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TThe Stellenbosch winelands are considered to be the capital of the South African wine industry. With more than 60 estates currently operating, it's the leading centre for viticulture and viticultural research.
Simon van der Stel arrived at the Cape as commander in 1679 and soon after was appointed its first governor. Later that year he undertook his first tour of inspection, which brought him to ‘the most charming valley he had ever seen' - the Stellenbosch winelands.
So enchanted was he that he set up camp in a grove he named Stellenbosch, and there decided to establish a second settlement after Cape Town. He grew to love the town, spending his birthdays there. And he ordered the planting of the oaks, which is why it is sometimes referred to as Eikestad, or ‘town of oaks'. Today these massive trees shade the historic Dorp Street, which runs through the well-preserved old town.
While initially established as a centre to produce fruit and vegetables, van der Stel had a hunch that its Mediterranean climate would be ideal for wine growing. He was right.
The region now boasts South Africa's oldest wine route, where visitors can taste the produce of more than 40 Stellenbosch wine estates. Based on the French route de vin and German wine routes, it was launched in 1971.
Together with great wines, some of the finest restaurants in the Western Cape are located on these estates, many of which offer other attractions such as horse-riding trails.
There are scenic walks in and around the area, including a full-day trek through the winelands in Stellenbosch. As an important cultural and heritage centre there are also many museums and galleries, especially in the old part of town.
Travel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Stellenbosch Wine Route
Tel: +27 (0)21 886-4310 / (0)21 886-4330
How to get here
Stellenbosch is easily accessible by road, about a 45-minute drive from Cape Town.
Best time to visit
Any time of year. Winter, however, can be chilly and wet in this part of the world.
Things to do
Stellenbosch is both a student and wine town so there's plenty to keep one busy, from raucous nightlife to staid museums and more.
Take the Stellenbosch Wine Route, which is a great way to see the area.
Watch out for the Stellenbosch Wine Festival, an annual event held in August.
What to pack
Comfortable clothes and walking shoes. In summer it is very hot so dress accordingly. Winters can be chilly and wet, so warm clothes and a raincoat are essential.
Where to stay
Stellenbosch has numerous quality establishments from budget B&Bs to award-winning hotels.
What to eat
There are as number of wonderful restaurants in the old town and on most of the wine estates.
- Stellenbosch Tourism Information
- Winelands of the Western Cape
- Stellenbosch 360
- Stellenbosch Wine Route