Governeor Simon van der Stel founded this stately town in 1679 and named it after himself. He probably thought that only this broad and fertile valley was worthy of his respected name. Stellenbosch is the second oldest town in South Africa and its many old buildings and museums are well preserved. It is also affectionately known as “Die Eikestad” (“Town of Oaks”) because of the many oak trees that line the streets.
Adventure And Sport
Angling: The Ida’s Valley Dam is a popular fly-fishing spot. At the foot of the majestic Simonsberg lie two trout still-waters containing some of the largest trout in the country.
Golf: There are three golf courses in the Stellenbosch area.
Hiking: Various hiking routes traverse the area, including a two-hour hike (or 3-km drive) that leads to View Point, from which one can survey the valley. The day trails in the Jonkershoek State Forest take one to clear mountain streams and waterfalls. Hot-air-ballooning Hot-air-ballooning: Hot air balloon trips provide a bird’s eye view of the valley, its vineyards and majestic mountains.
Jonkershoek River Valley: In addition to various historical tours, there are several horse-riding, hiking and walking trails through the fertile Jonkershoek River Valley.
Outdoor Activities: A variety of activities are available, namely cycling, mountain-biking, hiking and horse trails.
Vineyard Hiking Trail: The 16-km Vineyard Trail offers a rewarding hike through the hills and wine estates.
Art And Crafts
Art Galleries: The University of Stellenbosch is one of the oldest tertiary education centres in the country. Apart from the beauty and historic atmosphere of the campus, the campus also has two art galleries. Various sculptures, paintings, etchings and ceramics, as well as African artefacts, are housed at the SASOL Art Museum and the Stellenbosch Art Gallery.
Dombeya Farm: Dombeya Farm has a hand-spinning and dyeing workshop that sells a variety of hand-knitted woollen jerseys.
Libertas Parva: This establishment houses a Rembrandt van Rijn Art Museum.
Stellenbosch Wine Route: The Stellenbosch Wine Route is one of the icons of the Western Cape. There are over 30 wine estates around Stellenbosch, which, after Constantia Valley, is the oldest winemaking centre in South Africa. From the start, wine and its production were an integral part of the community’s life and culture. The granite soils, found mostly against the eastern mountain slopes, are well suited to the growing of grapes for quality red wines, while the vineyards towards the west, on the sandy soils of sandstone, favour the production of white wines. The moderate and fairly cool climate, with rain largely confined to the winter months and with hot dry summers, produces some of the most outstanding quality cultivars. There are some 260 different vintages available for tasting on the wine route. Many of the cellars also have fine restaurants and provide picnic baskets. There is no better way for a fledgling wine lover to gain an intimate glimpse into the world of the winemaker. Wines may be taken away immediately or can be delivered, both within South Africa and abroad. For more information on the wine route, visit its website at http://www.wineroute.co.za
Strawberry Farming: The Stellenbosch area is also a fertile strawberry-farming area and boxes of strawberries can be bought at very reasonable prices at any of the farm stalls, provided, of course, that they are in season.
Van Ryk Brandy Cellar: Demonstrations of the distillation of brandy and the making of barrels are conducted at the Van Ryk Brandy Cellar.
Wine Vats: The wine vats of the Bergkelder Cellars are tunnels that run into the side of Papegaai Berg (“Parrot Mountain”).
Entertainment And Shopping
Oude Libertas Amphitheatre: The amphitheatre is part of the Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery Centre. The theatre regularly hosts events such as ballet and opera from December to March and wine is served during intervals. Visitors are also welcome to bring their picnic baskets along during the Sunday afternoon concerts.
Spier Estate: Spier is one of the prime tourist attractions in town. The stately buildings include restaurants, a wine centre and banqueting halls. Added attractions are pony rides and the cheetah breeding centre. The Spier Steam Train leaves from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town and takes visitors on a tour through the vineyards.
Oom Samie se Winkel: This old-fashioned style shop, one of the first trading stores to be opened in Stellenbosch, still sells a wide variety of items.
Fauna And Flora
Assegaaibosch Nature Reserve: The reserve protects a part of the Jonkershoek Valley that is naturally rich in rare proteas. More than 130 species of birds and 40 species of mammals, including leopard and the Cape grysbok, can be seen here.
Butterfly World: Butterfly World, where one can walk amongst some 24 species of delicate butterflies and small birds, encourages the breeding of these small flying beauties.
Game Farms: There is a range of game farms within easy reach of Stellenbosch, such as Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm, Drakenstein Lion Park and Spier Cheetah Farm.
Botanical Gardens: Hortus Botanicus is the botanical gardens of the University of Stellenbosch. The gardens protect a large variety of indigenous succulents, cycads, orchids and welwitschias.
Jan Marais Nature Reserve: The Jan Marais Nature Reserve is a botanical reserve whose wild flowers are at their best during September and October.
Jonkershoek trout hatchery: Explore the Jonkershoek trout hatchery along the various hiking trails.
History And Architecture
The town’s eighteenth-century heritage, historical homes, and 76 national monuments take one back to its glorous past.
Berg House: The House contains many of the items found in a typical Victorian residence.
The Braak: The Braak, or town common, lies at the centre of the town. The area is surrounded by beautifully restored historical buildings, such as Burgher House, St Mary’s-on¬the-Braak Anglican Church and the Verenigde Oost Indische Compagnie (VOC)(Dutch East India Company) Arsenal.
Buildings: The gabled Bletterman House reflects the French lifestyle of 1789 and Grosvenor House is a neoclassical building dating from 1800.
Dutch Reformed Mother Church: The Dutch Reformed Mother Church in Drostdy Street includes the walls of the original church, built in 1722. Some of the members of old Stellenbosch families are buried here.
Ghost tour: Many of the ancient inhabitants seem to refuse to leave their homes and still roam the town. A special ghost tour tries to catch them in their wanderings.
Historical Walking Tours: Explore the town centre on foot and know that you are walking down a path trodden by many generations of people. Dorp Street features the longest row of old buildings in the country. The buildings include an old Lutheran Church and the Town House.
Rhenish Complex: This group of buildings reflects much of the architectural history of Stellenbosch. The complex houses the toy and miniature museum.
Schreuderhuis: This dwelling is one of the first of 12 establishments that formed the pioneer settlement.
Village Museum: The Stellenbosch Village Museum consists of a complex of restored houses dating from as far back as 1709. The furnishings and gardens of these houses reflect the various periods in which they were first built, from the late seventeenth to the middle nineteenth centuries.
VOC Kruithuis: Visitors who have an interest in military should not miss this museum, which was a powder magazine built by the Dutch East Company in 1777.
Rustenburg Health Hydro: For visitors who are very stressed and feel that they need to be pampered, a visit to this world-famous resort is a definite must.
Shows: Stellenbosch annually showcases a variety of events, such as the Stellenbosch Street and Music Festival in September and the Food and Wine Festival in October.