Franschhoek, situated just an hour’s drive (75km/46 miles) from Cape Town’s center, is a small, historic town. The town is very pretty, surrounded by mountains and quaint streets adorned with picturesque white-washed Cape Dutch architecture. While it is a favored destination for those exploring the Cape Winelands, Franschhoek offers more than just wine. The region boasts award-winning restaurants, brilliant art galleries, and scenic hiking trails with spectacular views. With so much to explore, narrowing down to just 10 best picks is a challenge. Nonetheless, in this blog post, I’ll share my personal view on the 10 best things to do in Franschhoek. Keep in mind, though, that it’s just an opinion, and the best way to truly experience Franschhoek is to visit and explore it for yourself, discovering what you love about the region.
A brief history of Franschhoek
Franschhoek, meaning “French Corner” in Dutch, bears a rich history rooted in the late 17th century when French Huguenots, seeking refuge from persecution, settled in the Drakenstein Valley, now known as Franschhoek. These settlers, skilled in winemaking, contributed significantly to the region’s viticulture, laying the foundation for the area’s renowned wine industry. Throughout the 19th century under British colonial rule and into the 20th century, Franschhoek continued to flourish agriculturally, eventually evolving into the “Food and Wine Capital of South Africa.”
- Go Wine Tasting
- Picnic at a Wine Estate
- Visit a Farm Santuary where you can meet Pigcasso, the Painting Pig
- Sample Craft Beers at Hey Joe Brewery
- Dine in Franschhoek
- Visit the Huguenot Memorial Museum
- Enjoy fun for the whole family at the Franschhoek Village Market
- Explore Franschhoek town on foot
- Drive over the Franschhoek Pass
- Hike in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve
Go Wine Tasting
Franschhoek is synonymous with exceptional wine, and a visit wouldn’t be complete without exploring its renowned vineyards. Go for a relaxing walk in the beautiful vineyards and try different wines at top wineries like La Motte, Haute Cabrière, and Boschendal. This area is known for its award-winning wines, and the gorgeous views make tasting them even more enjoyable. There are lots of fantastic estates to pick from, making it tough to decide where to go. To help you, here’s my recommendation for the best Wine Estates in Franschhoek for an unforgettable experience.
How to visit the Franschhoek Winelands
Self-driving. A great way to visit the wine estates is simply by driving yourself (with a designated sober driver, of course). You pick when and where to go, stay longer at your favorites, and avoid worrying about buses or trams. With lots of great options, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
E-bikes. Alternatively, why not visit the winelands on an e-bike? Vinebikes offers a fantastic 3.5-hour tour with experienced guides. The 15km ride includes visits to three wine estates: Grande Provence, Leeu Estate, and Glenwood. Tours are available at 09:00 or 13:30 from Mondays to Saturdays, priced at R990 / $50 per adult. Secure your spot online or reach out to Vinebikes via phone at +27(0)82 7760 557 (also on Whatsapp) or email at email@example.com.
Franschhoek Wine Tram. Riding the hop-on-hop-off Franschhoek Wine Tram/Bus is probably one of the most fun, safest and convenient ways to explore the Valley! The Wine Tram offers five different routes, each marked by a specific color (blue, orange, pink, red, navy). Each color route includes 7 or 8 unique wine estates that you can hop-on/off at your own leisure. You can buy tickets online or at the ticket office situated on Huguenot Street. For more information, click on the link below:
Picnic at a Wine Estate
A nice picnic only needs a grassy area, a shady tree, and a beautiful view. Luckily, finding an excellent picnic spot in the Cape Winelands is quite easy. Many estates surrounding Franschhoek offer fantastic picnics in the gardens, packed with local produce such as breads and spreads, cheeses and charcuterie. For a list of some of the best picnic spots in Franschhoek, click here.
Visit a Farm Santuary where you can meet Pigcasso, the Painting Pig
Visiting Pigcasso in Franschhoek is a unique and interesting experience! Rescued from a South African slaughterhouse in 2016, Pigcasso is an unusually talented pig. She began her artistic journey at Farm Sanctuary SA where Joanne Lefson nurtured Pigcasso’s fondness for paintbrushes. Pigcasso uses non-toxic paints and canvases to create vibrant and abstract artworks with her snout. Her surprising artistic talent has garnered international acclaim, and her pieces are sold to collectors worldwide.
At the Farm Sanctuary, you can see some of Pigcasso’s paintings and meet other rescued animals. Although Pigcasso does not do public painting demonstrations, you can request a donation based personalized tour by making a reservation by phone at +27 82 291 9757 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sample Craft Beers at Hey Joe Brewery
Just a quick 5-minute drive from the heart of Franschhoek lies the Hey Joe Brewing Company, where beer is crafted solely in their copper brewhouse. It’s an ideal spot to unwind for an afternoon, whether you choose to relax in their tap room or on the lawns. The outdoor area is stunning, with a central lake, water feature, and a backdrop of mountains that create beautiful views.
Dine in Franschhoek
Franschhoek is a foodie paradise filled with many award-winning restaurants. You can find excellent places to eat within Franschhoek town or at the nearby Wine Estates. Set against the backdrop of vibrant vineyards and majestic mountains, the wine estates feature a selection of top-notch restaurants that transform dining into an artistic experience. This excellent online resource provides a list of some of the best restuarants in Franschhoek and where you can find the perfect meal for any occasion!
