Stellenbosch is famous for its many fantastic wineries, but there actually are many more things to do in Stellenbosch other than wine tasting. Most travelers visit Stellenbosch on day trips from Cape Town; a few others devote to it two days at most. I spent a full week there and I can guarantee you will hardly have time to get bored!
Located at about 50 km and an hour drive from Cape Town on the banks of the Eerste River, Stellenbosch was founded in 1679 by Simon Van Der Stel (the name Stellenbosch comes from Stel and from “bosch,” which is Afrikaans for “bush”). This is the second oldest town in South Africa after Cape Town, and it is packed with historical buildings, art galleries, fantastic wine bars and excellent restaurants and, lovely small boutiques. In other words, this small town is a real gem that should never miss from any good South Africa itinerary.
In this post, I highlight all the unmissable activities and share some tips that will help you make the most of them.
17 Great Things To Do In Stellenbosch
Take a guided walking tour
A guided tour of the city is a great way to get to know a bit more about its past – for example, that’s how I learned that the city was completely destroyed by a fire in 1710 and then almost entirely rebuilt – as well as its present, its culture and event take in its vibe.
Walking tours usually go to all the most important landmarks in town, including Dorp Street, where you can spot many beautifully kept historical houses built in Cape Dutch style; the General Store Oom Samie Se Winkel, a nice store that seems to have just been transplanted from the past (beware photos aren’t allowed inside); the churches; the former seat of the magistrate and the Village Museum (more about that below).
Go wine tasting
You can’t visit Stellebosch and not go wine tasting – this is quite simply a must-do. The first grapes were planted in the area in the late 17th century by Huguenots refugees, so you can see that there is quite a tradition in wine making.
Wine estates all differ one from the other, and each offers a different activity or wine tasting experience. So for example at Lanzerac you can enjoy wine and chocolate pairing; at Delheim you can pair wines with cupcakes; at Spier you can ride a segway through the farm; at Muratie you can immerse yourself in the history and legends of the farm. And at each of them you can enjoy a fantastic meal (more about food in Stellenbosch later!).
These are some good wine tasting tours that you can book online:
- Five estates full-day wine tour – a great value for money tour. You visit five vineyards with a qualified tour guide, get wine tasting and even lunch.
- Hop-on hop-off wine tour southern route – this is a fully customizable wine tasting tour, whereby you are given transportation to and from the various wineries you want to visit. Keep in mind that the actual wine tasting is not included, so you will have to pay for it separately at the farm.
GOOD TO KNOW: There even is a tuk-tuk winery tour that departs from the Tourist Information center on 47 Church St. You can pick between a half day and a full day tour.
For more information about wine tasting in Stellenbosch, make sure to read my post “7 Amazing Estates To Do Wine Tasting In Stellenbosch.”
Blend your wine at Middelvlei
Wine tasting always comes with a twist in Stellenbosch, and Middelvlei definitely knows how to make it fun. The Momberg family, who has been running the farm for almost 100 years, offers a fantastic range of activities, but the most fun one is by far wine blending. In other words, you get to blend your own wine.
Basically, once there you are handed a bottle of Shiraz, one of Pinotage and one of Merlot, together with the instruments to create your own blend which you will then bottle and label, and take home with you. On and while you do that, a fantastic braai – traditional South African barbecue – is cooking, so when you are done blending you can enjoy a scrumptious meal.
Count the ducks at Vergenoegdt Wine Farm
Vergenoegdt Wine Farm is a must-see if you have children. While this is a great place for wine tasting, the highlight of the visit for many is seeing the thousand Indian runner ducks that roam around the plantation and that, at set times, are moved around one area to the other so that they can keep the grounds pest-free. Ducks are released at 9:30 am and 3:30 pm every day, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly if this is something you want to experience.
