Stellenbosch, Cape Town: Things to Do & Places to Visit

A picturesque and tranquil image of Stellenbosch in Cape Town

Stellenbosch, located in the Western Cape Province near Cape Town, South Africa, is renowned for its rich history, architectural charm, and, most notably, its world-class wineries. As the second oldest European settlement in the province, Stellenbosch is not just a wine lover’s paradise but also a cultural and historical hub. This guide will take you through the best experiences Stellenbosch has to offer, from its vineyards to its vibrant town center.

Best Time to Visit Stellenbosch:

  • Spring (September to November): The vineyards are in bloom, and the weather is pleasant.
  • Autumn (March to May): Ideal for witnessing the grape harvest and wine-making process.

15 Things to Do in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch, located near Cape Town in South Africa’s Western Cape, is renowned for its rich history, beautiful architecture, and, most notably, as a premier wine-producing region. Here’s a list of things to do when visiting Stellenbosch:

Stellenbosch vineyards
  1. Wine Tasting and Winery Tours: Stellenbosch is at the heart of the South African wine industry, home to numerous award-winning wineries. Enjoy wine tastings, cellar tours, and exquisite wine pairings at estates like Tokara, Delaire Graff, and Spier.
  2. Explore the Stellenbosch University Campus: The university adds a vibrant atmosphere to the town. The campus is beautiful, with classic Cape Dutch architecture, and is worth exploring for its historic buildings and energetic ambiance.
  3. Visit the Stellenbosch Village Museum: This museum consists of four houses, each representing a different period in the town’s early history, offering a glimpse into the life of the region in the 17th to 19th centuries.
  4. Walk Through the Historic Town Center: Stellenbosch’s town center is a mix of historical buildings, art galleries, shops, restaurants, and cafes. The oak-lined streets and Cape Dutch architecture are particularly picturesque.
  5. Jonkershoek Nature Reserve: Perfect for nature lovers, this reserve offers hiking and mountain biking trails with breathtaking mountain and valley views.
  6. Dine at World-Class Restaurants: Stellenbosch is home to some of South Africa’s best restaurants, offering a range of gourmet cuisine, often made with fresh, local ingredients.
  7. Art Galleries and Studios: Explore local art at various galleries and studios in Stellenbosch. The town is known for its vibrant art scene, with works ranging from contemporary to traditional.
  8. Stellenbosch Botanical Garden: This small but charming garden is home to a variety of plants and trees, both local and exotic, and is a peaceful spot for a leisurely walk.
  9. Attend a Music Concert or Theatre Show: Check out The Stellenbosch University’s Conservatoire, which hosts a variety of musical and theatrical performances throughout the year.
  10. Stellenbosch Farmers’ Market: Visit the farmers’ market for fresh local produce, homemade goods, and a lively atmosphere.
  11. Helshoogte Pass: Drive or cycle through this scenic mountain pass that offers stunning views of the Winelands and connects Stellenbosch with the Drakenstein Valley.
  12. Golfing: For golf enthusiasts, Stellenbosch offers several world-class golf courses set against picturesque backdrops.
  13. Dorp Street: Famous for its preserved Cape Dutch architecture, Dorp Street is also a hub for cafes, boutiques, and art galleries.
  14. Biking Tours: Join a guided bike tour to explore the vineyards and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of the Winelands.
  15. Student Nightlife: Experience the vibrant nightlife of Stellenbosch, which is energized by its student population. There are numerous bars and clubs that offer a lively evening out.

Stellenbosch offers a blend of cultural, historical, and natural attractions, making it a diverse and enjoyable destination for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur, a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or just looking to relax in a beautiful setting, Stellenbosch has something special to offer.

Wine Tasting and Vineyard Tours:

  • World-Class Wineries: Home to over 150 wineries, offering tastings of internationally acclaimed wines, particularly Pinotage and Chenin Blanc.
  • Wine Tram: A popular way to explore multiple vineyards without the worry of driving.

Historical and Cultural Attractions:

  • Stellenbosch University: A prestigious institution with beautiful architecture and a vibrant student culture.
  • Dorp Street and Town Center: Known for its oak-lined avenues and preserved Cape Dutch architecture, offering a glimpse into the town’s history.
  • Stellenbosch Village Museum: Consists of four houses, each representing a different period in the town’s history.

Outdoor Activities:

  • Jonkershoek Nature Reserve: Offers hiking and mountain biking trails with stunning scenery.
  • Golfing: Stellenbosch boasts several world-class golf courses set against the backdrop of the mountains.

Arts and Culture:

  • Art Galleries: The town is home to numerous art galleries showcasing local and international artists.
  • Music and Theatre: Regular performances at the university and local theatres.

Dining and Shopping:

  • Gourmet Restaurants: Many wineries feature top-notch restaurants serving local and international cuisine.
  • Local Markets: Weekly markets offer local crafts, foods, and live music.

