I loved visiting Stellenbosch, it ended up being one of my favorite places in South Africa. Stellenbosch is a university town filled with gorgeous Cape Dutch architecture, more restaurants than you could hope to try, and of course, over 300 wineries within reach. Stellenbosch reminded me of a mix of Davis, California, a small university town where I studied, and Napa, California, one of the most famous wine regions in the world. Combine these two settings, and you get Stellenbosch.
Spending a few days wine tasting in Stellenbosch and nearby Franschhoek is the perfect (or at least my perfect) way to spend some days of holiday. The wine is great, the prices are low, and the views are spectacular.
How to go wine tasting in Stellenbosch
When you visit Stellenbosch, I see two main options for wine tasting: 1) drive yourself around (and be limited in how much wine you can drink – you’ll have to spit, not swallow!), or 2) hop on an organized wine tour.
I was initially a bit skeptical of an organized wine tour – I’m from northern California where its pretty common to drive yourself around to wineries, and I thought the wine tours might be a bit too touristy. Luckily, I was completely wrong, and joining an organized wine tour in Stellenbosch was a great way to go wine tasting. They will pick you up and drop you off at your hotel, so all you have to do is make it to your front door after the wine tastings.
We didn’t book ahead of time, but I’d highly recommend that YOU do. We got a bit lucky by visiting the Stellenbosch Tourism Office first thing in the morning to see if any wine tours had any spots left. Luckily we were able to join with Afrivista Wine Tours, and we weren’t disappointed.
If you choose a private tour like Afrivista, your day will include visiting 3-4 wineries, with an hour-long stop for lunch. The tour cost around €40 per person, including lunch, which I felt was a pretty fair price for an awesome day out wine tasting.
Booking a private tour is completely worth the money – you get to drink (because you don’t have to drive), you will be taken to vineyards you might otherwise not know about, and you get some great knowledge from your guide along the way. Plus, on a private tour you might just meet other nice people who are lovely to spend the day with. We were actually in a group of almost exclusively German speakers… which was a bit strange, but hey, at least they seemed to hit it off! Funny enough, we actually ran into one of the couples from our Stellenbosch wine tasting tour TWICE in Cape Town – once climbing Table Mountain, and once watching the sunset on Signal Hill. Small world, right?
If you do go with Afrivista, there is a chance you could visit the Fairview winery, which was my favorite for one big reason: they have a goat farm! And make fresh goat cheese, which is the absolutely delicious. Not only do they have a goat farm, but the goats have their own little bridge over a pathway to the parking lot.. it is pretty adorable.
Wine tasting in Stellenbosch was the perfect way to discover South Africa’s gorgeous winelands and get a taste of what the locals are up to. If you visit Cape Town, this is truly a must-do!
How to go wine tasting in Franschhoek
After our private wine tour in Stellenbosch, we decided we’d better not leave Franschhoek untouched – that would be alcohol abuse not to indulge in the wines there!
A family we met during our safari clued us in to the Franschhoek wine tram, so from the moment I heard about that, I knew we had to do it. Before you get too excited about the wine tram, it might be a good idea to manage your expectations. While the wine tram is very picturesque, the tram tracks actually don’t stretch that far out of the town of Franschhoek. Fear not, once the tram tracks end you’ll be able to take their wine bus.
With the Franschhoek wine tram, you pick the line you want to take and from there its up to you to hop back on to visit another winery of your choice on that route, or stay on at whichever winery you first stopped at.
On the Franschhoek wine tram you will have to pay for your own wine tastings – those prices aren’t included in the tram ticket, but wine tasting in Franschhoek is so cheap it’s no problem to pay for it yourself. I was blown away when we only paid €2 per person to taste 4 wines. In Napa it can cost around $25 per person to taste four wines.
During our visit to Franschhoek, we visited 3 wineries in total on the yellow line: Rickety Bridge, Grand Provence, and Dieu Donne. I can’t recommend visiting Dieu Donne enough. It is situated on a hillside overlooking Franschhoek, giving you views of the vineyard filled valley below you – and the wine is fantastic as well! It was the perfect place for us to end our day wine tasting.
I’d strongly recommend booking Franschhoek wine tram tickets before you go, at least the night before. The price of the Franschhoek wine tram at the time of this post was R220 for adults, or about €15 each.
How long should you stay in Stellenbosch
We stayed 3 nights/4 days in Stellenbosch, which felt to us like the perfect amount of time. That allowed us to have two full days of wine tasting, one day in each Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Stellenbosch is very close to Cape Town – it only takes about 40 minutes to drive to the city from there, making it a very easy day trip if you’re short on time. Having said that, I still strongly recommend to stay in Stellenbosch itself – the vibe is different from Cape Town and staying there will really allow you to fully enjoy the winelands.
After a couple of days of wine tasting I was ready to do something other than be driven around and drink all day – although it was lovely!
Where to stay in Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch is relatively small, so I would argue it doesn’t really matter where you stay there. We chose to stay just slightly outside of downtown, which was about 15 minutes walk away, but we actually always took an Uber, since well… if you visit South Africa, you know that even a 15 minute walk could be a bit shady, and Ubers are so cheap, it’s often worth it to just take an Uber and avoid any chance of being robbed.
We stayed with StayBosch during our visit to Stellenbosch, and had a great stay with them. StayBosch is owned by a German couple to visited Stellenbosch and never left (for good reason!). They own a big house where half is their private living quarters, and the other half has been made into hotel/apartments – #dreamlife.
StayBosch is clean, comfortable, and comes with a full size kitchen which is handy if you’re like me and enjoy doing a little grocery shopping when you’re on a long vacation. StayBosch also has a washer and dryer you can use for free which was another huge benefit for us after we got dusted up on our safari.
Have you gone wine tasting in Stellenbosch or Francschhoek? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Looking for other tips on South Africa? Check out my posts below: