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OOn ITV’s ‘South Africa with Gregg Wallace’ episode 5, which aired on 2nd February 2021, Gregg is transported by tuk tuk around the colourful, vibrant township of Soweto located just outside of Johannesburg. Once home of both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, Gregg immerses himself in this energetic community, dishing up lunch in the school canteen and learning the traditional gum boot dance! Catch up on the ITV Hub here.
“Did you know the bustling metropolis of Soweto is the same size as Liverpool?!”
OOn this episode, Gregg arrives into Johannesburg, known as the City of Gold or Jozy, before heading to Soweto; a township known for its rich history, vibrant culture and dynamic attitude and an absolute must-visit when staying in the city of Jo'burg. Some would say that to learn about a destination, it’s best to jump in at the deep end first, so Gregg heads to the Orlando Towers; an abandoned power station now converted into an adrenaline junkie’s dream – take the lift up, and bungee jump your way back down! The power station towers over Soweto at 100m high and offers panoramic views of the township below, showing the scale of this vibrant city. Not one for heights, Gregg politely declines the jump and chooses to make it back to ground the easier way… in the lift.
OOnce firmly back on the ground, Gregg is whizzed around the sites by tuk tuk with ‘Meet Your South Africa’ guide Charles Ncube, with the first stop being for breakfast with some of Charles’ friends to share a meal of amagwinya - otherwise known as fat cakes. A traditional breakfast for many in this diverse township, fat cakes are little deep-fried savoury donuts, and are very much enjoyed by Gregg.
"Actually the best food might have been fat cakes in Soweto - really really cheap, they're like fried dough balls and they come with different dips - I had a tuk-tuk driver, and we sat there with three of his friends munching on these dough balls into these chili dips and the memory of that is still with me. Really good. And it's a kind of mid-morning thing for them, it's their elevenses. I thought that they were lovely.”
WWatch Charles Ncube video and learn more about this Jozi local here
FFuelled and ready to continue their adventure, Charles and Gregg head for Vilakazi Street – one of the most famous street in South Africa and the only street in the world to have produced two Nobel Prize winners. Within just 5 minutes’ walk from each other, this street was once the home to Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Being home to two of the most prominent fighters against Apartheid, Soweto was an important epicentre of the struggle, and can claim a big part in the birth of the Rainbow Nation.
OOnce Gregg was able to appreciate the powerful history at the centre of Soweto, it was time to head out to the suburbs. Here, he meets Food Mama Flora, cooking up the lunches at the Precious Moments Day Care – thanks to Food Mamas work for the Lunchbox Fund, they can provide food for the children which nourishes them, as well as encourages families to send their children to school.
GGregg is whizzed to the last stop of his Soweto adventure in search for an international dance troupe of gumboot dancers in Kliptown. Gumboot dancing was born in the gold mines and was used as a form of communication between the miners in dark and noisy situations and is now celebrated in art form and is taught by Thando Bezana at the Kliptown Youth Programme.
SSoweto is just a small slice of Jo'burg and its surrounds, with so many diverse neighbourhoods and activities to experience. We’ve listed some of our top must-visit’s whilst in Johannesburg:
Meaning ‘place of light’, Maboneng is a transformed and regenerated neighbourhood located on the south-eastern part of Jozi’s city centre. This chic downtown Johannesburg neighbourhood is famous for its laid-back, energetic vibe and is one of the most renowned creative districts in the world. You’ll find a mix of eclectic restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques, art galleries and rooftop bars in this quirky precinct. Take a seat at one of al fresco eateries and watch the world go by, we’re sure you’ll be entertained by the street artists! The best way to get under the skin of Maboneng is through a walking tour with from Curiocity Backpackers with Bheki Dube. https://mabonengprecinct.com/
Top Tip: Visit Maboneng on a Sunday morning to experience Market on Main, a weekly market that trades in local cuisine and fashion.
Neighbourgoods Market attracts up to 4000 people to the city over the course of the day. The market has a great selection of pricey food and drinks, with queues for the ever popular paella stand and Balkan burgers, along with frozen mojitos and craft beer. The happening crowd takes over the terrace, with the top floor offering a great city view plus designer clothing, leatherware and vintage fashion. The Market is open every Saturday of the year (Including Boxing Day) 9am-3pm. http://www.neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za/
One of South Africa’s most important historical sites, Constitution Hill is split across four locations; the Old Fort, a notorious prison for white males; Number Four Jail, reserved for non-white males; the Women’s Jail and the Awaiting Trial Block. Many of the country’s high-profile political activists, including Nelson and Winnie Mandela and Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi, were once held here. You don’t want to leave Joburg without a visit to this significant site, where you’ll learn about the struggle of so many. https://www.constitutionhill.org.za/
Set aside two hours to explore the Apartheid Museum which chronicles apartheid and South Africa’s 20th century history. Visitors to the museum are given a randomly generated race card, which dictates their initial experience. The installations have been curated to depict chronological events leading up to and beyond apartheid. Coupling this museum with a visit to Soweto is one of the most impactful ways to visualise the journey South Africa has been on in the past 4 decades. https://www.apartheidmuseum.org.
Top Tip: Check out also houses temporary exhibitions to be included in your visit.
WWalking tours with Past Experiences
Immerse yourself in the best of Joburg with Past Experiences; a small female owned tour business run by specialist guide and passionate Joburger, Jo Buitendach. Jo’s love for Jozi is evident and she is particularly enthused by the city’s art. The tour starts in Newtown, not far from the Nelson Mandela Bridge, and highlights Johannesburg’s history as a gold mining town and its recent past. https://www.pastexperiences.co.za/tours
Top Tip: Finish off the tour with sampling of South Africa’s local beers at the SAB World of Beers.
Need some inspiration on how to package your South Africa holiday? Here is our suggested itinerary:
Transiting from the airport is easier than ever thanks to the Gautrain, a high-speed train linking Jozi’s OR Tambo International airport with the city in just 15 minutes. Gautrain operates a regular service Monday to Friday and a limited service over the weekend. Fares are deducted from a reloadable Gautrain Gold Card which can be purchased and topped-up easily at any Gautrain station.
Top Tips: There is a Gautrain bus service that extends the network and reach of the Gautrain.
Tune in to the LAST episode, episode six (9th Feb) of ITV’s South Africa with Gregg Wallace to discover the iconic Zulu Kingdom in the Province of KwaZulu-Natal.