Franschhoek, a town on South Africa's Western Cape, is ripe with beautiful vineyards and Cape Dutch architecture. Sitting at the foot of the Mont Rochelle nature reserve, the town of 20,000 is South Africa's oldest settlement and interestingly one of the world's top culinary spots.
Whether you're looking to marvel at the French Huguenot construction, indulge in wine tasting, or hike the Drakenstein or Wemmershoek mountain ranges, Franschhoek is a must-see city on your South African journey.
The vineyards in Franschhoek date back 300 years to when the Huguenots settled the town. You can sign up for one of the wine tours or hop on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, which stops at different vineyards where tourists can take part in a tasting, tour the cellars, or simply enjoy lunch.
One of the highlights of Franschhoek is its spectacular Cape Dutch architecture, a traditional Afrikaner building style dating back to the 17th century. Cape Dutch homes are characterized by rounded gables, whitewashed walls, and thatched roofs.
Franschhoek is a treasure hunter's paradise. Featuring African art, Kalahari ostrich shell jewelry, and even chocolate shops, Huguenot Road makes for an absorbing afternoon of shopping.
World-renowned chefs, such as Lennard Marais, Scot Kirton, and James Gaag, all call Franschhoek home. Sample some of the local culinary wonders in one the town's top-notch restaurants.
The Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve, part of the UNESCO Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, features numerous hiking trails where you can observe klipspringers, dassies, baboons, and caracals, as well as sugarbirds and black eagles.
Located inside the breathtaking Protea Hotel, the Winelands Experience helps you make the most of your visit to South Africa's wine country with a tour through the working farm's expansive grape selection. Choose between the half day or full day tour, which take you to four local vineyards, or indulge in the Wine Connoisseur package, which helps you understand the difference between different wines and how to choose the best one to pair with a specific meal. There are over 40 vineyards in the Franschhoek region, but Winelands Experience continues to stand out as one of the most prestigious wineries in all of South Africa.
With all of the neighboring vineyards its no wonder that Franschhoek boasts some of the most beautiful scenery for hiking and other outdoor sports. Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve is a UNESCO declared Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve, meaning that there is a balanced amount of nature and human activity in the protected area. The nature reserve is located just southeast of Franschhoek city center and contains 30 kilometers of well maintained hiking trails of various lengths for visitors to take in stunning views of the Franschhoek Valley below.
When it comes to vineyards in Franschhoek, we just can't seem to get enough! Stony Brook Vineyards is one of the most popular destinations for wine enthusiasts and has been making wine in the region since 1995. The vineyards are run by the McNaught family, who prefer to focus their expertise on three different types of wine: Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Chardonnay. While visiting here you can also take a sample of one of their most critically acclaimed wines, Ovidius, which is made from their recently acquired Tempranillo vines.
The French Huguenot ethnoreligious group first came to South Africa at the end of the 17th century to escape the Inquisition's persecution in Europe. Their efforts to help develop and improve upon the existing Dutch colonialist infrastructure played an important part in the country's past. Today you can learn about the Huguenots at the museum built to honor their cultural influence. The museum is also conveniently located next to many restaurants and wineries, making it easy to visit other points of interest during your trip.
Nature and art go hand in hand in Franschhoek at the Art in the Yard Museum right across from the Wine Tram station. The Art in the Yard Museum features both local and international artists whose work expresses unique and innovative ideas while also retaining a commitment to quality craftsmanship. Conceptually started by Georgia Eccles Schoeman in 2002, the space now hosts a wide selection of statues, paintings, and installations. You can also pick up smaller prints and souvenirs in the adjoining gift shop to remember your time in Franschhoek.
The best time to visit is April to May and September to October, when the weather is at its most pleasant.
The closest international airport is Cape Town International Airport (CPT), an hour outside of Franschhoek.
From Cape Town International Airport, you can take Kuils River Rd/R300 and N1 to Franschhoek Rd/R45.
My Citi buses leave from Cape Town International Airport into Cape Town, where you can catch a Greyhound to Franschhoek at the Civic Center. Fares average R775.
La Residence offers majestic views of the mountains and includes villas with private pools and upscale suites. Babylonstoren is an old Cape Dutch farm with simple out-buildings and a reservoir onsite for guests.
Franschhoek Valley - with multiple vineyards to choose from, this area is ideal for wine connoisseurs or those looking to take in the panoramic views of the mountains.
Downtown - with its Cape Dutch architecture, quaint souvenir shops, and outstanding restaurant selection, downtown Franschhoek has something for everyone.
Stellenbosch - Stellenbosch, a nearby university town, is home to numerous vineyards and the Jonkershoek and Simonsberg nature reserves.
Franschhoek offers a variety of private car, taxi, and three-wheel tuk-tuk transportation services. Rates average R10 with R16 per additional mile.
Car rentals start at R284 per day.
Huguenot Road is Franschhoek's main shopping street with a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries.
The Woolworths Franschhoek supermarket is small but impressively stocked. The Tap and Cork features gourmet delicacies, local wines, and beauty products. The cost of living in Franschhoek is relatively affordable. A gallon of milk averages R38 and a loaf of bread is R8.
Pierneef à La Motte features international cuisine prepared by chef Michelle Theron. Specialties include Cape seafood with aniseed hutspot and venison loin with peaches and Cape snowbush. A 5-course dinner averages R595. At Grande Provence, chef Darren Badenhorst prepares seasonal dishes, including pork crackling-encased line fish and raclette and baby leek arancini. A three-course menu averages R450.