The Ultimate Guide to
Things to Do in Stellenbosch
Markets, museums, tours and other fun and exciting adventure activities in this famous Cape Winelands town
We all know that there are two sides to every story, and when it comes to Stellenbosch, the more common story goes along the lines of: “This university town is home to South Africa’s most famous wine route and oldest university”. And while the sip-and-swirl rep is worth noting, there is plenty more that this quaint yet buzzing town has to offer.
We’re talking ‘undiscovered’ hiking trails, exciting township tours, food adventures, museums, art galleries and so much more. Think of this as your chance to get acquainted with the lesser known, but equally charming side of the Stellenbosch story and your opportunity to indulge in all that the Town of Oaks is made of.
WALKING TOURS IN STELLENBOSCH
Stellenbosch on Foot Tour
What better way to get acquainted with the beautiful town of Stellenbosch than by taking a 90-minute Stellenbosch on Foot Tour. This funky walkabout provides a crash course on the history of the Town of Oaks – and trust us, the history of the village is worth knowing. The exciting expedition takes place every day from Monday to Friday (and by appointment on weekends) at 11am and 3pm and takes you through historic streets (namely Church Street, Dorp Street and Ryneveld Street) that host some of South Africa’s oldest houses. We’re talking houses that were built in the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s and that reflect the beautiful architectural style and stature of each era – think gable-style houses that exhibit beautiful doors and yellowwood beams, Cape revival-style architecture, German-style compressed H-plan houses and more stunning architectural and visual highlights. Pre-booking is essential for all tours.
Bites and Sites Food Tour
Renowned chef Julia Child once said, “Life itself is the proper binge,” and none rings more true to that than Bites and Sites. Bridging cultural gaps, the organisation offers a delicious range of food tours that explore the culinary history and culture of different South African cuisines – think Cape Malay, traditional Afrikaans food, kasi cuisine and more. The expeditions provide visitors with a unique way of discovering the town, as Hanli Fourie (manager of the company) believes that one of the best ways to get to know a place intimately is through food. One of the company’s most interesting offerings is a Cape Malay cooking class, which allows tour-goers to savour the multi-dimensional taste of Stellenbosch and the Western Cape to an even greater extent. The tours are diverse, multicultural, multifaceted and multilingual activities that blend the old and new aspects of Stellenbosch to give you a tasty experience.
Good to know: You can tailor make your own tours (think birthday celebrations, anniversaries and more).
Stellenbrau Brewery Tour
Designed to show beer lovers (and others) the intricacies of the beer brewing business, Stellenbosch’s very own craft brewing company has opened its doors to the public and offers one-of-a-kind brewery tours. The short guided tour (25 minutes) takes enthusiasts to different parts of Stellenbrau, shows them all sorts of equipment and provides them with an in-depth explanation of the beer-making process: what distinguishes a great beer from a good one, choice of hops, packaging types, difference in grain choice, and many other questions will be answered. The tour then ends off with a guided beer tasting session in Stellenbrau’s tasting room (that is also open to the public)! Groups are welcome, and booking is essential.
Tour Times: Monday – Friday: 12pm, 2pm and 4pm; Saturday 1pm and 3pm; Sunday on Special Request.
Stellenbosch Art Tour
This newly launched self-guided tour provides art lovers a chance to explore the town in all its artistic splendour – on foot. Featuring 11 pivotal points, including galleries and shops, explorers can revel in beautiful work from distinct creative hotspots; including the D-Street Gallery, US Art Gallery, SMAC Art Gallery and the Rupert Museum. What’s unique about this tour is that since it’s self-guided, travellers and locals alike can take the time needed to view and appreciate the different artistic instalments that each of the featured stops boasts. There is even a chance to test out one’s own artistic ability as there is a chalk-drawing opportunity. Detailed information about the stopping points is in the 2015 Stellenbosch Tourism brochure, which is available at the tourism office.
GALLERIES AND MUSEUMS IN STELLENBOSCH
Embodying the idea of ‘old meets new’, the D-Street Gallery, located in one of Stellenbosch’s historic buildings, houses South African contemporary art by emerging and established artists. The style of the gallery can be fit into the ‘avant-garde’ stream, and some have even described the ambience of the gallery as “energetic”, “different” and “compelling”. The intimate space creates a great setting for art-lovers to appreciate works from diverse artists. Exhibitions take place throughout the year (and change regularly).
