Stellenbosch and the Winelands

Stellenbosch and the Winelands_Stellenbosch The beautiful landscape of the Stellenbosch wine valley

The scenic Boland (literally ‘Upland’) immediately inland of Cape Town enjoys twin claims to fame. Not only is it home to some of South Africa’s oldest and most vivid towns (most notably Stellenbosch and Franschhoek), but it also forms the hub of the Cape’s burgeoning wine industry. Characterised by lush vine-planted valleys set below spectacular mountain ranges such as the Simonsberg, Groot Drakenstein and Helderberg, these beautiful areas are collectively referred to as the Cape Winelands, and few visitors pass up the opportunity to enjoy a ‘wine tour’ through some of its more famous estates, most of which offer free or inexpensive tasting facilities. Stellenbosch and some of the older wine estates also house some handsome examples of Cape Dutch architecture, a uniquely South African style typified by whitewashed thatched buildings with a rounded and ornately bordered gable set above the main door, and two flanking perpendicular wings.

old cape dutch buildings stellenbosch cape town attractions Impressive Cape Dutch buildings can be found all over Stellenbosch |Credit: Johan Fourie

Established in 1679, South Africa’s second-oldest town Stellenbosch is named after its founder Simon van der Stel. Nicknamed Eikestad (Town of Oaks), it retains a pleasingly time-warped Cape Dutch character whilst also hosting a lively selection of contemporary restaurants, cafés and shops. The Stellenbosch Village Museum comprises four restored houses – the oldest being the Schreuderhuis, one of the few buildings to survive the great fire of 1710 – representing different phases in the town’s development.

lanzerac wine estate where to eat in cape town Lanzerac wine estate

Founded on the outskirts of Stellenbosch in 1692, the scenic Lanzerac Estate is known for its stately Cape Dutch architecture and for producing the world’s first commercial Pinotage (a red cultivar unique to South Africa) in 1959, and it includes a five-star restaurant and hotel.

Stellenbosch and the Winelands_Franschhoek The best way to enjoy Franschhoek is a delicious meal at one of the many award-winning eateries | Credit: Petit Plaisir

Named for the many Huguenot refugees who settled there in the late 1680s, pretty little Franschhoek (‘French Corner’) hosts a few historic buildings, notably a pastoral Cape Dutch church built in in 1848. Its French roots are reflected in the handsome arched Huguenot Monument built on its outskirts in the 1840s, and the adjacent Huguenot Memorial Museum. The village is a culinary Mecca, hosting several of the country’s finest restaurants.

Stellenbosch Boschendal wine estate where to eat in cape town Nestled among ancient oak trees, Boschendal has a unique history

Set in a verdant valley flanked by the Groot Drakenstein and Simonsberg Mountains midway between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the perennially popular Boschendal Estate was first planted with vines in 1685, and is notable both for its superb Cape Dutch architecture and Mediterranean-style picnics served on the oak-shaded lawn.

Spring flowers in darling west coast south africa Spring blooms of vibrant colours in the quaint West Coast town of Darling | Credit: Darling Tourism

Regularly known for its spring wildflowers and sleepy museum, the quaint town of Darling not only has its own wine route but is home to the cabaret venue and supper club Evita se Perron (named after Evita Bezuidenhout, a politicised South African equivalent to Dame Edna Everage created by the cross-dressing satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys).

Stellenbosch and the Winelands_Spier Wine Estate Picnicking on the lawns of Spier Wine Estate is a popular weekend activity

The family-friendly Spier Estate might lack the ambience of its older counterparts, but an excellent range of activities and amenities include a swimming pool, spa, playground, cheetah outreach programme, raptor centre, horseback excursions and two onsite restaurants. Thus making it an excellent family-friendly venue.

Vergelegen where to eat in cape town south africa safari Vergelegen offers a wonderful wine tasting experience | Credit: Cape town Travel

Founded in 1685 on the slopes of the Helderberg, Vergelegen (roughly translated as ‘far away’) is arguably the loveliest estate anywhere in the Winelands thanks to its gracious manor house, octagonal garden and row of gnarled camphor trees planted circa 1700. The restaurant and award-winning wines are also exceptional.

paarl in the cape winelands south africa safari As the third-oldest town in South Africa, Paarl and its famous wine valley brim with ancient folklore and terrific wines

The Winelands’ largest town, Paarl is redeemed from mundanity by the pearl-smooth granite dome of the adjacent Paarl (‘Pearl’) Mountain, reached on a footpath through the protea-rich slopes of the nature reserve bordering the town centre. The Taal Monument, built in 1975 to commemorate the centenary of Afrikaans’ recognition as an official language, lies on its lower slopes.

