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TThe Groot Constantia winelands, founded in 1685, comprise South Africa’s oldest wine estate. Set in magnificent gardens with views over Cape Town, the farm has consistently produced top quality wines over the centuries. Its manor house is a leading tourist attraction, as are the fine restaurants of the winelands in Constantia.
The Groot Constantia winelands are renowned for their quality wines, which visitors can taste at the estate. But this bit of history is so much more than just a wine estate.
Simon van der Stel arrived at the Cape as commander in 1679 and soon after was appointed the first governor of the settlement. Six years later he was given the right to select for himself a tract of land to use for his own purposes.
After an extensive investigation he chose ‘the heatherlands, morasses, wheat and woodlands' of a valley he named Constantia.
Here slaves began planting thousands of vines, orchards and oak trees, and building the first of the great Cape homesteads, the Groot Constantia manor house that is now one of the leading tourist attractions in the region.
Accessed along an avenue of oaks, the thatched Cape Dutch house features gables, dungeons and a stone bath in which slaves washed their feet during grape pressing. The wine cellar with the pediment depicting Ganymede and Bacchus was added later at the winelands in Constantia.
After Van der Stel's death in 1712, the estate was divided into three: the Groot Constantia winelands, Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting, all of which are on the Constantia Wine Route that winds through the Constantia winelands in Cape Town.
Iziko Museums Cape Town has three museums on the Groot Constantia winelands: the beautifully restored manor house is a must for those interested in early Cape history; the Orientation Centre contains artefacts from the early days of the estate; and the original Cloete Cellar houses historical drinking vessels and wine-making equipment.
There are also conference facilities and the excellent Jonkershuis Restaurant, which specialises in Cape Malay cuisine. Weather permitting, there is no better way to enjoy this national heritage site than with a picnic on the terrace overlooking Cape Town.
TTravel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Groot Constantia winelands
Tel: +27 (0)21 794 5128
How to get here
The Groot Constantia winelands are easily accessible by road and well signposted. The Constantia area is also on numerous taxi and bus routes.
Best time to visit
Any time of year.
Things to do in the area
Cape Town's Hout Bay harbour is close by. Drop in for some of the best and freshest fish in the country.
Tours to do
Take in the Constantia Wine Route, the shortest in Western Cape, which includes Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting.
What will it cost?
Wine tasting is R25 for five wines. There is a nominal charge to view the manor house.
Length of stay
Half-day to full day.
What to pack
A hat and comfortable walking shoes. In summer (December to February) it can be very hot, so dress accordingly. Winters can be cold and wet, so warm clothes and wet weather gear are essential.
Where to stay
Cape Town has numerous quality establishments, from budget B&Bs to award-winning hotels, up and down the peninsula on either side of Groot Constantia.
What to eat
The Jonkershuis Restaurant at Groot Constantia prepares exquisite Cape Malay dishes and also offers picnic baskets to be enjoyed on the terrace overlooking Cape Town.
There are regular events at the winelands in Constantia, so check their website for regular updates.
Wine; what else!?