The French corner of the Cape Winelands is relatively small by comparison with its sister town, Stellenbosch (only twenty minutes’ away). But as a weekend, or even day, visit it packs a punch – its main road awash with restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, grand historical buildings, wineland tours, and little tucked-out-of-the-way courtyards in which to while away the hours.
We visited recently. Here is our Franschhoek guide…
where to eat, what to do, and where to sleep in the Winelands’ Foodie Capital
D O & S E E
Ride the Wine Tram
Don’t miss out on this hop-on-hop-off combo of retro tram, and tram bus through the local vineyards. There are five routes in the valley, linking twenty one wine estates and cellars, starting at the wine tram ticket office in the Franschhoek Village (you can’t miss it, it’s in a tram). They even do transfers from Cape Town and the airport, if you have no transport. See more info here.
Drive the Cap Classique Route
Pick up your self-drive Cap Classique Route map from Franschhoek’s tourism information (under the oaks, right next door to Huguenot Fine Chocolates) and head out along the Klapmuts-Simondium Road between Stellenbosch and the Franschhoek Pass. The route links 24 different champagne and sparkling wine producers.
Walk the Art Route
Franschhoek’s art scene is as vigorous as its food and wine offering. Between the Huguenot Monument – at the top end of Huguenot Street (the main road through Franschhoek) – and De Villiers Street, roughly 10 blocks later, are well over 20 galleries and art studios. Pick up your copy of the walking route from the tourism information office.
Follow the artisan food route
Handmade, or handcrafted, by skilled craftsmen, artisanal foods and small-scale producers are high on the agenda of flourishing Franschhoek. From a microbrewery on one end of town (tuk tuk microbrewery), through chocolates, bread and olive oil producers, to coffee roasters, boutique wine estates, cheeses and chillies on the outskirts of town, there is proof of a thriving traditional revival of foods in Franschhoek. Pick up your copy of the map at tourism information in Franschhoek.
Rent a tuk tuk for the day, or half-day, wine tour to a series of wine farms. This four-seater alternative is a great, and fun, option for wine crawling.
G E T Y O U R C A F F E I N E F I X
The Village Tart
This new addition on Franschhoek’s main drag has an array of custom, baked-on-the-premises cakes, delicious pastries and excellent coffee. The light lunch and breakfast menu will have your returning.
De Villiers Chocolate Cafe
My favourite spot in Franschhoek, not least for the quality handcrafted, bean-to-bar, chocolate, but also for its beautiful décor, which tells the story in the form of storyboards of how their chocolate is made, De Villiers is easily missable because it is tucked into Heritage Square. Their coffees are great and all of their products are gluten free, GMO free and free from any other nasties.
The Hoek Espresso Bar
The Hoek gets the thumbs-up as a place to get ‘real’ coffee. Besides, its little tucked-out-of-the-way venue, just around the corner in Daniel Hugo Street, has a lot to recommend it.
Caffeine does not belong to coffee alone, and Ruth Paulse’s tea garden in Groendal, on the Rond en Bond route, along with her selection of cakes and produce fresh from her garden, is likely to have you staying awhile. Don’t miss out on her Amarula carrot cake. Phone Ruth ahead, as she opens only by appointment – 021 876 3751/082 713 8745.
E A T
This is the kind of restaurant you’ve come to expect from Franschhoek – innovative, contemporary and slightly dramatic (if you’re there for dinner, less so for lunch) but exceptionally tasty.
Cafe des Arts
This off-the-main-drag, tucked-into-a-garden-nook of a restaurant appeals to those wanting to escape the fine dining pretensions that dominate Franschhoek. It’s revered for its daily breads and pastries, and good old rustic charm. Find it behind the FNB.
Just outside town:
La Petite Ferme
Absolutely satisfying, locally sourced and contemporary food served up in an unpretentious, country style environment, with a children’s menu.
If you haven’t made a booking (and you will need to reserve a table for lunch) then you can still head out to Môreson as their breads and handmade Charcuterie section will easily provide you with the goods for a picnic.
G A R D E N S
Noble Hill’s chilli garden
Noble Hill is a boutique winery just outside Franschhoek. Their vegetable and chilli pepper garden grows produce for Cosecha Restaurant (well-priced and tasty Spanish food).
Allée Bleue’s herb garden
Anything from rosemary, sage, mint and thyme to sorrel, tarragon and chervil, Allée Bleue’s herbs are prolific. Take a tour every Friday at 10.30am. Combine it with a wine tasting, whilst you’re there.
If you haven’t already visited this tremendous vegetable and fruit garden, then it is an absolute must (get there early, as it’s extremely popular, and garden tours are booked up for months in advance).
SE C R E T S P O T S
You’ll think you’ve stumbled on a European street passage when you turn into The Yard – a hidden courtyard at the far end of a passage between buildings, lined with a heavenly waterway.
The world-renowned painting pig has opened her gallery at the farm sanctuary for rescued animals. Sundays at 12pm there is a Meat Pigcasso tour. Find the gallery on Dirkie Uys Street.
S T A Y
Sumptuous Franschhoek-style living in one of five unique character buildings on this quiet property in the village. Breakfast is considered a national monument. Find out more at Akademie Street
Franschhoek Country House
Back in 1890 this was a manor house and perfumery. Today the guesthouse, with its own in house restaurant, is surrounded by vineyards and mountains, on the outskirts of Franschhoek. Find out more at Franschhoek Country House.
La Clé des Montagnes
Four distinctively designed and sophisticated villas on the historic Le Grange homestead – a working wine estate – walking distance from Franschhoek village. For more info see La Cle des Montages.
A stylish country guesthouse on an historic wine and fruit farm, that includes a honeymoon suite, and an historic villa. See Auberge Clermont for more info or to book.