This non-drinker’s guide to Franschhoek Cape Town makes it possible for people who don’t consume alcohol to experience and enjoy the beauty, culture and history of the Cape Winelands.
Franschhoek is one of the most popular towns in South Africa and is considered the epicenter of the Cape Winelands. Franschhoek is a short drive from Paarl, Stellenbosch and Wellington and has a rich history and culture.
The name Franschhoek is Dutch for ‘French Corner’ and reflects the town’s history as a settlement by French Huguenots in 1868, after they fled persecution in France for their Protestant religious beliefs. In the decades since then the town has retained it’s French character and has only recently become more accepting of worshippers of other faiths. The first mosque in Franschhoek was inaugurated in March 2019 and is open every day from Fajr to Ishaa prayers.
Franschhoek restaurants are world renowned and the town has become the culinary capital of the country with award winning restaurants and farm to table establishments. There are galleries, museums and monuments with the Huguenot Monument being one of the town’s primary jewels and treasures.
If you would prefer a guided tour of Franschhoek then please visit our Cape Town Food Tours website to be notified when we launch our Franschhoek tours later this year. For those who would prefer to stay in Cape Town, why not try a Cape Peninsula Tour from Cape Town?
When is the best time to visit Franschhoek
The peak tourist season is in Spring and Summer from September to February when the weather is warm and the days are long. Even during the height of summer the streets are not flooded with tourists and you will have a lovely experience. The prices of Franschhoek accommodation is exceptionally high during the peak season and you are advised to book way in advance for summer.
We have stayed in Franschhoek during the summer season as well as during winter (June) and found them equally appealing. It does rain in winter and this may limit outdoor activities on occasion.
How to reach Franschhoek from Cape Town
Franschhoek is about an hour’s drive out of Cape Town, with the route being straightforward and fairly easy to follow. It is an excellent destination for a quick and relaxing staycation or day trip from Cape Town.
There are numerous options to travel from Cape Town to Franschhoek including renting a vehicle in the city and self-driving to Franschhoek; using a private driver, Uber or Taxify . The town is also accessible by train via Paarl and you will then to take an Uber or taxi from the train station to Franschhoek.
When travelling to Franschhoek we usually have our own means of transport and it is quite a beautiful and a very scenic drive. There is of course more than one route in getting there if you choose the self-drive option with a distance of between 88-102 km, depending on the route.
- From the Cape Flats the quickest route is via the N2, turning off onto the R300, and lastly, turning off onto the N1 which is basically the main road which takes you to the Franschhoek exit.
- From the City Center the quickest route is via the N1 toward Paarl, turning onto the R3o1 andR45.
- The alternate route is to go through Stellenbosch via the Helshoogte Pass through the Kylesmore, Johannesdal and Pniel villages.
The actual transport options in Franschhoek village includes Uber, shuttle services, public minibus taxis and busses. There is also a Tuk Tuk service that operates trips between the wine farms and also provides pick up and drop off services to the restaurants in the town.
For those who are interested in wine tasting there is a Franschhoek wine tram and also a wine bus that takes visitors on various routes to the wine farms for a tasting. The Franschhoek wine tram is visible in the town every day and it is quite popular among wine lovers.
There is no doubt that Franschhoek is a luxury holiday destination and Franschhoek accommodation is sought after during peak season. The accommodation in Franschhoek is some of the best South Africa has to offer and even the simplest type of accommodation offers quality service and amenities.
There are occasionally Franschhoek accommodation specials available online and more affordable options that one can fit into a holiday budget.
Most of the accommodation is located along the main town road within close proximity to the shops or on wine farms. Since 2015, when I began to travel to Franschhoek, I have stayed at two places. The very first place was Val d’Or Estate (where we returned to on numerous occasions for bed and breakfast and self-catering) and the second was an apartment in La Petite Provence Estate.
Val D’Or Estate and Guest house – Hotel and Serviced self-catering units
Of course, Val d’Or has stolen my heart from day one and this is always my first choice when choosing accommodation in Franschhoek. Check rates and availability.
- It is not only reasonably priced, but they are also very reliable where reservation and service is concerned.
- It is customer focused and staff are always extremely friendly and helpful during our stay.
- They have guest rooms as well as different sized self-catering apartments. All have the option of having breakfast in the dining room at an additional cost per person.
