Just a short drive from Cape Town, you’ll find this petite piece of France (Franschhoek means “French corner” in Dutch), where French Huguenots fleeing religious persecution arrived during the late 17th century. Though they would gradually integrate into the culture of the Dutch farmers who worked the land alongside them, their cultural influences were adopted along with those of the Dutch settlers, freed slaves and indigenous Khoi and San peoples to create a rich and unique heritage befitting the splendid beauty of this majestic valley.
Illustrious wine estates and secluded countryside retreats abound in this region, which is currently one of the most sought-after destinations in the country. Whether it’s cuisine, culture or outdoor adventures you’re after, you will find that Franschhoek’s fame is well justified.
Hike and cycle around the Berg River
This series of biking routes – established and maintained by environmental group Golden Leaf Trails – offers mountain-bikers a solid workout with scenic views of the Berg River catchment area, where the fresh valley air combined with the cool breeze off the dam has a rejuvenating effect.
Cost Conversation efforts mean that visitors need to acquire a permit, the proceeds of which go towards the maintenance of the trails and the payment of security staff.
R200 (annual permit for Franschhoek residents)
R500 (annual permit for non-residents)
R40 (day permit)
Free, children under 12 years (no permit required)
Contact Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism: 021 876 2861, email@example.com
Location Berg River Dam (via N1, R45)
Enjoy the Chef’s Table at Leopard’s Leap
The light and bright kitchen at the picturesque Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards is the setting for these wonderful lunch experiences, where guests get to explore authentic South African cooking, while sharing great wine and interesting conversations with friends, new and old.
Before each of the four courses of the relaxed hour-long feast, chef Christiaan Visser shares stories and anecdotes about the origins of the dishes served. A knowledgeable wine-tasting ambassador is also on hand to introduce Leopard’s Leap wines and share their uniquely South African attributes.
When Wednesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays, 12pm – 1pm (until January 2019)
Cost R250 per person
Contact 021 876 8002, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards, R45, Main Road to Franschhoek
Hop on the Wine Tram
The Franschhoek Valley is known the world over for its superb cuisine, award-winning wine estates, and marvellous mountain-valley setting. With so much to do and see, the hop-on-hop-off tram tour provides the perfect means to do it all. Passengers can choose to ride the double-decker railway tram, or the open-air bus tram – both of which offer leisurely tours of the picturesque valley.
There’s a choice of six routes: the Orange Line, Purple Line, Blue Line, Green Line, Red Line and Yellow Line. Each line connects eight wine estates while showcasing a separate part of the Franschhoek Valley.
When Tours depart from the ticket office daily, between 9am and 1pm
Cost R220 (adults)
R90 (children 3 – 17 years)
Contact 021 300 0338, email@example.com
Location 32 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek
Dating back to 1692, Babylonstoren is a historic Cape Dutch farm that boasts one of the best preserved farmyards in the Cape. Beloved for its magnificent garden that is laid out over 3,5 hectares, the garden is divided into 15 sections that comprise fruit, vegetables, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants, fragrant lawns, a prickly pear maze, ducks and chickens, and more. A secluded path runs along the stream where thousands of clivias flower in spring. The garden also boasts a plethora of trees of historical and botanical import. Every aspect of Babylonstoren – including the beautifully restored Farm Hotel & Spa, the Farm Shop and Bakery – are led by the ever-changing tapestry and botanical diversity of the garden.
When Monday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm (last entry is 4pm)
Cost Monday – Friday: R10 (adults)
Weekends & Public Holidays: R20 (adults)
Daily: R10 (children under 12)
Free (RHS members only)
Contact 021 863 3852, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Babylonstoren, Klapmuts Simondium Road, Franschhoek
Dine With Locals
There’s more to Franschhoek than swanky sidewalk cafés and fine-dining restaurants. Kopano (which means “gathering” in Sotho) is a fundraising initiative presented by the Franschhoek Hospitality Academy & Learning Centre, and offers visitors the opportunity to experience a different side to Franschhoek.
After being fetched from the meeting point at the NG Church parking lot, guests embark on a fun and informative township tour with a local guide, before enjoying storytelling, singing, and music performances by the students of the JMP Foundation at Bathos Place. During the entertainment, guests are served an authentic South African lunch, complete with beer and wine, and filled with delicious food – including renowned local chef Chris Erasmus’ secret chakalaka recipe! – before heading back to the shuttle at 2pm. Bring a charged camera, your best walking shoes, and an air of excitement for this wonderfully unique day out for a good cause. caters from six to twenty people at a time, and
When Mondays & Fridays, 11am – 2pm
Cost R600 per person
Contact email@example.com, 063 674 1040
Book on DinePlan
Location Franschhoek & Groendal
Shop for cool finds
Die Handelshuis is a perfect pitstop en route to Franschhoek. You’ll find a community of buildings dating back to the 1920s adjoined by a beautifully landscaped gravel “werf”, where you can can grab a coffee and enjoy the calmness of the countryside under the sweeping pepper trees. Wander around Barn & Werf Decor for beautiful collectables and antiques, or pop into Smith’s Interiors for a selection of homeware, decor and furniture. Around the back, near the garden and child-friendly clay water trough, you’ll find Die Gieter, which sells a variety of pot plants, succulents and cacti outside a little botanical-themed gift shop.