Foods to eat in Stellenbosch, Cape Town

Stellenbosch, known for its rich culinary heritage and being at the heart of South Africa’s wine country, offers a diverse array of dining experiences. Here’s a guide to some of the foods and dining experiences you should consider when visiting Stellenbosch:

Stellenbosch Restaurant
  1. Wine Estate Dining: Many of the renowned wine estates in and around Stellenbosch have top-notch restaurants offering gourmet meals. These often feature locally sourced ingredients and are paired with their estate wines. Dishes might include fresh seafood, traditional South African game meats, and a variety of vegetarian options.
  2. Traditional South African Braai: Experience the local flavors with a traditional South African braai (barbecue). This is not just a meal; it’s a social event featuring grilled meats like boerewors (South African sausage), steaks, and lamb chops, often served with side dishes like pap (a type of maize porridge) and chakalaka (a spicy vegetable relish).
  3. Cape Malay Cuisine: Reflecting the area’s cultural heritage, Cape Malay cuisine is a must-try in Stellenbosch. Enjoy dishes like bobotie (a spiced minced meat bake), Cape Malay curry, and samosas, known for their rich flavors and unique blend of spices.
  4. Fresh Local Produce: The region’s fertile valleys produce a range of fresh fruits and vegetables. Enjoy these in local salads, side dishes, and as part of gourmet creations in restaurants.
  5. Farm-to-Table Experiences: With the abundance of fresh produce, many restaurants focus on farm-to-table dining, offering menus that change with the seasons and feature the best local ingredients available.
  6. Artisanal Cheese and Charcuterie: The region is also known for its artisanal cheese and cured meats. Visit local markets or enjoy cheese and charcuterie boards paired with local wines at wine estates.
  7. Biltong and Droëwors: These traditional South African dried meats are a staple snack and something you should definitely try. They are flavorful and often enjoyed with a glass of wine.
  8. Bakeries and Cafés: Stellenbosch has a variety of bakeries and cafes where you can enjoy fresh pastries, artisan bread, and excellent coffee.
  9. Seafood: Being close to the coast, seafood is fresh and commonly featured on menus. Look for dishes incorporating local fish like Kingklip, Snoek, or Yellowtail.
  10. Dessert Wines and Sweets: Stellenbosch is famous for its dessert wines, which pair wonderfully with local sweets like malva pudding (a sweet sponge pudding of Dutch origin), milk tart, and koeksisters (a sweet, syrupy twisted pastry).
  11. Fine Dining: For a more upscale dining experience, Stellenbosch is home to several award-winning restaurants that offer sophisticated dishes in elegant settings, often with beautiful views of the surrounding vineyards and mountains.
  12. Food Markets: The local food markets are a great place to sample a variety of foods, from traditional South African dishes to international cuisine.

Dining in Stellenbosch is not just about the food; it’s about the overall experience. The combination of fresh ingredients, skilled chefs, and stunning settings make for an unforgettable culinary journey.


  • Range of Options: From luxury vineyard estates to cozy guesthouses and boutique hotels in the town center.

Nearby Attractions:

  • Franschhoek: Another renowned wine-producing area, known for its exquisite culinary scene.
  • Cape Town: About an hour’s drive, offering Cape Town beaches, Table Mountain, and a range of urban attractions.

Travel Tips:

  • Transportation: Renting a car is the best way to explore Stellenbosch and the surrounding wine routes.
  • Safety: While Stellenbosch is generally safe, it’s advisable to take standard safety precautions.

History of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is steeped in history and is known for its rich cultural heritage and as a center of the South African wine industry. Here’s an overview of its historical development:

  1. Early Settlement and Founding: Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 by Simon van der Stel, the then governor of the Dutch East India Company in the Cape. He named the settlement after himself – Stellenbosch means “(van der) Stel’s Bush”. It is the second-oldest European settlement in the province, after Cape Town.
  2. Development of the Town: The fertile valley and river provided excellent conditions for agriculture. Early settlers planted gardens and orchards, and the town quickly grew. By the end of the 17th century, vineyards were established, laying the foundations for what would become a world-renowned wine region.
  3. Establishment of Stellenbosch University: In 1866, Stellenbosch Gymnasium was established, which later became Stellenbosch College and then in 1918, Stellenbosch University. The university played a crucial role in the development of the town, both educationally and culturally, and is now one of the leading research and educational institutions in South Africa.
  4. Architectural Development: The town is known for its well-preserved Cape Dutch architecture, with buildings dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. This style features distinctive gables, thatched roofs, and white-washed walls, reflecting the architectural heritage brought by the Dutch settlers.
  5. Agricultural Expansion and the Wine Industry: The surrounding areas of Stellenbosch became a major center for wine production in South Africa. The combination of Mediterranean climate, fertile soil, and the skills of the local winemakers helped establish Stellenbosch as a premier wine-producing region.
  6. 20th Century and Apartheid Era: Throughout the 20th century, Stellenbosch experienced significant growth and development. However, like much of South Africa, it was also impacted by the apartheid regime. The university, in particular, was a center of intellectual resistance to apartheid in the latter part of the 20th century.
  7. Modern Era and Tourism: In recent years, Stellenbosch has become a major tourist destination, known for its scenic beauty, historic architecture, and wine estates. The town’s economy is now bolstered by tourism, the wine industry, and education.
  8. Cultural Significance: Stellenbosch holds a significant place in South African culture, with a rich tradition in the arts, music, and literature. It is also a center for Afrikaans language and culture.

The history of Stellenbosch is a tapestry of agricultural development, academic excellence, and cultural richness. Its well-preserved historical character, combined with its modern vibrancy, makes it a unique and fascinating destination in South Africa.

Stellenbosch offers a blend of scenic beauty, historical depth, and culinary excellence. Whether you’re exploring its vineyards, enjoying its rich cultural scene, or simply wandering through its picturesque streets, Stellenbosch provides an unforgettable experience just a short drive from Cape Town.

Social Share