Stellenbosch Tourist Attractions
Stellenbosch, situated in a fruit-growing area, is one of the more interesting of South Africa's smaller towns. Lying so close to Cape Town, with so many attractive sights in the surrounding area, it is a place where visitors could profitably spend some time.
Stellenbosch is the second oldest European settlement (after Cape Town) on the Cape, founded in 1679 by Governor Van der Stel. The first settlers planted wheat, but it was soon realized that, thanks to the good soil and favorable climate of the area. Stellenbosch has also been for more than a century a university town and center of learning.Stellenbosch is one of the most beautiful towns in South Africa and one of the best preserved of the towns dating from the time of the Dutch East India Company. Most of the town's historic core, round the Braak and along Dorp Street, still survives, with numerous old buildings in Cape Dutch style. A feature of Stellenbosch is its old oak-trees. Gay with color throughout the year, it has a relaxed and cheerful atmosphere which all visitors will feel as they stroll quietly about the town.
The best starting-point for a walking tour of the town is the central square, Die Braak ("Fallow Field"). This open stretch of grass was originally a military parade ground on which festivals and other events were held (as they still sometimes are). Round the square are a number of historic buildings. Among them is the VOC Powder House, built by the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) in 1777, which now houses a small military museum. Near it is the Burgher House, built in 1797 and restored in the 1950s, which is now the headquarters of the Historical Houses of South Africa Society.At the north end of the square is the little church of St Mary on the Braak (1854), with a bell-tower added in 1884.
The Neo-Classical Old Hoofgebou (1886) is the main building of Stellenbosch University.Stellenbosch University (the students are known as maties and the campus as Matieland) is the oldest and most celebrated university in South Africa. Founded in 1866 as a small grammar school, it was renamed Victoria College in 1887, Queen Victoria's Jubilee year, and raised to university status in 1918. Here the Boer intellectual elite studied and taught, among them future prime ministers, heads of state and ministers (Hans Strijdom, Daniel Malan, Jan Smuts, etc.). Here, it could be said, racism was given an academic consecration. But the University was also the source of progressive ideas: in 1958 a memorandum signed by 28 professors and lecturers called for reforms, some of which found expression in President de Klerk's "Rubicon" speech of 1990. The university refers with pride to the enormous increase in the number of black students between 1989 and 1993 - a percentage increase of no less than 228%; but it should be noted that in 1993 there were still only 151 black students out of a total of 14,387 - just 1.05%.
Address: Private Bag X1, Matieland, Western Cape 7602, South Africa
The Dorp (Village) Museum is a group of four houses dating from 1709 to 1850 which have been carefully restored and furnished in the original style, with gardens planted as they would have been at the time. The Schreuder House, built around 1709 by a court messenger of that name, is the oldest in town. The Bletterman House was built about 1789 by Judge H. L. Bletterman, and after his death became the residence of the local judge. The oldest part of Grosvenor House, a two-story building in Neo-Classical style, dates from 1782; on the left of the main building are the old slaves' quarters, on the right a shed. The O.M. Bergh House was occupied by Oloff Marthinus Bergh until his death in 1866.
The Moederkerk is a Dutch Reformed church of 1722 which originally had a thatched roof. In 1863 it was remodeled in Neo-Gothic style by the architect Carl Otto Hager.
Drostdy Street runs into tree-lined Dorp Street, the old main street of the town, in which are many handsome old whitewashed houses, some of them with elaborate Cape Dutch gables.The old Lutheran church (1851) now houses the University Art Gallery.
This house at 95 Dorp Street, built by the Rev. Meent Borcherd in 1798 as a parsonage, has the "All-Seeing Eye" on the gable. It is now privately owned.
Libertas Parva is a finely restored house c 1783 now occupied by the Rembrandt van Rijn Art Gallery, with works by Irma Stern, Jacob Hendrik Pierneef and Anton van Wouw among other South African artists.
In Herte Street are the "slave houses", actually built by bond laborers after the liberation of the slaves in 1838 and much altered in later times.
Map of Stellenbosch Attractions