There is never a question of what to do in Franschhoek, more of a question of how to fit everything in. The small but famous town of Franschhoek is set in the Cape Winelands, about an hour and a half’s drive from the coastal charm of the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa. The area surrounding Franschhoek (Dutch for French Corner) is stunningly beautiful – the clouds roll over the surrounding escarpments like waterfalls and the richly verdant landscape has become synonymous with some of South Africa’s best wine.
The first answer as to what to do in Franschhoek is clearly to get to grips with the centuries of viticulture and visit some of the valley’s best wineries. The area has many award-winning producers creating much in demand vintages, and most of which can be sampled at source in the vineyards where they are created.
Mixing drinking and driving is never a great idea, which is where the Franschhoek Wine Tram comes in handy, giving visitors a narrated tour of the area and allowing them to hop-on, hop-off at each stop to sample the produce. For those who want to go solo, grab a map from the tourist office and head off and visit each independently. One of our favourites is Chamonix, known for making a mean Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (the grapes of choice in the area). The expansive views and atmospheric tasting room, converted from an 18th century “Blacksmith’s Cottage”, make it typical of the area.
For the more environmentally friendly Glenwood is dedicated to sustainable practices (and delicious wines – and in particular the Grand Duc Syrah) while the Solms Delta offers innovative wines, a beautiful estate, and the acclaimed Fyndraai Restaurant, which serves up modern Cape cuisine.
Culture should be high on the list of things to do in Franschhoek, settled almost 340 years ago in 1688, the town has a wealth of history. The Huguenot Memorial Museum has a wide range of displays dedicated to the area’s early French inhabitants (and hence name), including furniture from the Huguenot settlers and items belonging to the indigenous population, as well as an idyllic wildflower garden.
For car enthusiasts there is the Franschhoek Motor Museum, a cornucopia of vehicles with over 220 in the museum’s collection, ranging from sports cars, such as the Jaguar D-Type, to historical motors, such as the Lorraine Dietrich from the early 1900s – but, prepare yourselves, these sleek, sexy machines will create some serious automobile envy.
When thinking about what to do in Franschhoek, one of the most romantic involves a different kind of horsepower. Cape Winelands Riding and Alpha Equestrian, both 20 minutes outside the centre of town, offer guided hacks (and lessons for the less accomplished) around the surrounding area through vineyards and into the National Parks.
Eating is a big part of what to do in Franschhoek and it is well-known for being the culinary capital of South Africa. To dine at one of the best restaurants in South Africa and indeed the world (it has the awards to prove it), book a table in advance at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français, to get stuck into the eight-course contemporary African-inspired menu from chef Margot Janse.
La Petite Ferme’s superb restaurant has wonderful valley views and equally awe-inspiring dishes from their ostrich bresaola to the decadent slow roasted lamb. Reubens is loved for its simple, fresh approach to beloved classics and Bread & Wine is a great for lunch, with its seasonally changing menu. Dedicated carnivores should consider Dutch East – the craft butchery and restaurant in the centre of town.
And then, for the perfect end to the perfect day, head back to one of the best hotels in Cape Town, our very own Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, and relax in luxury in the spa, gazing out over the ocean.
Header image © Franschhoek Wine Tram