- The warm hospitality is simply worth a thousand times the money spent.
La Petite Provence – Self-catering units
After getting to know the town we felt like trying something new, hence choosing a different place of accommodation. This time, we put an apartment at La Petite Provence Estate to the test. The experience at La Petite Provence Estate was pleasant, but did not compare to the experience at Val d’Or.
- The apartment, 16 Shiraz, at La Petite Provence was almost similarly equipped to Val d’Or.
- However, it was located on a vineyard with fruit bearing vines outside our door step, which made for a beautiful view from all angles.
- The difference between the two places is that Val d’Or is very concerned with their guests’ well-being and the owners reside on the farm as well. At La Petite Provence there was no onsite staff as it is a self-catering apartment. The first time we saw anyone was on the day we left when the cleaners came at the time of check out.
Franschhoek bed and breakfast accommodation
- The Coach House – Check rates and availability
- Maison Cabrière Boutique Suites – Check rates and availability
- Mont d’Or Franschhoek – Check rates and availability
- Residence Vive la Vie – Check rates and availability
- La Clé Village – Check rates and availability
Franschhoek hotels and guesthouses
- Le Ballon Rouge Guest House – Check rates and availability
- Akademie Street Boutique Hotel and Guesthouses – Check rates and availability
- Protea Hotel by Marriott Franschhoek – Check rates and availability
- L’ermitage – Franschhoek Chateau & Villas – Check rates and availability
- Macaron Boutique Guest House – Check rates and availability
Franschhoek wine farms and farm stays
- Topiary Winery and Cottages – Check rates and availability
- La Terra de Luc – Check rates and availability
- Leeu Estates – Check rates and availability
- Mont Rochelle – Check rates and availability
- La Residence – Check rates and availability
Franschhoek self-catering accommodation
Self-catering accommodation allows more flexibility and one can cut expenses by bringing your own food, or buying it within the town. We usually do our grocery shopping at the Pick ’n Pay in the town where one can find everything that is required to prepare meals at home.
- 1AA Wilhelmina Luxury Suites – Check rates and availability
- Maison Des Huguenots Le Roux – Check rates and availability
- The Ivy Apartments – Check rates and availability
- Cook’s cottage – Check rates and availability
- Villa Ashbourne – Check rates and availability
Where cuisine is concerned, Franschhoek has many renowned restaurants such as Foliage Franschhoek, Le Bon Vivant, Haute Cabrière Cellar Restaurant and Babel at Babylonstoren.
When visiting Franschhoek we usually make our own meals due to the absence of halaal restaurants or cafes. My experience of the cuisine in Franschhoek is limited merely because I cannot indulge in much of the food that is served. A few of the restaurants do have vegetarian options including Foliage, Babel, Le Petite Ferme and the Col’Cacchio casual Italian style restaurant. Our favorites are Foliage and Col’cacchio.
We have been to Foliage once while on vacation during summer.
- Foliage specialises in fine dining using herbs and other ingredients foraged from the surrounding countryside and their dishes are very precisely styled and portions are small. You may feel hungry after a three course meal.
- We requested before-hand that all meals exclude alcohol and pork.
- However, they still managed to serve one dish that included a pork garnish and that was not mentioned on the menu at the time.
Essence Restaurant & Coffee bar
We had breakfast at the Essence Restaurant one morning and that was absolutely fabulous.
- They serve breakfast waffles with smoked salmon, brie and candied figs as well as croissants with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.
- The staff are friendly and efficient, and the food, even down to the cappuccino was delicious.
- I would recommend Essence Restaurant as a good place for a quick and affordable breakfast in Franschhoek.
This is our ‘Go to” restaurant when we are just simply too lazy to prepare food ourselves. It is also a lovely place for an alfresco quick bite and an evening out as they serve crispy seafood and vegetarian pizzas, pastas and breads. They even have low carb options.
Things to do in Franschhoek and surrounds
Franschhoek wine farms are some of the most popular on the wine routes of the Cape Winelands. The area has become quite celebrated in recent years due to the outstanding natural beauty, tourism potential and harvest festivals and events that occur ever so frequently. For visitors who want to try the wines in the area the Franschhoek Wine Tram offers a curated experience that includes 3 wine tastings, a wine lecture and lunch.
There are so many other activities in Franschhoek that unfortunately are overlooked as many of the tour operators focus solely on the wine farms experience and wine tastings.
