Stellenbosch South Africa vineyards

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Stellenbosch is nestled in the heart of South Africa’s famed Cape Winelands. It is a city that effortlessly combines a rich history (credited as the birthplace of Afrikaans) and breathtaking scenery (the Jonkershoek, Groot Drakenstein and Simonsberg mountains provide a picturesque backdrop). Stellenbosch also has a vibrant atmosphere, with the country’s second-oldest university at its centre.

While many travellers flock to the region’s farms to sip on some of the world’s best wines, the city center of Stellenbosch is a captivating destination in its own right. Forgoing a winelands accommodation option for a hotel in the heart of town allows you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique charm of the region.

 A stop at the legendary Oom Samie Se Winkel on a cycling tour with The Adventure Shop
A stop at the legendary Oom Samie Se Winkel on a cycling tour with The Adventure Shop. Photo by Janine Avery

Rich Cultural Heritage

Stellenbosch is a town with a story to tell, and its city center is where that tale unfolds. Founded in 1679, it is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. Its historical significance is evident in its well-preserved Cape Dutch architecture and charming streets. As you wander through the city center, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time, surrounded by centuries-old buildings that whisper tales of the past.

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For history buffs, Stellenbosch is a treasure trove. You can visit the Stellenbosch Museum, housed in a stunning historical complex, to learn about the town’s heritage. Explore the Stellenbosch University campus, a melting pot of history and academic excellence. Or take to the streets on a bike with The Adventure Shop for a unique tour that combines history with a chance to get active.

Many of the town’s boutique hotels are also housed in historical homes, where you can appreciate the colonial architecture up close while learning some of the intimate stories of the residents’ past and present.

 Celebrity Chef Betrus Basson's De Vrije Burger - a firm local favourite
Celebrity Chef Betrus Basson’s De Vrije Burger – a firm local favourite. Photo by Janine Avery

Vibrant Food and Wine Scene

No visit to Stellenbosch is complete without indulging in its famous wines. While many choose to forgo staying in the city center for accommodation on a wine farm, a central base is better for branching out and tasting more of what the region offers.

I highly recommend hopping on the Adventure Shop’s Vine Hopper wine bus, which will pick you up from your central hotel. Then it’s up to you to pick your route and savor the flavors of award-winning wines while enjoying picturesque vineyard views. You can also engage in tastings guided by knowledgeable sommeliers, all without having to worry about driving.

Best Hotel Options in Stellenbosch

 Statues like this one dot the streets around Stellenbosch
Statues like this one dot the streets around Stellenbosch. Photo by Janine Avery

The city center of Stellenbosch is also a culinary haven, with a wide range of gourmet restaurants and local eateries. From fine dining establishments offering tantalizing fusion cuisine to cozy cafes serving up traditional South African dishes, there’s something to satisfy every palate.

Thankfully, the town center is also pretty small, so stay anywhere in the city and you’ll be within walking distance of over 70 foodie gems. In fact, there are so many places on offer that you’ll be hard-pressed to make a choice. That said, don’t miss the opportunity to try the delicious burgers at the unassuming De Vrije Burger – an icon of Stellenbosch owned by legendary local chef Bertus Basson.

Admiring some of the local arts and crafts in Stellenbosch South Africa
Admiring some of the local arts and crafts in Stellenbosch. Photo by Janine Avery

Shop ‘Till You Drop

If shopping is your cardio, you’re in for a treat in Stellenbosch. Browse through a variety of boutiques, art galleries and craft stores to find unique souvenirs, stylish fashion and locally crafted treasures. Be sure to spend some time wandering through the crammed isles of Oom Samie se Winkel. This is one of the oldest trading businesses in the country that stocks everything from bokkoms (a local delicacy of air-dried fish) to handcrafted clothing, South African spices and teas, and vintage keepsakes.

 The actual shoes of Nelson Mandela as visible in Stellenbosch
The actual shoes of Nelson Mandela as visible in Stellenbosch. Photo by Janine Avery

Also, take a wander past the local outdoor gear and apparel store, Cape Union Mart. Framed in the window are the actual shoes that President Nelson Mandela wore during his time incarcerated on Robben Island.

The city center also plays host to numerous art galleries, showcasing a diverse range of local and international artworks. Plus, numerous cultural events, such as music festivals, theater performances and literary gatherings, are always on the go. You’re bound to find something to nourish your creative side.