I haven’t had the chance to dine at any of the Franschhoek Wine Estates yet, but the town center has some fantastic options. So, here are my top three restaurant picks in Franschhoek Town.
Restaurants to try in Franschhoek Town
If you love a strong cup of coffee and a hearty breakfast to start your day, then head to the best breakfast spot in town, Terbodore Coffee Roasters / Big Dog Café. They serve tasty breakfasts indoors or outdoors under the trees, with a menu offering everything from Granola bowls to avo & feta sourdough and a beetroot, feta, and pesto salad. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the shop inside selling coffee beans, cookies, treats, coffee mugs, and more.
The bustling Tuk Tuk Microbrewery always has a vibrant atmosphere and plenty of travellers hang out on the outdoor terrace, sampling local beers. They have an extensive menu as well as enough of a variety to suit everyone’s tastes. I thought their tacos were particularly outstanding, with delicious flavors packed into each bite.
Tapasco is a cozy place with friendly staff and a nice atmosphere, with both indoor and outdoor seating. The menu is really good, offering everything from breakfast to steak, salads, and burgers. Don’t miss out on their tapas, especially the delicious arancini with mushrooms, parmesan, and mozzarella served with a truffle dip. Also, give the ostrich fillet on crispy polenta a try – it’s another great option at Tapasco.
Visit the Huguenot Memorial Museum
The Huguenot Memorial Museum provides insights into the history of the Huguenots, who were French Protestants persecuted for their religious beliefs in the 17th century. Many Huguenots sought refuge in various countries, and a significant number settled in the Franschhoek region, bringing with them valuable wine making traditions. Next to the museum you will find the Huguenot Monument – an exquisite sculpture composition that commemorates these early French Huguenots.
Enjoy fun for the whole family at the Franschhoek Village Market
Check out the The Franschhoek Village Market every Saturday from 09:00 to 15:00 for a fun time in Franschhoek Town. They’ve got delicious food stalls with wine, gin, and beers, along with stores selling all sorts of goodies from homemade preserves, fresh bread, and pastries to cool art and souvenirs. There’s also live music, so it’s a lively and enjoyable way to spend your day!
Explore Franschhoek town on foot
Franschhoek is a great little town to walk around. If you’re close to the center, it’s best to walk from your accommodation or park along Main Road. You can stroll the entire Main Road (Huguenot Road) from the Franschhoek Terminal to the Huguenot Monument in about 25 minutes without stopping. Go at a relaxed pace, though, and stop along the way because, in addition to the awesome restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, you’ll find art galleries, a church, a museum, a cool clothing store, supermarkets, sculptures, and even a perfumery along the way.
Read more about the perfect one day itinerary in Franschhoek here.
Drive over the Franschhoek Pass
The 13km winding and scenic Franschhoek Pass is an unmissable thing to do while in Franschoek. The drive starts at Haute Cabrière Wine Estate and affords you the most incredible views over the Franschhoek valley. You will be tempted to stop at every possible place (and feel free to do so, of course), but I suggest continuing along the road to the highest point. It’s also a good idea to pack a picnic basket as there is one stop where you can easily pull over and sit on a wall edge overlooking the valley.
Hike in Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve
Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve has hiking trails suitable for everyone. The entrance is at the top of the Franschhoek Pass, so you get to experience that beautiful drive along the way! The road leading all the way to the parking lot at Mont Rochelle is tarred and easily accessible by car. At the reserve entrance, you will find toilet facilities and a guard hut where you pay your entrance fee of R70 (less than $4). All the trails are circular routes that start and end at the main gate (car parking lot) of Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve.
Read more about Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve by clicking the link below.
Where to stay in Franschhoek
- Main Road (Huguenot Street): Staying along the Main Road puts you in the heart of Franschhoek, with easy access to shops, restaurants, and galleries. It’s a vibrant area with a lively atmosphere.
- Winelands Estates: For a more secluded and tranquil experience, consider staying at one of the estates surrounded by vineyards.
- Farm Stays: There are gorgeous farm stays around Franschhoek’s center. My personal favorite is Cabernet Cottage. Even though it’s only a 15 minute walk from the center of Franschhoek Town, it’s far enough away that it feels secluded, safe and peaceful.
How to get to Franschhoek
Renting a car is the quickest and best way to explore South Africa. It’s also relatively affordable, especially if you share the cost with someone. The roads around Franschhoek are good, so you don’t need a big 4×4. The most convenient way is to rent a car at Cape Town airport. This way, you can collect it upon arrival and return it before departure.
Exploring the Wine Estates of Franschhoek
If you want to explore the Wine Estates, take either the Wine Tram or a shuttle bus on a day tour from Cape Town. The tour from Cape Town includes transportation and a wine tram ticket, so you can visit out as many wine estates as time allows in a day. It’s a budget-friendly way to explore the area, although you are limited to their trams pre-selected estates. Luckily, though, all the estates on the line are some of the best in the region.
You can also consider joining a group tour. A day tour to the Winelands from Cape Town lets you explore the whole region, including Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl. The tour takes you to renowned estates, where you can try wines, cheese, chocolate, and food. .