Don’t visit Soweto looking only for evidence of the past. If you do it’s likely you’ll miss out on its happening cultural and social scene. Here are some of the coolest places to hang out in Soweto.
LOCRATE MARKET Locrate mixes all the usual food trucks, cocktails, cool handmade items and vintage finds that Joburgers have come to love and expect from the best weekend markets, with a distinctly Soweto buzz courtesy of hip local fashion, house DJs and street poetry. There are also regular art events held in conjunction with the market and cool kids on retro fixie bikes are a regular feature. The market is very conveniently located for tourists visiting Soweto as it is just a stone's throw from the famous Vilakazi Street.
UBUNTU KRAAL KASI BEER GARDEN The home of Soweto Gold, Soweto's very own craft beer. At the huge beer garden you can take a brewery tour before tasting one (or all) of their beers which include a crisp, classic lager and apple, cherry or ginger flavoured beers. Their 'gourmet township grill' menu is short but utterly delicious and the staff are charming.
E' SOCIALINK SHISA NYAMA & CAR WASH Going to the car wash takes on an entirely new meaning in Soweto where getting your car cleaned involves socialising and enjoying some roasted meat along the roadside. This 'car wash' is a fresh chill spot combining class and an addictive weekend social vibe.
CHAF POZI AND THE ORLANDO TOWERS These two huge cooling towers covered in colourful murals are Soweto's most recognisable landmark and the area is now a magnet for thrill seekers looking to go bungee jumping, paintballing, power swinging and rock climbing. If all that sounds a bit too scary, there's also the buzzing Chaf-Pozi - a huge shisa nyama-style (barbecued meat) beer garden and grill - to enjoy. It's been around for a while now, but is still one of the busiest party places at the weekend.
THESIS CONCEPT STORE This trailblazing store deep in the suburbs has been selling its own clothing brand Thesis Lifestyle, since 2008. Their brand references Soweto street culture and their slogan T-shirts and 'bucket' hats are amongst their must-have cult products - even top house DJ Black Coffee wears them. There is also the Thesis Cafe next door selling salads, wraps, fresh juices and smoothies and the Thesis collective often host street parties, in addition to maintaining a popular Saturday morning running club.
LEBO'S OPEN AIR RESTAURANT Where once there was a dumping ground, township tourism pioneer Lebo of the eponymous backpackers envisioned a park. Today tourists, locals and intrepid foodies find their place under the shade of the palm trees opposite the backpackers. Lunch is a simple affair, usually a gourmet version of the township 'kota' - a quarter loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with delicious homemade curried chicken, beef or vegetables. For spice, just add atchar.