It was Dutch cape commander Jan van Riebeeck who grew the first grapes in the winelands in 1655, but things have come a long way since then, with South African wines now renowned worldwide. The closest region to Cape Town is Stellenbosch, and as the second oldest town with historical significance it is has real appeal as well as a mild climate that is ideal for wine cultivation.
Further east, Franschhoek is sandwiched between three soaring mountains, which gives it an unparalleled setting that many consider to be the most impressive of the winelands. Originally founded by Huguenot refugees who escaped persecution in 17th Century France, the name of the town even translates as ‘French corner’ and is a joy to explore on foot, its compact centre filled with shops, monuments and restaurants and its surrounding countryside with vineyards that continue the French influence, offering some of the best wine of the region.
Paarl is slightly further north and, whilst slightly lesser known, still has an enviable backdrop of mountains and is the spiritual home of the Afrikaans language, where a fitting monument to the language can be visited atop a summit overlooking Paarl itself with incredible views over the lands below. Much like its counterparts in the winelands, it is surrounded by perfectly fertile vineyards that weave between the slopes and into the mountains beyond.
The atmospheric oak-lined streets and stately mansions give Stellenbosch a sense of old-world charm but it is equally lively, with a healthy student population.