Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa, founded in 1679 by Simon van der Stel, the governor of the Cape Colony. 10 years later, in 1690 the Huguenot refugees settled down in the area, they brought from France the tradition of growing grapes and making wine, it was the beginning of South African wines. Nowadays Stellenbosch is an interesting combination of wine estates, great outdoor activities, fine restaurants and beautiful scenery. The town can be visited as a day trip from Cape Town, it’s only 50 km away, though we’d recommend to spend here at least two days to enjoy great wines and breathtaking landscape.
Stellenbosch set up your budget
Accommodation – from ZAR160/US$13 for a dorm bed (Stumble Inn Backpackers, not in booking.com). Double room prices start at ZAR480/US$40 for a small en-suite apartment to ZAR2500/US$200 for a luxury room or cottage at a wine estate.
Eating out – there are plenty of fancy restaurant options in the town and around. If you’re on a limited budget rather cook yourself and try to eat out only once a day, it will cost you between ZAR200/US$16 and ZAR500/US$41 pp for a meal. If your budget is not very limited and you enjoy good food and wine your food budget can be anything between ZAR600/US$50 and ZAR1500/US$125 pp.
Activities – all depends on what you want to do. Hiking and MTB are your cheapest options here, average you pay ZAR40/US$3 pp for a permit. Wine tasting depending on a farm between ZAR30/US$2 to ZAR100/US$8 pp for 3 – 6 wines. If you visit 3 wine estates in Stellenbosch it will cost you between ZAR100 and ZAR200 pp. As a money saving tip if you’re a couple do tasting for one person you get enough in your glass to taste for both and one usually drives anyway.
Transport – rent a car is the easiest option to move around the farms and get to hiking trails. No need to rent a big 4×4 for this trip, a normal sedan car will be more than enough. If you’re on a tight budget go for one of old VW Chico Golf, they are usually the cheapest option, from ZAR149/US$12 per day (if rent for 7 days). If you’d like to explore wine estates in a fancy way why not to rent a Porsche Cobra at least for a day?! These are two extreme options a normal car will cost from ZAR250/US$20 per day. It will cost you quite a bit more, from ZAR2800/US$230 per day. Remember don’t drink and drive if you’d like to do a proper tasting rather join a tour or rent a car with a driver.
Things to do in Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch is a real paradise for those who like outdoor activities, good wines and fine food. If you wonder what to do in Stellenbosch here are our suggestions.
It’s nice to walk around the town center, stop for a cup of coffee at one of the small cafes, check out local art galleries, some of them have great local masterpieces, enjoy the vibe of a busy university town.
Stellenbosch University Botanical garden, a small jungle and a piece of tranquility in the town with hundreds of squirrels running around. The bonsai section is very good. There is a small cafe inside where you can have a snack or enjoy a cup of coffee. Entrance fee ZAR10/US$1.
Stellenbosch University campus, a beautiful building style and a nostalgic place for Campbell, he spent here 8 years working in a laboratory. To get into the student spirit go and drink coffee at the Neelsie Student Center, inside the center they have good coffee and pastries. Enjoy it outside on the red plain with hundreds of students walking around.
The Rupert Museum, a private art and sculpture collection of the Rupert family, mostly South African artists.
Stellenbosch Toy and Miniature museum might be interesting for those who travel with children.
Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
The best area for hiking in Stellenbosch in our opinion is Jonkershoek Nature reserve, 9 km outside the town. There are four well-marked hiking trails in the reserve; Tweede Waterval – 6,4km, 2 hours; Swartboskloof to Sosyskloof – 7km, 2 – 2,5; Swartboskloof Trail – 18km, 6 hours and Panorama Circuit – 17km, 6 hours. Our favorite here is the Panorama route, it has some stunning views over the reserve, Stellenbosch and the sea. Safety tips! We’ve never heard about anybody being attacked while hiking in Jonkershoek but it’s better to take precautions, don’t hike alone (especially for girls). On weekends and public holidays there are usually many people walking here but mainly on shorter routes. In summer it’s better to start walking early morning it gets very hot by 10-11 am. Entrance fee ZAR40/US$3 – adults, ZAR20/US$2 – children.
Helderberg Farm hiking trails
Hiking trail on Helderberg farm are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm. There are 5 different routes here; The Green Route – 1,8km, easy, 50min.; The Red Route – 4,5km, moderate easy, 1h20min.; The Yellow Route – 5,8km, moderate, 2h.; The Blue Route – 9km, moderate, steep uphill, 3h30min.; The Brown Route – 11km+, difficult, 4-9 hours, depending on how far you walk on the top. Three longer routes offer stunning views over the area with Table Mountain and the ocean on the far background. There is a lovely tea garden at the farm where you can get light meal or cake with coffee after a tough day of hiking.
Spice Route hiking trails
There are several trails opt for hiking, running and MTB in the vineyards around Spice Route; 2,5km trail for children, 5km, 10km, 20km and 40km trails. The permits can be obtained at the office. It’s a fun place to come on a weekend morning to enjoy group activities and relax afterwards with a glass of wine or beer.
