Table of Contents
The charming small town of Franschhoek near Cape Town offers a great variety of things to do for any traveler. Franschhoek (French Corner in Afrikaans) is 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 Cape Town for wine and food lovers. Here you can find some of the best wine estates and the finest restaurants in the country. It is a perfect place for a day trip from Cape Town or a weekend getaway from the bustling city. Every year we spend our wedding anniversary here and it’s always a great experience. Franschhoek is a must-include place in your South Africa honeymoon itinerary.
Why we love visiting Franschhoek
- The area is stunning.
- Many gorgeous wine estates with great wines.
- Many restaurants serve delicious food.
- Franschhoek is close to Cape Town, so it’s easy to include it in your Cape Town itinerary.
- There are many things to do in Franschhoek; wine tasting, hiking, chocolate tasting, MTB, visiting museums and art galleries, spas, scenic drives, etc.
If you’re choosing between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch (another beautiful town in the Winelands) I recommend Franschhoek for couples and Stellenbosch for solo travelers and travelers with children. There are many great things to do in Stellenbosch to keep your kids busy. You can combine both places in one trip though you’ll need more than a day to do it.
Fantastic things to do in Franschhoek
Ride the 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 incorporated to add more farms to the route.
There are 10 different wine routes (pink, blue, purple, yellow, navy, grey, green, red, orange, and burgundy). Each line includes 8 wine farms (the navy and burgundy lines include 9 estates). The pink line includes most (4 to be exact) of the suggested below farms. It’s a hop-on hop-off tram/bus you can get off and on at any farm you want. You can buy tickets online or at the ticket office situated on Huguenot street, next to the River Cafe. The price is ZAR 280/US$15 per person. There is a parking lot at the ticket office where you can safely leave your car.
Wine tram tours from Cape Town
Try local wines
Wining and dining in Franschhoek is definitely one of the must-do things in Cape Town. 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 to every time. Some of the wine farms do tasting only by appointment but most of them are open at regular hours.
Wine tasting in Franschhoek with a tour
Dieu Donne is our favorite wine estate in Franschhoek and one of the 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), and the staff is very friendly and knowledgeable 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 pink and grey Franschhoek tram line.
This wine estate is famous for its Pinot Noir a 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 pink and grey tram lines.
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 a wine cellar tour and 6 wine tasting combinations (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 in the background. Haut Cabrier is on the pink and grey tram lines.
It’s always nice if you can combine wine tasting, and 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. The wine tram doesn’t go to this farm.
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 setup compared to 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, and sparkling. They serve breakfast here as well. The farm is on the pink and grey tram lines.
Picnic at Boshcendal
Visiting the stunning Boschendal farm is a must-do thing in Franschoek. 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 it. 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, navy, orange and burgundy tram lines.
Babylonstoren is a large farm near Franschhoek where you can find pretty much anything from local wines and cheeses to freshly baked pastries and artisanal goods. The estate has spectacular fruit and vegetable gardens, a spa, a restaurant, and a farm shop. The gardens of Babylonstoren are amazing. You can enjoy an easy stroll here after winetasting or dining. If you want to know more about gardening and landscape design you can join the garden tour. One can spend here several hours walking around, tasting, eating, and relaxing. A visit here is definitely one of the top things to do in Stellenbosch.
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 – a kind of accommodation for a special occasion. Babylonestoren Farm is on the purple and orange tram line.
If you want to explore more of the Cape Winelands there are many great wine farms in the Stellenbosch area to visit.
Enjoy a romantic dinner
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 sitting 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, blue, yellow, grey, green, and red tram lines.
There are plenty of other fine dining places in Franschhoek. The town is known as the food capital of South Africa. Most of the wine estates have restaurants on their premises that will be perfect for a romantic dinner or a weekend lunch.
Visit Franschhoek Market
The Franschhoek Village Market it’s not just a place to buy and sell. It’s a social event with a great vibe where locals meet once a week to spend a couple of hours together with their friends and families. Delicious food & great wine are guaranteed at the end of the day Franschhoek is all about it. At the market, visitors can find products from local farmers, homemade preserves, exquisite dishes from local chefs, freshly-baked bread and pastries, jewelry, art, souvenirs, clothes, and more. The market takes place once a week on Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm in the center of the town on 29 Huguenot Road. There is a play area for children and a free parking lot at the market.
Do chocolate tasting
Tasting is one of the main activities in Franschhoek, alter your wine experience with some chocolate tasting. During your visit to the Huguenot Chocolate Factory, you’ll learn about the chocolate-making process and get to try some delicious local chocolates and sweets. They use the finest Belgium chocolate to make sweets. The chocolate experience takes 30 min., at the end of it you get small sweet presents. It’s a not-to-miss activity in Franschhoek for travelers with children.
Stop for breakfast at Big Dog Café
Big Dog Cafe is our favorite place to come for breakfast in Franschhoek. They roast their own coffee and it’s definitely the best coffee in Franschhoek (we always buy their beans). 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 including vegan and vegetarian dishes. Stopping here for breakfast is a great way to start your day in Franschhoek. There is a souvenir shop inside where you can buy beans, cookies and treats, coffee mugs, etc. The coffee shop is on 29A Huguenot Street, on the right just before the town if driving from Cape Town.
