To really sense the history and atmosphere of this beautiful South African town – (one of the first places established by colonists as a Magisterial district, in 1745) a walk through Swellendam’s Heritage Quarter is an absolute must.
Your starting point could be the Drostdy Museum, one of Swellendam’s treasures – housing unique artefacts of the town’s history, where you can self-explore freely, or book a guided tour. You can walk from there to the town centre – inhaling the atmosphere of this stunning street or you could begin your exploration from the Dutch Reformed Church
Whichever way you choose to go there are coffee shops, art galleries, a working pottery studio, restaurants, gift and souvenirs, fresh local produce, guesthouses, historical buildings, a heritage garden and the gorgeous Koornlands river. It’s officially a twenty minute walk – but you seriously need to set aside at least a few hours to enjoy all there is to offer.
At the historic Dutch Reformed Church, located opposite Church Square, you can take a guided tour of the building and grounds before moving on to enjoy locally created art and craft at The Lifestyle Art Gallery. As you round the corner you will see the beautiful ‘Grand Dame of Swellendam’, Schoone Oordt Country House Hotel. (Of course if you are lucky enough to be staying there, you will be right in the middle of all this history!)
Pop into Bee Things for unique honey products (including tastings), learn about beekeeping, and watch the worker bees doing their thing….
Coffee Break? You will be spoiled for choice – Ikigai, Aan de Eike, the Country Deli, Oak and Bean, watching birds by the river at La Belle Alliance, or enjoying the quirky surroundings at Art de Olivia.
A visit to the Bukkenburg Pottery Studio is an awe-inspiring experience, especially if renowned resident potters David and Felicity are at their wheels. They run courses if you happen to be in Swellendam for any length of time.
At the end of the route is one of Swellendam’s treasures – the Drostdy Museum, housing unique artefacts of the town’s history, where you can self-explore freely, or book a guided tour.
If gardens are of interest to you – then pop into the Museum Kwekery – enjoy the gardens at both the main Drostdy building and Mayville House with its recently restored stunning Rose Garden, and tucked away behind the bridge there are steps down into the Botanical gardens, currently in need of some tender care, but still a place of serenity and interest.
OR return to Church Square to eat lunch at Grace+Merci.
Here, on Saturday mornings, Under the Oaks Village Market takes place. Hugely popular with the locals, this market has abundant fresh produce, locally brewed craft beer, local wines, arts, crafts, and delicious food.
A quiet little Mall with some interesting local shops is worth popping into – Carlton Mall has a great little bookshop Bokmakiri Books, It is a hub for art exhibitions, book launches, talks and societies – there is nearly always something interesting going on. May-Bi Antiques is stuffed with treasures. Penny Lane is one of the very few places in Swellendam where you can buy local souvenirs – as well as handcrafted toys and gifts – and shoes, wonderful shoes.
The map below provides an easy guide to any visitor to Swellendam and will be available in guesthouses and restaurants by the end of September – just in time for Swellendam’s summer visitors.
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