Stellenbosch (map) is an historic town in South Africa, situated about a 45-minute drive from Cape Town. Most tourists visit this vibrant university town as part of a day-trip from Cape Town but I highly recommend spending a few days there to truly appreciate the sights and attractions in and around the town. The town itself is home to beautiful streets lined with centuries-old oaks (it’s often called the ‘City of Oaks’) and historic Cape Dutch houses, a multitude of wine bars and restaurants, and art galleries. Venture outside the town and you’ll find mile after mile of gorgeous vineyards against a backdrop of imposing mountains. With its stunning scenery and excellent wine and food experiences, Stellenbosch and its surroundings are one of my favourite places in the world! In fact, I make it a point to go there whenever I visit Cape Town (which is almost every year!). If you’re planning a visit, here are my recommended ten things to do in Stellenbosch to get you started:
Things to do in Stellenbosch
1. Explore Stellenbosch town
Start by strolling around Stellenbosch. The town, founded in 1679, is very compact so it’s easy to discover on foot. There are many beautiful art galleries, shops and interesting museums to visit, especially along Dorp Street and Church Street. Take note of the beautiful Cape Dutch architecture (with their white-washed façades and elegant gables) as you walk around the town. For breakfast or lunch, I can recommend the Schoon De Companje, a lovely bakery/café at the corner of Bird and Church streets.
Drop by the Stellenbosch Village Museum for a history lesson and check out Oom Samie Se Winkel (‘Uncle Samie’s Shop’), a true Stellenbosch institution. If you’re interested in flora, visit the Botanical Gardens at the university.
For pre-dinner drinks, head for the Wijnhuis (Andringa St.), Bartinney Wine & Champagne Bar (Bird St.) or Craft Wheat and Hops (Andringa St.). Restaurants in the town centre I can recommend are Coopmanhuijs (this hotel/restaurant is housed in a beautiful 18th century manor and I can definitely recommend a stay/meal there) and Stellenbosch Kitchen (part of the Stellenbosch Hotel).
Outside Stellenbosch – incredible wine experiences!
Make Stellenbosch your base as you explore the breathtaking surroundings. There are countless wineries in this area and many of them offer much more than a simple wine-tasting experience. Some of them are home to world-class restaurants whilst others offer fun trips across the vineyards or unique tasting experiences. Typical wine varietals to try include Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and various blends. The following tips are some of my favourite wine-related experiences in Stellenbosch:
2. Chocolates and wines
If you love chocolates and wines, visit the grand Waterford Estate. Chief winemaker, Kevin Arnold, teams up with chocolatier, Richard von Geusau, to create this unique wine-tasting experience. I highly recommend it.
3. Blend your own wine
My personal favourite! At the Middelvlei Wine Estate, you can blend your own wine and get a personalised label on the bottle to bring home! While you’re there, enjoy a ‘boere tapas’ (farmers tapas) or grilled specialties by Middelvlei’s braaimaster! Read about my wine-blending experience.
4. Go on a Big-5 wine safari!
The Warwich Estate is situated just outside Stellenbosch at the foot of impressive mountains. Hop on the safari jeep for a drive up into the mountains and a very unique wine-tasting!
5. Watch the duck parade!
The lovely Vergenoegd is home to the increasingly famous duck parade. You’ll have to see it to believe it! Every day at 9:30am and 3:30pm.
6. Ride a Segway around the vineyards
You have to be sober for this! 😉 Head to the expansive Spier Wine Farm and go on a Segway tour around the vineyards. The scenery is just stunning! While you’re there, check out the gorgeous African art in the main buildings and have a meal at Eight restaurant.
7. Enjoy a glorious sunset followed by an incredible dining experience!
The Delaire Graff and Tokara estates are located almost opposite each other on the Helshoogte Pass road. Delaire Graff boasts simply breathtaking views of the mountains (which turn red at sunset!) whilst Tokara has sweeping views of the vineyards and Table Mountain in the distance. Both vineyards are home to excellent restaurants, making them both perfect for sunset drinks and an exquisite meal!
Read more about my favourite Stellenbosch wineries.
There’s more to Stellenbosch than just wine!
Yes, there are more things to do in Stellenbosch that aren’t wine-related. Hehe! 🙂
8. Join the Kayamandi township tour
The Kayamandi township is located on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. Join a guided tour of the township and meet the locals, listen to their stories of life in the township and learn about (and tuck into) traditional Xhosa cuisine. I highly recommend this tour by Bites and Sites.
9. Explore the Jonkershoek nature reserve
The immense Jonkershoek Nature Reserve is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Cape Floral region. Go on a leisurely hike to discover the unique flora and enjoy the stunning mountain views. Read more about the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve.
10. Treat yourself to a spa treatment
Majeka House is one of my favourite hotels in Stellenbosch. Located outside the city centre, it’s also home to a terrific restaurant AND one of the best spas in the region. Choose from a variety of treatments. The Lanzerac Spa is also another I can recommend. The Spa is absolutely beautiful with stunning views of the mountains and vineyards.
There are many more things to do in Stellenbosch but these ten tips should give you a wonderful impression of the town and its surroundings. I’m sure you’ll love it just as much as I do! 🙂
Ok, here’s one more tip: explore more of the region! Here’s a suggested route for a road trip around the Cape Winelands.
Where to stay in Stellenbosch
Here are my recommended places to stay in Stellenbosch:
Located in the centre of Stellenbosch town, Coopmanhuijs offers charming accommodations in an 18th century manor and a gorgeous restaurant and terrace. There’s a small lap-pool in the back. Top marks for excellent service and the food!
The Majeka House is situated in a quiet residential area, about a ten-minute drive outside Stellenbosch town. The rooms are huge and the amenities are top notch (including the best bath-robe I’ve EVER worn!). There’s a fabulous restaurant and spa to boot! Read about my stay at Majeka House.
The Lanzerac Hotel and Spa is an expansive property on the edges of Stellenbosch. Known as the birthplace of Pinotage, Lanzerac offers luxurious accommodations, a beautiful spa and cellar tours. Read more about my stay at Lanzerac.
The Jordan Wine Estate is located several kilometers from Stellenbosch in a quiet corner of the vine-covered hills. The estate features spacious suites and it’s a treat to go on a hike across the vineyards. I can also highly recommend the restaurant (reservations required). Read more about my stay at Jordan Wine Estate.
The Delaire Graff Lodges have arguably the most spectacular views in Stellenbosch! The accommodations are spacious and have decks with incredible views. There’s also a terrific spa and two excellent restaurants.
Read more about South Africa on Velvet Escape.
Read about things to do in Cape Town.