Hang out in one of the myriad wine bars
Since drinking wine is one of the things to do in Stellenbosch, you may need a wine bar for that. Good news! There is no shortage of good wine bars in Stellenbosch. Comes 5:00 pm at any day of the week, when they get off work, locals all head to one of the bars to meet friends and enjoy a drink before heading home or going for a meal. You should definitely do the same! You only really need to walk around to find a place to sit and grab a drink, but if you need some pointers, here are some bars you may want to check out:
Simon Wine Bar (De Warenmarkt) – An incredible list of wines, gin cocktails and even craft beer. And oysters, in case you want to splurge.
Bartinney Wine and Champagne Bar – Everyone likes this bar, probably because it is actually very budget friendly.
Brampton Wine Studio – You will find this bar on Church Street. It has plenty of seatings outside.
Love Wine – A truly tiny place, it’s a wine bar as well as a wine shop, extremely local!
If you are looking for a more active way of exploring the city, the wineries and the surroundings, hop on a bike.
You can count on a plethora of biking trails for all difficulty levels. The best place if you enjoy mountain biking is Ditorpia, at Delvera Farm, where you can rent regular or electric bikes and follow the 15 km Porcupine trail or the easier and shorter Farm trail. Besides, biking is one of the most fun ways to go wine tasting, and you can even reach nearby towns such as Franschhoek!
These are the best bike tours you can book online:
- Historical bike tour and wine tasting – a fantastic tours that takes you around the historical sites of Stellenbosch as well as to its best wineries.
- E-bike tour with wine tasting and lunch – a more expensive tour than the previous one, but keep in mind it lasts longer. It actually goes to the nearby Franschhoek (you will go back to Stellenbosch by shuttle bus), and has a full focus on wine tasting.
GOOD TO KNOW: Are you an experienced mountain biker? Then head to the Paradyskloof Plantation – you will have to rent your bike in town; or head to the Coetzenburg mountain bike trails.
Visit the Village Museum
The Village Museum is hosted in four beautifully kept Cape Dutch buildings. Visiting this museum if one of the best things to do in Stellenbosch to get a full understanding of how life used to be in the past. There are various exhibits: the Schreuderhuis, which is the oldest restored townhouse in South Africa; the Blettermanhuis, which was built in 1789 and used to be the seat of the last magistrate that had been appointed by the Dutch East India Company.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Village Museum is located on 18 Ryneveld St. It is open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and on Sundays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm (April to August) and from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (September to March). Admission is 40 Rand (about $2.3 USD at the time of writing).
GOOD TO KNOW: Another cool museum you may want to visit is Rupert Museum, a small private museum with paintings and sculptures made by South African artists. It’s located on Stellentia Road.
Visit the art galleries
One of the nicest things to do in Stellenbosch is visiting the many art galleries and – why not! – shop for a bit of art. There are quite a few galleries around town – all it takes to find one is literally just walking. Here are some I recommend visiting:
DORPSTRAAT GALLERY – What you’ll love about this gallery is the diversity of works (paintings, sculptures, ceramics and even jewelry are displayed), and the strong focus on local artists. Exhibits change regularly.
SMAC (Stellenbosch Modern And Contemporary) – A great gallery showcasing the work of young as well as older local artists, and international ones.
THE RED TEAPOT GALLERY – If you want to bring home a nice painting, this is where you’ll find it.
SPIER – Located insider Spier Wine Farm, this gallery showcases the works of young South African artists who get to work in a studio that was especially created for them. You can pair it with a visit of the wine farm, and a meal at the fabulous on site restaurant.
ABSOLUT ART GALLERY – Quite simply a local institution, with an incredible exhibit of the works of the best known South African artists.
Admire the open air exhibit at Dylan Lewis’ Sculpture Garden
One of the nicest places to visit in Stellenbosch is Dylan Lewis’ Sculpture Garden. He’s one of the most prominent South African artists, and the seven hectares garden host more than 60 sculptures.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The Sculpture Garden is located on Mulberry Farm and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. It works by appointment only. Admission fee is R150 (around $9 USD).
GOOD TO KNOW: For more open air art, you just have to walk around town. Each year a different art exhibition is hosted, with sculptures placed at street corners. When I visited, the statues showcased could be used as very artsy bike stands!
