Just an hour outside Cape Town, the quaint student town of Stellenbosch is in the heart of South African wine country. It’s surrounded by vineyards and buzzing with business and tourist opportunities. There are excellent restaurants that go along with the amazing wines produced right in the region. You can get tipsy just thinking about it.
South Africa is a major wine exporter — No. 9 in the world. Stellenbosch can be expensive but you can have a great time on a shoestring. There are places to go that are free or relatively inexpensive. Here are some things to do in Stellenbosch when you’re almost broke.
Parts of this article by Lara Moses originally appeared in AFKTravel.
Translated, it means “Uncle Sammy’s Shop,” and it’s a tourist attraction in Stellenbosch. You don’t have to buy anything. Looking is as good as a feast at this old-time general store on historic Dorp Street. This is a sensational experience. As you enter you’ll smell dried fish and biltong, leather, tobacco and spices. You can buy fresh fruit, local wines and toffees, or vintage clothes, old photos and antiques. It’s sensory overload, but in the funnest way.
Translated, it means “Town Street,” and it’s the oldest street in an old town dating back to 1679. Once the wagon road to Cape Town, Dorp Street is now lined with beautiful examples of old Cape Dutch-style architecture. The buildings that once housed farm workers and ox wagons for plowing the vineyards have been converted to inns, bars, restaurants and hotels. Gardens on Dorp Street are planted with roses and myriad other flowers. Mature oak trees supply ample shade for strolling. So highly are these trees valued, that some of them have been proclaimed historical monuments. The cost of walking: free.
Built to house the private art collection of Anton and Huberte Rupert, the Rupert Museum on historic Dorp Street is totally worth a visit. Admission is just 20 rand ($1.65) and for that, you get hours of awe-inspiring wandering through galleries showcasing some of South Africa’s best art. Collections include work by Irma Stern, Elza Dziomba, and JH Pierneef. You can also check out sculptures by European artist Auguste Rodin.
At Melissa’s Food Shop in Stellenbosch, you can try small packs of delectable fare, often cooked up in home kitchens and cottage industries around South Africa. Melissa’s owners Mark and Melissa Hoogstraten opened their first store in Kloof Street, Cape Town, in 1996. Now they have 11 including one in Stellenbosch. They stocked the shelves of their stores with food and other goods they personally fell in love with — things like fynbos honey, elderflower nougat and white chocolate cranberry fudge, to name a few. If your budget doesn’t allow an entire meal at Melissa’s, try a small package of fabulous goodies.
Ninety percent of the customers at Decameron Restaurant are locals, often students from Stellenbosch University who go there to celebrate special occasions such as graduations. The professors come too. But you don’t have to break the bank to dine there. Pizzas are a staple at this local joint. Share a wood-fired oven-baked pizza and split the bill with friends for an affordable meal, while you enjoy the art.
Pizza options include parma with parma ham or pizza quattro stagioni with tomato, mozzarella, asparagus, ham, mushroom and olives.
The restaurant was named after a collection of novellas by the 14th-century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio. The book, “The Decameron,” is 100 tales of love told by a group of seven young women and three young men who sought shelter in a villa outside Florence to escape the Black Death.
The walls of the restaurant are covered with prints of famous paintings given by friends and guests to Decameron owners Mario Ladu, a Scandinavian, and his Austrian wife, Andrea.
In the heart of Stellenbosch University campus is this adorable restaurant. With seasonal ingredients and local produce, Taste Bud Eatery has delicious food in a tranquil setting. From lasagne to red velvet cupcakes, the food at Taste Bud is not only mouthwatering, but reasonably priced too.
For less than $6 you can experience an amazing 1,000 square meter green house that’s home to over 300 butterflies. Butterfly World also has a reptile section where you can interact with snakes and lizards.
Enjoy some of the Cape Winelands best wines at Asara Wine Estate tasting centre. For US$2.60 you can taste three of the winery’s wines and for US$4.30 you can try five wines. Not only is the wine tasting good, but you can also relax and take in the spectacular view of the dam and surrounding mountains.
You’ll love visiting the four houses from the 18th and 19th century that make up the Stellenbosch Village Museum. For only US$2.60, you’ll get access to these amazing historic buildings that are well preserved and on exhibition for everyone to come visit.
Strawberries from the super market can be expensive, but you can save money and pick them yourself. We’ll at Polkadraai Farm you can not only pick delicious strawberries, but also enjoy them after for anything from $2 for 800g to 6.5kg for $15.
Situated in the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve, this 6.7km circular hiking trail will take you between two to three hours. The trail is ideal for beginners and it’s absolutely free.
If you love champagne, then head to the House of JC Le Roux. Not only do they have some of South Africa’s best champagne, but they pair it with delicious sweet treats including fudge for US$4, meringues and marshmallows for US$5, nougat and Turkish Delights for US$7, and fudge for US$4. We suggest you try all of them.
Head over to Spier and come face to face with huge birds of prey. All of the birds at Eagle Encounters need rehabilitation from injuries, poisoning, abuse or being reared by humans — so your $6.80 doesn’t only entertain you, but goes to a good cause, too.
Dance up a storm at Die Mystic Boer. The drinks are cheap, entry is free, and you’ll always have fun at this club/bar. Playing everything from drum n bass to trance, you better bring your dancing shoes because the music is always good.
Situated in the historical center of Stellenbosch, the Botanical Garden is the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa. Even though it’s small, it’s home to an enormous diversity of plants, both indigenous to South Africa and exotic. Bonus: entrance is free.
If you’re free on a Saturday or Sunday, head to Root44 Market. Not only is it an amazing place just to hangout at, but it’s also a good place to buy a few items from vendors selling everything from clothes to food.
If you love animals (especially giraffes), then head to Giraffe House where you’ll be able to interact with birds, buck, crocodiles, and ostriches. You’ll also learn loads about where the animals are from and how to protect them.
Spend a day exploring Technopark Stellenbosch. From getting your nails done, playing a round of golf, buying some great wines (at affordable prices), or grabbing a bite to eat, there is something for everyone.