Named after then governor Simon van Der Stel, Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 and is the second-oldest town in South Africa. Grape vines were among the very first crops planted in this fertile part of the country and today there are more than 200 wine farms in this viticultural heartland.
The first settlers also planted oak trees and the town is sometimes referred to as “Eikestad”, which means “village of oaks”.
Stellenbosch is known for its wine estates, Cape Dutch buildings, incredible natural beauty and South African heritage. Home to the University of Stellenbosch, it’s also known for its thriving student life.
Stellenbosch boasts the oldest (and largest) wine route in South Africa, with the soil variety and micro-climate distinguishing the various areas.
The Stellenbosch Wine Route is now divided into five sub-routes or geographical areas, namely: Greater Simonsberg, Stellenbosch Berg, Helderberg, Stellenbosch Hills and Bottelary Hills.
“Stellies” is also known as one of the fine dining regions of the country and easily rivals nearby Franschhoek in the foodie stakes. Restaurants such as Terroir (at Kleine Zalze), Overture (Hidden Valley Wine Estate) and Jordaan are firm favourites on the culinary lists of best restaurants. There are also lots of sidewalk cafes, coffee spots, art galleries and bookshops that offer fun places to hang out.
Take a trip down Dorp Street and see some of the oldest surviving buildings in the country, such as the Lutheran Church. The Village Museum is a noteworthy historical attraction, as is the University Museum (incorporating the Sasol Art Museum).
A lot of the activities in Stellenbosch follow a wine theme and helicopter flips, picnics and horse-riding trails are part of the offering.
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Follow the various wine routes that originate in Stellenbosch, visit wine estates, enjoy wine-tastings and plan a picnic on the grounds of one of the estates. Some estates offer prepacked picnic baskets.
Take a walk around the town and see all the historical attractions, including the Lutheran Church, d’Ouwe Werf, the Dutch Reformed Church and Oom Samie se Winkel (known as the oldest operating general dealer in the winelands).
Take a photographic safari along Dorp Street, where some of the oak trees have even been declared national monuments.
At Muratie Wine Estate, you can visit the first house built in the area (in 1689).
The Toy and Miniature Museum is a favourite for the kids.
Activities on the wine farms include anything from helicopter flips to food-pairing workshops, horseback trails and hikes through the vineyards.
There are numerous walking and hiking trails in the mountains around Stellenbosch (the Helderberg, Simonsberg and Jonkershoek mountains).
Butterfly World, Le Bonheur Crocodile Park, Drakenstein Lion Park and The Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Centre are all within easy driving distance from Stellenbosch.