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Stellenbosch lies in a fertile valley alongside the Eerste river, and is South Africa's best preserved and oldest town ( Cape Town being a city), established in 1679. The town is named after the Dutch East India Company governor Simon van der Stel, who recognised its suitability for wine production. He began planting oak trees and his legacy is a town affectionately known as Eikestad (The town of oaks) with over half of South Africa’s wines produced here.
Like any university town, Stellenbosch has an academic atmosphere and the beautiful buildings housing research centres and faculties is testament to this. Being in a valley, the weather in Stellenbosch is temperate; warm in summer and moderate in winter.
Things to do
Stellenbosch offerings are practically endless:
If you enjoy architecture, the town and surrounding wines farms are filled with centuries-old houses built in the unique Cape Dutch style. Dorp Street is bursting with national monuments.
If you consider yourself a wine connoisseur, the more than 140 wine estates offering wine tastings and food pairings out in the Winelands is sure to satisfy your palate. Purchase a Cellar Door Collection Passport for reduced tasting fees and discount vouchers on your wine purchases.
Most wine farms have world-class restaurants onsite and the town has several fine-dining venues.
If you are a lover of art, Stellenbosch is lined with street art, however, for a more traditional viewing there are four venues worth visiting: the Rupert Museum showcases the best of South African art whilst the D-Street Gallery, the art gallery at the Stellenbosch University and SMAC all showcase contemporary and unusual art exhibitions.
If you enjoy museums, check out the wine museum at Die Bergkelder or take a self-guided walk through the passage of time at the Stellenbosch Village Museum. This museum consists of 4 authentic homes built and occupied between 1709 and 1870.
If you are craving some action, Slaley Wines has skeet shooting; Delvera offers mountain bike routes (and bikes for hire) through their hilly vines or join them on a full moon hike; swim in the warm False Bay waters at Strand Beach nearby or try your hand at fly-fishing on the Eikendal dam.
If you would like a tour of a working wine farm, Warwick offers a mountain safari where you are shown the ‘Big 5’ grape varietals. Other tours include the Bergkelder underground cellar, a tour of craft beer production at Stellenbrau Brewery, a tour of the distillery at the van Ryn Brandy Cellar or a guided mountain bike ride to the exquisite Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.
For an eyeball-to-eyeball animal encounter, visit the Cheetah Outreach Programme where you can interact with an adult cheetah or get to Spier Wine Estate to mingle with birds of prey at the Eagle Encounters rehabilitation facility.
If you are looking to buy something with a South African flavour, stop off at the charming Oom Samie se Winkel (Uncle Samie’s shop) or visit the popular Saturday markets at Oude Libertas wine estate and Root 44 at Audacia Winery. The historic Blaauwklippen wine estate hosts a Sunday market on their expansive lawns.
If you feel like being pampered, the Rustenburg Health Hydro will have you feeling like a million bucks in no time!
If South African history interests you, take a drive over Banghoek pass (scary corner) to the small missionary town of Pniël, pronounced Pin-yell. The museum curator will enlighten you on slavery in the Cape.
If all you want to do is chill, stroll through the peaceful University of Stellenbosch botanical gardens. The shop on the premises sells unique African medicinal products.
And for something really different, go strawberry picking at the Mooiberge or Polkadraai farms. Picking season is October to December.
Where to Eat
There are many restaurant options to choose from in Stellenbosch but if you are visiting during the day, we recommend sharing a picnic basket – out in the sun and overlooking the beautiful valleys and surrounding mountains – at one of the wine farms.
Here are a few restaurants worth visiting:
The garden restaurant at Delheim winery has exceptional views of the Simonsberg Mountain. The menu is a combination of traditional South African and German dishes, all very tasty and beautifully prepared. Try the Ostrich Bobotie dish for something unusual.
Better known for their affiliation with diamonds, the owners of Delaire Graff Estate have put together a bistro offering extraordinary dishes that could happily exist at fine dining tables.
Helena’s has a nice bright atmosphere and the owners can rightly claim a restaurant ‘where the familiar is made spectacular’. Traditional dishes made with flair.
Fresh, innovative dishes are what you can expect at Oppie Dorp (On the Town). The venue has a comfortable ambience.
Overture is situated at the ultra-modern Hidden Valley wine cellar with great views down the valley. It’s regarded as one of South Africa’s premier restaurants offering inspirational dishes on the 3-course or 6-course set menus.
Governor’s Hall restaurant at the Lanzerac Estate offers fine dining in an old world setting. Open for lunch and dinner with a set lunch menu offered on Sundays.
As an after-dinner venue, visit Cold Gold Ice Cream Parlour for their amazing array of ice creams from purely organic to vegan ice cream.
Aandklas (evening class) is a late night rock venue regularly hosting high profile acts.
One of the most popular clubs with Stellenbosch students is Die Mystic Boer. The venue is a dance club with DJs and occasional live bands. Pool tables, restaurant and lively bar on the premises.
The Opskop nightclub attracts lovers of the sokkie dance, a waltz-style dance on steroids. Visit and ask someone to show you the moves.
Nu’Bar, popular with the student crowd, is an upmarket bar with DJ acts. The owners offer loyalty cards!
Where to Stay
Accommodation choices abound in Stellenbosch, ranging from guest houses, boutique & larger hotels, self-contained cottages, B & Bs, lodges, accommodation on wine & stud estates, villas, apartments, self-catering units, resorts through to guest farms. The area is magnificent and no matter which accommodation facility you choose, it’s most likely to impress.
Air : Stellenbosch is a 37km drive to the nearest airport, Cape Town International.
Car Rental : Stellenbosch has several car rental agencies; you could also book your rental online.
Taxis : Rikki's Taxi's or Uber are your best options for a fast and reliable taxi service to or from Stellenbosch. There are 7 shuttle service operators in Stellenbosch. Contact the info centre at +27 (0)21 883 3584 for more details. The town is a 50 minute drive on the national N2 highway to the centre of Cape Town.
Did you know
The beautiful rose bushes bordering most Stellenbosch vineyards serve an important function; they provide an early warning to farmers of disease in the vines.
Although Stellenbosch has an abundance of oak trees, they grow too quickly and are therefore too porous to use as wine barrels. The oak trees lining Dorp Street are all national monuments.
Stellenbosch was the first South African town to offer free Wi-Fi to all.
For those who are a little adventurous and enjoy the company of other travellers, you can decide to stay at a Backpackers. Often having to share a room with others as well as costs, it is incredibly inexpensive. Often the best choice for those who may be just passing through or will be occupied for the majority of their day. It comes with the most basic amenities and is often formed as part of a bar or similar establishment. Not recommended for those who want privacy, this is best suited for those who wouldn’t mind meeting various other interesting travellers.