48 Hours in Soweto

On some of them, barefoot children kick soccer balls. On others, gogos are bogged down by plastics of heavy groceries. Then there are those where taxis zoom in a blur between the cars. There are no streets quite like the streets of Soweto.

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Soweto is a township in Johannesburg, Gauteng. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

Our weekend in Soweto starts at Gold Reef City, a casino complex and historical amusement park filled with exhilarating rides where Joburg families come out to play and relax. Our small group of six including the every-stylish award-winning PowerFM presenter Masechaba Lekalake, hopped onto a Red City Sightseeing Bus where our chatty tour guide welcomed us with a smile.

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You will recognise the Red City SightSeeing buses when you travel through Joburg. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

Driving past the white hills of mine dumps, our tour guide enlightened us with snippets of the history of the region – how it was established, the historical sites in the township and the incredible transformation it has undergone since South Africa's first democratically elected government was elected in 1994.

"Soweto first began with Kliptown in 1903 when the South African government wanted to separate blacks and whites," he explains. "Today, it's home to some of South Africa's biggest soccer stars, politicians and celebrities. In fact, later I'm going to show you the house where Winnie Mandela still lives."

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Our tour guide from Red City SightSeeing Tours. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

Our first stop was the easily-recognisable FNB Stadium, formerly known as Soccer City, before hopping off the bus for a quick photo at the "Welcome to Soweto" sign. We chart a path past the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – the largest hospital in the world with 3200 beds – and Maponya Mall towards the vividly painted Orlando Towers for a quad bike ride with Soweto Outdoor Adventures.

The guys get stuck into a game of pool in the graffiti-splashed lounge area whilst we wait the bikes to arrive. Then it's time for a quick safety speech as helmets are handed out before we head into the dusty back streets for a speedy ride.

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FNB Stadium. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

Next on the itinerary is lunch at Chaf Pozi, a laid back, colourful chesa nyama where plates of meat, pap, and chakalaka are served on metallic plates. The entertainment hub attracts an eclectic mix of people and international tourists sit alongside the locals who live down the street.

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Graffiti in the lounge of Soweto Outdoor Adventures. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

We learn that we will be staying at the Soweto Hotel which hosts over 1000 guests each month and has entertainment famous faces such as Prince Charles and Alicia Keys. The tasteful, contemporary décor incorporates hints of the 1950s with small touches that link to SA's heritage – the corridor on our floor was called "A Long Walk To Freedom".

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Soweto Outdoor Adventures. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

If you are a keen photographer, take a moment to explore the block around the hotel. The stark architecture and worn facade around Walter Sisulu Square make for excellent backdrops for photos of the street vendors who sell their wares to passing customers.

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Getting ready to ride quad bikes at Soweto Outdoor Adventure. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

We have dinner at The Roots Restaurant and Gallery which showcases local arts and crafts in an intimate wood-panelled diner overlooking the township. Our group chats about the never-ending, battle of the sexes and the intricacies of relationships and dating as we bite into township fare – morogo, chicken, beef stew, pumpkin, and potato salad are laid out in front of us. We step outside and take in the bright lights of the busy township before retiring to the Soweto Hotel for nightcaps before bed.

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Chaf Pozi. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority

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Keen to experience this side of Soweto for yourself? See what Red CitySightseeing Bus Tours has to offer. 

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Braai'd meat served at Chaf Pozi. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority
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Soweto Hotel. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority
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The area around Walter Sisulu Square is a photographer's dream. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority
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The Roots Restaurant & Gallery. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority
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The Roots Restaurant & Gallery. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority
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The view from the Roots Restaurant & Gallery. Image (c) Gauteng Tourism Authority