Known the world over for its role in the struggle for democracy, Soweto hums day and night, and its vibe is electrifying. It’s Gucci and ghetto, Hummers and hip-hop, Loxion Kulcha (a sought-after local fashion brand that originated in the townships) and livestock, glamour and gogos (grannies).

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.

Visit Wandie’s Place, a Soweto restaurant institution where celebs from across the globe dine on its local specialities. Booking is essential. Meet the city’s élite at Nambitha or indulge in delicious quantities of food, beer and loads of atmosphere at Sakhumzi’s on Vilakazi Street, across from the Nelson Mandela Family Museum.

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.

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. Complete your experience with a night or two in a local B&B, you’ll instantly become one of the family, and truly ‘see’ this amazing township.

You can also get very active and take bicycle and quad bike tours of Soweto, or even bungee jump from one of the colourful cooling towers.

Come for the history too, and visit some of South Africa's most iconic struggle sites – the Hector Pieterson Memorial; Orlando High School, whose students were among the catalysts in the June 16th 1976 Soweto uprisings; and the Regina Mundi Catholic Church in Moroka which served as a spiritual haven for thousands of Sowetans and played a crucial role in the township's history of resistance against apartheid – to name only a few.

In Soweto’s oldest suburb, Orlando, on Vilakazi street, is the Nelson Mandela Family Museum, and nearby, the former residence of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, making it the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners once lived.

Soweto really is a must on any visitors' itinerary.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Soweto Outdoor Adventures
Tel: +27 (0)72 692 8159

Soweto Festival
Tel: +27 (0)11 217 0600

Best time to visit

Any time of year is good – a warm welcome will always await you

Tours to do

Tours by bike, quad bike, or on foot

Length of stay

Spend at least a day, and overnight if possible

Where to stay

The swish Soweto Hotel is central, and there are also lots of home stay and B&B options

What to eat

Try any or all of the local specialities at the different eateries

What's happening

The Soweto Festival takes place annually in September at the NASREC Expo Centre, Johannesburg

Best buys

Local arts and crafts