Visit Gauteng’s Nelson Mandela-inspired attractions

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The Hector Pieterson museum (Image: Ryan Kilpatrick)

Visitors to Gauteng in search of destinations and points of interest that celebrate the life and times of humanitarian and former South African president Nelson Mandela have so much to see and do.

From an imposing statue of Mandela at South Africa’s seat of government, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, to apartheid struggle sites, Madiba’s life story is well chronicled throughout the province – as it is throughout the country.

If your primary focus on a visit to Gauteng is to follow in Mandela’s footsteps, your starting point should be to download the free Madiba’s Journey app to your cellphone or tablet. A total of 27 locations – one to mark each year of Mandela's imprisonment – will then be at your fingertips.

We look at 10 of these destinations in Gauteng.

Con Court
Constitutional court, Constitution Hill (Image: Constitution Hill)

Each location features an audio clip, a brief summary about the destination’s significance, an image gallery, opening hours, entry fees, contact information and an easy means of planning your own itinerary.

Should you prefer to embark on your voyage of discovery with a personal tour guide, the destinations and places of interest listed below are must-visits. Why not start off in Pretoria, then move on to Johannesburg and Sandton, before heading to Soweto, where Mandela once lived.

Liliesleaf Farm

Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia is famous for being the location where apartheid struggle leaders were given refuge and where they held meetings. The police raided the farm in July 1963, which led to the Rivonia Trial and the imprisonment of a number of senior African National Congress members.

Nelson Mandela Square

Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg’s upmarket Sandton precinct is also home to an impressive statue of Mandela, which is popular for photo opportunities. The square is flanked by trendy malls and restaurants, making it a great stop for shopping and eating.

nelson mandela square
Nelson Mandela Square

Alexandra Heritage Precinct

The Alexandra Heritage Precinct has been created at the intersection of Hofmeyr Street and 7th Avenue. It marks the humble backyard in Alexandra township where Mandela stayed when he arrived in Johannesburg in the early 1940s. There are also shops, handcrafted goods, restaurants and a Heritage Tour Route to be experienced here.

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in Houghton houses Mandela’s post-presidential office and is the headquarters of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It also houses an exhibition about Mandela’s life and promotes his legacy through exhibitions and dialogue sessions. Book an appointment to visit the centre and you can walk around Mandela’s old office and learn more about his political career and his philanthropic work while viewing personal items such as his letters from prison and his Nobel Peace Prize.

nelson mandela bridge at night
Nelson Mandela bridge lit at night

Nelson Mandela Bridge

Linking Johannesburg’s revamped nodes of Braamfontein and Newtown is the largest cable-stayed bridge in Southern Africa, the Nelson Mandela Bridge, which opened in 2003. It is an impressive site, particularly when lit up at night.

Constitution Hill

In downtown Johannesburg, between Braamfontein and Hillbrow, lies Constitution Hill, which incorporates the Old Fort prison complex, once a detention centre for political dissidents and those who contravened apartheid pass laws. Mandela was imprisoned here for a time.

Chancellor House

The Shadow Boxer statue and Chancellor House can be found at 25 Fox Street in Johannesburg. In 1952, Mandela and ANC stalwart Oliver Tambo opened South Africa’s first black law firm in Chancellor House. Chancellor House is not open to the public, but it does have relevant historical info posted on its outside.

Kliptown Open Air Museum

The Kliptown Open Air Museum in Soweto was built on the spot where delegates of the Congress of the People met in 1955 to adopt the Freedom Charter, which today informs the South African Constitution. The museum and exterior square are dedicated to freedom struggle stalwart Walter Sisulu, who is also commemorated in the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum

The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum in Orlando West, Soweto pays tribute to students who took part in the 1976 Soweto Uprising, a protest against Afrikaans being used as a language of instruction at schools. The police intervened and the protest ended in the death of more than 60 people, including schoolboy Hector Pieterson.

Soweto’s Vilakazi Street is arguably South Africa’s best-known address, for it was once home to two Nobel Peace Prize recipients – Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Mandela House Museum

The house where Mandela once lived with his family has been restored and memorialised as Mandela House Museum. Find it at 8115 Vilakazi Street in Soweto.

Even if you don’t manage to see all these places of interest, do try to visit the Soweto locations, where local residents are proud to share the legacy he left behind.