of one of the most advanced power generation facilities in the Southern Hemisphere at the time. Now the towers offer you the first ever bungee and swing between 2 cooling towers, an eye-watering 100m from the ground. Maybe not an activity you take your granny for, but one to consider for the adrenalin junkies.
If you prefer to explore Soweto at ground level and meet some of Johannesburg's friendliest and warmest people, the best way to do it is with a 4-hour bike tour. Leaving from the Hector Pieterson Museum, this tour will give you an authentic taste of what daily life is like in this vibrant neighbourhood and see its deeply contrasting characteristics up close. You will get to wheel past some of the biggest mansions in town, their shantytown neighbours and the key landmarks of Soweto. The tour also includes a stop at Nelson Mandela House on Vilakazi Street, and more importantly perhaps, an opportunity to learn more about the role Soweto played in the struggle against apartheid.
Come one, come all, come hungry. Sakhumzi Restaurant is situated on the famous and historical Vilakazi Street in the Orlando West suburb of Soweto. Its location is the epicentre of Soweto tourism, and it offers an intoxicating mix of good cheer and great value. Its buffet lunch spread gives you ample opportunity to try out African staples, but also provide standard western fair for those with a less adventurous palate.
No trip to Soweto would be complete without a visit to Mandela House. This humble little four-room house in Orlando West was home to Nelson Mandela and his family from 1946 to the 1990s. Now a museum, it houses various memorabilia, artworks, awards and honorary doctorates conferred on Nelson Mandela and his family, as well as photographs of the family dating back to the 1950s. It's one of the major tourist attractions in South Africa due to its deep history and ties to Madiba's pre-presidential life.