The Soweto Marimba Youth League during a public performance

Soweto is located in Johannesburg, South Africa.



Soweto is the only place in the world to have raised two Nobel Prize winners. Both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu had residences on Vilakazi Street in Orlando West.

The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the largest hospital in the world with over 3,000 beds.

The name Soweto was first used in 1963 to describe the groups of townships to the south west of Johannesburg and is an acronym for South Western Townships. These townships were originally established after an outbreak of bubonic plague in the inner city slums of Johannesburg in 1904, but under the apartheid government, many black South Africans were forcefully relocated from the city and its suburbs to Soweto and other townships.

Get in

Most visitors to Soweto take a tour from their Johannesburg hotel. However, you can do Soweto independently, either by car or suburban rail.

Soweto is an increasingly popular destination for travellers from around the world. Take a tour or just drive in yourself using GPS set to Vilakazi Street... the road infrastructure and signage are excellent. Alternatively, take a MetroRail suburban train from Johannesburg Park station bound for either Naledi (for northern Soweto), Oberholzer or Vereeniging (for southern Soweto). There are many stations in Soweto, so check out first which one serves your destination. Close to the Nancefield station is the Maponya Mall where you can join the Sowetan middle classes as they entertain themselves with retail and movies!

Unless you are with Soweto locals, you probably do not want to stray from the tourist-friendly Orlando West area (served by Phefeni train station) on your own. Soweto is huge, and those without an African complexion will feel very conspicuous.

Get around

Most choose to visit Soweto as part of an official tour group by a SATSA-accredited tour guide.

Several tour operators are available:


Soweto Mural


Soweto Housing





Stay safe

By and large, contrary to popular belief, Soweto is a pretty safe place for tourists to visit. It is not the easiest place to drive around in by yourself, so if you are going to stay there overnight, get the bed and breakfast owner to meet you on one of the main roads and follow the owner in or get a transfer in. If you are going to do a tour, go with one of the registered tour companies (see above or contact SATSA). Try to make sure that the tour company is using a local Soweto/Johannesburg guide as that makes a better insight to the place and its history.


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, December 22, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.