In a Soweto street where two Nobel laureates once lived stands the Mandela House where, by way of audio-visuals, photographic galleries and live guides, visitors get a glimpse of the Mandela family's life during the oppressive years of apartheid. Former President Nelson Mandela called it 'the centre point of my world'.

Did you know?

Nelson Mandela first lived in No. 8115 Vilakazi Street, Soweto, with his first wife, Evelyn, for 12 years.

House 8115, Vilakazi Street, Orlando, Soweto, has become one of the most famous addresses in South Africa.

It is the house where former South African President Nelson Mandela lived, on and off, for more than 14 years.

In his landmark autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela describes coming back here in 1990 upon his release after 27 years in prison: 'That night I returned with Winnie [his then-wife] to No. 8115 in Orlando West. It was only then that I knew in my heart I had left prison. For me No. 8115 was the centre point of my world, the place marked with an X in my mental geography.'

Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel laureates − the other being Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.

In 1961, Nelson Mandela left No. 8115 for life on the run as a political activist. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1962.

From April 2008 to March 2009, the Mandela House was closed for repairs and restoration. Now, No. 8115 has been entrenched as one of South Africa’s most significant heritage sites because it tells the tale, in sound, film, interpretive panels and guided tours, of the Mandela family during the apartheid era and beyond.

You can still walk around the interior of the house as before, but now there is a highly narrative element to your experience, which is enhanced by the addition of a visitor centre. Staff at Mandela House allow 20 visitors in at a time for ease of access.

The Mandela House is managed by the Soweto Heritage Trust, which was formed in 1997 with then-President Nelson Mandela as its founder. Its two main projects are focused on the Mandela House and the nearby Hector Pieterson Memorial.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Mandela House
Tel: +27 (0)11 936 4244

How to get here

From Johannesburg's northern suburbs: Take the N1 South; pass the Gordon Avenue off ramp; take the Maraisburg Road off ramp and turn left into Maraisburg Road. Travel approximately 2,5km up Maraisburg Road, pass the Newclare Cemetery on your left, turn right into Commando Road and keep on this road until you reach the Soweto Highway (Engen Garage on the right-hand side). Turn right onto the Soweto Highway, then turn left onto Klipspruit Valley Road. Pass Phela Street and a sign to Pieterson Museum. At the next intersection turn right into Kumalo Street, take the third road left into Vilakazi Steet and Mandela House is on the right, on the corner of Vilakazi and Ngakane streets. Or take a taxi...

Best time to visit

Soweto is a year-round destination.

Around the area

Visit the Hector Pieterson Museum; Regina Mundi Church; the Apartheid Museum.

Tours to do

Soweto is well served by many touring companies.

Get around

It's best to visit with one of the many touring companies operating from Soweto and/or Johannesburg, or with someone who has been before.

What will it cost

Entrance to Mandela House: adults: R60; children: R20.

Length of stay

A tour takes 40 minutes.

What to pack

Sunblock, water, camera, cash for the day.

Where to stay

Soweto has a wide variety of home stays plus the Soweto Hotel; Johannesburg has all the big-city accommodation choices.

What to eat

Try the African dishes at one or more of the various restaurants around Soweto.

What's happening

Soweto has an exciting range of happenings throughout the year. The official Johannesburg website will have the major events listed.

Best buys

Mandela merchandise on sale at the Mandela House includes books, caps, DVDs, T-shirts and pens. There is also a good bookshop at the Hector Pieterson Museum, and people selling local crafts outside the museum, just around the corner from the house.

Related articles