City Tour: The Apartheid and Soweto

On our second day in Johannesburg, the Monarch Hotel’s concierge coordinated a driver for us to visit many of the city’s cultural museums and historical sites.  I had to laugh at Brenden’s reaction when he realized we would be taking a Mercedes to the township of Soweto, but the hotel staff assured us we would be safe.

Apartheid Museum

Our first stop was the Apartheid Museum near Gold Reef city.  We spent well over an hour at the museum learning the timeline and events that defined South Africa during the Apartheid era.  Detailed throughout the exhibit were all the trials and tribulations of the country and its people.  We were incredibly impressed with how well the museum was curated to tell the story through interesting exhibits.



From the Apartheid museum, we made our way past the football/soccer stadium that was built for the 2010 World Cup and then onto the township of Soweto.  We drove through several sections of Soweto, which as Brenden explained to me, showed vast improvement in infrastructure and safety since Brenden’s last visited as a boy.


Mandela House

Located in a section of Soweto called, Orlando West, is Nelson Mandela’s former home, now the museum, Mandela House.  We took a 20 minute tour around the home with a knowledgeable guide that provided detailed stories of the historical significance of the house during the apartheid.


Shebeen Experience

Just around the corner from Mandela’s home was the experience Brenden was looking forward to the entire day, enjoying the local ‘brew’ at a Shebeen.  The beer is made from maze and aptly named “Joburg” beer.  This was a true local experience for us as we sat with one of the friendly locals, who had clearly started the party well before our arrival.  We would definitely recommend tasting the beer just to check it off your list, but it likely won’t end up in your fridge at home.  Both Brenden and I would probably rate it as one of our least favorite beers.  It was served warm/room temperature and had a strong sour/bitter flavor with a lasting after taste.  My favorite is the warning on the carton “DON’T DRINK AND WALK ON THE ROAD, YOU MAY BE KILLED”.



From here we made our way through the traffic to the other side of Johannesburg to visit Liliesleaf in the suburb of Rivonia.  Liliesleaf, known as “A place of liberation” was a suburban house which became the place of refuge for leaders of the liberation struggle to debate politics and military policy to overthrow the apartheid regime.  The home and spacious grounds are now a museum with many dynamic and interactive exhibits to convey the stories of the past.

After a full day of touring the city and learning so much about the history of this great country, we went back to the Monarch Hotel where we sat outside in the peaceful courtyard for a nice drink and a small bite to eat.  A perfect ending to a wonderful day in Johannesburg.