Nelson Mandela with South African Seven Sights

It is an undeniable fact of life that for each person there are special places in the world close to their hearts, which tell a story or speak of a certain point in their lives. For world-famous heroes, these places tend to be more iconic landmark in time become must-see sights and places of remembrance.

Following the news of his death last night, as the whole world mourning the loss of the iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela, we want to take you along on a journet to ten must-see places which symbolize important milestones of this icon’s life.

Robben Island


Perhaps the first place that comes to mind when we think of Nelson Mandela is Robben Island where he spent 27 years in a tiny prison cell. A visit to Robben Island and the Robben Island Museum will shed some light on Madiba’s years in prison.  Spend a few minutes in his cell and you will comprehend the mettle of the man who made it through almost three decades of captivity and gruelling work.

Once a leper colony, mental hospital and defence training base, this World Heritage Site is now known for hope rather than hearthbreak, freedom rather than captivity and as the ‘university of the struggle’, its graduates went on to lead South Africa into democracy.

A standard tour of the site commences at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront. The ferry ride takes a half hour each way.


The Voting Line Statue, Port Elizabeth


Visit the Voting Line statue at the Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth to step into a momentous milestone in South Africa’s history – the first democratic poll after years of Apartheid. The metal figures represent all the communities of the Rainbow Nation who share the land – and who voted peacefully on 27 April 27 1994.

South Africans who voted in the historic elections of 27 April 27 1994 will tell you all about the joy of casting a democratic ballot on that day, with former prisoner Nelson Mandela triumphing as the first democratic president of South Africa.

The 38-metre-long metal sculpture of South Africans – of all shapes and sizes – is one of a number of artworks recently set up at the Donkin Reserve as part of the Mandela Bay Development Agency's (MBDA) urban revitalisation project. It also forms part of the MBDA's Route 67 initiative, a public display of 67 pieces of art celebrating each year that Nelson Mandela gave to public life and the people of South Africa.


Nelson Mandela Museum


To o give a true overview of Nelson Mandela in all phases of his life, from his youth in Qunu to his role as statesman, the museum built in his honour comprises three separate structures: Bhunga building in Mthatha, the Qunu component and an open-air museum at Mvezo, where the great humanitarian was born. 

While the historic Bhunga building traces Nelson Mandela’s journey, as told in his acclaimed biography A Long Walk to Freedom, Mvezo, Mandela's rural birthplace, gives you a glimpse of his humble beginnings as his father was stripped of his chieftaincy by the apartheid government and forced to flee while Mandela was still an infant.

Qunu, now home to The Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre, is where his family fled and where Madiba spent his childhood as a herd-boy.


The Mandela House, Soweto

The Mandela House, Soweto

No tour of places that mark momentous milestones in Madiba’s life would be complete without the house where former South African President Nelson Mandela lived, on and off, for more than 14 years, and which Mandela called “the centre point of my world.”

Located on 8115, Vilakazi Street, Orlando, Soweto, The Mandela House aims to give a glimpse of the Mandela family's life during the oppressive years of apartheid through audio-visuals, photographic galleries and live guides.


Liliesleaf Heritage Site


The site where once senior ANC members planning the overthrow of the apartheid government were arrested during a police raid in 1963 leading to resulted in the Rivonia Treason Trials and Nelson Mandela’s incarceration, Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia is now Liliesleaf Farm Museum opened in 2008. Walk through this heritage site which once provided refuge to Mandela under the name of David Motsamayi.


Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg


There is no denying Madiba was a larger-than-life icon, but where else does he get more larger than life than with a gigantic statue on Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton? A vibrant hub and popular tourist destination, with its European style piazza, shops and alfresco restaurants, the square is a great place to enjoy Johannesburg's vibrant urban life.

Nelson Mandela Square was previously known as Sandton Square, until the centre's 10th birthday celebrations and the unveiling of the Nelson Mandela statue on 31 March 2004 to coincide with 10 years of democracy in South Africa.


The Nelson Mandela Bridge, Johannesburg


Of all the streets, squares and other landmarks to be named after South Africa’s first democratically elected president, you may be wondering what is so special about The Nelson Mandela Bridge. Doing so much more than just connecting two geographical spots, this Johannesburg landmark symbolically links the old and new as it ushers traffic into the heart of rejuvenated downtown Johannesburg.

Opened on 20 July 2003 by Nelson Mandela himself, the bridge is part of the ongoing BlueIQ initiative, which has poured over R500 million into the rejuvenation of the downtown area.

Just drive a car or catch a taxi to Braamfontein and you will find The Nelson Mandela Bridge is at the end of Bertha Street. During the day, you can absorb the hustle and bustle of the city as cars and at night you can take in the glorious view of the bridge illuminated against the dark sky.

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo

Nelson Mandela with South African Seven Sights

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