Travel blog Stellenbosch: the 7 best things to do in Stellenbosch!

Stellenbosch is one of our favorite places in South Africa. This university city is surrounded by mountains where you will find beautiful vineyards. In the center, the old Cape Dutch architecture is everywhere in beautiful white houses with thatched roofs. You will find the nicest boutiques and numerous restaurants here. Outside the center, there are many wineries that offer wine tastings or amazing wine lunches. In this blog, you can read everything about this city, including the seven best things to do in Stellenbosch.Stellenbosch South Africa 7

Stellenbosch: university city and wine paradise

The Cape Winelands are about an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Stellenbosch is one of the three wine towns, and it is the one that is most centrally located in the Cape Winelands. It is also the university city of South Africa. This makes it a vibrant city full of students visiting the coffee shops, restaurants, and bars.

The city is not very large and is located in the middle of a valley, surrounded by mountains and vineyards. It’s the ultimate base to visit the wineries in South Africa. There are plenty of charming B&Bs to spend the night here. In addition, the city is safe and fun to walk around in the evening and have a bite to eat. You are close to several vineyards and even though many tourists stay in Stellenbosch, it does not feel too touristy.Stellenbosch 4

Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek

Besides Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl are the two other wine towns. Paarl is a somewhat larger city, very extensive and less picturesque than Stellenbosch. We do not recommend staying in Paarl, it lacks coziness and is not very centrally located. Franschhoek is a smaller town, more focused on tourism, beautifully situated against the high mountains.

The seven best things to do in Stellenbosch

Besides wine tasting (which is great here), there is much more to do in Stellenbosch. Therefore, below are the seven best activities to do in Stellenbosch and its surroundings.

1. Things to do in Stellenbosch: stroll through the beautiful center and go shopping

The center of Stellenbosch is beautiful. Wide avenues are surrounded by centuries-old trees and beautiful Cape Dutch buildings. This means whitewashed houses with a thatched roof and usually a bell gable. Be sure to walk past some of the university buildings. For example, the philosophy faculty, that is housed in a beautiful monumental building surrounded by a large garden.

Tip: do you want to learn more about the history of Stellenbosch? Then take a city walk with a guide. Click here for more information.

You will find large copper statues and works of art in many places on the streets. Not surprising because there are many art galleries and studios here.

And finally, there is also good shopping in Stellenbosch! In addition to tourist shops, the old center also has nice boutiques. For example, I really liked Lynné for clothing, She for beautiful sunglasses and jewelry, Burnt for beautiful sportswear, and Milieu for interior design and gifts.

2. Hiking in the Stellenbosch area (Jonkershoek and Coetzenburg/Stellenboschberg)

You can go hiking in the Stellenbosch area. During our first trip to South Africa, we went on a hike in the Jonkershoek nature park. During the second trip to South Africa with our baby, we walked around the nature of the Coetzenburg/Stellenboschberg.

Hike through the Jonkershoek nature reserve (routes from 6.5 km to 18 km)

The Jonkershoek nature reserve is located approximately 10 kilometers from Stellenbosch. You first drive to the gate where you pay the entrance fee of 50 Rand and then there are four different routes that you can do.

We chose the “Second Waterfall” route of 6.4 kilometers (in total, 3.1 km there and then 3.1 km back) which, as the name suggests, leads you past two waterfalls. To get here, you first drive a bit along a large reservoir, then park your car and start the first, quiet part of the route. You are surrounded by jagged mountains, which makes for great views. Then the route starts to climb and you sometimes have to climb quite a bit. The first and second waterfalls are not very impressive, but the path along them is beautiful and worth it.

For safety reasons it is not possible to descend to the first waterfall, you pass it from the top. But you can reach the base of the second waterfall. If you bring along swimming gear, you can cool off here with a refreshing dip. Click here for more information and a map about this and other walking routes at the Jonkershoek Nature reserve.

Would you rather go for a hike with a guide? Then consider doing the 6-hour Duiwelskloof walk. Click here for more information!

