Constantia - Cape Town
Constantia is known as one of Cape Town's more upmarket areas. This uniquely leafy district boasts breathtaking scenery, a country atmosphere and the benefits of contemporary living, all within minutes of the city centre. The lush Constantia Valley - the green jewel of the Cape - is the birthplace of South Africa's wine farming industry and is steeped in history. Take a drive through the beautiful valley and you'll realise why the first governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel, chose this situation for his farm, Groot Constantia. Four of the five remaining wine farms in the Constantia Valley formed part of that original portion of prime land granted to Van der Stel.
Constantia's world-famous wines were sought after by royalty in the Eighteenth Century, and to this day are still being produced and increasingly acclaimed for their quality. On the Constantia Wine Route, visitors can taste these fine wines and experience a unique journey through each of the area's five wine farms, some of which also offer top class South African restaurants, namely Constantia Uitsig, La Colombe, Buitenverwachting and Steenberg.
The most famous of Constantia's wine farms, Groot Constantia, has an interesting wine museum and boasts a tourist shop, a number of good restaurants, and wine sales seven days a week. Groot Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg farms are all within a short drive of one other, and all offer wine tasting, wine purchasing and restaurants. For those who might not have the time to visit each farm, the wine shop at Constantia Uitsig sells a comprehensive selection of wines from the Constantia Valley, plus a few selected wines from wineries outside the area. For lovers of fine wine, a day spent on the Constantia Wine Route - just five minutes from home - is a must.
Another of Constantia's interesting historical sites is the Moslem shrine, part of the Islamic holy chain of kramats stretching from Robben Island through Faure, Constantia, Oudekraal and Vlaeberg.
The Constantia Valley is home to a great selection of guest houses and quality, upmarket hotels. You'll also find a range of restaurants, offering anything from fine dining to reasonably priced, informal meals.
Adjoining Constantia, and geographically a part of the valley, lies Tokai, a vast, wooded area which includes the Tokai Forests, Silverhurst Golf Estate and the legendary Pollsmoor prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for part of his prison sentence. A beautiful, rural area, Tokai offers many options for a glorious day in the country, including forest and mountain walks, mountain biking and horse riding trails, and secluded sites for picnicking.
Constantia is conveniently situated a five-minute drive from the world-famous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Here one can spend hours wandering among green lawns in the shadow of towering Table Mountain, absorbing the splendour of countless different botanical zones, such as the Fragrance Garden, the Dell, the Cycad Amphitheatre, Matthew's Rockery and the Fynbos Walk. For the more intrepid hiker, climbing the Table Mountain Contour Path from Kirstenbosch treats one to a magnificent view over the Constantia Valley towards the False Bay coastline. Kirstenbosch's restaurants serve breakfast, tea, lunch and dinner. You'll also find a coffee shop, nursery and information centre, and guided tours if you'd like more in-depth visit. And don't miss the flower shows and sunset concerts, highlights on Kirstenbosch's annual calendar.
Another Constantia institution is the craft market, held at the end of each month on the grounds of the old Alphen wine estate. The market has become a popular event in the Constantia community and by midday the stalls are packed with locals. For shopping, meals and banking, the recently renovated Constantia Village Shopping Centre offers a wide variety of upmarket shops, restaurants and coffee shops.