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 growing grapes and making wine. Don’t be surprised by the French origin of the names of many wine farms in the area.
Franschhoek is a must-visit place in South Africa for wine and food lovers, here you can find some of the best wine estates and finest restaurants in the country. If you’re looking for a perfect place for a romantic weekend Franschhoek is the place to come. Every year we spend our wedding anniversary here and it’s always a great experience.
If you’re choosing between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch (another town in the Winelands) I recommend Franschhoek for couples and Stellenbosch for solo travelers and travelers with children there are more activities and places there to keep your kids busy.
Reasons we love Franschhoek
- The area is stunning.
- Many gorgeous wine estates with great wines.
- Many restaurants that serve delicious food.
- Franschhoek is close to Cape Town, it’s easy to visit it as a day trip from the city.
- There are many things to do in Franschhoek; wine tasting, hiking, chocolate tasting, MTB, visiting museums and art galleries, spa, scenic drives, etc.
Different ways of getting to Franschhoek from Cape Town
Renting a car
Renting a car is the best and the fastest way to travel around South Africa and it’s not that expensive in fact if you’re a couple of people sharing a car it’s not expensive at all. Roads to most of the farms and estates around Franschhoek are tarred you can drive with any car no need to rent a big 4×4. Renting a car at Cape Town airport is the easiest way you can pick it up on arrival and drop it on on departure.
Suggested cars to rent for the trip
|Model||Price, 2 days||Seats||Gear|
Wine tram + shuttle bus from Cape Town
If you want to spend the whole day in Franschhoek but renting a car is not in your plan there is a great day tour to Franschhoek from Cape Town. The tour includes a return transfer from Cape Town to Franschhoek and a wine tram ticket. You’ll have enough time to visit 4-5 wine estates and to enjoy the stunning scenery around Franschhoek. This tour is the most budget-friendly way of exploring the area. When choosing which wine farms to visit definitely get off and do some tasting at Boschendal farm it’s one of our favorites in Franschhoek.
Joining a group tour
Doing a day tour to the Winelands from Cape Town gives you a perfect opportunity to get an overview of the area. The tour includes Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl three main towns in the Winelands. You visit several fine estates, do wine, cheese, and chocolate tasting and have a la carte lunch. Franschhoek is one of the stops on the route you don’t get to spend much time in Franschhoek but you do visit several wine farms and learn a lot about the region. This tour is a good option for solo travelers.
Doing a private tour to the Winelands
If you want to have more flexibility and privacy you can do the same route (Paarl, Franschhoek, and Stellenbosch) with a private tour during which you get to visit several wine estates, do some tasting and learn about South African wines.
Where to stay in Franschhoek
There are many guesthouses in the town itself but I’d really recommend staying just outside Franschhoek at one of the wine estates or farms it’s a totally different experience and even if it’ a bit more expensive (not always) it’s definitely worth it. Farms around Franschhoek are some of the most beautiful estates in the country.
We’ve stayed at La Terra de Luc it’s a guesthouse on a farm just outside Franschhoek. The room was good a bit rustic but very neat and clean, with a comfortable bed and great shower. Each room has AC, wi-fi, mini-fridge, and TV. The best thing about the place is the location, it’s very close to Franschhoek but far enough from the road and the town’s life, hidden in the vineyards, a spectacular place.
- Budget | Franschhoek Travellers Lodge |
- Middle price | Chevandeaux 1 – Merlot | Royal Gala Cottage | Franschhoek Country Cottages | Cherry Blossom Cottage |
- Luxury | Umami Mountain Retreat | Maison du Cap | Lavender Farm Guest House | Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa |
Best foody things to do in Franschhoek
There are 50 wine farms and even more restaurants in the 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 managed to visit only about 15 of them, but we have a couple of favorites that we go every time. Some of the wine farms do tasting only by appointment but most of them are open regular hours.
