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Stellenbosch is a university town 50km from Cape Town that's home to some of South Africa’s best-known wineries. It's known as the City of Oaks because early European settlers made the most of the fertile soil and planted oak trees. Grape vines thrived too, and Stellenbosch became the first region in South Africa to establish a Wine Route, which now has more than 150 stops. There's also a burgeoning craft beer scene, weekend markets and some excellent hiking trails.
Hostels in Stellenbosch make the most of the temperate climate with gardens, porches and swimming pools. On balmy evenings you can sit around a fire pit or cook on a traditional braai (barbecue) before dining with your fellow travellers. In the cooler months, pick a Stellenbosch hostel with a fireplace to warm you up, play pool in a billiards room or unwind in a bar and taste some local wines. Friendly staff will help you plan activities and organise shuttle services to your next destination.
Some of the buildings in Stellenbosch's elegant historic centre date back to 1710. Dorp Street, the second oldest road in the country, has stately Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian former homes that now house cafés, hotels and museums. At Stellenbosch University's Botanical Gardens, in the heart of the town, you can see a Koi pond, Japanese Garden and an arboretum. The student residences are around Victoria Street, an area with affordable bars and eateries, while on Bird Street you'll find some of the best clubs.
Lots of visitors want to jump straight into a wine country trip, and there are companies running full-day and half-day tours so you don’t have to worry about driving. Look for laid-back wineries like Peter Falke Wines where you can sip Sauvignon Blanc in the sunshine from the comfort of a beanbag. Head to Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, a 9,800-hectare mountainous area 9km outside Stellenbosch, to explore the local landscape. The most popular hike is the scenic Swartboskloof to Sosyskloof trail, a 6.9km circular route that takes 2–3 hours.
Stellenbosch is easy to get around on foot, or you can book a tuk tuk to take you across town and to the wineries. The closest airport is Cape Town International Airport, a 40-minute drive from Stellenbosch. If you’re travelling by public transport, you’ll need to catch the MyCity bus from the airport to downtown Cape Town and then get a CT northern line train to Stellenbosch. The full trip will take around 3 hours.