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Stellenbosch is at once a wine and food capital, a lively university town, and a historical hub. Just an hour’s drive east of Cape Town and set at the foot of the Stellenbosch Mountain, it’s easy to visit either on a day out from the city or as a stop-off on a self-drive tour of South Africa.

While there, other than hopping between the area’s wine estates and taking in the mountainous backdrop, you can walk along the town’s oak-lined avenues, admiring the Cape Dutch architecture and stopping to sample some of the local food. Each dish helps tell the story of Stellenbosch’s colonial history, which dates back to 1679.

Dusk in StellenboschAfter Cape Town, Stellenbosch was the second European settlement in South Africa thanks to its strategic position on the banks of the Eerste River. Its colonial history is everywhere you turn, from the Cape Dutch farmsteads whose white exteriors shine brightly against the green countryside to the Victorian and Georgian mansions that are set on streets lined with 300-year-old oaks. Stellenbosch University’s student population brings a more youthful feel to the town, and you can enjoy drinks in some of the bars that come to life in the evening.

To learn more about the town’s roots, join a three-and-a-half-hour food tour. Your local guide leads you on foot through Stellenbosch’s historic heart, stopping at various cafés, gourmet restaurants and delicatessens to sample some of the food staples that reflect the town’s heritage.

You might suck on traditional sweets, visit a butcher to chew on biltong, sip rooibos tea in a locally owned tea shop, or sit down to eat dishes such as bobotie (minced-meat casserole), chakalaka (spicy vegetable relish) and koesister (a sweet pastry).

As you walk, your guide points out key landmarks, such as the 18th-century Moederkerk (Mother Church) and the Victorian buildings along Dorp Street, many of which house boutiques, galleries and fine-dining restaurants.

Wine tasting in Stellenbosch

Vineyards in StellenboschThe Cape Winelands comprises the Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl Valleys, whose fertile soil is conducive to growing a mixture of grapes. Stellenbosch in particular is renowned for its viticulture, and there are hundreds of world-class wine estates strewn across the town’s outskirts.

You can visit many of these wineries independently to taste some of their best reds and whites. Some will offer free samples if you agree to buy a bottle or two after tasting. With Paarl and Franschhoek both within an hour’s drive, you could spend a whole day tasting your way through the Winelands — if you don’t want to drive yourself, we can arrange for you to travel with a private driver.

Alternatively, you can tour some of the nearby wineries with local guide and wine expert Pietman Retief. Having grown up in the area, Pietman knows many of the wine producers personally and can tailor the tour to best suit your interests, even throwing in local art or history.

Best time to visit Stellenbosch

Between September and April is an excellent time to visit Stellenbosch, as this is when many vintages of wine are released. The weather is also warm and dry at this time of year.

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Map of Stellenbosch

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