Founded in 1688 by the French Huguenots, the pretty town of Franschhoek offers fine dining, some of the country’s best wines, and picture-perfect scenery – all the ingredients for a respite from city living.
Dramatic mountains, centuries-old vineyards, and Cape-Dutch architecture all come together to create a setting that marks Franschhoek as one of the country’s most beautiful small towns. Just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, it’s the perfect spot for a day trip, a leisurely weekend away, or, if you have time, linger longer and soak up the luxury and charm of this unique place.
For the foodies
You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining in this little town.
Home to some of the country’s top restaurants and internationally-acclaimed chefs, you’ll find everything from the best in fine dining, to light deli meals, all made with fresh, local produce. In fact, Franschhoek boasts a number of award-winning restaurants and has been dubbed the culinary capital of South Africa.
Every year, the town hosts a number of foodie events, like the Franschhoek Bastille Festival, where gourmet fare is available in abundance, and the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, which pairs the best bubblies with culinary treats. The latter is a summer affair held every December, so if you’re looking for a way to ease elegantly into the holidays, why not give it a try? Also, part of the Franschhoek Artisan Route, the town offers a range of the finest local trout, cheeses, charcuterie, artisanal breads and olives – perfect for a DIY picnic spread in the winelands.
For the connoisseurs
The Franschhoek Valley is a treasure trove for wine-lovers, and the choice can be quite overwhelming if your time in the area is limited. One of the best ways to make sure you visit as many farms as possible, is to take the Franschhoek wine tram.
It’s a hop-on hop-off tour through vineyards in an open-sided tram, which stops at some of the area’s oldest and most well-known wine estates such as Le Lude, La Petite Dauphine, Holden Manz, La Bourgogne, La Couronne, Mont Rochelle, Rickety Bridge and Grande Provence. There is a loop of stops and several route options, so guests are given time to go wine tasting, take a cellar tour, stroll through the vineyards or have lunch without rushing.
Soak up some culture
If a morning spent strolling through art galleries is your idea of a good time, you’ll love Franschhoek’s offering. In the town itself, don’t miss The Blue Lion Gallery, Art in the Yard, and Roubaix House. The latter is the home and studio of renowned potter David Walters, and the space is open to those interested in seeing the production of his studio ceramics. Out of town, several wine estates house galleries that are well worth a visit. The gallery at Grande Provence showcases work by both leading and emerging South African artists, while the La Motte Museum displays the work of Jacob Hendrik Pierneef, one of the country’s most distinguished artists. There is also contemporary local art exhibited, and a historical and sculpture walk on the estate, where visitors can take a tour of the Cape-Dutch buildings and sculptures.
Learn the history
For a glimpse of the town’s history, take a look at the Huguenot Memorial Museum in the main street. Also, the Huguenot Monument on the edge of town, was erected in 1945, and commemorates the Huguenot immigrants who settled in the area in the 1600s. It’s an impressive sight, with a sculpture of a woman by Coert Steynberg at its centre, which is said to represent the religious freedom the Huguenots found in South Africa. For history of a different kind, the Franschhoek Motor Museum offers visitors the opportunity to look back at more than a hundred years of motoring history with its unique collection of vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and memorabilia in the magnificent setting of L’Ormarin Estate.
Explore the outdoors
If you’re feeling adventurous, and are keen to leave the quaint streets in favour of the great outdoors, there are a number of biking and walking trails in the area. The Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve just outside of town has a few hiking routes, ranging from seven to 15 kilometres, all of which offer amazing views. There are also a number of companies that can arrange wine-tasting on horseback — the perfect way to take in the scenery of surrounding orchards and vineyards. Several farms in the area offer trout fishing in their streams and dams, and bicycles are available for hire for the more energetic travellers.
Our Franschhoek favourites
Best for: Wholesome ready-made frozen meals and fresh deli food
Visit: Good Food & Co
Best for: A casual food and wine experience
Visit: Leopard’s Leap
Best for: A picnic basket in a perfect spot
Visit: Solms-Delta Wine Farm
Best for: A stroll in a beautiful setting
Visit: Babylonstoren Farm
Best for: A fine dining experience
Visit: Pierneef a La Motte