During September, fondly celebrated as Heritage and Tourism Month, one cannot think of a better place to get a real cultural fix than South Africa’s second oldest town, Stellenbosch – the historical City of Oaks which thrives as a forever young destination, where a rich heritage charms in contemporary fashion.
When visiting Stellenbosch, one soon discovers that it is worth far more than just a day trip to indulge in world-class wines and gourmet food. Although daily wine tastings and cellar tours are non-negotiable features on the itinerary of visitors to the area, the town itself encompasses a vibrant, living culture. Its innovative hub, brimming with a spectacular array of restaurants, esteemed hotels and guest houses, street cafes where locals, students and visitors indulge their coffee and art culture, is celebrated for its unique mix of urban, cultural and unspoilt, natural offerings.
From the whitewashed Anglican church and museums surrounding the emerald green Braak – Stellenbosch’s historical centre – to the myriad Cape Dutch buildings and modern Victorian architecture filtered through oak-lined streets and the 19th century university buildings, the town exudes history, yet there is nothing ‘old’ about Stellenbosch, which has a youthful, pioneering lifestyle.
Cape Town is just 45 minutes from Stellenbosch, which makes it the perfect hub from where to explore the city and coastal regions. The town is virtually surrounded by mountains which frame a serene outdoor paradise offering numerous hiking and mountain biking trails through the Cape Floral Kingdom, horse riding, wellness centres and spas, a number of golf courses and much more.
A major draw card is its people. Stellenbosch boasts no less than six neighbouring communities: Cloetesville, Ida’s Valley, Jamestown, Kayamandi, Klapmuts and Raithby. It is during September that these communities take centre stage to showcase the abundance of inherent talent, natural resources and authentic offerings that make Stellenbosch such a real and memorable destination.
Homegrown community attractions in aid of cultural tourism this month include the revival of the Breughel Theater in Cloetesville. This local theater has dusted of the cobwebs and is officially re-opening its doors on the 27th of September, with a special celebration of the community’s heritage through storytelling and cabaret. The auditorium will also be launched under its new name, Ben Dehaeck Theatre.
Kayamandi, means ‘Sweet Home’ in isi-Xhosa and this is exactly what visitors will experience when they
set foot on one of Bites and Sites’s (www.bitesansites.co.za) inspirational walks through this pulsating township, complete with an authentic Xhosa lunch prepared by the ‘mammas’ who will welcome you into their homes and hearts. Kayamandi is also home to South Africa’s first township theatre, Amazink, so swing by for some culturally authentic musical entertainment.
All the Stellenbosch communities will also descend on the famous Die Laan on the Eerste River on 24 September for the annual Stellenbosch e’Bosch Heritage Festival (www.heritagefestival.co.za). Young and old are invited to “come braai” and share some ubuntu spirit on the festival site, which stretches from the historic Ou Landbousaal to Coetzenburg Bridge. Attractions include stalls of authentic Stellenbosch products and food; a beer and wine tent, braai sites, captivating art exhibitions, the elite Spier Eerste River paddling contest and live music by local talent from the various communities including well-known and loved musician, Valiant Swart.
“Three years ago, Stellenbosch 360 NPC adopted an all-inclusive approach to positioning Stellenbosch as a premier leisure and corporate destination. As a result, we conceptualized Route 360 as a culture tourism route, aimed at providing visitors with a unique, authentic cultural experience in the company of locals, including those who live in our six surrounding communities,” says Annemarie Ferns, CEO of Stellenbosch 360, the town’s tourism and marketing organisation.
“Culture tourism is an ideal vehicle for socio-economic upliftment, as it focuses on inherent talent and heritage, rather than on infrastructure. Route 360 is not designed as a geographic route, but a way into the hearts and homes of our culturally diverse communities,” added Annemarie Ferns. The new tourism route will launch officially in October this year.
Herewith Annemarie’s Top Ten reasons to visit Stellenbosch:
1. A rich living culture with a unique urban, creative, food and wine offering.
2. South Africa’s wine tourism capital.
3. The best location from where to explore surrounding regions like Cape Town.
4. Value for money.
5. Scenic beauty and a biodiversity hotspot.
6. South Africa’s most loved university town with an interesting history.
7. Top quality food and wine.
8. Outdoor and adventure paradise.
9. Family friendly.
10. Quality accommodation and tourism experiences.
Stellenbosch is proudly marketed by Stellenbosch 360, they town’s dynamic tourism outfit, and you can contact them for information, to book a bespoke tour or to find out what they, as the locals “in the know” recommend.
Tel: +27 (0) 21 883 3584
Like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter @MyStellenbosch or visit their offices at 36 Market Street, Stellenbosch.