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Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg

Johannesburg, Soweto & Apartheid Museum Tour

Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg

The tour begins in the affluent, leafy suburb of Houghton before making its way to Hillbrow, a jarring contrast in living conditions, before arriving in downtown Johannesburg — the historical heart of Johannesburg. Amid the inner-city decay is heartening evidence of the many urban regeneration schemes underway. Learn about the workings of the Supreme Court and the symbolism of Gandhi Square before visiting the vibrant Market Theatre and Museum Afrika.

This tour will also take you to the well-known sprawling township of Soweto, southwest of Johannesburg, where between four and six million people live. This township is a stark contrast to the up-market areas of Johannesburg, with their luxurious hotels and shopping malls, and may well be disturbing to some, particularly when viewing the shanty areas of many of the poor resident black population. Many affluent people, however, still choose to live in the township due to a strong sense of community and amidst what seems to be a jumble of houses and shacks, defined suburbs can be found with middle and upper class neighbourhoods.

Soweto is an interesting place where you will meet people who lead an entirely different way of life. You may get the chance to have some lunch in one of the local shebeens (bar), and the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum is a moving experience detailing the 1976 student uprising, when 600 students including Hector died, and the fight against apartheid. A visit to a township can be a rewarding experience, but it is also not a comfortable one as you are continually reminded of the vast gulf between yourselves (and affluent South African society) and the vast majority of the local population.

Apartheid was dismantled well over 20 years ago but its full horror lives on in a stark white building in Johannesburg. It is called the Apartheid Museum, and it takes visitors on a fascinating, horrifying, humbling and ultimately inspiring journey from the dark days of 'whites only' privilege, through to Nelson Mandela's historic release from prison. Get a small idea of what it was like to have your entire life determined by your skin colour. Documentary pieces of film, texts, sound clips and live accounts recapture life in the old South Africa. It is a journey you're unlikely to forget in a hurry.

This full day out consists of nine hours of touring including Johannesburg City, Soweto and the Apartheid Museum.

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who's been there
Audley Travel specialist Anna

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Experience it for yourself

You can enjoy this activity as part of the suggested tours below, or we can weave it into a trip shaped entirely around you.