Tulbagh cpae town attractions Tulbagh experiences snow on the surrounding mountains in winter

A recommended diversion for devotees of Cape Dutch architecture is modest Tulbagh, whose Church Street has been restored in traditional style following a devastating earthquake in 1970.

Fairview Goat Tower cape town holiday attractions Fairview’s goat tower is a huge hit with the kids

Ideal for those travelling with children, unpretentious Fairview Estate combines a laidback farmyard atmosphere with a superb deli serving a fabulous range of handcrafted cheeses and homegrown wines.

Travel tips

  • Stellenbosch lies a mere 50 km inland of Cape Town and 35 km from Cape Town International Airport, which is served by a number of international flights, as well as by several dozen daily flights from Johannesburg, and domestic flights to all other major centres in South Africa.

  • The winelands can easily be visited as a day trip out of Cape Town. For those who prefer an overnight stay, the region is also well-endowed with hotels, B&Bs and backpacker hostels, most of which offer a more countrified feel than their coastal and city counterparts around Cape Town.

  • Although self-drive is a straightforward option, the best way to sample a few of the region’s wine estate is on an organised day excursion out of Cape Town, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. These usually take in around five different estates and is recommended because the self-drive wine-tasting option is in contravention of both commonsense and the law.

  • Opening hours vary, but you can safely assume that any name estate will be open for tasting over 09.00-16.00 Mon-Fri, and most also open on Saturdays and even Sundays.


Popular South Africa Safaris

These popular itineraries can be customised to match your budget and travel dates

 | Cosmopolitan Cape Town and Kruger Tour (7 days)

Cosmopolitan Cape Town and Kruger Tour (7 days)

Discover the Big Cats in the Kruger National Park and enjoy the bustling harbour, world-class beaches and top-notch vineyards in Cape Town...

 | South Africa’s Garden Route Odyssey (14 days)

South Africa's Garden Route Odyssey (14 days)

Discover one of South Africa’s best kept secrets - the Garden Route...

 | Bespoke Safari in South Africa (14 days)

Bespoke Safari in South Africa (14 days)

Experience the best that South Africa has to offer, with a holiday tailor-made for you ...

 | Journey through the Highlights of Southern Africa (13 days)

Journey through the Highlights of Southern Africa (13 days)

Exploring these areas of the Southern African continent should on top of your bucket list...

 | Best of Botswana and South Africa (11 days)

Best of Botswana and South Africa (11 days)

Experience the best of two of southern Africa's gems ...

Aerial View of Sun City | Sun City and Madikwe Family Safari (6 days)

Sun City and Madikwe Family Safari (6 days)

From Sun City's hedonistic pleasures to the majesty of nature at Madikwe Game Reserve, this journey combines the best of two very different worlds...

 | South African Midlands Meander (15 days)

South African Midlands Meander (15 days)

Explore the Eastern Cape, Lesotho and KwaZulu Natal...

 | Forray into the Wilderness of Sabi Sands and Madikwe  (7 days)

Forray into the Wilderness of Sabi Sands and Madikwe (7 days)

Our selection of South Africa's top safari lodges and game reserves are guaranteed to suit every taste and budget...

Exterior view of Ngala Tented Camp | Delightful Cape Town and Kruger Luxury Safari (12 days)

Delightful Cape Town and Kruger Luxury Safari (12 days)

Combine Cape Town and the surrounding Cape Winelands with a safari in the Kruger National Park for a relaxing and exhilarating South African safari...

 | Nature, Romance and Exclusivity - A Complete African Honeymoon (14 days)

Nature, Romance and Exclusivity - A Complete African Honeymoon (14 days)

This exclusive African honeymoon through East and Southern Africa is the perfect way to celebrate the start of your new journey together...

You might also be interested in

Have some ideas?
Contact us and get a customised no-obligation itinerary

+27 (0)21 422 3498
   discover.africa
    info@discoverafrica.com
    Mon - Fri: 8AM - 9PM GMT+2