Travel back in time in scenic Stellenbosch

Roughly 50 kilometres from central Cape Town, you will find the second oldest town in South Africa. The Stellenbosch Village Museum, a cultural history museum in the centre of this picturesque old town, takes you back to the 18th and 19th centuries.

Walking around the quaint town of Stellenbosch is in itself something of a historical experience. Dorp Street, for example, has one of the longest rows of surviving old buildings of any major town in southern Africa. However, for a quick tour through South African architectural history, you should check out the Stellenbosch Village Museum.

The museum is made up of four separate houses — acquired at various point during the 20th century — that each represent a distinct architectural period in Stellenbosch’s history. The houses have been furnished and decorated in the manner they would have been during the relevant period. Guides dressed in period costumes share snippets of Stellenbosch’s history, and even the gardens are period specific!

The first house, Schreuderhuis, which was built in 1709 by Sebastian Schreuder, a German who worked for the Dutch East India Company, is the oldest restored and documented town house in South Africa. The furnishings are quite simple and the house has unusual windows. Because glass was a rare commodity, early settlers would stretch gauze tightly over a frame and seal it with beeswax. On hot days, they would remove the frames entirely, and on stormy days, they would keep the wind and rain out by closing the shutters.

Blettermanhuis, which was built in 1789 by the last magistrate of Stellenbosch appointed by the Dutch East India Company, is a typical 18th century Cape-Dutch home, with an H-shaped ground plan and six gables. From 1879 until it was acquired by the Stellenbosch Museum in 1969, this building served as the police headquarters.

Although the third house, the Georgian Grosvenor House, was first built in 1782 by Christian Ludolph Neethling, it only reached its present appearance — thanks to a series of renovations — in 1803. Along with the Martin Melck House in Cape Town, this is one of the best-preserved examples of a two-storeyed, flat-roofed patrician town house in South Africa.

The British influence is seen mostly strongly in the furniture of the fourth house, OM Berghhuis, which is a typical Victorian mid-nineteenth century home with heavy mahogany furniture, wallpaper and family portraits.

If you are not quite ready to leave the 19th century, the museum precinct also includes the VOC Kruithuis, which houses a collection of firearms, cannons and military uniforms, and a toy museum full of miniatures, antique dolls and dinky cars.

Vergelegen: A classic Cape estate

With hundreds of wine estates in and around Cape Town it’s often difficult deciding which ones are worth a visit. We asked winelands tour guide Stephen Flesch for one of his favourites…

Vergelegen is one of the premier wineries in the Stellenbosch region and is a really lovely place to visit. Owned by Angle American, the grounds are impressive with beautiful gardens to explore. And the wines are fantastic.

There’s a separate tasting centre where you go to taste the wines, and after tasting you can walk through the gardens and visit the historic manor house. There are also cellar tours that happen twice a day, at 11am and 3pm, which take about an hour.

All of their wines are top quality and really worth tasting. The GVB range is their premium range. They are quite expensive for locals, but by international standards they are very reasonably priced.

Cape Town Helicopter present the Winelands Charters.

The mother city does nothing in small doses, in fact everything that she offers is done in absolute style and perfection, it is the place of awe-inspiring journeys and experiences. Cape Town is also famous all over the world for the amazing wine that she produces, the phenomenal wine lands that she holds dear to her bosom, and the intensely breathtaking beauty in which these wine lands are set. Cape Town Helicopters offer the most supremely spectacular way of seeing and experiencing the four most formidable wine lands that the Cape has to offer.

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The Western Cape has incredible towns of beauty to offer, Stellenbosch, the second oldest European settlement in the province,  situated 50km from the City Bowl is one of these intensely beautiful towns. It earned its original name as the city of oaks due to the large amount of oak trees that were planted by its founder Simon van der Stel.

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