Coetzenburg/Stellenboschberg walking routes (routes from 1.3 km to 5.5 km)

During our second trip to South Africa, we traveled with our 1-year-old son. And so we wanted to do a slightly easier walk. From our hotel Die Laan 2, we walked almost directly into a beautiful nature reserve, namely Coetzenburg. Click here to see the location where most hikes start. In this nature reserve, you walk through the foothills of the Stellenboschberg, the characteristic mountain that you can see from almost all of Stellenbosch.

The first part goes along and over the university sports fields. You will pass several large stadiums, an indoor swimming pool, athletics tracks, and many more sports facilities. Behind it is the Coetzenburg/Stellenboschberg reserve. There are several routes, but not all well marked. See the photo below for a (not too clear) map showing trails ranging from 1.3 to 5.6 km. We enjoyed walking parts of different routes and since it is quite a manageable area, we walked around without following a trail. We passed two large reservoirs and walked a total of almost 6 kilometers with Floris in the baby carrier. This went well because there is not much elevation. We do recommend that you leave early in the summer because there is no shade everywhere and it can get quite warm.

Tip: the nature reserve around Coetzenburg is also great for mountain biking. Ries rented a mountain bike here and rode some tough tracks. You can also go horse riding here.

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3. Visit the wineries in Stellenbosch for a wine tasting or picnic

Yes of course, when you are in Stellenbosch you should also do a wine tasting or have a picnic at a wine estate. Wineries in this area are completely different from what we are used to in Europe. A complete experience has been built here around wine tasting. For example, many wineries have several restaurants, you can have a picnic at the vineyards, there are playgrounds, souvenir and delicacy shops and some places even offer accommodation.

There are hundreds of wineries in the Stellenbosch area. We are happy to help you choose which winery suits you best. That’s why we’ve written an extensive guide to our favorite wineries in Stellenbosch and the surrounding area. We have also tried many wine picnics and described the best ones in the blog: the best picnics at wineries in Stellenbosch and the surrounding area. Want to combine something active with the wine? Then consider taking a wine bike tour accompanied by a guide. Click here for more information.

Are you also considering visiting wineries outside the Stellenbosch area? Then read our blog with the nicest wineries in Paarl!

Do you want to explore the Cape Winelands yourself, just like us? Then we recommend that you rent a car. Do you want to rent a car without any hassle? Then choose a car via Sunny Cars. With Sunny Cars we often book rental cars within and outside Europe because you are fully covered in terms of insurance and you can contact them 24/7 with all your questions!

4. Visit the botanical gardens right in the center of Stellenbosch

Do you like nature and greenery? Then visit the botanical university gardens in the center of Stellenbosch. Here you will find beautiful plants and trees that originate from South Africa or countries in the area. There are greenhouses with tropical plants, endangered plants, and even an entire section with decades-old bonsai trees.

We walked through the botanical gardens for an hour and had a drink at the restaurant. Also very suitable for children! Admission is 15 Rand. Click here for the location of the botanical gardens in Stellenbosch.

5. Go to Franschhoek for a day

Franschhoek is just over half an hour’s drive from Stellenbosch. This wine city is definitely worth a visit. The center is compact with beautiful architecture and a cozy atmosphere. In addition, the location is even more beautiful than that of Stellenbosch, because Franschhoek is surrounded by mountains everywhere!

Visit Franschhoek in a day and walk through the center, visit the boutiques, and have an extensive lunch or wine tasting in a winery. In Franschhoek, most wineries are much closer to the center.

A drive over the beautiful Franschhoek Pass and a walk in the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve are also worthwhile. Read much more about this lovely place in our Franschhoek blog! If you are planning to taste wine in Franschhoek, read our blog with the 9 best wineries in Franschhoek!