When Barn & Werf Decor: Monday – Sunday, 9:30am – 4:30pm
Ou Meul Bakkery: Monday – Saturday, 7am – 5pm; Sunday, 8am – 5pm
Smith’s Interiors: Monday – Sunday, 9:30am – 5pm
Die Gieter: Monday – Sunday, 9am – 5pm
Contact 021 882 9889, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location R45, Franschhoek Road, Simondium
While it’s true that stunning views can be seen from most vantage points in Franschhoek, Leeu Estates – with its views of surrounding vineyards, gardens, fynbos and mountain – is one of the most spectacular. The 68-hectare wine farm on the slopes of the Dassenberg mountain is best enjoyed through one of the three Garden and Art Tours.
Each walk follows the course of the river where oak trees, evergreens and azaleas abound. The herb and vegetable garden with its granadilla-covered pavilions, and the serene Bokkie garden are highlights.
When Garden and Art Tour followed by tea and scones: daily, 10am & 11am
Garden and Art Tour followed by a traditional afternoon tea: daily, 2pm & 3pm
Garden and Art Tour followed by a picnic: daily, 12pm & 1pm
Cost R150, Garden and Art Tour followed by tea and scones
R250, Garden and Art Tour followed by a traditional afternoon tea
R410, Garden and Art Tour followed by a picnic
Please note While it’s free to walk around and admire the beautiful gardens, Leeu Estates does ask that you let them know ahead of time that you will be popping in for a visit.
Contact 021 492 2222, email@example.com
Location Leeu Estates, Dassenberg Road, Franschhoek
It’s no secret that Franschhoek is referred to as the culinary capital of the Cape. After all, it was founded by Frenchmen! So you’ll find no shortage of fine food and wine destinations here, whether in the winelands or the village itself. Here are a few of the standout dining destinations in Franschhoek.
In the village
- Marigold Authentic Indian, for rich Indian flavours
- Le Coin Francais, for French-inspired dishes
- Tuk Tuk Microbrewery, for craft beer and modern Mex
- La Petite Colombe, for superbly crafted dishes in elegant surrounds
- Foliage, for thoughtful, tasty and conscious food made with foraged-for ingredients
On a farm
- Chefs Warehouse at Maison, the Franschhoek addition to Top Chef Liam Tomlin’s wildly popular line of restaurants
- Pierneef à La Motte, for vibrant dishes prepared under the supervision of master chef Eric Bulpitt
- Bread & Wine Vineyard Restaurant on Môreson Farm, for country cuisine (and fun bread-making courses)
- Babel at Babylonstoren, for the style and scale that they execute the farm-to-table experience
Visit an animal sanctuary
The image of the idyllic farm setting, inhabited by cheerful farm animals, is sadly not the reality in many cases. In truth, horrific factory farms, where cruelty prevails, haunts our food industry.
Farm Sanctuary SA has taken it upon itself to rescue animals from the brutality of these factory farms, and place them in a safe sanctuary that resembles the Utopian farm settings we read about in children’s novels. Happy inhabitants include Pigcasso, the world’s only painting pig; and Baloo, a male cow rescued from an informal settlement on Route 62.
When Saturday & Sunday, 11am – 3pm
Meet Pigcasso: Sunday, 12pm
Cost admission is free
Donate to Farm Sanctuary SA
Purchase Pigcasso’s paintings
Contact 084 735 3303
Location Dirkie Uys Street, Franschhoek
Do an artisanal chocolate-tasting
Pure, wholesome chocolates, free of the artificial flavourings you’ll find in most mass-produced milk chocolate products, De Villiers chocolates can take up to seven days to make, such is the level of craftsmanship.
At their café in Franschhoek (they also have one at the Spice Route in Paarl), you’ll have your pick from a range of chocolate and confections, ice cream and milkshakes, cakes and coffee made from single-origin beans.
Interesting fact Africa produces more than 70% of the world’s cocoa beans, but makes less than 1% of the world’s chocolate. Hence the value of bean-to-bar establishments, such as De Villiers Chocolate, where the beans are grown and crafted in Africa by Africans.
When Monday – Sunday, 9.30am – 5.30pm
Contact 021 874 1060, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Heritage Square, 9 Huguenot Road, Franschhoek
Visit the Huguenot Memorial
While wandering around Franschhoek’s town centre, you’re bound to come across the impressive stretch of lawn leading to the beautiful Huguenot Monument. Venture near and you’ll discover some finer details of the 70-year-old monument, which commemorates the arrival of the Huguenots (French settlers) and the culture they brought to the Cape Colony. While there be sure to pop into the neighbouring Huguenot Memorial Museum and discover the tools they used to make wine, the clothes they wore, and more fascinating insights about their culture.