Ride a wine tram
If you don’t have a car to drive around the wine farms or simply don’t want to limit your testing because you have to drive, taking the wine tram is the right thing to do. In fact, it’s a combination of a tram and a bus, due to the limited tram access the bus was added to add more farms to the route. There are 8 different wine routes each includes 8 wine farms. It’s a hop on hop off tram/bus you can get off and on at any farm you want. The ticket office is on Huguenot street, next to the River Cafe. There is a parking lot at the ticket office you can safely leave your car there.
depending on the route
|Adults – ZAR260/US$18|
Children – ZAR90/US$6
Enjoy spectacular views at Dieu Donne
Dieu Donne is our favorite wine estate in Franschhoek and one of the most favorites in South Africa. We love their wines they’re great and not expensive, the view from the tasting room is breathtaking (one of the best views in Franschhoek), the staff is very friendly and knowledgable about wines. We come here for tasting every time we’re in Franschhoek and buy a couple of bottles of their Wooded Chardonnay. If you feel hungry you can order a cheese platter with your wines or have lunch at Roca restaurant on the estate. Dieu Donne is on the red and yellow Franschhoek tram routes.
Dieu Donne wine tasting
Taste exquisite wines at Chamonix
This wine estate is famous for its Pinot Noir the wine that is not very common in South Africa. They have a great variety of whites and reds in different price ranges though in general, their wines are quite expensive. The tasting area is nice but offers no views we usually stop here on the way to or from Dieu Donne. Chamonix is on the yellow and red tram lines.
Chamonix wine tasting
Take amazing photos at Haute Cabriere
A beautiful farm with great wines and amazing views. Located between the Huguenot monument and the Franschhoek pass. They have different tasting options from a single wine tasting to wine cellar tour and 6 wine tasting combination (Mon-Sat at 11am and 3pm, Sun at 11pm booking is advisable). You can choose whichever suits you better based on how much time you have. There is a nice restaurant at the estate so you can combine wine tasting with lunch. Don’t miss a photo spot – a big yellow frame where you can take beautiful photos with the mountains on the background. Haut Cabrier is on the pink and grey tram lines.
Haute Cabriere wine tasting
Picnic at Boschendal Wine Farm
Boschendal farm is a bit further away from the town. The estate is absolutely stunning, it’s a great place to combine wine tasting with a picnic, you don’t have to bring anything you can buy a picnic basket right here. We really like their Shiraz and usually, just buy it without tasting. There is a restaurant on the estate, it offers delicious food and beautiful views of the garden and the mountains. This farm is a great place to come for a romantic lunch under the huge oak trees. I love their garden with funky sculptures places here and there. You can spend at Boschendal the whole day enjoying the tranquility of the place, great wines, and delicious food. Boschendal is on the purple and orange tram lines.
Boschendal wine tasting
Enjoy simplicity at Leopard’s Leap
It might be a good farm to start wine tasting with, located on the way to Franschhoek, 2km before the town. Leopard’s Leap is quite a big set up compared to the most local farms. The views from the restaurant area are stunning. We’d recommend coming here when the restaurant is open otherwise this huge place looks a bit deserted without people. They have a wide range of wines; reds, whites, sparkling. They serve breakfast here as well. The farm is on the grey and pink tram lines.
Learn how to make chocolate
Tasting is one of the main activities in Franschhoek, alter your wine experience with some chocolate tasting. During your visit to the Huguenot Chocolat Factory, you’ll learn about the chocolate-making process and get to try some delicious local chocolates and sweets. The whole experience takes about 30 min., at the end of it you get small sweet presents.
Huguenot Factory chocolate tasting
|Daily||11am and 3pm||ZAR50/US$4|
Stroll through the Franschhoek Market
Locals love this market it’s not just a place to sell and buy it’s a social event great vibe and amazing food & wine are guaranteed because at the end of the day Franschhoek is all about it. Visitors can find here products from local farmers, home-made preserves, exquisite dishes from local chefs, freshly-baked bread and pastries, jewelry, art, souvenirs, clothes and more. Unfortunately, the market takes place only once a week on Saturday in the center of the town on Huguenot Road.
Stop for breakfast at Big Dog Café
Our favorite place to come for breakfast. They roast their own coffee and it’s definitely the best coffee in Franschhoek (we always buy their beans for home). They have a big garden and an outside terrace, it’s a nice place to come for breakfast and coffee. They have many different breakfast options, it’s a really cool place. The coffee shop and roastery is just before Franschhoek if driving from Cape Town.
Big Dog Cafe & Roastery
Buy artisanal cheese
It’s just a quick stop on the way to Franschhoek there is no real long tasting here (though you can try several kinds of cheese at the shop). The farm and the factory is a family-run business, the owners are very involved in the entire cheese-making process from milking cows to making cheese and selling it at the shop. We loved their cheese, always buy Camembert and Bri here.
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.
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.
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.
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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