Franschhoek 4

6. Vredenheim Animal Farm in Stellenbosch

Winery, petting zoo, zoo, gin distillery, event location, and restaurant all in one: Vredenheim Wine & Wildlife has it all. This farm, about a 15-minute drive from Stellenbosch, is highly recommended if you are in South Africa with children. And especially the ‘animal farm‘ and the ‘cat park‘ part.

The ‘animal farm‘ is a beautiful petting zoo with rabbits, alpacas, goats, and many more animals. You can buy bags of food and there is a nice playground, picnic area, and even an indoor playground. Floris loved it here, but he was even more impressed by the ‘cat park‘, a kind of small zoo with lions, tigers, and leopards. During the day they are usually sleeping, but we were lucky and saw a huge tiger walking through his enclosure. Floris couldn’t stop pointing and shouting “woooow”.

Admission to the animal farm is 40 Rand for adults and 60 Rand for children. The entrance fee for the cat park is a bit higher and is 110 Rand for adults and 75 Rand for children. Click here for the location of the Vredenheim Animal Farm.

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There are many good restaurants in Stellenbosch and the surrounding area. In our blog Stellenbosch hotspots you will find 13 nice places to have breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner. With or without children.

7. Paint Ceramics at The Pottery

You can get creative at The Pottery, a ceramics cafe. Here you buy a piece of earthenware that you then paint exactly the way you want. I felt so zen after mixing the colors and painting my two bowls. The earthenware is then backed within 7-10 days, so keep that in mind. The results: cute bowls, clearly painted by an amateur.

While painting, they serve breakfast, lunch, or dinner here. The menu is simple, but I really enjoyed French Toast with fresh juice.

Painting and backing your ceramics costs between 150-600 Rand (7.5-30 euros), depending on the size of the piece of earthenware you choose. Click here for more information.

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Other things to do in Stellenbosch that we didn’t try:

In addition to the above seven activities in Stellenbosch and the surrounding area, there are a number of other fun things to do that we did not do, but that we were recommended.

Fun for children: Visit one of the zoos in the area

You will find several zoos in the Stellenbosch area. There is Monkey Town, the Alpaca Loom, the Giraffe House,  Exotic Animal World and the Crocodile Farm. Wine tasting Stellenbosch South Africa 3

Don’t do in Stellenbosch: Polka Draai Strawberry Farm

Then also a very hard no-go: Polka Draai Strawberry Farm. We had high expectations for this. Because how fun: picking buckets full of strawberries yourself and then eating them at home. This was unfortunately a big disappointment. It’s obvious that this place has seen its heyday, there was rubbish everywhere and even more annoyingly, lots of broken tools, dismantled cars and machine parts. Not really a place where you want to let your children run around happily.

In addition, the strawberry fields were completely overgrown with weeds. The romance of strawberry picking quickly fades as you weave your way from strawberry bed to strawberry bed through knee-high weeds. Perhaps this is because we were coming to the end of the season. But still a shame.

Read our South Africa hotel guide here with a selection of the nicest hotels along the Garden Route!

The nicest hotels and accommodations in Stellenbosch

If you are looking for a nice location to stay in Stellenbosch, it can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many beautiful hotels and B&Bs, both in the center and outside. Below we list three possible options for different budgets. For more hotels in Stellenbosch, click here.

Minserie Collection €


Miserie collections

This nice hotel with a garden is located in the center of Stellenbosch. You will stay here in a room with its own kitchenette. The rooms are not very new but nicely furnished, including air conditioning. You stay here from €61 per night, excl. breakfast.

Book here

Van der Stel Manor €€


van der stel Manor

During our first trip through South Africa, we stayed 5 nights in this beautiful hotel! The rooms are large, the breakfast is great and there is a nice swimming pool at this location. It is about a 15-minute walk from the center. From €130 per night.

Book here

De Haas Living @die laan 2 €€€

De haas living @die laan 2

The second time we went to South Africa we stayed 8 nights in one of the De Haas Living apartments. Ideal for when you travel with children! Right in the center with a shared swimming pool and your own kitchen. From €150 per night.

Book here

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