Cost R10 (adults)
Contact 021 876 2598, email@example.com
Location 13 Lambrechts Road, Franschhoek
Picnic on a wine estate
This estate’s restaurant, Cosecha, offers authentic Mexican cuisine, such as fresh guacamole, burritos and enchiladas accompanied by the farm’s selection of fine wines. In addition to that, Noble Hill offers a unique winelands experience with its Latin-inspired picnics, which can be enjoyed by a lake, surrounded by rolling vineyards and the Simonsberg mountain range.
When Monday – Sunday, 10am – 5pm (October – April 2018)
Closed on Tuesdays
Cost R540 (picnic basket for two)
R960 (picnic basket for four)
R50 credit (picnic without wine)
R65 (kid’s picnic basket)
Vegetarian option available (must be requested when booking)
Contact 021 874 3844, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Klapmuts-Simondium Road
Drive Along the Franschhoek Pass
View the valley from up high on one of the oldest passes in South Africa – and certainly one of the most hair-raising! A drive along the Franschhoek Pass is not merely a scenic gateway to neighbouring locations, it’s a great activity in itself for beautiful views (and a side of adrenaline). Pack a picnic, charge your camera or smartphone, and hop in the car (or on a bike) for a magnificent cruise along the lengthy road, taking in dramatic scenery and ever-changing landscapes as you go. The first fully engineered road in the country has still got it, and is sure to take your breath away.
Location R45 Between Franschhoek and VilliersDorp or Elgin
Relax and recharge with a spa experience
If the fresh mountain air and lush meadows of Franschhoek aren’t relaxing enough, you might like to enjoy a spa experience at one of the many luxury establishments in the valley. One such place is Leeu Estates, whose vineyard- and mountain-facing spa offers a range of holistic therapies and beauty treatments. The first-class facilities include treatment rooms, steam rooms and a plunge pool overlooking a lily pond.
When Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 10am – 7pm
Contact 021 492 2223, email@example.com
Location Leeu Estate, Dassenberg Road, Franschhoek
Experience the region’s flora and fauna
The Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve boasts spectacular views of the Franschhoek Valley, as well as a wonderfully diverse plant life where fynbos thrives. Perdekop and Du Toitskop, two of the highest peaks, can be reached by hiking trails that range from 2km (one hour, easy) to 13km (six to seven hours, moderate), so choose walks that suit your fitness level.
During winter (June to August), mountain streams might be in full flow, but in summer and autumn, most are dry except for some pools that get their water from perennial springs.
When Daily, 5am – 7pm
Please note The reserve is not dog-friendly, and drones are not permitted.
Cost R50 (day permit)
R300 (one-year permit)
Free (children under 16)
Contact 083 270 7291
Location Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve (via N1, R45)
Cycle around the valley with a guide
Languishing on the Franschhoek Wine Tram as it takes you from one wine-tasting experience to another is relaxing, no doubt, but if you’re looking for a more adventurous way to experience this famed valley, then family-run Franschhoek Cycles are the way to go.
Qualified and knowledgeable guides are on hand to escort you as you make your way between various wine estates, taking in the fresh mountain air as you go. Aside from guided tours, Franschhoek Cycles offer expert sales and repair services, so you can rent a bike and explore the valley at your own pace.
When Opening times: Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 5.30pm
Saturdays & Public Holidays: 8.30am – 1pm
Closed on Sundays
Guided tours can be booked any day of the week.
Cost Guided tours: R1 050 per person (4 to 5 hour trips, includes bike rental, helmet, water, guide, 2 tastings and 1 pairing)
Bike rental: R250 (half day); R350 (full day)
Please note For guided tours, booking is essential (at least a day in advance). Costs may vary according to the itinerary or requirements of the client.
Good to know
- Children’s bikes and baby carriers are also available for rent.
- Customised itineraries (with the option of working in a lunch or picnic) can be arranged. Franschhoek Cycles also cater for corporate and team building events.
Contact 021 876 4956 / 081 401 5352
Location Shop 6, Le Roux Des Roses, 2 Main Road, Franschhoek
Visit a Cheesery
On your way to Franschhoek, you’ll find this little gem – a rustic cheesery on a real farm (mind the cow poo!) that produces artisanal and handcrafted cheese. With numerous local and international awards (including the Third Best Cheese in the World award), this family business is getting it right – producing cheese from the ground up and with an ecofriendly approach.
The farm’s stud jersey herd spends each day on green pastures, so you may find yourself admiring these curious creatures from your car as they cross the road.
Do a (free and informal) cheese-tasting, and then stock up on brie and camembert, as well as their signature cheeses: Huguenot, Boland, Brie Superlatif and Lanquedoc to take home.
In the cheesery shop you’ll also find a tasteful selection of cheese accessories that’ll leave you with kitchen envy! They make wonderful gifts for foodie friends.
When Monday – Friday, 9am – 4pm
Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Contact 021 200 2580, www.dalewood.co.za
Location R45 (Off R44) Klapmuts-Simondium Road, Klapmuts
Research by Alicia Chamaillé, Kent Cloete, Matthew Flax and Georgie Visser
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