About Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch Accommodation Self-catering - Accommodation in Stellenbosch South Africa, Cape Town Winelands
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Squirrel & Vine
Self-catering apartment, Stellenbosch, South Africa
About Stellenbosch
Stellenbosch background information

Stellenbosch, or the ‘Town of Oaks’ is widely considered one of South Africa’s prettiest towns and is a prime tourist destination. It is particularly well
known for its historical importance, its fascinating architecture, its status as the heart of the
Cape Winelands, and its world-class research
university. Stellenbosch also offers an abundance of excellent restaurants, attracts major corporate businesses and is surrounded by acclaimed
gholf courses.

Stellenbosch, which is more than 300 years old, is located on the banks of the Eerste River in the Western Cape province of South Africa. On a
regional level Stellenbosch is considered the centre of the ‘Winelands’ and part of the ‘Boland’. The population is estimated to be in the vicinity of    
120 000 residents.

The major city nearest to Stellenbosch is
Cape Town, the airport nearest to Stellenbosch is Cape Town International Airport, and the beach nearest to
Stellenbosch is Strand beach. Approximate distances are as follows:

Stellenbosch has a Mediterranean climate. Summers are warm and dry in Stellenbosch, with daytime temperatures often above 30 degrees celsius in
the warmest months (January, February and March). Stellenbosch winters are cool and rainy, with daytime temperatures usually between 15 and 20
degrees celsius. Although – as in most South African towns – it does not snow in Stellenbosch, snow can often be seen on the highest peaks of the
surrounding mountains in the colder winter months. Spring and autumn daytime temperatures tend to be in the twenties in Stellenbosch. Three
quarters of the yearly rainfall in Stellenbosch of approximately 750mm, falls between April and September.

The natural vegetation in the Western Cape and in Stellenbosch is known as 'fynbos' ('fine bush') and includes proteas, erica (heaths) and restio
(reed- or rushlike plants). Stellenbosch has an exceptionally rich variety of plant species.

The history of Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is the oldest town in South Africa (Cape Town is the oldest city). Within three weeks of arriving at the Cape of Good Hope by ship,
Governor Simon van der Stel accompanied by a group of officials, departed to inspect the Dutch outpost in the Hottentots Holland. On 8 November
1679 they reached a level valley some thousands of morgen in extent. The party pitched their tents and pavilion at the site of the present Theological
Seminary on Dorp Street in Stellenbosch – back then the spot was still a little island in the Eerste River, with the main riverbed on the side where
central Stellenbosch now lies. While camped at this site Van der Stel, who was the first Cape Governor to visit the area, named it ‘Stellenbosch’ after

The first Drostdij (magistrates’ court) in Stellenbosch was completed in 1687 – its foundations are the ones on which the Theological Seminary still
rests, and are the oldest construction in Stellenbosch. Except for the Castle in Cape Town, they may be the oldest existing construction in South
Africa. Dorp Street was originally the old wagon road to Cape Town.

The first recorded evidence that the ‘free burghers’ (citizens not employed by the Dutch East India Company) identified themselves completely with
Africa was captured in Stellenbosch when Hendrik Bibault defied Landdrost Starrenburgh in 1707. At the site where the second wheat mill in
Stellenbosch used to stand on Parsonage Street, Bibault said “Ik wil niet loopen, ‘k ben een Africaander” (“I refuse to go, I am an Africaander”).

In 1769, following the great flood of 1768, the far bed of the Eerste River was deepened and its banks paved with round river boulders, some of
which are still visible. The flow along the bed on the village side was staunched, and the small former island on which Van der Stel first camped was
no longer separate from Stellenbosch village.

The fact that the natural vegetation ('fynbos') found around Stellenbosch did not include tall trees, was responsible for Van der Stel's insistence upon
planting oak trees. Today these old, large, characteristic oak trees - some of which have been declared national monuments - still grow abundantly in
the streets of central Stellenbosch and earn Stellenbosch its nickname 'Town of Oaks'.

Although Governor Van der Stel never lived in Stellenbosch, he is credited with establishing and developing the town of Stellenbosch for which he
had a special affection, and returned to visit Stellenbosch on numerous occasions.

A large number of sites in Stellenbosch have been declared national monuments by the National Monuments Council of South Africa. Visitors to
Stellenbosch will notice a bronze plaque on the outer wall of each proclaimed building and, in many cases, additional plaques with a brief history
explaining the significance of the building.

Architecture in Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch has changed over the centuries without sacrificing its soul. Some historic buildings have been left intact, while the majority have been
authentically restored. The original Stellenbosch houses were single stories with wooden beams and thick walls built of sun-dried bricks, which
were mud-lined inside and finished with lime-wash outside. Stellenbosch's streets were lined with furrows bringing water to each house. In the
early 1700s Cape Dutch-style became fashionable in Stellenbosch. It's a uniquely South African style with symmetrical proportions and a central
decorative gable, where the date of the building is usually plastered. In the later part of the 18th century grander double storey houses were built in
Stellenbosch and smaller houses expanded. During the 19th century Regency, Cape Georgian, neo-classic Renaissance and Victorian styles
become fashionable and can all be seen in Stellenbosch today. Stellenbosch village museum comprises four restored houses which illustrate the
different architectural styles, furnishings and gardens during the three centuries of Stellenbosch's existence.