When one goes on vacation, there are always a few moments and places that are imprinted in your memory, and that you will take with you when you have departed. This is the gift which is given by the destination to you. There are many things which make up these memories.
These were my favorite things do do when visiting Franschhoek:
The Huguenot Memorial Monument
The Huguenot Memorial is one of the main attractions in Franschhoek and is a beautiful monument located right at the end of the main road of the town.
- There is a huge garden surrounding the monument, and also a museum on the grounds of the Huguenot monument. The museum is fairly small and to the point.
- Those who are interested in the history of Franschhoek and more importantly, the history and background of the monument will enjoy visiting the museum as there is an abundance of information available on the history of the town.
- There is another museum situated right opposite the monument which is relatively the same size as the other. However, this museum goes deeper into the history of the town in ancient times.
- Viewing the pieces in the museum was truly interesting and the video that played was very informative as well.
- There are various boutiques and tiny shops where one can shopping for clothes, souvenirs and even reclaimed oak wood products etc in the main part of Franschhoek Village.
- We took a drive out to Stellenbosch one day and it was totally worth it as there are more shops to choose from and it is also less costly. However if we have to choose between Franschhoek or Stellenbosch as a vacation destination, Franschhoek will always be our first choice.
- The Franschhoek Village market operates at 29 Huguenot Road on Saturdays, weather permitting, from 10am to 3pm. Entry is free and there is parking available.
Franschhoek chocolate tasting
- De Villiers Chocolate Café in Franschhoek is located in Heritage Square on Huguenot Road and they also have a branch in The Spice Route.
- They have a wide variety of chocolates for tasting and sale as well as ice cream tastings.
A number of the Franschhoek wine farms also have olive and olive oil tastings along side the wine tastings. There are however farms that specialise in olive growing like Goodings Groves.
Fairview Farm – Paarl
One of the best experiences I have had when visiting Franschhoek was when we decided to go on somewhat of an adventure. We woke up one Saturday morning and decided to go on a long drive with only a Franschhoek tourist brochure and map for guidance. We eventually ended up at Fairview Farm.
It was in early January and the festive season vibe hadn’t died out just yet. We arrived at Fairview Farm at noon and took a stroll through the visitors’ area of the farm.
- The farm is outstandingly beautiful with facilities to view the goats that assist in producing the many different cheeses and other dairy products that are for sale in their Fairview Deli.
- The atmosphere was vibrant and alive at the farm as it was packed, being the middle of high season at the time.
- We went into the Tasting Room where the were cheese and wine tastings taking place for all those who wished to joined in. We do not indulge in non-halaal products or drinks and the friendly staff offered a non-alcoholic grape beverage in place of the wine, which complimented the cheese excellently.
- We ended up purchasing a few bottles of various blends of the juice that was served to us with the cheese, as well as different cheeses, jams and preserves from the deli.
- There is a huge restaurant called the Goat Shed where they serve many local dishes and treats. There are no Halaal meat dishes to enjoy although we did have pumpkin soup, Chef’s cheese platters and Cured fish platters on a subsequent visit. On request, they replaced the terrine that contained pork from the Chef’s cheese platter with salads for us.
- I was lucky enough to visit Fairview during both winter and summer so now I do have an idea of what it is like during low and high season.
Drakenstein Lion Park – Paarl
After the cheese tasting and doing a little exploring on the Fairview farm, we decided to hit the road which took us to the Drakenstein Lion Park, a sanctuary for lions who suffered abuse and persecution in captivity. I must admit, I am a huge nature enthusiast, especially animals and this just made my entire trip bliss! Unfortunately we did not have time to visit Chimp Haven next door.
- The sanctuary is approximately 50 acres of pure lion habitat and is located approximately 35 km out of Franschhoek, which makes a 30-35 minute drive out of the town.
- The sanctuary has a variety of animals such as black swans, wild cats and Bengal tigers other than the lions that are conserved there.
- It was such a surreal experience to see lions for the first time and to have the lifestyle and rescue of these lions broken down for me piece by piece.
- It was an exciting experience due to the fact that the staff at the sanctuary are so dedicated and committed to the well-being of these animals and this was beautiful to see.
- The sanctuary accepts volunteers and it is possible for members of the public to Adopt a Lion for ZAR 1000 per year. The money contributes to the food and welfare costs of maintaining the lions.
