Even though Stellenbosch has long been overshadowed by nearby Franschhoek, this historic university town outside Cape Town deserves a closer look as a standalone destination—and not just as an afterthought to a Winelands tasting tour. Yes, you’ll have to sample a fair share of delectable wines here—there are more than 140 wine estates to choose from—but you can also while away a few days hiking, biking, 4x4-ing, or hot-air ballooning. Then, of course, there’s the food. There’s a reason why Stellenbosch is home to the largest concentration of South Africa’s top 10 restaurants, and for those with simpler palates, this Afrikaner stronghold is a great place to sample some authentic braai (barbecue) fare. If I’ve sold you on adding an extended detour in Stellies to your Cape Town trip, here are the five best hotels to consider. From opulent wine estate resorts to more intimate boutique properties, there’s a hotel for every taste in Stellenbosch.
Delaire Graff Estate
This vineyard has earned plenty of attention overseas, no doubt due to its very famous owner: the Laurence Graff (as in, the famed Graff Diamonds). The views, the contemporary rooms, and the spa live up to the hype, but the star here is Graff's South African art collection; the 2013 homecoming of the iconic Tretchikoff painting Chinese Girl was big news in South Africa.
This quirky 22-room boutique inn is one of my favorite hotels, thanks to its whimsical decor: oversize flamingo murals, fantastical paintings carved into the ceilings above the beds and a table shaped like a giant boar. Don't miss the four-course tasting menu at Makaron, helmed by local star chef Tanja Kruger.
Lanzerac Hotel & Spa
This hotel comes with all the grandeur you'd expect from a centuries-old working wine farm. The 180-year-old manor house has 48 rooms in earthy olives and tans with standalone tubs; the spa has stellar views and unique treatments, such as the Dr. Fish mani-pedi, in which you dip your hands and feet into water filled with tiny garra rufa fish, who like to nibble off dead skin.
Spier Wine Farm
One of the oldest wine estates in the region, Spier is a South African institution. Take a tour of the vineyard on a Segway, have a gourmet picnic on the grounds and view the on-site art collection; when you're done, retreat to a Riverside room with views overlooking the Eerste River.
This historic manor dating back to 1713 is right in the heart of the town center, making it walking distance to Stellenbosch's quaint cafés, boutiques and galleries. The beautifully restored home's 16 rooms have Old World furniture and stand-alone tubs and basins; many overlook the courtyard, which features a heated pool.