Delvera Hiking trails (Dirtopia)
One more wine farm with many activities to do. There are three hiking trails at Delvera The Delvera vineyard trail – 10km, 2,5h; Vineyard Walk – 6km, 1h30min.; Bird Walk – 1,25km to the dam where you can see many water birds. Trails opened from 8am to 5pm, permit ZAR40/US$3 – adults, ZAR20/US$2 – children.
What to pack for a long hike?
These are essential to have if you’re planning to do a longish hike, 6km+.
Long pants for routes, most of the trail goes through bushes and grass. Comfortable shoes wether hiking or trail running sometimes the terrain is quite rough and rocky. Sunscreen, hat and sunglasses are a must have. Take a thin rain jacket in the mountains it can be windy and humid. Take at least 1,5l of water each if hiking the long routes. Pack snacks or lunch if you’re planning to hike the whole day, the nearest shops and restaurants are in Stellenbosch or back at the farm. Most of the trails are well-marked no need in GPS but take a phone with just in case of emergency.
Mountain biking Stellenbosch
Mountain biking is one of the fun things to do in Stellenbosch. The area around Stellenbosch is a great place for this, many wine estates have MTB trails, what a pleasure to start a day with cycling through the vineyards and continue it with drinking fine wines and eating delicious food.
Best MTB trails around Stellenbosch
- Spice Route
- Uitkyk wine farm
- Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
- Paradyskloof Plantation
- Coetzenburg MTB Trails
- Dirtopia Trail Centre
4×4 driving in Stellenbosch
For 4×4 fans there are some hard core track in the area, to drive some of them you’ll need quite a bit of off road experience another are quite easy to conquer for beginners. Some of the best 4×4 routes are at Helderberg farm.
Wine estates in Stellenbosch
There are 200 wine and grape farms around Stellenbosch and unless you’re planning to live here for a couple of years there is no way of visiting all of them. Our advice don’t go to more than 3 or 4 wine estates a day for tasting after tasting 20+ different wines it gets very confusing and you stop tasting the difference. You can select what wine farms to visit according to the quality of their wines, estates with the best restaurants, cheapest tasting, most beautiful view etc. Here are some of our favorite wine farms around Stellenbosch (we still have many to discover).
Which wine farms to visit if I have only one day in Stellenbosch?
- Best and most beautiful views – Tokara wine estate.
- Fanciest wine farm with great views – Delaire Graff wine estate.
- Good wines and great value for money – Simonsig wine farm.
- Express tasting if you don’t have much time or travel with children – Fairview wine and cheese farm.
- Combine wine tasting with hiking or MTB – Helderberg wine farm.
Simonsig wine farm
For champagne lovers Simonsig is the place to come. Beautiful place, hidden in the vineyards, with a nice restaurant and a lovely outside area for tasting. We really liked the Brut (though we’re not the biggest sparkling wine lovers). Their white wines are fruity and will go well with some ice on a hot summer day. Chardonnay was our favorite here, the Chenin Blanc was very fruity, strong pineapple – tropical fruit aromas. Tasting is from ZAR50/US$4 for 5 wines/champagnes. If you buy a bottle of wine you don’t pay for tasting. You can add a cheese platter to your wine tasting.
Tokara wine estate
If you ask me what is the most beautiful wine farm in Stellenbosch I’ll say Tokara. Located on the top of a hill surrounded by mountains and vineyards with a stunning view over the area, this is the farm to come for beautiful photos. Don’t miss their selfie spot up hill in the vineyards. Needless to say the wines here are great but even if you it’s too expensive for you come here just for the great views. Wine tasting from ZAR75/US$6 for 5 wines. There is a restaurant with a great view where you can have lunch or dinner.
Delaire Graff wine estate
Easily can be named as the fanciest wine farm in Stellenbosch, boutique like place with fine wines, expensive restaurant and souvenir shops. Many foreign tourists come here with tours from Cape Town. The farm is beautiful with great views over the valley, many art works, flowers, fountains everything you’d expect to see in a place like this.
Jordan Wine estate
Jordan wine estate was rated several time as one of the top wine farms in South Africa. From the tasted wines we liked the most their Merlot 2015, we did not love the Syrah 2016, but we did a standard tasting not the reserve one, their best wines are from the reserve collection. The estate restaurant serves fine lunch for ZAR200/US$16 pp including wine and pairing five-course dinner ZAR975/US$80 for two people. There is a deli bakery here they have nice coffee and pastry, pizzas and burgers looked delicious. Instead of fancy three course lunch you can get away with juicy burger or crusty pizza. Wine tasting ZAR30/US$3 for four wines.
