Last Updated:

Cape Dutch Architecture in the Cape Winelands

Cape Dutch architecture in Stellenbosch, Dorp Street

Ever wondered about the Architecture of the Winelands?

One of the Wineland’s most charming features is its plentiful examples of Cape Dutch architecture. Especially in Stellenbosch and on the various wine estates.

Cape Dutch architecture is indigenous to South Africa. Dutch colonists took the Dutch architectural fashions of ornate gables and high roofs and adapted it for the Cape climate. For example the thick white washed walls and small-paned shuttered windows are designed to keep out the summer heat. The thatched roofs, with their elegant gables, kept the houses cool in summer and warm in the Cape winters.

Initially the front gables were also considered to be a slight fire break in case the thatched roofing caught fire. Later they were used mainly as a decorative feature to display the family’s crest. (Indeed the traditional thatched roof of the Cape Dutch homesteads has led to many being lost to fire over the centuries.)

Cape Dutch Architecture

Defining Characteristics of Cape Dutch architecture in South Africa

  • White-washed
  • Thatched roofs
  • Usually decorative central gable (though older examples many be plainer)
  • Painted wooden shutters on the outside of the buildings
  • Expansive, multi-paned windows, much more than a Georgian house…
  • ‘Heritage green’ is the colour of most of the paintwork.
  • Many have a distinctive H shape.
  • Many have attractive outbuildings built in the same style
  • Low white-washed walls surround the gardens and courtyards
  • Usually single storey though some roof spaces have now been converted into bedrooms.

The homestead often began as a simple rectangular building. As the family’s fortunes grew, this was extended to the back to form the spine of a T. If their fortunes continued to prosper, a second extension was added at the back to form a H shape. Unlike English manor houses, which also often have a H shape, the front door is usually in the centre of the front facade. (Rather than in the centre of the middle with two wings at the side.)

In addition to their attractive central gables, the charm of a CapeDutch homestead also lies in the surrounding buildings. The buildings were usually designed in a simpler but similar style. The young man of the house would have a “young mans house” set up for him if he took a wife whilst his parents were still alive. They were thatched, white-washed with small-paned windows painted green. These would house servants quarters, laundry, stables and wine cellars. This was a simpler version of the main homestead. Low white-washed walls surrounded all of these buildings and it made for an extremely harmonious composition.

Cape Dutch architecture in Stellenbosch, Dorp Street
Classic Cape Dutch homstead in Cape Winelands
Stellenbosch vs Franschhoek, Cape Dutch architecture in Stellenbosch

Good examples of Cape Dutch architecture in towns

Stellenbosch, Tulbagh, Swellendam, Paarl and Graaff Reinet have the best examples of Cape Dutch architecture.


The Cape Governor Simon van der Stel visited the Eerste river valley (site of Stellenbosch) in 1679 and decided the area was suitable for farming. Established in 1685, the charming town of Stellenbosch still contains a number of well-preserved Cape Dutch streets from that era. A walk around Stellenbosch shows off the many styles of Cape Dutch architecture through the years.

We recommend a visit to the Village Museum which shows four ‘settler’ houses through the ages. This shows how the Dutch colonists first lived when they arrived in the late 17th century. It then charts how the Cape Dutch architecture developed until the 19th century.

Many of the surrounding wine estates have beautiful old Cape Dutch homesteads. Some such as Boschendal and Vergelegen are open to visitors.

Cape Dutch Architecture in Somerset West

Vergelegen Wine Estate

Vergelegen Wine Estate is an elegant, tranquil wine estate in Somerset West. It has a dramatic history. It was the original home of Simon Van der Stel, the first Governor of the Cape. But he lost his home when he fell out of favour with the Dutch authorities. Nowadays it’s a wonderful place to spend a few hours. You can tour the Cape Dutch homestead, meander through the beautiful gardens, enjoy some wine tasting and take a cellar tour in its state-of-the-art modern cellar. Vegelegen is in Somerset West and you may like to combine a visit with the nearby wine and olive estates of Lourensford and Morgenster.

Boschendal Wine Estate

The manor house at Boschendal is not as old as Vergelegen but arguably it’s a more attractive example of Cape Dutch architecture. The current manor house was built in 1812. Here you can see the manor house, mainly from outside, sample their wines, enjoy their traditional Cape restaurant or opt to take a gourmet picnic to eat in their edenesque grounds. Alongside this, it is well worth spending some time in the recently revitalized garden. Boschendal lies between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.


Other Cape Dutch Wine Estates to Visit (Outside views only)


Though the Manor House is only for in-house residents, you can still enjoy the magnificent gardens, the cellar tours, the new tasting room, Babel restaurant or the Conservatory and a particularly food farm shop.

LÓmarins Wine Estate and Motor Museum

The main farmhouse is not open to the public, the gracious outbuildings house the introduction to the Franschhoek Motor Musuem and the Wine-tasting room. Well worth a visit…

Other Wine Estates include Blaauwklippen, Spier, Rustenberg… the list goes on…

Chat to us

Tell us what you have in mind and we'll craft an itinerary for you, at no obligation

Contact Us Now

Cape Dutch Homesteads

Hotels in Cape Dutch Homesteads

You can also stay in some old Cape Dutch homesteads which have been converted into luxurious boutique hotels.

Prime examples are:

In the Constantia Area of Cape Town


Lanzerac - Main Entrance
Stellenbosch vs Franschhoek – who will win the battle?
Franschhoek Church

Download our Winelands Restaurant Guide

Feeling hungry? Take a look at our guide to the best Restaurants in the Cape Winelands

Download Now

About the Authors – Cedarberg Africa

Cedarberg Africa is a Africa safari specialist focusing on Southern Africa. We design tailor-made itineraries which are created around YOUR interests. As we have long-standing relationships with our hotels and game lodges, we have very competitive rates. So typically you will not pay more overall for your trip, than if you booked it yourself, or via an online booking system. So you get all our knowledge and 1st-hand advice for no extra cost.

We have been in business for nearly 25 years so we know what we’re doing!

Share this article

Book with confidence

ABTA logo
Zicasso Logo
Aito assurred logo
SATSA logo

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Start planning

How it works

Cedarberg talk-to-us
Chat with us about your perfect itinerary
Cedarberg curate
We listen, discuss and curate your ideal experience
Cedarberg pack
You pack and enjoy your holiday

Sonja Brand

Africa Travel Specialist

Hi I’m Sonja, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keen to get some more useful info about planning a dream safari? Enter your name and email below

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.