Since its inception more than a 100 years ago, the township has had a history of struggle and was the site of an early and pioneering street protest – a protest that would give birth to other, bigger and later game-changing protests – when in the 1940s Alex protested en masse about rising bus fares. For a month, refusing to take buses, its residents walked patiently to and from downtown Johannesburg to get to work, a distance of more than 20km.
Alex has also been the home and nursery of musicians, artists, politicians and notorious gangsters.
You can get an honest and authentic impression of Alex by taking a walking, cycling or minibus tour that can pick you up at the Marlboro Gautrain Station, or at your hotel.
As you walk through the streets you’ll gain insights into how Alex people entertain themselves by day and night.
Visit a house once lived in briefly by Nelson Mandela in the 1940s at the Mandela Yard Precinct; see where Samora Machel, the first president of independent Mozambique, stayed; and discover historical plaques at heritage sites.
Call in at one of the infamous men’s hostels, taste some traditional beer at a shebeen (informal bar), and munch a shisa nyama (barbecued meat) at Joe’s Butchery.
Shop for curios in the vibrant outdoor markets, take in a traditional healer’s shop and visit St Hubert Catholic Church.
You’ll find Alex to be lively, friendly and interesting, but first-time visitors should be sure to take a guide.