History of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is situated about 50 kilometers east of Cape Town, along the bank of the Eerste River. After Cape Town, it is the second oldest European settlement in the province. The town became known as Eikestad or the City of Oaks due to the large number of oak trees that were planted by Simon van der Stel to grace the homesteads and trees. The town is also home to the University of Stellenbosch.

Stellenbosch was founded by Simon van der Stel in 1679, when he was appointed Governor of the Cape and travelled over to South Africa from Holland. After arriving in Cape Town, he and his party journeyed towards the Mountains of Africa, where eventually they came across a lush valley, which Simon van der Stel described as a level valley, very suitable for agriculture, provided with water from the passing river. Van der Stel's party pitched tents on an island (which has long since disappeared) and named the area Stellenbosch or 'Van der Stel's bush'. Within a few years the valley was dotted with thatched houses and the ground was being used for agriculture.

So Stellenbosch was formed and tot this day, is as charming as always. Ancient Oak trees line the streets and the white buildings are well maintained to give a feel of the historic roots of this town.

Historical Heritage and attractions in Stellenbosch

Dorp Street has the longest historic buildings in the country. Amongst these is the old Lutheran Church, built in 1851 by Carl Otto Hager, and is used by the university as an art gallery.
Die Braak, the village green was once used for military parades and festivals.

Moederkerk/church, this fascinating church was built in the Neo-Gothic Architecture Style, one of the only landmarks of its kind.

Oom Samie se Winkel
. This small traditional shop sells everything from chewing tabacco, musical spittoons, biltong, sweets, spices and leather goods. Well worth a look around, the shop is open every day from 08h00 to 17h30.

Toy and Miniature Museum
. Collection of 1:12 scale miniatures, room boxes, miniature houses, antique dolls and other toys. A model railway, the only of it's kind in Africa. The Museum has a small shop where the Doll's House furniture and accessories are offered for sale. Monday - Saturday: 09:30-17:00.

Stellenbosch Village Museum
is a collection of historic houses dating from a number of eras, they have been meticulously restored and furnished in period style. The museum is open Monday - Saturday: 09:30-17:00 and Sundays: 14:00-17:00.

Franschhoek Motor Museum: A museum with a difference in the Gateway to the Winelands. Visit the biggest collection of South African Classic Cars under one roof en route to the Winelands.

Stellenbosch University Museum. The University Museum (incorporating the Sasol Art Museum and University of Stellenbosch Art Gallery) is housed in the old Bloemhof School. The University has rich holdings of sculpture, paintings, ceramics and graphics by South African and foreign artists as well as prehistoric artefacts.
Monday - Friday: 09:00-17:00, Saturday: 09:00-13:00.

Other Places of Interest in Stellenbosch

Die Bergkelder. The Bergkelder hugs the steep slopes of the historic Papegaaiberg mountain. One of the most advanced and the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, this 'cellar in the mountain' was built in 1968.

Van Ryn's Brandy Centre. The cellar was built in 1904, by a Hollander, named Boon. In the construction of the buildings, he used large rounded rocks from the Eerste River.

Vergelegen Wine Estate is unlike any previously designed in South Africa. The octagonal design of the winery reflects that of the octagonal walled garden laid out by Willem Adriaan van der Stel in 1700.

Cheetah Outreach @ Paardevlei, Somerset West. Cheetah Outreach is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year to the public.  We are open from 09:30-17:00.  You do not need to make a booking to visit the facility. 

Stellenbosch Winelands

Stellenbosch is synonymous with the oldest Wine Route in the country, which draws wine-lovers and tourists from around the world. The Stellenbosch Wine Route now comprises of more than 110 cellars, of whom most are open to the public, and where some of the finest, award-winning wines can be samples. Wines of the region are of a very high standard and regularly win international awards.

Many of the cellars offer wine-tastings, tours and cellar door sales (many will ship wine right to your door), and some have restaurant and picnic facilities, accommodation, gift shops, art galleries and even wildlife experiences.

Stop for wine-tasting, take a walk through the vineyards, go on a wine safari. Read more about the exciting and entertaining experiences that the Stellenbosch Wine Routes have to offer on the Stellenbosch Wine Routes Blog.

Click here for a list of Stellenbosch Wine Farms.

Eating Out in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch has a vast number of different cafes, restaurants and take away's to suit any palette. There is a wide cost range too, but again there is somewhere to accommodate everyone. As Stellenbosch is a tourist destination, it is essential to book for an evening meal in the high season, this will avoid any disappointment.

Click here for a List of Stellenbosch Restaurants.

Shopping in Stellenbosch

As most of Stellenbosch's shops are centrally located, the best way to explore them is on foot. There is a wide range of shoips and small shopping centres. Stellenbosch has some very traditional shops as well as modern shops. Visit the Eikestad Mall and Stellenbosch Square in Jamestown.

If this is too small then only 20 minutes away is the regions largest shopping centre, Somerset Mall in Somerset West.

Sport & Adventure

Stellenbosch University boasts a Sport Science Department - a first of its kind in South Africa - boasts modern facilities, including laboratories, an outdoor and indoor pool, squash courts and a modern gymnasium.

For the golf enthusiast, there is the 18-hole golf course, Stellenbosch Golf Club.

Nature-lovers are spoilt for choice as horse trailsand cycle trails meander through fynbos, mountains and vineyards.

Hiking through the Jonker's Hoek Nature Reserve is both beautiful and exciting with different experiences depending on the season. Winter will offer tumbling waterfalls and bubbling streams, while summer will offer hot sunny days and dry heat.