Fairview wine and cheese tasting
If you’re a bit limited in time and would like to do some quick and easy tasting Fairview is the place to come. It is quite touristy and gets busy especially on weekends but everything works fast. The place might give you a bit of a factory feeling it’s not a place to come for a relax and slow motion wine tasting it’s more grab and go vibe. Nothing is wrong with their wines and cheeses, they are good value for money as well as tasting. We recommend wine and cheese tasting, you get 6 wines and 6 cheeses to try, specific cheese goes with a certain wine. Price ZAR40/US$3 pp for 6 wines/6 cheeses. Cheeses were good we bought some right here at the shop, out of tasted wines we liked Shiraz the most. If you travel with children they will enjoy watching goats walking around, climbing to the tower and crossing the bridge, Fairview is famous for their goat herds.
Another big and busy place great to come with children is Spice Route, 500m from Fairview. Here you can compliment your wine and cheese tasting at Fairview with beer, chocolate, wine, cured meat and ice-cream tasting. It’s a whole complex with many different micro factories and breweries, very popular with locals to come on Saturday or Sunday morning. Chocolate tasting is ZAR30/US$3 pp you can taste 10 different chocolates. If you want to know more about the process and get more info do tasting. There is a pizza place, a breakfast place, a coffee roastery, a brewery and a chocolate factory here.
Except for eating, drinking and tasting at Spice Route you can challenge yourself with mountain biking, hiking or running, there are several trails through the vineyards from 100 m trail for children to 30 km loop for experienced cyclists. Most locals come here early morning cycle one of the routes and then chill at the restaurant or coffee shop. There are showers here you can refresh and change after an adventurous morning.
Guest Houses in Stellenbosch
For those who look for a good value for money place Laanhof Studios in the center of Stellenbosch is a nice option. There are one and two bedroom units if you’re a big family or a couple of friends you stay in one apartment. All units have AC, flat screen TV, private bathroom, wi-fi, BBQ facilities, fully equipped kitchen, good sound isolation, terrace or balcony, free private parking behind the security gate. Double room ZAR1050/US$87.
If you’re looking for a great stay in the heart of Stellenbosch Twice Central guest house is the right place for you. Rated as one of the best places to stay for couple in the area it offers impeccable service and very comfortable stay. Modern and cozy rooms with extra large comfortable beds has all you need to enjoy the evenings after a busy day of exploring the area. Rooms feature AC, flat screen TV, satellite channels, wi-fi, mini bar, fridge, free toiletries, coffee machine etc. Outside swimming pool, lovely garden, private parking are for guests’ use. Delicious continental breakfast is included in room rates. Double rooms from ZAR1800/US$149 per night.
Enjoy stunning scenery far from tourist and student crowds in a tranquility of vineyards in Aardely Luxury lodges. Old Dutch-style cottages hidden in the vineyards offer an exclusive stay 8 km away from the center of Stellenbosch. This place will exceed your expectations! Lodges has private entrances, AC, fire place, wi-fi, incredible comfortable extra large bed, big bathroom with a shower and a bath, complementary toiletries, coffee machine, free iPad for guests’ use, coffee machine and many other great facilities. Outdoor swimming pool with beautiful view, daily cleaning service, delicious breakfast all to turn your stay here into an incredible experience. Luxury suite with the view ZAR3000/US$250.
Stellenbosch Food and Craft markets
Root 44 market at Audacia wine estate
It’s definitely our favorite weekend market around Cape Town; great vibe, live music, delicious food from all over the world, interesting craft things – a great place to spend Sunday with friends and family. They have a huge children area with jumping castles, climbing ropes, small pools etc. your kids will love it here. Our advise don’t come here early, before 10am there is not much going on till then. If you’re a group of people and would like to get a table it’s better to be here between 10am and 11am. What to try here? There are plenty of things for any taste or diet; Lebanese shawarma (our favorite, buy it every time) with lamb, chicken or veggies, Mexican tacos and burritos, Japanese sushi, Italian pizza, South African steaks, Chinese noodles, many vegetarian and vegan dishes, sweet stalls, ice creams, juices, craft beer, wine and coffee. The best way to try as much as you can to take different dishes and share them. Most places accept only cash, there are ATMs inside the market. Opened every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Stellenbosch Slow Market
Smaller scale market where you can buy products from local farmers or Stellenbosch producers, nice almost family vibe as many locals know each other, good food, interesting handcraft souvenirs. Cozy place where locals come to socialize on Saturday morning. Market is opened every Saturday from 9am to 2pm at Oude Libertas Road in Stellenbosch.
Best coffee shops in Stellenbosch
There are many coffee shops in the center of Stellenbosch many of them have lovely terraces, roast coffee and bake awesome pastries. Here are our favorite places.
Häzz coffee roastery and espresso bar
Great coffee, delicious pastry, nice vibe, good service, complementary wi-fi. If you’re a digital nomad it’s the place to come in the morning for a couple of hours to sit and work on your laptop with a cup of good coffee or cappuccino. Espresso from ZAR18/US$1,5, cappuccino ZAR22/US$2.
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