Soweto & Alex

Soweto & Alex


Although most of Soweto was built in the 1950s and 60s under the days of high Apartheid, the first people were moved to modern day Soweto in 1905 to what was then known as Klipspruit (modern day Pimville). The name Soweto, given in 1963, is an acronym for South Western Township. Soweto is now home to about 1.5 million people where housing ranges from informal settlements to standard Soweto 4 roomed houses, to up-market wealthy suburban homes.

There is a lot to do and see in Soweto. The Hector Pieterson Museum marks the Soweto uprising of 1976, while Mandela's humble Soweto home in Vilikazi St has been transformed into a museum. Another famous site is Regina Mundi, Soweto's largest Catholic Church which played a central role as a meeting place and a place of safety during the struggle years. Freedom Square at Kliptown, where the Freedon Charter was signed in 1955, has been redesigned (in a rather soulless and I think horrible urban redevelopment) and renamed Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication. There is lots to see in terms of street life - the taxi rank at Baragwanath is a hive of activity - and there are restaurants, shebeens, spaza shops as well as new shopping malls which have developed in the last few years. Tour guides will take you to these places and many of the guides run quite small tours so it possible to have quite tailor made tours.

You can bungee jump in a 40m free fall from the cooling towers or try the swing between the towers +27 (0)71 674-4343 or +27(0)12 345-5114 Then afterwards enjoy some shisa nyama (barbecued meat) and pap (maize porridge) at Chaf Pozi. Open Wednesdays to Fridays 11 till late, Saturday lunch and afternoon only and Sunday lunch to early evening +27 11 463 8895.

Enjoy a traditional meal in Vilikazi St at Sakhumzi +27 11 939 4427 open daily; or visit Thrive Café for a more bistro type food - salads and great coffee. Closed Mondays. Enjoy a rooftop sundowner over the week-end at The Rock 1987 Vundla St Rockville +27 11 986 8182


Visiting Alexandra is a totally different experience from Soweto. A mere 4 km from the heart of the wealthy CBD of Sandton, and only an area of 8 km2 Alex as it is known, is home to some 350-400,000 people. So, if you can fit it in, try to make a visit to Alex a part of your itinerary.