Franschhoek (French Corner in Afrikaans) is a lovely town located in the picturesque valley at the foot of the mountains, 75 km from Cape Town. It’s one of the oldest towns in South Africa. Its history goes back to 1688 when French Huguenot refugees started settling down in the valley bringing along the tradition of making wine. So don’t be surprised by the French origin of the names of many wine farms in the area. We love Franschhoek and come here at least once a month and every time there is something new to discover. It’s a great place to come for a weekend getaway from Cape Town, for a romantic holiday or for a day or two as a part of your South African trip. Despite its small size Franschhoek has a lot to offer and it’s not all about wining and dining through these two are the main activities here.
Reasons we love Franschhoek
- The town is beautiful.
- Good wine.
- Great food.
- Close to Cape Town, easy to go as a day visit from the city.
- Outdoor activities; hiking, MTB.
Things to do in Franschhoek
You can come here just for one day or stay for the whole week there will be enough activities in Franschhoek to keep you busy. Here are some of them;
Wine tasting. Probably the main reason most people come here. Franschhoek has some of the best wine estates in the country.
Dining. Dozens of restaurants and wine farms are at your service here, all you need to do is to make a right choice.
Chocolate tasting. Sweet tooth don’t miss Huguenot Chocolate factory, the chocolate for sale here is amazing, you can do a tasting and find out more about how chocolate is made a from coco tree to chocolate bar experience. Tasting is every day at 11am and 3pm, it takes about 30 min., at the end you get small sweet presents. Price R40 pp.
Driving Franschhoek Pass. 13 km pass that climbs up from the valley to the top of the mountains and waves down along the hills to Theewaterskloof dam. Take your time stop for photos and enjoy the view.
Mountain biking. Yes, Franschhoek is not only wine and food there are several mounting bike trails around the town. Robertsvlei Loop – 14 km beginner trail; Boschendal Wine Estate – there are 6 trails from easy 4 km loop for beginners to 33 km challenging trails; Matoppie MTB trail – 14 km moderate – difficult; Franschhoek pass MTB trail – moderate to difficult.
Hiking. Mont Rochelle Nature reserve offers seven hiking trails from short and easy 1-hour Breakfast Rock Trail to 6-hour Perdekop Trail, different distances and difficulty levels. If you’re a hiking enthusiast this nature reserve will keep you busy.
Strolling around Franschhoek Village Market. Here you can find anything from freshly ground coffee and homemade pastries to handicraft and painting. Market opened every Saturday between 9am and 3pm, closed in July.
Wandering along the town’s main street, stop at small art galleries, souvenir shops, churches and museums.
Visiting Franschhoek Motor museum. It’s a real hidden treasure in the vineyards at L’Ormarins farm. Every time driving past we were wondering about this place and finally decided to go in. What a surprise! We expected to find maybe 20 oldish cars parked outside, half rusted, like at some places in Namibia. Not at all! Hundreds of cars in perfect conditions, all shining and running (85% of them at least). From first Ford cars of 1904 to modern Formula 1 cars, some of the cars are limited to 2 or 3 in the world. I’m not a big car expert but just to walk around to compare cars from different years and to admire their beauty was definitely worth of visit. Entrance fee R80 – adults; R40 – children.
Franschhoek wine farms
There are 50 wine farms in Franschhoek Valley obliviously you won’t be able to visit all of them in one, two or three days. We’ve been to Franschhoek many times and visited only about 15 of them, every time try to go to a new place but have some favorites that visit regular. Some of the wine farms do tasting only by appointment but most to most of them you can just drive in. Here are some of our recommendations. If we don’t mention a wine estate it doesn’t mean it’s not worth of going there, more likely we haven’t been there yet but we’re working on it and will add more and more farms to the list. You can plan your wine tasting according to the location of the farms.
Haute Cabriere located between Huguenot monument and Franschhoek pass this place has limited variety of wines; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or their blend. There is a nice restaurant at the estate you can combine wine tasting with lunch. We didn’t do tasting here just stopped for photos with a yellow frame and mountains on the background.
Dieu Donne farm is one of our favorite for both the scenery and their wines. Located a little bit uphill from its tasting terrasse you get a beautiful view over the vineyards and the valley. Tasting is R30 pp for four wines. We can recommend to taste their wooded Chardonnay and Shiraz. We buy a couple of bottle of their Chardonnay every time we go there for us and friends. They have a very nice restaurant but we usually take a cheese platter with wines.
Boschendal farm is a bit further away from the town but the estate is absolutely beautiful, it’s a great place to combine wine tasting with picnic, you don’t even need to bring anything right here. We really like their Shiraz usually just buy it without tasting. Local restaurant is nice with beautiful view on the garden and far away mountains. great place to come for a romantic lunch or breakfast. There are several MTB trail on the estate as well as cottages to rent, farm shop and bakery. You can basically spend here a whole day tasting, cycling, eating and walking around. Wine tasting from R55 pp.
