• 26 March 2021

South Africa is a country that strives to embody and celebrate freedom and democracy. These values come under the spotlight every year on 27 April when the nation observes Freedom Day. We have created a list of historic sites you can visit across South Africa to celebrate Freedom Day in 2021.

The “Rainbow Nation” would not be what it is today without the efforts and sacrifices of South Africans who fought tirelessly against apartheid. These historic destinations are great places to learn about South Africa’s history and honour those who helped fight for democracy.

What is Freedom Day? 

Freedom Day commemorates South Africa’s first democratic national election, which was held on 27 April 1994. Almost 20 million people turned out to vote and it was the first post-apartheid national election where anyone could vote, regardless of race. After years of racial oppression under the apartheid government, every eligible citizen being allowed to vote, no matter their race, was incredibly important. It turned out to be a day of joy, celebration and hope and the African National Congress won. Nelson Mandela was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the first democratic president of South Africa!  

Today, the public holiday is a celebration and commemoration of the long, hard-fought struggle for democracy. Freedom Day is also the perfect time to learn about South Africa’s turbulent past, which ultimately became a story of hope and liberation!  

How to celebrate Freedom Day in South Africa:

Democracy in South Africa is officially 27 years old this year. To pay homage to the importance of Freedom Day and all of the people who contributed to the struggle for liberation, you can visit a number of historic destinations in South Africa. Each of these spots offers insight into the country’s history and the struggle against apartheid. 

Here are five historic places to visit in South Africa for Freedom Day:

  • Robben Island, Cape Town

Robben Island is most well-known for being the prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years. Mandela served time there with many freedom fighters and today Robben Island is a “unique symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice.” You can embark on a Robben Island Museum Tour, learn about the turbulent history and see major historical sites around the island including Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.

If you’re not in Cape Town, you can take a virtual island tour.   

Aerial view of Robben Island Freedom Day
Catch a ferry to Robben Island and tour the historic sites.
  • Constitution Hill, Johannesburg

Constitution Hill was previously the site of a number of notorious prisons which housed South Africans from all walks of life. It is now home to South Africa’s first Constitutional Court.

Today, Constitution Hill is a living museum where visitors can learn about the country’s past and look to the future. Tour the Old Fort, the Women’s Jail, Number Four and the Awaiting Trial Block. 

Old Fort jail and museum Constitution Hill South Africa Freedom Day
Visit the Old Fort museum on Constitution Hill.
  • The Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Travel to Howick in Kwa-Zulu Natal to see the site where Nelson Mandela was arrested for anti-apartheid activity in 1962. The site is a historical and cultural exhibition space; complete with a visitors centre, museum and art installation. It’s home to a mesmerizing shape-shifting sculpture called Release which is made up of 50 steel columns and created to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mandela’s arrest. Stand at the right angle and the columns take the shape of Mandela’s face – truly amazing to see!

Art installation of Nelson Mandela at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick South Africa Freedom Day
Visit the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick, Kwa-Zulu Natal.
  • Vilakazi Street and the Apartheid Museum, Soweto

Vilakazi Street in Soweto is the most visited street in Soweto (and even Johannesburg)! It’s famous for being the only street in the world that is home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Here you can visit the Mandela House Museum (previously home to Nelson Mandela and his family) and the nearby Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum. 

In Johannesburg, you can also visit the Apartheid Museum which takes visitors on a journey through the rise and fall of the apartheid regime.  

Entrance to Mandela House Museum in Soweto, South Africa Freedom Day
Learn about Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy at the Mandela House Museum.
  • Iziko Museums and District Six, Cape Town

If you are in Cape Town and searching for history, art and culture, why not visit one of the Iziko Museums of South Africa? See the South African Museum, the South African National Gallery and more. The Slave Lodge museum illustrates the haunting history of slavery in South Africa; using the theme “from human wrongs to human rights.”

Travel Tip: Several Iziko Museums (excluding the Castle of Good Hope, Groot Constantia and the Planetarium) are free for South African citizens to visit on Freedom Day!

Also located in Cape Town is the District Six Museum. District Six was a multicultural area that faced forced removals under the apartheid government. Today, the museum offers visitors an inclusive, educational experience that tells the stories of former residents of the vibrant community. 

Interior display in District Six Museum Cape Town South Africa Freedom Day
Delve into the stories of the people who once called District Six home.

See these fascinating historic destinations (and much more!) on your next trip to South Africa. You can experience the history, diverse cultures, beautiful natural scenery and welcoming people of this incredible destination! Enjoy it all on a future trip with Expat Explore that you can start planning today

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