Spice Route – Paarl
The Spice Route was one of my recent discoveries and is a stone’s throw from the Fairview Farm. Fairview and The Spice Route are both great places to visit in the warm summer months when the tourist season is at its peak, in order to have the full experience. During Winter it is a bit deserted and bleak.
Spice Route is located on the same road and adjacent to Fairview Farm. It is a collection of artisanal producers including a chocolate maker, glassblower and deli as well as a distillery, brewery and wine shop. Their products are authentic South African and traditionally made by the local community.
The location against the foothills of the Paarl Mountains provides an exceptional view of the valley below.
- My first visit to the Spice Route was during June and at the very height of winter when it seemed very quiet. The location and appearance was breathtaking, however, I cannot say the same for the availability. There may be more activity during Spring and Summer when there are more tourists. There are multiple activities and restaurants but very few appeared to be open at the time of our visit and we did not see many people around.
- Whilst strolling back to the car we noticed the tiny DV chocolate café that offered chocolate and ice cream tastings.
- The DV Cafe is a coffee roastery and they also have a selection home made ice creams. Being in the heart of winter none of us were very keen to have an ice-cream tasting, but it is tradition for us to try at least one item at each place we visit. This is just how it has been ever since I can remember, and so we made our way into the café.
- For the ice-cream tasting, they present you with about 5 small portions of different ice-cream flavours. I was not very excited to try the ice-cream until I had my first scoop. The ice-cream was the very best I have ever tasted. Home-made ice-cream was never one my favourites but after having tasted this I realized that just like all other foods, it is how it’s prepared that determines the end result. I distinctively remember my favourite out of the 5 was one called “chocolate brownie”, if I’m not mistaken.
- The café had a display of different coffees for sale and it was the coffee smell that initially drew us to the café. We did not have coffee at the café but we purchased a few bags of coffee beans before leaving.
- The Spice Route has many other artisanal producers that we did not visit as our excursions ran a bit late on this day. Essentially this was a very short visit that merely scratched the surface of this gourmet food destination and we do plan on returning during the summer.
Hillcrest Berry Orchards
Hillcrest Berry Orchards was a pit-stop on its own. We ended up here purely by accident one afternoon as we drove back to Franschhoek from Stellenbosch. Trust Razena to have the desire to experience absolutely everything that catches her eye on a vacation.
We stopped at Hillcrest for refreshments after an entire day of retail therapy in Stellenbosch. By the time we reached the Hillcrest Berry Orchards cafe we were very hot and bothered and in need of a tiny refreshment stop. For us, this was just another excuse to sit down and have tea and purchase a truck load of handmade farm products, jams and preserves.
- The farm itself and its surroundings are absolutely stunning. The café is situated uphill, just below the berry orchards resulting in a breath taking view from the café’s balcony.
- We had some tea and scones with whipped cream and home-made jam. I enjoyed absolutely everything here and having the staff to be so welcoming just made the experience all the more pleasant.
- After our tea we took a walk through the farm store and purchased a few products. It is also one of our traditions to purchase farm products when on vacation as we do have a love for baking, preparing food and developing recipes.
- The original farm products always allow for a better and less formulated end result. The main product sold here is the berry jams that are produced and manufactured on the farm.
- This is also a beautiful venue for taking photos as it is situated on the mountain slopes which are covered in orchards and trees.
There are no halaal eateries so self-catering accommodation is the best option for Muslim travellers who wish to stay in the town. A mosque is now open in the town for Muslim worshippers, and offers congregational Friday prayers.
I would definitely recommend Franschhoek as a vacation destination to all those who seek a quiet and relaxing holiday. This is a destination where one can unwind, and also appreciate the breathtaking beauty of nature, fine art and history.
Franschhoek is definitely a good option for the elderly who seek peace and quiet as the town itself gives a sense of serenity and bliss. However, it is also a place where one can do some adventuring due to the proximity of surrounding towns such as Paarl and Stellenbosch. Those are also excellent holiday destinations for travellers who want to do the most exploring as possible and not be bound to one place.
Each time I have visited Franschhoek I have always had a pleasant experience as locals are very friendly and open to tourists. As travellers we know that this is not the case in every place we visit, making Franschhoek top of the list. If any problems are experienced, locals are very willing to assist and direct where possible.
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