Opening times: Monday – Friday: 10am – 4pm; Saturday: 10am – 1pm
The eclectic yet classic style of the SMAC Art Gallery on Church Street is one of the many feats that make this exhibition space unique. Mixing South African and international art, SMAC aims to create and encourage dialogue between artists and the community. The minimalist design of the SMAC gallery was inspired by the need to create a simplistic space that will give art the platform to do its own talking, and the simplicity of the gallery helps the art either blend in or stand out. What’s more, SMAC has taken things to a whole new level by relocating its sister gallery in Cape Town to the trendy Woodstock area, and the two galleries complement one another as the one in Stellenbosch is more of a classic feel, while the Cape Town gallery is more of the ‘experimental’ counterpart.
Opening times: Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm; Saturday: 9am – 3pm
Pablo Picasso once said “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” and it seems that Anton Rupert’s wife, Huberte, understood this well. So much so in fact, that she wanted to share this revelation with the rest of the world. The Rupert Museum, which is her effort to do so, is billed as the premier collection of contemporary South African art from 1940 to 1970. The Cape Dutch-style house provides a home to over 350 works, including South Africa’s biggest Irma Stern collection and a number of beautiful sculptures, paintings and tapestries. While the gallery does hold some international works, its primary focus is to fly the Mzansi flag high with works from artists such as Alexis Preller, JH Pierneef, Penny Siopis, Willem Strydom and more.
Opening times: Monday – Friday: 9.30am – 4pm; Saturday: 10am – 1pm
No Stellenbosch museum adventure is complete without a visit to one of its oldest museums – the Village Museum, which is pretty much like stepping into a time machine and rocketing back into centuries past. Made up of four dwelling houses from different eras (from 1709 to 1929), the institution gives keen explorers a glimpse of how houses actually looked through the different periods as well as an idea of the type of fashion, furniture and design that prevailed in each era. Not to mention, a guide (aptly dressed in a costume) is available to tell you what history each house carries.
Opening times: Monday – Saturday: 9am – 5pm; Sunday: 10am – 1pm (April – August), 10am – 4pm (September – March)
Jan Marais Nature Reserve
Perfect for any kind of relaxed outdoor activity (think picnics, jogging and walking), the Jan Marais Nature Reserve, located just off Marais Street, is great for those who love chilling in the outdoors! The 23-hectare reserve has added features, such as a labyrinth, to help calm the senses and unwind. It also has numerous beautiful sculptures that endow the park with a special kind of beauty and charm. Moreover, kids are able to take delight in the jungle gyms and swings – making the nature reserve family friendly.
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 8am – 6pm
If, by now, you are not convinced that Stellenbosch has a lot to offer, the town takes things up a notch with an offering of A-grade markets over the weekend. The Root44 Market, which takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm, is all about the vibe, and patrons can come enjoy great food and drinks, live tunes, great company and a great atmosphere! The Slow Market, a Saturday shindig that runs from 9am to 2pm, has more of a culinary focus, and accordingly, it offers foodies the chance to tuck into delicious organic treats from local suppliers, indulge in craft beer culture and also treat themselves to some retail therapy. The Blaauwklippen Family Market, which unfurls every Sunday between 10am and 3pm, is all about relaxing with family and friends while appreciating beautiful scenery, live music and yummy treats! Kids also get to have the time of their lives as pony rides and entertainment are available. And the contemporary Woodmill Market, which sounds off the last Friday of every month between 5.30pm and 10pm, is an indoor night to-do that prides itself on its artisan food, live music, kid’s play area and vintage fashion stalls.
- Root44 Market
Audacia Farm | Cnr R44 and Annandale Road | Stellenbosch | Western Cape | +27 (0) 21 881 3052
- Slow Market
Oude Libertas Estate | Oude Libertas Road | Stellenbosch | Western Cape | +27 (0) 21 886 8514
- Blaauwklippen Family Market
Blaauwklippen Wine Estate | Strand Road | Stellenbosch | Western Cape | +27 (0) 21 880 0133
- Woodmill Lifestyle Market
Vredenburg Road | Devonvallei | Stellenbosch | Western Cape | +27 (0) 83 755 2877
Check out Oom Samie Se Winkel
We’re not even kidding when we say that you can find pretty much anything at Oom Samie se Winkel, Stellenbosch’s oldest business. The shop dates back to 1904 and was opened by iconic general dealer Oom Samie. Expect to find things like pure jam, rice, rooibos, records, sling shots, dolls, bags, plates, spoons, tobacco, old books and so much more! The shop is so full with all sorts of enticing (and somewhat eccentric) items that you need to be sure to avoid breaking things.
Opening times: Monday – Friday: 8:30am – 5:30pm; Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 5pm