Stellenbosch, South Africa: What to do, where to eat and more

June 6, 2019

by Anastasia Malavolti

Getting to Stellenbosch, South Africa, feels like entering one of those historical towns that you have seen in the movies, one of those joyful communities where everyone knows each other. It kind of is. It’s not that small, but almost. It’s a little gem enclosed by beautiful green hills (during the dry season they might not look that green) and the famous vineyards that produce the wonderful, tasty wine which South Africa is so rightly famous for. It has this small-town vibe, surrounded by colonial buildings that make it seem like the time has stopped.

I had the opportunity to live in this dreamy town for six months, so I got plenty of time to explore, and try things out: restaurants, café, wine tasting sessions, hiking spots, best beaches around… you name it! When I arrived there, I realised that there’s not much information available on how to fully live the Stellenbosch experience, and no, it’s not just about wine tasting! There is information but it’s scattered around, not easy to find for a traveller or for someone who, like me, has no patience to scroll down the search page and wants to have it all at once. This little town can offer you a lot more than wine, and it’s a shame you miss out from it. For this reason, I came up with the ultimate Travel Guide on what to do in Stellenbosch.

The good thing is, in the town, everything is reachable by foot. The main streets, Bird Street and Church Street are nice to have a walk around, with small restaurants, shops and coffee shops. There is the Jan Marais Natural Reserve about 20 minutes walking from the centre. For nature lovers, this place is a must, full of indigenous trees and plants. I used to run around there, it’s simply breathtaking to walk a few kilometres and find yourself surrounded by nature! It also has an area for picnics, just so you know.

View of Coetzembug mountain from the Jan Marais Natural Reserve

But, first: Coffee!

So I cannot be a functioning human being if I don’t drink at least one coffee in the morning, luckily Stellenbosch has plenty of options, many cute coffee shops. My all-time favourites, especially for their vibe (I love to study and work in coffee shops) and the value-for-price  (none likes to spend a fortune on coffee, right?) are the following:

Haaz Coffee Shop

They call it “coffee for heroes” and man, how many afternoons I spend in this coffee shop! Their cappuccino and americano are good, I’ve heard many people going for the Moka and they have plant-based milk options (coconut, soy and almond). Unfortunately, they are still not very good on the food side, but it makes it a good excuse to go out and have a break from work.

The Blue Crane& Butterfly

This is such a cosy coffee shop! They offer tasty and healthy food as well as luxurious cakes, you won’t want to leave! The food is very good, I love their salads and sandwiches. The quality is worth the price.

The Bird Cage

Such a cute little place, where they bake their own cookies and sweet treats. It is a very nice environment to work at, very quiet and calm, definitely recommended!

Coffee!

Eating out

Of course, Stellenbosch has plenty of fancy places to eat out, but we’re travellers so eating out for expensive prices is not what we strive for. But there are a couple of restaurants you really don’t want to miss out.

Fat Butcher

This one is a bit more expensive, but still very accessible. Even if I usually don’t eat meat, I tried it there and it is as good as they say. The service is impeccable and they have a couple of vegetarian options too! The atmosphere is very nice.

Basic Bistro

Such a gem! It’s really small and it gets crowded on the weekends (but during the week too!) but it’s so good! They have burgers, salads, pasta… everything I tried there I liked, and they have good prices too, don’t miss it!

Kauai

Kauai is a healthy food chain in South Africa, if you like healthy eating and colourful food, this is the place to go. They have wonderful smoothies, wraps, breakfasts and bowls. But the atmosphere is not the best, therefore it’s a good option for the on-the-go meals.

Wine Tasting

This is a must. There are so many vineyards that you just have to choose. The nice thing is that it sounds fancy and expensive but it’s not at all, and it’s a cool activity to do on a lazy day. The basic service is that for a fixed price you can taste 6 types of wine looking at the beautiful scenery of Coetzenburg and Jonkershoek mountains. I’m no expert on wine, I just like it a lot. And you do enjoy the experience! You can find a lot of guides on winetasting on the Internet but I’ll list here my favourite ones, I mainly chose them for the atmosphere and the quality time I had there. One of them is Wijnhuis, more a bar in the centre of Stellenbosch but they offer a nice wine tasting for something around 6$. Spier and Middelvlei are very good options that offer very good wine with beautiful scenery.

Wine tasting is how many South Africans spend their weekends in Stellenbosch

Hikes

After touching upon the best places to eat and drink, now it’s time to acknowledge that there’s more to do than that. Stellenbosch is enclosed by mountains and the hikes you can get to do are breathtaking.

You can walk up to the Coetzenburg mountain, getting to the top can be demanding, but the view you get after the 3 hours hike is spectacular. Also, this one you can reach literally walking from the centre, it starts just behind the stadium.

My favourite though has been the Jonkershoek trail, which you can decide to tackle in two ways:

  • a spectacular panoramic hike, more or less 8 hours long. Exhausting but, man the view you get! It will get you to the waterfalls at the end, where you can rest and swim for a while.
  • a shorter hike to the waterfall, there are some reachable in 30 minutes walking, but the most beautiful is at only takes 2 and a half hours walking.

 

Jonkershoek Reserve

What more?

The closest beach, Strand beach, is more or less 15 minutes by car (uber is not that expensive). It’s a very wide beach and windy, good for surf-beginners. Another good and close beach is Bikini Beach, quieter and where it’s possible to enjoy the water.

During the weekends Stellenbosch has a few food markets scattered around, where you can chill, shop, drink and of course eat very good food!  My favourite is Root 44, active every Sunday and Saturday from 10 am. They have live music from time to time. It’s got several options of food for every taste: pizza, salads, sushi, Mexican, Lebanese… you choose!

If you’re planning to stay longer you can’t miss a Maties rugby game! Rugby is popular in South Africa and it’s interesting to see how involved locals get into the game.

 

I hope you now have a better overview of what to expect from Stellenbosch and what to do, where to eat and drink: enjoy!

 

 

Anastasia Malavolti

By Anastasia Malavolti

I am a discoverer, a traveller. I left home at 16 and since then I never stopped. I lived in different countries all over the world, Sweden, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil and kept travelling around. I learned that the best lessons are those taken outside the class, in the real world. The adventure-seeking and dynamism, combined with my desire to learn everything from everyone pushed me to start sharing my experience in the hope that I could help some lost traveller around the world, looking to make the best out of their trip!

Read more at anastasiamalavolti.com

Leave a Comment...

Evan L

June 7, 2019

Great article! So much detail, I feel like I have been before. Wasn’t on my radar until now, definitely going to look into it!