The Stellenbosch south Africa University Botanical Gardens in the city
The Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens in the city. Photo by Janine Avery

Outdoor Adventures

For those seeking an escape in nature, it would seem counterproductive to stay in the city center, but that’s not the case in Stellenbosch. Staying here actually puts you within reach of beautiful nature reserves and walking trails.

The Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden, in the heart of town, is one such place worthy of a visit. Established in 1902, the garden features an impressive collection of indigenous and exotic plants in themed gardens, from medicinal plants to water-wise and rose gardens. Take a stroll to enjoy the peaceful and serene atmosphere, stop for a cuppa at the quaint coffee shop, or pick up something to take home at the gift shop.

Also worth a visit, and free to enter, is the Jan Marais Nature Reserve. This beautiful park is home to a variety of plant and animal life, several walking trails, scenic gardens and big grassy lawns with children’s play areas for enjoying a picnic. Choose to while away a few hours here and you’ll be in good company, as it’s a favourite spot amongst locals and families in the early evenings as they come to enjoy the outdoors.

Discover Stellenbosch, South Africa in the heart of Cape Winelands where you'll find amazing scenery, rich culture and great food and wine. #southafrica

Accommodation Options in Stellenbosch

When it comes to accommodation in Stellenbosch city center, there are options to suit every traveller’s preference and budget from boutique hotels with luxurious amenities to cozy guesthouses that exude charm. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons, to secure your ideal stay.

To help with your choice, here are two of our favourites:

 Looking out over Stellenbosch from the Eendracht Hotel
Looking out over Stellenbosch from the Eendracht Hotel. Photo by Janine Avery

Eendracht Hotel & Apartments

Eendracht is a charming guesthouse that stands on what were the 5th and 6th plots to be granted to landowners in the town. It has its own restaurant (a firm favourite amongst locals for Sunday lunch) and a huddle room for conferencing. The combination of historic charm and modern comfort provides guests with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Meanwhile, vibrant restaurants, shops and galleries are literally steps from the door.

The guesthouse is perfectly situated for those seeking a quintessential Stellenbosch experience, while also offering a central pool and courtyard area for when you need to put your feet up and just relax. The staff’s genuine hospitality, coupled with the beautiful furnishings and stunning breakfasts, make Eendracht a great choice for an enchanting stay in Stellenbosch.

Evergreen Manor & Spa

Evergreen Manor and Spa is a tranquil oasis in the heart of the city. Owner-run, with several different room types set over numerous historical buildings, it offers a harmonious blend of luxury and serenity. A sanctuary of relaxation and rejuvenation, it is also home to two sparkling pools, a guest-only spa and a pretty breakfast room that spills out into the courtyard under the shade of lush trees.

The manor’s charming architecture and tasteful decor exude a timeless elegance and this is the perfect escape for those seeking to unwind and rejuvenate. It’s a place where the mind, body and spirit find their balance amidst the evergreen beauty of this remarkable destination.

What’s more, if you want to combine your stay in Stellenbosch with another part of the Cape countryside, both of these hotels are members of the Cape Country Routes. Each of these properties has been specially chosen as they are owner-run and offer a unique charm that you won’t find at bigger, more corporate establishments. Become part of their loyalty program, and you’ll also benefit from discounted stays and a whole host of free goodies thrown into your stay.

 Now part of the univeristy, the building was once the magistrate's court of Stellenbosch south Africa
Now part of the university, the building was once the magistrate’s court of Stellenbosch.
Photo by Janine Avery

If You Go

So, if you’re planning a visit to Stellenbosch, I hope you can see that staying in the city center is the way to go. Getting around Stellenbosch city center is convenient and pedestrian-friendly.

Most attractions, restaurants and shops are within easy walking distance, allowing you to explore the town at a relaxed pace. But beyond that, Stellenbosch is not just a place; it’s a community. The locals take great pride in sharing their town’s cultural heritage and ensuring visitors feel welcome.

Stay in the city center, and you’ll have the opportunity to interact with friendly locals who are passionate about their town. Strike up a conversation with a winemaker, meet resident artisans, or join a community event to experience the vibrant spirit of Stellenbosch firsthand. Stellenbosch is waiting to welcome you with open arms and a glass of exquisite wine. Cheers to an unforgettable experience!

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Author Bio: Janine Avery is a lover of travel, adventure, wine, and good food. She is passionate about wildlife and conservation and was raised by a bundle of scientists, botanists, researchers, biologists, and creatives. Based in Cape Town, South Africa, she loves traveling with her husband and toddler, taking her audiences on adventures both locally and throughout the globe. She is also the first to confess that she’s been badly bitten by the travel bug.

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