We, in the Riebeek Valley, have an absolutely extraordinary past and present. Sometimes I wonder what it is that we don’t have to boast about.
Our Arts town, the jewel of the Swartland, has had both historic and unequalled milestones.
This Valley belongs to all of us, and in pride we call ourselves the Riebeek Valley people.
In 1661, Commander Jan van Riebeeck and Corporal Pieter Cruythoff set off on an inland expedition, where they climbed up a mountain (now known as Bothmanskloof Pass) and found before them a most fertile valley which stretched as far as the eye could see.
Instead of lions that prowled the Riebeek Valley then, now you’ll find manicured vineyards and olive groves, along with a beautiful town called Riebeek Kasteel.
The town’s name comes from the combination of Jan van Riebeeck and the Kasteelberg, which is our nearby mountain.
Traditionally recognised as a wheat-producing region, it has since blossomed into a large wine-producing area specialising in rich, fruity wines such as Shiraz, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage grape varieties. This makes sense due to the drought-resistant vines, the loose soil and the age of the vines. The soil of this area is capable of retaining sufficient water to prevent the need for irrigation. It is the perfect region as it is a hot, dry region that has a tremendous focus on producing unique expressions of these varieties. It is these vine and soil types that have allowed this region to produce wines of quality and fruit concentration.
This stunningly romantic and friendly village, with miles of olive and vine valleys bathed in sunshine, makes one feel like you could be in the Tuscan hills of Italy.
Surrounded by wine and olive-growing estates, and with the wild and rocky Kasteelberg towering over the valley, the views are outstanding at every turn. The mountain nature reserve is another attraction. There are wide open spaces with lots of places for bird-watching and botanising, and the chance to study the plant kingdom. One feels like you are being massaged, while still being able to work. Thankfully there is no need for traffic lights, a police station, no rush hour or big shopping malls.
Interestingly, and quite bizarrely, Jan Christian Smuts and Daniel Malan, two former South African prime ministers, were born in the Riebeek Valley. Smuts however opposed the segregationist policies promoted by the National Party, led by Daniel Malan. Both these men have left their mark in the Riebeek Valley and the world, for contrasting reasons.
Over the past two years, we are astounded that within an 1 hour radius of the Mother City, is an oasis of artists, theatre fundi’s, foodies and intellectuals, buying up cottages and moving out to this quaint town, and commuting to the city. People greet us with an authenticity seldom seen in any of the other small towns visited. Immersing ourselves in the culture seemed so effortless.
This is an Olive haven, and people know their stuff, and hence the golf medals having been afforded in this region. When the 2023 SA Olive Awards took place at the Grande Roche Hotel in September, our Extra Virgin Olive Oils (EVOOs) that entered were thoroughly judged by a panel of local and international judges.
Although this year was particularly challenging for our producers due to a poor harvest, as they saw considerably lower yields and experienced daily challenges such as load shedding, it’s even more commendable that the Riebeek Valley producers delivered amazing quality.
There are several olive outlets in the town, and we implore that you go and do your olive tastings at the various places. There are tables laid out with all manner of olives, oils, and tapenades. The experts will explain the different types of olives, the difference between virgin and extra virgin oils, while guiding you through the myriad of olives and olive products. The Kalamata olives in a Blueberry dressing and Green Olive Mustard are always firm favourite of mine.
Visitors stroll through the streets; enjoying the eclectic collection of art galleries, boutiques and decor shops; tasting wines, olives and olive oils from the local estates and dream of living the simple rural life.
Art lovers will relish the magnificent art galleries that mostly represent local Riebeek Valley artists. There are countless paintings, sculptures and ceramics and there’s bound to be something that will catch your eye. You may even find yourself walking away with a piece of art, when you least expected to. Then there is the annual Solo Studios event. For an entire weekend, local artists open their working studios to art lovers, allowing them into their private workspaces and homes, and offering fascinating insight into their creative process. This year there were 17 solo exhibitions in studios, including nine collaborations with guest artists from outside the valley, and eight group exhibitions in galleries and public spaces.
There were not that many restaurants available when we came to the Valley, now we are told that there are over twenty five quirky eateries in the Riebeek Valley.
Some more Interesting Facts
- The Riebeek Valley is just close enough for some residents to commute into Cape Town.
- It’s a scenic 40-minute drive to Century City, and just 25km to Wellington and 45km to Paarl for shopping and schools.
- In the heart of the Swartland farm country, you can escape the summer heat and head over to the West Coast at Yzerfontein.
- The Riebeek Valley has attracted a resident community of artists, which has inspired Solo Studios Art Weekend, an annual open studio weekend in August.
- The Olive Festival in May is best known, attracting large numbers of visitors. It was postponed during Covid and renamed the Riebeek Valley Olive Harvest
- Most festivals are driven by the local community.
- A regular community event is The Village Market held in Riebeek Kasteel on the square first Saturday of every month with profits going to charity.
- In the evening, when the vivid sunset fills ones heart with wonder, then you just sit on your patio with a glass of wine watching the sunset and you realise you have something very precious in the peace and tranquillity of small-town life that many people from the city can only dream of.
Things to do:
- Browse the art galleries, boutiques and decor shops.
- Taste wine at the local wine estates and at the Wine Kollective.
- Taste olives at Olive Boutique, Het Vlock Casteel and Kloovenberg Wine Estate.
- Enjoy G&Ts on the front stoep of the historic Royal Hotel.
- Visit Riebeek Valley Museum and Jan Smuts Museum.
- Bartholomeus Klip Private Nature Reserve
- Hiking trails up the Kasteelberg
- The 40km Kasteelberg MTB route
- Swartland Birding Routes
If you are more of a nature enthusiast and less of a city slicker, we’ve got the best stay in one of South Africa’s gem, come to the Riebeek Valley. You’ll love the vibe in this authentic country destination!
Internationals, Capetonians as well as people around the country search for getaways, to experience the more relaxed rural and artistic lifestyle that has inspired poets, painters, and playwrights with its beauty. The search is over – come to the Riebeek Valley.
The entire region is a paradise for food lovers, thanks to the expansive
Swartland wine and Olive Route. You can’t go wrong diving into a mouth-watering steak, while pairing it with a bold and full-bodied Syrah
(Shiraz). Apart from food and wine the region also offers a number of activities for visitors including walking and hiking trails, 4X4 trails, hang-gliding, quad biking, paragliding, fishing, canoeing, clay-pigeon shooting and horse-riding.