If you’re a coffee lover you might enjoy reading our article on the best coffee shops in Cape Town.
Buy artisanal cheeses
Dalewood Cheese Farm is just a quick stop on the way to Franschhoek. There is no real tasting here it’s more of a shop but you can try several kinds of cheese to see which one you like the most. The farm and the factory is a family-run businesses, the owners are very involved in the entire cheese-making process from milking cows to making cheese and selling it at the shop. We love their cheese and often buy Camembert and Bri.
If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-track wine area the Breedekloof Wine Route is a great one to consider it’s a 1,5-hours drive from Franschhoek.
Travel insurance for South Africa. It’s important to have insurance when you travel abroad especially if you’re planning to do road trips or adventure activities at your destination. Make sure to choose a reliable company with a lot of experience in the international travel market. We can recommend using World Nomads they cover different destinations and their policy is very flexible, you can buy it online at any time for any period be it one day or a couple of months. Get your quote online.
Hike in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve
Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve is situated just outside Franschhoek. 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 nine hiking trails in the reserve:
- Aalwynkop Trail – 1km
- Manganese Trail – 1,5km
- Breakfast Rock Trail – 2km
- Vista Trail – 2,5km
- Winelands Trail – 3,5km
- Uitkyk Trail – 6km
- Cats’ Path Trail – 11,5km
- 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 the 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.
Do wine tasting on an electric bike
Riding an e-bike is an easy and fun activity suitable for anybody regardless of age and fitness. Cycle around the town, visit 3 wine farms and learn more about the history of Franschhoek from your guide while riding an e-bike. Cycling through the vineyards to wine farms enjoying warm and sunny weather and breathtaking scenery is a great way to explore the area. The tour takes 3,5 hours.
Drive over the Franschhoek Pass
Scenic drives are a big part of traveling in South Africa. Pretty much anywhere you go you will drive over a pass with breathtaking views. The Franschhoek Pass is one of our favorite scenic drives in Cape Town. The pass is a 13km winding road over the mountains of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. The whole way is beautiful don’t turn around at the first viewpoint, continue along the waving road till it starts going down. The drive starts at Haut Cabriere Wine Farm where you can stop on the way back for some wine tasting.
Go on a MTB 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, and the Black XL Route.
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, and Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve. Recommended for experienced cyclists.
If you don’t feel comfortable enough on a mountain bike but still want to enjoy a thrilling ride going down the hills a downhill scooter tour might be a great alternative for you. No special skills are 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.
Visit Huguenot Memorial Museum
At Huguenot Memorial Museum in Saasveld Manor House, you can learn about the history of the French Huguenots who arrived in South Africa in the 17th century escaping prosecution from the authorities for their beliefs. The Huguenots brought to South Africa grape plants and the tradition of making wine. You can combine a visit to the Huguenot Museum with the Perfume Museum in Saasvel Slave Lodge.
The Huguenot Monument is a beautiful sculpture composition located in the picturesque corner at the exit of Franschhoek.
Admire old cars at Franschhoek 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 curious about this place and finally decided to visit it. What a surprise! We expected to find maybe 20 oldish cars parked outside, half rusted, like at some places on our road trip to Namibia. Not at all! Hundreds of beautiful cars all are in perfect condition and most of them running (85% of them at least).
In the museum, you can find a great variety of vehicles from the first Ford cars assembled in 1904 to the modern Formula-1 cars. Some of the cars are unique you can find only two or three such cars in the world. I’m not a big car fan but I loved this place we spend a couple of hours walking through the museum, comparing cars, and choosing our favorites. If you are a car lover or travel with children a visit to the Motor Museum is definitely a must-do thing in Franschhoek.
Explore Franschhoek on foot
Franschhoek is one of the few places in South Africa where we usually walk more than drive. The town is quite small most of the attractions can be reached on foot so park your car and stroll along the Main road, enjoy the Cape Dutch architecture, visit a couple of art galleries, and stop for a cup of coffee or lunch at one of the many restaurants. 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.
Where to stay in Franschhoek?
There are many guesthouses in the town itself but I’d recommend staying outside Franschhoek at one of the wine estates it’s an incredible experience. Even if it’s a bit more expensive it’s definitely worth it. Farms around Franschhoek are some of the most beautiful estates in the country.
We 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 a great shower. Each room has AC, wi-fi, a mini-fridge, and a 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.
More places to stay in Franschhoek
How to get to Franschhoek?
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. Franschhoek is a great place to start a Garden Route road trip.
Wine tram & shuttle bus. 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 enjoy the stunning scenery around Franschhoek. This tour is the most budget-friendly way of exploring the area.
With 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.
Franschhoek trip planning resources
Recommended books and guidebooks
- The Rough Guide to Cape Town, The Winelands and the Garden Route (Travel Guide). Kindle & Paperback
- Lonely Planet Cape Town & the Garden Route (Travel Guide). Kindle & Paperback
- A History of South Africa, Fourth Edition. Kindle & Paperback
- The Covenant: A Novel by James A.Michener. Kindle, paperback, audiobook.
- Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith.
- Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Kindle, paperback, and audiobook.
LIKE THIS POST? PIN IT!
Please follow and like us:
The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.