24 October 2013 by Lethabo-Thabo Royds

Sensational Soweto

A visit to Soweto in Gauteng is a vibrant and culturally rich outing that should be on every tourist’s itinerary.

Visit Soweto and you will love it too. Photo courtesy of Lee Marie, aka missleemarie

The Love South Africa group on Flickr is constantly updated with fantastic images taken all over the country. Why not share your pictures, too?

Each week we choose photos from this group to showcase on our blog. This week we are celebrating sensational Soweto.

Soweto (an abbreviation of South-western Townships) has played a huge role in South Africa's history. 

It is in Soweto that you will find Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to have been home to two Nobel laureates; the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the world; sites of historical and political interest; and fantastic local shops and shebeens (local taverns). 

It also has great malls such as the very popular Maponya Mall.

One of Gauteng's landmarks is the iconic FNB Stadium located in Orlando West (also known by its unofficial name, Soccer City). This is where the opening and closing matches of the 2010 FIFA World Cup were hosted.

The FNB Stadium is the home ground for popular local football team Kaizer Chiefs, and nearby Orlando Stadium is the home ground for their rivals, Orlando Pirates. Watching a riveting Soweto derby (a match between Soweto giants Chiefs and Pirates) is an experience not to be missed!

Photo courtesy of Pascal Parent Photo courtesy of Pascal Parent

The Orlando Towers are an easily recognisable landmark covered in vibrant murals, depicting various aspects of life in South Africa. These decommissioned cooling towers are a great place for adventure activities such as rock climbing, bungee jumping, free-falling and base jumping. Visit the Orlando Towers website for more information.

Photo courtesy of Nagarjun Kandukuru, aka Nagarjun Photo courtesy of Nagarjun Kandukuru, aka Nagarjun

The only requirement to go on a bicycle tour of Soweto is that you must be able to ride a bike. Be sure to go on a tour with trained local guides as this will enrich your experience. A bicycle tour allows you to spend time with local people going about their daily lives, such as getting their hair done at the side of the road. Catching up on the local news at a hair salon or barbershop is a favourite South African pastime.

Photo courtesy of Victoria Pilcher, aka Vickling Photo courtesy of Victoria Pilcher, aka Vickling

Be sure to stop at one of the local markets for amazing local arts and crafts. You can buy portraits and/or paintings of various sizes from talented local artists or you can buy stunning crafts such as animals or drums. Many also have local jewellery-makers selling their wares.

Photo courtesy of NexPictureBox Photo courtesy of NexPictureBox

Part of the charm of Soweto is experiencing life on the streets. You might notice women carrying heavy items on their heads. For those who have learned how to do this from a young age, it is a convenient way of transporting goods while leaving the hands free.

Photo courtesy of Lee Marie, aka missleemarie Photo courtesy of Lee Marie, aka missleemarie

For architecture and theatre lovers, a visit to the Soweto Theatre (below) in Jabulani is a must. The theatre puts on a range of shows and is used for local spelling bees, album launches, and art and craft fairs. There is an upcoming art and craft fair on 2 November 2013. For more information, visit the Soweto Theatre website or Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Derek Smith, aka Mr Baggins Photo courtesy of Derek Smith, aka Mr Baggins

Pantsula (pronounced pan-ts-oo-lah) is a form of dance that is uniquely South African, showing off the dancer's agility, creativity and rhythm to the beat of kwaito, a local music genre.

Photo courtesy of ddimblickwinkel Photo courtesy of ddimblickwinkel

South African traditional weddings are wonderful affairs. People dress up in traditional attire, and the food is delicious. As part of the celebrations, the bride and groom typically dance down the street in time to a (few) wedding song(s) while friends, family and the community sing along to the music, ululate and send their best wishes to the newlyweds. 

It is a beautiful demonstration of the importance of a sense of community and showing love to those around you, something common to many African cultures. If you visit Soweto on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you may be lucky enough to see a wedding procession like this.

Photo courtesy of Lebohang Bucibo, aka Lebo.Bucibo Photo courtesy of Lebohang Bucibo, aka Lebo.Bucibo

Soweto truly is a sensational place and has played a pivotal role in South Africa's history. A visit to this energetic cultural and historic centre is sure to be a highlight of your Gauteng visit.

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