Chamonix farm located just outside the town, it has a nice though small restaurant/tasting area they are famous for their Pinot Noir. It’s not just a wine farm there is a whole game farm with guest houses and lodges if you want to combine game watching and wine tasting it’s a good option. Tasting from R60 pp for 5 wines.
Leopard’s Leap big area with tasting room, coffee shop, restaurants and a couple of souvenir shops. The restaurant has beautiful view on the vineyards, a nice place to come for lunch with family or friends. Tasting from R25 pp for 5 wines. We liked their Grand Vin, a Bordeaux style blend. Their wines are inexpensive compare to the most wine estates in Franschhoek.
If you want to go more off the beaten trek check Haut Espoir wine estate they have some interesting wines. The view from the tasting room is stunning. Tasting R20 pp for three wines.
Franschhoek Wine Tram
If you don’t have a car to drive around the wine farms or planning to do some serious wine tasting then the wine tram is the right thing to do. In fact it’s a combination of tram and bus, due to limited tram access was added to connect more farms. Both Trams are open air double story sitting on the top deck you get a great view over the valley. Wine tram is a very pleasant experience in a nice summer day. There are 6 different routes each includes 8 wine farms, all trams depart from a ticket office at Huguenot street in the center of Franschhoek. It’s a hop on hop off tram. Tickets adults – R220, children – R90. Wine tasting is paid separately at the farms, price between R20 and R100 per person depending on a farm.
One of the best places in the country when it comes to good even exquisite food; juicy steak, crispy pizza, vegetarian and vegan dishes, local farm products and innovative way of making food combined with fine local wines.
Accommodation in Franschhoek
There are many great options to stay here and you’ll make a right choice if decide to spend a couple of days in Franschhoek.
For a nice and cozy stay in the town check Auberge Daniella, a lovely guest house located around the corner from the main street. Each rooms has AC, wi-fi, flat screen TV, kitchen with a fridge and microwave, outside sitting area, bath and free toiletries. Outside swimming pool, beautiful garden and breakfast are offered to the guests. Double room from US$88 per night.
If you want to combine staying in the town with countryside feeling The Cottage on 55 is a right place for you. Located 5 minutes walk from the busy Huguenot street at the quite corner of Franschhoek this guest house is perfect for a couple stay. The rooms are spacious and cozy with big double bed, big bathroom, small kitchenette with fridge, flat screen TV and outdoor sitting area. Outside swimming pool and delicious breakfast, wi-fi are at guests service. Double room US$149 per night.
Another great countryside vibe place in the town is Maison Cabriere Boutique Suites. The place is beautiful, impeccable clean and modern, it has everything you need and even more to make you stay in Franschhoek unforgettable. Each room has a king size bed, terrace, bath, AC, flat screen TV, small kitchenette with Nespresso machine, wi-fi access, bathrobe, free toiletries. Beautiful outside garden to relax after a busy day of exploring the town. The owners and staff are excellent, very helpful and friendly. Double room from US$170 per night.
A day trip from Cape Town to Franschhoek
Our advice go early morning before the crowds especially in a week, by midday the streets get quite busy, it can be difficult to find a parking spot. Since Franschhoek is famous for its restaurants we’d recommend to skip breakfast at home and have it here. Our favorite breakfast place is Big Dog Cafe, just outside of the town. They obviously have good coffee and my favorite coffee treated trout sandwich, it doesn’t just taste great and looks amazing. There are many different breakfast options in their menu as well as desserts and coffee based drinks. The place is beautiful with outside terass, nice garden and friendly staff.
After breakfast drive through Franschhoek pass, stunning views on the area are guaranteed. The pass is 13 km long and it’s beautiful all the way not only the first part to the view point. Stop at the Huguenot monument on the way. On the way back stop at even if you don’t do tasting here there is a yellow photo frame with nice background .
It’s time to do some wine tasting. There are wine farms around Franschhoek there is no point in trying to visit all of them or as many as possible in one day. We’d recommend to choose three or four wine farms and do tasting there. Some of the farms have restaurants having lunch while tasting will save you some time compare to driving back to the town. As an option you can get on Wine Tram and explore the vineyards without driving yourself.
In between visiting wine farms stop at Franschhoek Motor Museum, it’s located at L’Ormarins Estate here you can do wine tasting and have lunch. The museum is awesome with many beautiful old and new cars parked inside four big stables. It’s opened from 10 am to 5 pm.
The best way to end the day would be to stay overnight in Franschhoek and go for dinner to one of the great local restaurants otherwise you can drive back to Cape Town.
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