Explore Stellenbosch Botanical Garden
Stellenbosch is a university town – and a large one indeed, with more than 30000 enrolled students. The campus is actually quite a pleasant place to visit, not to mention home to the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa. If you are interested in flora, visiting the botanical garden is definitely one of the things to do in Stellenbosch. There is a lovely small café on site that is perfect for a break.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Admission fee to the botanical garden is R15 (less than $1 USD).
Visit the nearby Kayamandi
One of the most interesting things to do in Stellenbosch is a guided tour of Kayamandi, a nearby township. This was founded in the 1950s during the Apartheid regime, and was given the name “sweet home” in the Xhosa language spoken in the area. Next to small traditional brick houses – all of them with a sleeping room, a kitchen and a fireplace with a chimney – there are many more that are quire improvised.
Visiting can be quite an eye-opening experience, that will shed light on the many social differences that still exist in South Africa. Some people in Kayamandi don’t even have running water and have to use communal toilets and showers. What’s striking, however, is the fact that despite the hardship children are playful, joyous, and people incredibly welcoming and striving for a better life.
You can book a guided tour of Kayamandi here.
Visit Stellenbosch Slow Market
If you are a fan of markets, then Stellenbosch Slow Market is a must visit. You will find more than 100 producers, artisans, food stalls where you will be able to buy local products. Not to mention it is a great place to grab a bite.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: The market takes place every Saturday from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. You will find it at The Oude Libertas.
GOOD TO KNOW: Another cool market is Root 44, on Audacia Wines, Annandale Road. It is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. It regularly hosts live music.
Pick your own strawberries
When I saw this activity was on offer in Stellenbosch I jumped with joy! If you – like me – enjoy fresh strawberries, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Stellenbosch. The farm where you can go strawberry picking is located just outside Stellenbosch, on Stellenbosch Arterial Road. Once there, you are given a basket and off you go to pick your fruit. There are other activities perfect for kids.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: This is a seasonal activity, available from September to January. The farm is open from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Prices vary depending on the size of the basket you use.
Go for a hike at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
Among the things to do in Stellenbosch, hiking well deserves a mention. The best place for that is Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Capel Floral region. It’s at a mere 15 minutes drive out of town, and home to a plethora of excellent trails, from challenging ones such as the 17-km long Panorama trail (factor in up to 7 hours to complete that); to easier ones such as the Tweede Waterfall trail, which is about 7 km long (round trip) and ends at a nice waterfall with a natural pool, or the Swartboskloof to Sosyskloof trail, which offers impressive views.
IMPORTANT: It’s best you don’t go hiking alone in Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. Especially if you intend to hike during the week, try to find some company. Check out my post “11 Reasons Why Hiking Alone May Be A Bad Idea.”
GOOD TO KNOW: Other good places to go hiking near Stellenbosch are Heidelberg Farm, which has a variety of easy to moderately difficult hiking trails; and Ditorpia Trail center. Both are open daily from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and have a R50 entry fee.
TIP: Make sure to be properly equipped for your hike. Wear a pair of good hiking boots or shoes, take a hat and a wind jacket; and bring enough water and food for the duration of the hike.
Drive along the Helshoogte Pass
If you are a fan of road trips, you will be in for a treat. One of the nicest things to do in Stellenbosch to take in the splendid views is driving along Helshoogte Pass. This road connects Stellenbosch to Franschhoek is incredibly scenic – green hills, windy road, and some of the best vineyards and wine farms in the area.
Tokara and Delaire Graff are both excellent wineries – the photo above is of the Delaire Graff wine farm as taken from the road. Tokara will surprise you with swiping views that go all the way to Table Mountain; whereas Delaire Graff has splendid mountain views. Sunset is stunning from either of them, and even best is the fact that you can enjoy it while sipping a fabulous wine and eating a delicious meal.
Have a glorious meal
Not many realize it, but South Africa actually is one of the countries with the best food. Keeping this in mind, it is pretty obvious that eating is one of the best things to do in Stellenbosch! The city is packed with excellent restaurants for fabulous dining opportunities, and literally all wineries have their own restaurant. I have tried many and selected my favorite ones for you.
