With its temperate Mediterranean climate, beautiful surroundings, magnificent backdrop of mountain ranges, modern facilities and close proximity to all major places of interest in the Cape Peninsula, Stellenbosch is the ideal get-away holiday destination.
Soon after the Cape of Good Hope had been established, the newly-appointed Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, set out on a discovery journey east to explore the wild and untouched land beyond the Cape Peninsula. On 6 November 1679 he came across a river running through a beautifully green, fertile valley. He named the river “Eerste Rivier” (First River) and the surrounding area “Van der Stel Bosch” (Van der Stel’s bush).
Before long, news of the finding of this fertile valley spread and the first families settled there in 1680. The settlement later became known as Stellenbosch, and is the second-oldest city in South Africa. The warm summers and winter rainfall provided an ideal farming environment, and by 1682 the settlement had become an established town. In 1685 it became the seat of a magistrate, whose authority extended over 25 000 square kilometers. The first school was built in 1686, followed soon afterwards by the first church.
A yearly celebration on Simon van der Stel’s birthday was held in honor of the founder. This tradition was started in 1686 and included games, parades, festivities and dances. As the celebration took place on October 14th, it was a celebration of spring at the same time. The highlight of the celebration was when marksmen shot at a wooden parrot to win the main prize, and to this day the hill where this event took place is still known as Papegaaiberg (parrot hill).
Simon van der Stel launched a project to plant oak trees and the mighty trees still line the streets of Stellenbosch. The town is appropriately known as “Eikestad”, or the Town of Oaks. Unfortunately a recent disease has affected the trees, and the towering oaks are slowly dying. Fortunately, since the oak trees are a symbol of Stellenbosch, the town council started planting new trees soon after the discovery of the disease.
In 1866, the Stellenbosch Gymnasium was founded. In 1880 it changed its name to Stellenbosch College, but was renamed in 1887 to Victoria College in honor of Queen Victoria. In 1918 the college officially became the University of Stellenbosch, known affectionately as “Maties”. The University has over the years become the heart of Stellenbosch and is regarded as one of the best in the world.
During the year, the estimated 17 000 students fill the town with a cheerful vibe and bustling activity in the hostels, lecture halls, restaurants, coffee shops, bars and discos. Holidays are the times when the tranquillity of the natural surroundings and the comparative quiet in the streets allows Stellenbosch a chance to breathe and prepare for the influx of young people that is sure to follow with the next semester.
Stellenbosch is a treasure of beautifully restored buildings – elegant Cape Dutch, Victorian and Georgian architecture can be seen particularly in historic Dorp Street, which is reminiscent of the rich and colorful past. Several international businesses have their headquarters in this historical university town. Just outside Stellenbosch, nestled between the majestic Simonsberg, Stellenbosch, Jonkershoek, Twin Peaks and Helderberg mountains, a “clean” industry settlement has been established at Techno Park.
Once a quiet little village, Techno Park has become a centre for industry, business and education, as well as the heart of the wine industry.
Wine and the are of winemaking are woven into the history of Stellenbosch. From its humble beginnings with Simon van der Stel and the Huguenots, the valley has evolved to becoming the centre of the Cape’s wine industry, and produces some of the finest wines in the country. The famous Stellenbosch Wine Route, established in 1971, allows you to enjoy our fabulous local wines while undertaking entertaining and fun expeditions into the countryside. Stellenbosch is an amazing place to be.
Events and activities take place throughout the year – music, street, wine and art festivals delight both young and old. Outdoors enthusiasts can partake in hiking, mountain climbing, horse riding and cycling, while sports fans can attend international sporting events.
Stellenbosch has a bustling sidewalk café scene in the French tradition, excellent restaurants and coffee shops, modern shopping facilities and a vibrant Nightlife. A peaceful, cheerful town and its friendly people, a never-ending choice of entertainment and activities and a breathtaking valley with majestic mountains embracing it – this is what makes Stellenbosch such a special tourist and conference destination.