In celebration of South Africa’s Heritage Month, we’ve compiled a list of the best monuments, heritage sites and cultural experiences around the country.
From viewing impactful exhibitions on display at various museums to visiting key spaces that marked the life and times of Nelson Mandela, these are a few of our top reasons to see South Africa.
The Best Museums, Monuments and Cultural Experiences in South Africa
These are just a collection of the best monuments, heritage sites and cultural attractions that South Africa has to offer.
Learn about South Africa’s struggle at the Apartheid Museum
Opened in 2001, the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg illustrates South Africa’s story of the struggle and finally triumph in the face of Apartheid.
Through a number of exhibitions, the Apartheid Museum depicts the story of the rise and fall of Apartheid, the racially biased system that governed South Africa and oppressed the majority of its people for half a century.
The exhibitions span a range of multimedia formats including film footage, photographs, text panels, artefacts and life-sized installations. Each exhibition tells more of the story of Apartheid, bringing to life the effects of the laws passed as well as the sharing the experiences of the oppressed and the oppressor. As well as the main museum, there is also a second exhibition hall dedicated solely to sharing the story of the late president, Nelson Mandela.
From its darkest days and it’s brightest triumphs, gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the South African country. Book a guided tour of the Apartheid Museum. We recommend allowing at least three hours to view all of the exhibitions fully.
Explore exhibitions on display at the Iziko South African Museum
Founded in 1825 in Cape Town, the Iziko South African Museum was South Africa’s first national museum. It’s been located in the famous Company’s Garden since 1897, and houses more 1.5-million specimens of scientific importance.
The collection includes fossils ranging from 700-million years ago as well as a life-size dinosaur and whale exhibitions. The museum also includes a planetarium and a visual dome which virtually explores the intricacies of the universe. Visit the Iziko South African Museum and gain a better understanding of Earth, and its biological and cultural diversity.
View the Nelson Mandela Capture Site
One of the most significant moments in South Africa’s history was when the late former president, Nelson Mandela, was arrested by police for his anti-Apartheid activism in August 1952. The site of the arrest, a stretch of land in Howick in between Durban and Johannesburg, has since been turned into a point of interest called the Nelson Mandela Capture Site.
The Capture Site features a sculpture comprising 50 steel columns which, when viewed from a specific angle, forms a two-dimensional image of Nelson Mandela’s face.
The monument at the Capture Site honours the life of the late South African president, commemorating his lifelong dedication to social equality, freedom and liberation in South Africa.
Gain insight into the Group Areas Act, District Six and the forced removals
Established in 1994, the District Six Museum tells the tale of District Six, a once lively and bustling community on the slopes of Cape Town’s now Zonnebloem area, that was demolished under Apartheid law.
Home to a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants artisans, labourers and immigrants, District Six was a melting pot of races, cultures and creeds. Under the Group Areas Act of 1950, more than 60 000 people were forcibly removed from their homes to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats. Those residing in District Six saw their houses flattened by bulldozers and their community torn apart.
Commemorating the memory and spirit of the area, the District Six Museum depicts the country’s history and heritage through a series of engaging and thought-provoking exhibitions.
Visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial and learn about the Soweto Uprising
Situated in Orlando West in Soweto, the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum pays homage to South African students who took a stand during the anti-Apartheid struggle. The memorial site pays particular tribute to the lives lost during the Soweto Uprising of June 16, 1976, where armed police opened fire on thousands of school children.
The children were walking to parliament to deliver a letter that would plead against the mandatory use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in African schools. At one point, police opened fire on the group, killing thousands of children, including 12-year-old Hector Pieterson. An iconic photograph, captured by photographer Sam Nzima, shows Pieterson’s lifeless body being carried away from the mob with his sister screaming by his side. The photograph made world news, and Pieterson’s name became synonymous with the Soweto Uprising.
June 16 is celebrated each year as a South African public holiday named Youth Day. It is a day in which we honour our South African heritage and commemorate the lives lost during the Soweto Uprising. Visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum and other informative monuments and heritage sites. Book either the Johannesburg Political and Historical Tour or the Soweto and Apartheid Museum Tour.
Learn about the tribes and cultures of South Africa at Lesedi Cultural Village
Situated just outside of Johannesburg, the Lesedi Cultural Village is a multi-cultural village that depicts five of the different tribes of South Africa; Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele. Members from the various communities live in Lesedi village, breathing life into the culture and giving visitors the opportunity to experience the spirit of Ubuntu.
As well as a tour of the village, visitors can enjoy a live show, listen to live music, browse the market and enjoy a scrumptious feast of various traditional food. Contact us to plan a bespoke itinerary that includes a trip to the Lesedi Cultural Village.
These are just a collection of the best monuments, heritage sites, cultural attractions and points of interest in South Africa. To book any of the experiences mentioned above, contact African Travel Canvas and we’ll compile a bespoke travel itinerary for you.