DE WARENMARKT – A cozy yet sophisticated place that serves excellent food – their tapas are all mouthwatering, and you can literally pick your own steak. Add to this the impressive wine list and the gin cocktails, and you have a winner.
EIGHT AT SPIERS – Located in Spiers, one of the best wineries in Stellenbosch, Eight serves delicious food prepared using strictly local, seasonal and organic ingredients. All food is paired with house wines. The environment is cozy, easygoing and the service absolutely spot on.
BASIC BISTRO – On Stellenbosch main street, this small cozy restaurant serves some Cape Malay staples in an informal environment. It’s a great lunch spot.
With so many lovely shops and art galleries, it goes without saying that one of the things to do in Stellenbosch is spending some of your dollars! You will find anything from small boutiques to antique shops to souvenirs and traditional arts and crafts, as well as leather goods. It will honestly be hard to say no to many things!
Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip To Stellenbosch
Guided tours of Stellenbosch and its wineries from Cape Town
I honestly recommend spending a few days in Stellenbosch as this is a place that has a lot to offer, but if you are tight on time you will be glad to know that there are many guided tours departing daily from Cape Town that will allow you to visit the best wine farms. Here is a selection of the best ones that you can book online:
- From Cape Town: Winelands Full Day Tour and Wine Tasting – an excellent full day tour stopping in Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl (home of the Spice Route). It includes three wine tastings and also cheese tasting.
- Full day shared wine tasting tour – one of the most popular wine tasting tours in the region; it includes four wine tastings and a full lunch with a la carte menu.
- Shared half day tour with local guide – this tour includes two wine tastings and even a visit of the city.
- From Cape Town: Full-Day Winelands Tour with Tasting – the best value for money tour on sale online.
- Private Full-Day Wine Tour and Tasting from Cape Town – the perfect option if you don’t want to be in a group.
Where to stay in Stellenbosch
You won’t have troubles finding good accommodation in Stellenbosch. As I have been there twice for quite a few days each time, I have tried and tested (and approved) quite a few places. Here are the ones I wholeheartedly recommend:
- De Haas Luxury Living are serviced apartments in the heart of Stellenbosch, with comfortable beds, fully equipped kitchens, cozy living room and spacious bathrooms. Click here for the latest rates, and check reviews here.
- Twice Central Guest House is a lovely guest house in the heart of town, close to all the attractions, bars, restaurants. Rooms are spacious and stylish and the breakfast absolutely scrumptious. Click here for the latest rates, and check reviews here.
- Lanzerac Hotel and Spa in Lanzerac Wine Estate has spacious rooms with fabulous views of the estate. There even is a fantastic spa with mountain views that guests can enjoy. It’s absolutely blissful. Click here for the latest rates, and check reviews here.
- Majeka House is located about 10 minutes drive from the center of Stellenbosch. It offers massive, comfortable rooms; a fine restaurant; and a spa. Click here for the latest rates.
- Spier Hotel in Spier Wine Farm has beautiful rooms in an idyllic setting. Click here for the latest rates, and check reviews here.
Make sure to read my post Stellenbosch Accommodation: 12 Hotels In Stellenbosch For Any Budget.
How to get to Stellenbosch
You can easily get to Stellenbosch from Cape Town by Uber or by rental car. Here’s a great company for car rentals. There is plenty of parking space in the city and once you park your car you can visit the city on foot and take the car to visit the wine farms around town.
Further readings about South Africa
Make sure to check out my other posts about South Africa:
- 17 Absolutely Unmissable Things To Do In Cape Town
- 10 Great Day Trips From Cape Town
- 3 Unmissable Things To Do In Johannesburg – On A 24 Hours Layover
- 20 Fabulous Places To Visit In South Africa
- A Guide To The Things To Do In Knysna And On The Garden Route
- 6 Areas Where To Find Accommodation In Knysna
- 11 Reasons Why You’ll Love Phinda Game Reserve
- The Best Beaches In South Africa
- The Best Airbnbs In Cape Town