The Stellenbosch Wine route

Stellenbosch is the centre of South Africa's wine industry. The Stellenbosch wine route, initiated in 1971, is the oldest wine route in South Africa.
Although the town of Stellenbosch lies in the heart of its wine route and the numerous wine estates are located within just a few kilometers of
central Stellenbosch, they are not within walking distance and visitors need a car or tour bus to reach these estates. Most estates on the
Stellenbosch wine route offer wine tasting and cellar tours, while a large number also have excellent restaurants, shops and other forms of
entertainment. Some offer outdoor picnics, concerts and other entertainment in the summer months.

Stellenbosch University

Stellenbosch University is one of the top research universities in South Africa. It has approximately 25 000 students and more than 2 400 staff of
which over 800 are lecturers.

A number of Stellenbosch villagers bought the old Drostdij building in Dorp Street, which had stood empty for many years, and ceded transfer to the
Synod in 1853. This led to the establishment of the Theological Seminary in Stellenbosch and lay the foundation for Stellenbosch to become the centre
of university education in the Boland.

In January 1864 some 30 Stellenbosch residents gathered in the Old Reading Room on the corner of Drostdy Street and Dorp Street to discuss the
founding of the Stellenbosch Gymnasium from which Stellenbosch University would eventually develop. The Gymnasium’s Arts Department evolved
into Stellenbosch College, then Victoria College, and finally Stellenbosch University. Stellenbosch University’s oldest men’s residence is Wilgenhof on
Ryneveld Street, and Harmonie on Neethling Street is the oldest womens’ residence. The foundation of Stellenbosch University’s oldest and most
photographed faculty building – Die Ou Hoofgebou ('the old main building') – was laid in 1880. Today Die Ou Hoofgebou houses Stellenbosch
University’s Law Faculty.

Although the largest and most prominent, Stellenbosch University is no longer the only tertiary institution in Stellenbosch. A number of other
educational institutes contribute to the large, vibrant student population.

Restaurants in and around Stellenbosch

For its size, Stellenbosch truly has an astonishing choice of excellent restaurants. Overseas visitors to Stellenbosch are often particularly surprised
by the high standards, as one can dine at a fraction of the price a comparable restaurant might charge in many other countries. Stellenbosch has a
long tradition of culinary excellence, no doubt fuelled by its love of wine. A handful of Stellenbosch restaurants frequently receive national and
international awards. On a national level, it is clear that the town’s top restaurants compete on equal footing – as far as awards and accolades are
concerned – with those in the major South African cities and in Stellenbosch’s neighbouring town,
Franschhoek (which is also well known for its
dining standards).

Business in Stellenbosch

Although the general atmosphere in Stellenbosch – especially around the historic core – may be one of culture, tourism and wine rather than retail
business, visitors and residents are able to find almost everything they need in terms of goods and services in Stellenbosch. What is particularly
noticeable on the business front is the fact that a number of companies listed on the Johannesburg Securities Exchange are now headquartered in
Stellenbosch. These include
Distell, Parmalat, Medi-Clinic, BAT (South Africa), Remgro, PSG, Steinhoff International and Capitec.

Gholf in and around Stellenbosch

A number of acclaimed gholf courses are located in the Stellenbosch area. Three gholf courses are usually referred to as being ‘in Stellenbosch’ –
Stellenbosch Gholf Club, De Zalze and Devonvale. Apart from these, Stellenbosch is also within close proximity of Erinvale, Pearl Valley and

Accommodation in Stellenbosch

Visitors to Stellenbosch may find it necessary to book accommodation well in advance. As in most of the Western Cape, the summer months
(November to March) are very popular in Stellenbosch. In winter it may be easier to find accommodation in Stellenbosch. However, visitors often
neglect to consider
Stellenbosch University’s calendar and popular local events in Stellenbosch before making reservations. Accommodation
establishments in Stellenbosch quickly become fully booked, for example, at times when students are dropped off and collected by their families at
the beginning and at the end of a term.
Stellenbosch University graduation times (in March/April and December) are also very busy, as are big
sporting events, the
Stellenbosch Wine Festival (usually in July/August), the Stellenbosch Woordfees (‘Word festival’, usually in March), and when
popular shows are staged at one of the Stellenbosch arts venues. It is also advisable to book well in advance if you plan to visit Stellenbosch over a
weekend, as the numerous picturesque wine estates are very popular wedding destinations.

The following sources were consulted in writing the above:
Koppe, W. & Schwager-Koppe, C. 2003. Stellenbosch. Stellenbosch: Voorbrand Publications
Meiring & Van Huyssteen. 1993. Footloose in Stellenbosch. Cape Town: Tafelberg
Proust, A. & Pennewaert, D.A. 2006. Stellenbosch - a visual promenade. Cape Town: La Compagnie du Cap

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  Approximate distance
Major road(s) to central Stellenbosch
Central Cape Town to central Stellenbosch
42 kilometers
Cape Town International Airport to central Stellenbosch
34 kilometers
Polkadraai & Stellenbosch roads
Central Somerset West to central Stellenbosch
21 kilometers
Central Strand to central Stellenbosch
23 kilometers
Central Franschhoek to central Stellenbosch
37 kilometers
Central Paarl to central Stellenbosch
32 kilometers
R44 & N1
Central Bellville to central Stellenbosch
28 kilometers
Stellenbosch - Squirrel & Vine view from rooftop
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