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
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.
Travel insurance for your trip
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. You can stay in Chamonix in the middle of the vineyards at one of the luxury cottages with stunning views of the Franschhoek Valley. 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. If you want to spend more time here you can stay in Boschendal overnight at one of the cottages in the vineyards. 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.
Explore the beautiful gardens of Babylonstoren
Babylonstoren is a huge farm near Franschhoek where you can find pretty much anything local wines, freshly baked goods, fruit and vegetable gardens, a spa, a restaurant, and a farm shop. The fruit and vegetable gardens here are amazing if you’re into gardening or landscape design you’ll definitely enjoy the garden tour. You can spend here half a day just walking around, tasting, eating and relaxing. They have luxury chalets on the estate where you can stay for a couple of nights, the chalets look amazing but they’re very pricey – luxury accommodation for a very special occasion. Babylonestoren Farm is on the purple and orange tram line.
|Mon-Sun||9am-4pm||Adults – ZAR20/US$1,5
Children – ZAR10/US$1
Go for romantic dinner at a wine estate
Many of the wine farms have restaurants with great food and beautiful surroundings that will be perfect for a romantic dinner. We went to Grand Provence Estate for our wedding anniversary dinner and it was an amazing experience. Everything from the location to the food and wine was just impeccable. The garden is very beautiful with flowers, small fountains and huge oak trees decorated with lights on a warm, not windy night I’d recommend to sit outside. Saldana Bay oysters as one of the starters is a must-try for oysters and seafood lovers. You can do a wine tasting at the estate as well. The farm is on the pink and grey 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
Dalewood Cheese Farm is 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.
Recommended books and guidebooks
Best outdoor and adventure activities in Franschhoek
Go on a hike in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve
The entrance to the reserve is located at the top of the Franschhoek Pass, there is a car parking and toilet facilities at the gate. There are six hiking trails in the reserve:
- Breakfast Rock Trail – 2km
- Vista Trail – 2,5km
- Winelands Trail – 3,5km
- Uitkyk Trail – 6km
- Perdekop Trail – 13km
- Du Toitskop Trail – 13km
All the trails are circular routes they start and end at the main gate (car parking) of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. If you’re planning to do one of the longer routes it’s highly recommended to start early in summer months it gets very hot up there. Make sure to take enough water with it’s not always possible to get water along the way.
Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve ticket office at the entrance gate*
*the entrance gate is always open, you can start hiking before the office opens and pay the fee (only cash) when you exit the reserve.
|Daily||8am-5pm||Adults – ZAR50/US$3,5
Children – free
Explore flora and fauna of La Mott Wine Estate
It’s always nice if you can combine wine tasting, outdoor activities and learn more about local flora and fauna. La Mott wine farm offers this opportunity to its visitors. There is a 5km hiking trail that takes visitors through the vineyards and fields to the top of the hills with spectacular views of the Franschhoek Valley. After the hike guests can relax on the estate, do some wine tasting or have lunch.
La Mott hiking trail
|Mon-Sat||9am-2pm||Adults – ZAR60/US$4|
What to take & wear for hiking in Franschhoek
- Comfortable shoes you won’t need heavy boots but a good pair of hiking shoes (if you’re planning to do one of the longer routes in the mountains) or just comfortable trail running shoes.
- A cap or a hat to protect your head.
- A small day-pack to put water, snacks, sunscreen etc.
- A water bottle. Tap water in Cape Town is fine to drink but for stream or river water, I’d recommend using a filter.
- Sunscreen is strongly recommended imply when doing any outdoor activities in South Africa.
Ride a horse through the vineyards
If you’re looking for a special experience horseback riding through the vineyards at Boschendal wine estate might be a great option. You’ll get a chance to explore the area and to enjoy the fantastic scenery. You don’t have to be an experienced rider you can do it even if you’ve never done it before. Boschendal is one of the places where you can spend pretty much the whole day, after horseback riding you can taste some local wines, have a picnic (you can preorder a picnic basket) or lunch at the restaurant.
Horseback riding at Boschendal
|Days||Time||Horseback riding rice|
|Tue-Sun||9am, 10.30am, 2pm
|ZAR450/US$30 pp per hour|
Do wine tasting on electric bike
Riding an e-bike is an easy and fun activity suitable for everybody regardless of age and fitness. Cycle around the town, visit 3 wine farms and learn more about the history of Franschhoek from your guide. Cycling through the vineyards to a wine farm enjoying nice and warm weather and breathtaking scenery – a great way to explore the region.
Go on a mountain bike adventure
Franschhoek is not only wine and food there are several mounting bike trails around the town. Some are short and easy some require experience and skills.
Boschendal Wine Estate trails. This estate is probably the best to come for cycling if you don’t have your own bike, you can rent here MTB, bikes for children, and e-bikes. There are 6 trails on the estate; Yellow Route – 4km; Green Route – 9km; Blue Route – 11km; Red Route – 15km; Black Route – 23km.
Boschendal MTB trails
|Days||Time||MTB trail fee|
- Robertsvlei Loop – a 14 km beginner trail that starts at R45 (road) and continues on Robertsflei Road through the farms.
- Matoppie MTB trail – a moderate-difficult 14 km loop for more experienced cyclists that goes up to the Berg River Dam.
- Franschhoek pass trail – a steep 25km route to the top of the pass, it starts in the town and winds up past Huguenot Memoria Museum, Haut Cabrier estate, Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. Recommended for experienced cyclists.
Explore the vineyards on a downhill scooter
If you don’t feel comfortable enough on a mountain bike but still want to catch some going down the hills a downhill scooter tour might be a great option for you. No special skills needed, the only requirement is to be able to keep balance on a bicycle. The route goes through the slopes of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserves and nearby vineyards.
Drive the Franschhoek Pass
Scenic drives are a big part of traveling in Cape Town pretty much any place you go there will be a pass that offers breathtaking views. The Franschhoek Pass is a 13km long road over the mountains of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. The whole way is beautiful don’t turn around at the first view-point, continue along the waving road till you start going down. The drive starts at Haut Cabriere Wine Farm where you can stop on the way back for some wine tasting.
Franschhoek for culture and history lovers
Visit Huguenot Memorial Museum
If you want to learn more about the French Huguenots who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century escaping the prosecution for their beliefs from the authorities. The Huguenots brought to South Africa grape plants and the tradition of making wine.
|Mon-Sat||9am-5pm||Adults – ZAR80/US$5,5|
|Sun||2pm-5pm||Children – ZAR40/US$3|
Admire old and modern cars at the Motor Museum
The Franschhoek Motor Museum is a real hidden treasure in the vineyards of L’Ormarins farm. Every time driving past the sign 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 the first Ford cars assembled in 1904 to the modern Formula-1 cars. Some of the cars are very unique there are only two or three of such cars in the world. I’m not a big car fan but I loved this place we spend a couple of hours walking around, comparing cars from different years and choosing the favorite ones.
The Franschhoek Motor Museum operating hours
|December – March|
|Mon-Fri||10am-6pm||Adults – ZAR80/US$5,5|
|Sat, Sun||10pm-5pm||Children – ZAR40/US$3|
|April – November|
Promenade along the Main Road
Park your car and stroll along the Main road, enjoy the Cape Dutch architecture, visit a couple of art galleries, stop for a cup of coffee or lunch at one of the many restaurants along the road. The town is pretty small it won’t take you long to cross it on foot from the entrance to the Huguenot Monument and back.
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