One of the most beautiful towns in South Africa is Somerset West in the Western Cape province. With its rich history and plenty of attractions, this town is a place in South Africa that’s not to be missed.
Somerset West originated from a farm, Vergelegen. This farm was established in 1700, and some hundred years later, in 1822, the town of Somerset was founded on Vergelegen. The town took its name “Somerset” from an English governor of the Cape Colony, Lord Charles Henry Somerset. The suffix was ‘West’ added in 1825 to differentiate it from Somerset East, another South African town in the Eastern Cape.
This old town has a lot to offer to travellers, so read on to find out more about it: what to do, where to eat, and more.
If you like drinking wine, wine tasting in Somerset West is an absolute must! Some of South Africa’s best wines are produced in and around town.
Here are some of the top farms for wine tasting (most of them have nice restaurants too):
- Lourensford Wine Estate
- Vergelegen Wine Estate
- Morgenster Wine Farm
- Avontuur Estate
- Flagstone Winery
There’s a number of hiking trails in Somerset West for those who want to spend some time with mother nature.
The Helderberg Nature Reserve is a 363 hectare natural wildlife preserve with a wide variety of smaller fauna (buck, tortoises and other reptiles) and indigenous flora such as protea and fynbos. Located at the slope of the Helderberg (Afrikaans for “Clear Mountain”), it is the starting point of quite a few hiking trails into the mountain. You can choose a hiking route from the colour-marked trails, depending on what difficulty and distance you prefer.
If you’re not into hiking, you can also have a picnic at the reserve’s lawns, take a stroll around the pond or visit Helderberg Nature Reserve’s cafe and gift shop.
The Helderberg Farm Blue Route begins at the Helderberg Farm outside Somerset West. The 9 km trail takes hikers through the forests and vineyards and up the foot of the Helderberg Mountain. It takes between three and four hours to get to the top of the mountain. The ascent is quite steep, which makes the hike somewhat challenging.
The route is also popular among mountain bikers.
This vibrant market is situated on the picturesque Lourensford Wine Estate. It has more than 70 stalls, offering a mix of delicious food, drinks, organic produce, handmade wares, and original art. It even has a bar showcasing vintage cars. The Estate’s superb wine collection is also available at the festival, of course. Moreover, there are live music performances, adding to the rustic, lively atmosphere.
The Lourensford Market is open every Friday from 17:00 – 21:00 and every Sunday from 10:00 – 15:00.
Cheetah Outreach promotes the survival of the free-ranging, Southern African cheetah through environmental education and conservation initiatives.
The Cheetah Outreach on the Paardevlei estate in Somerset West is home to 14 cheetahs together with small predators like servals, caracals and meerkats. Visitors to the Outreach can view these animals. If you pay an extra fee that goes towards the conservation of cheetahs, you can also stroke a cheetah – a breathtaking experience, I can assure you.
Fred & Max
Fred & Max Eatery is a casual restaurant with a trendy aesthetic. This venue has a welcoming vibe, thanks to its friendly staff and its minimalist interior combining modernity with vintage touches. Fred & Max is an ideal spot for foodies and coffee snobs alike. It serves quality coffee, craft beer, calamari, salads and more – not to mention their tasty gourmet burgers.
(For more, read my review of Fred & Max: thedailyhappyblog.com/restaurant-review-fred-max/)
Cucina di Giovanni serves delectable Italian and Mediterranean food. Giovanni’s is known for its phenomenal atmosphere and service as well as its Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. Their most famous dishes are their pasta, liver and oxtail.
Taste Bistro is a welcoming restaurant serving international food. Customers praise the bistro’s service and food, especially its seafood (from calamari to shrimps) and London Pies. The ambience is warm and cosy, with the restaurant’s open kitchen and friendly staff. Adding to this, the venue is small and quiet.
Millhouse Kitchen is a beautiful, classy restaurant on the Lourensford estate. Their breakfast is a favourite among couples and groups of friends, although their lunch and tea options are great too.
Somerset Mall is the biggest shopping centre in the area. Visit the mall for anything from homeware to books to clothes. Somerset Mall has retail outlets for a number of international clothing brands like H&M, Forever New, Accessorize, Birkenstock and Billabong.
Besides shopping, you can also dine, see a movie at the Sterkinekor cinema, or go to a beauty spa.
Chelsea Village is a unique boutique shopping centre in the heart of Somerset West. The centre hosts a café (its breakfast is a favourite among locals) and 12 fascinating shops, such as Origin Hair, Paradiso Flowers, Chelsea Emporium and Mulberry House Interiors. Each shop is managed by its owner, giving Chelsea Village an intimate feel. The ambience is tranquil and elegant.