Mandela changed the face of South Africa (chaouki)
List 18 July

Top 5 things to do on Nelson Mandela’s birthday

As Nelson Mandela celebrates his birthday, Sam Shead highlights a few things to do in South Africa on 18 July to pay tribute to this iconic figure

Get to grips with South Africa’s controversial past on Nelson Mandela’s birthday, as the former president turns 93, by experiencing his former prison cell, home and several dedicated museums.

Apartheid divided South Africa for 46 years under the National Party government. The racial segregation separated blacks from whites and led to the former being treated as if they were inferior, denying them access to education, medical care and other public services we would consider to be standard.

However, one man stepped up to change all this. Nelson Mandela. The anti-Apartheid activist was unduly sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 after being convicted of sabotage. He served a painstaking 27 years in prison, many of which on Robben Island, but never abandoned his cause or his people.

Following his release in 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to South Africa becoming a multi-racial democracy in 1994. He is not just an icon to the people of today’s Rainbow Nation, but also to many others across the world.

We’ve compiled the top 5 places to visit on the day that will help you to understand this man’s extraordinary story as he battled for his people’s freedom.

1. Robben Island, Cape Town

Used as a place to banish a variety of people between the 17th and 20th centuries, Robben Island was Nelson Mandela’s home for 18 of his 27 years in prison. Take a tour of the island with a former prisoner and see the tiny cell Mandela had to sleep in as well as seeing the limestone quarry he was forced to work in, where many of the political discussions that led to South Africa’s reform were ignited.

2. Nelson Mandela Museum, Johannesburg

Mandela’s former home in Soweto, Johannesburg, is still rammed full of his family’s personal possessions and has been converted into an eye-opening museum. Long-time residents walk with a spring in their step as they give guided tours and explain the story behind a wide range of artefacts.

3. Apartheid Museum,Johannesburg

Illustrating the rise andfall of Apartheid, the museum gives an insight into what South Africa was like during the days when coloured people were forced to live in segregated communities and denied access to basic services.

4. Constitution Hill, Johannesburg

The Constitutional Court of South Africa has been both a fort and a prison during South Africa’s turbulent times. Visit Constitution Hill and learn through a series of interactive exhibitions about the injustices of South Africa’s past while observing the process by which freedom was won and is now protected.

5. Walking tour of Soweto

Get a real taste of SA heritage and culture by taking a guided tour through Soweto, where you will be able to sample local food, visit Mandela’s home and the Hector Pieterson Museum, where the influential student uprisings of 1976 began.

More like this

City guide: Cape Town | Destinations...More

South Africa travel guide| Destinations...More

World's Greatest Journeys: Drive from Nairobi to Cape Town | Destinations...More

South Africa's Eastern Cape | Destinations...More