Just one hour’s drive from Cape Town is the incredibly scenic Franschhoek wine valley.
Hidden amongst the Groot Drakenstein Mountains, it’s arguably the most beautiful and captivating town of the Cape Winelands.
We were lucky to spend a few days in this quaint French-inspired town during the autumn, and with the weather still warm from the recent summer, it was a delightful leafy wonderland.
The area was first settled by French Hugenots over 300 years ago, who brought with them vines and started planting wine farms across the region. Translating to “French corner”, Franschhoek still has a very definitive French feel, and in July each year, the town proudly celebrates Bastille Day with a series of festivities.
With more than 50 wine farms to visit, there are plenty of options when it comes to wining and dining. Here, we share some of our favourite finds from our recent visit.
Where to stay
La Clé des Montagnes
This charming boutique hotel was the highlight of our stay in Franschhoek. Tucked away behind the main street, La Clé des Montagnes is something rather special.
We stayed at La Clé Lodge, a cosy lodge with only five bedrooms, all individually designed and are terribly cosy and luxurious. The lodge features the classic charm of a traditional Cape Dutch home with modern styling. Sitting on beautifully manicured grounds, there is a pool, tennis court and pretty garden. Abundant and healthy home-style meals are served at a beautiful big communal table, and private dinners can be arranged.
The best part of all though is the service. Staff here exude a kindness and attention to detail that is second to none.
Babylonstoren is a spectacular Cape Dutch Farm (dating back to 1692) with an absolutely beautiful 8-acre garden. A stunning wine farm, boutique hotel, labyrinthstyle fruit and vegetable garden, day spa, restaurants, cellar door, bakery, cheese
shop, and gift store. Hotel guests are free to explore the farm on foot or by bicycle or by golf buggy (we opted for bicycle most of the time).
With stunning indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, and a day spa, there are plenty of opportunities for pampering.
Book a table at Babel for something more formal, or the pretty Greenhouse for something on the more casual side. We stayed in one of Babylonstoren’s new one bedroom fynbos cottages, which was beautiful, bright and spacious. This is an incredible lodging experience.
A stunning property, part of The Royal Portfolio Group, La Residence sits on a 30-acre private estate covered in vines, fruit trees, flowers and herbs, and is surrounded by vineyards. The interiors are rich and vibrant (think glittering chandeliers, Persian rugs, fine antiques), and all furniture has been chosen by owner Liz Biden. It is a stunningly luxurious retreat.
With breathtaking views of the mountains, and a small swimming pool, it is the perfect place to relax and indulge.
There are 11 suites to choose from in the main house, and five private vineyard suites. La Residence can easily accommodate families and groups of friends.
Where to eat and drink
Lunch at Miko, Mont Rochelle
Sir Richard Branson purchased Mont Rochelle back in 2014 and after a period of refurbishment, reopened the hotel to guests later that year. The 39 hectare grounds are absolutely stunning, offering impeccable 180-degree views across the Franschhoek valley and surrounding vineyards and mountains.
MIKO is one of two restaurants at the property (the fancier one), and we recommend visiting for lunch. With a menu that showcases the best local produce and seasonal ingredients from South Africa paired with some excellent wine. MIKO’s cuisine is best described as a taster to South African favourites – with a twist. On the day we visited, we enjoyed our first ever “braai” (a South African bbq).
Dinner at Marigold, for amazing Indian
Located in the heart of Franschhoek, in Heritage Square, Marigold is the first authentic Indian cuisine restaurant in the area (part of the Leeu Collection hospitality portfolio). Marigold specialises in a variety of Indian dishes, from fragrant curries and flavourful biryanis to succulent meat cooked in the charcoal tandoor.
Eat at Liam Tomlin’s Chefs Warehouse at Maison
Tomlin, who has three other established restaurants around Cape Town (Chefs Warehouse and Canteen on Bree Street, Thali in Gardens, and Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia) is known for serving up food like you’ve never experienced it before. Maison Estate is a magnificent setting from which to enjoy his experimental food, with young chef David Schneider leading the kitchen and using fresh ingredients, based on seasonal availability, to create a global tapas inspired menu that incorporates a world of different flavours in one, multi-coursed meal.
Wine tasting at Haute Cabrière
There are so many lovely spots to do wine tasting in this region, but this was one of our favourites. A lovely setting high on the slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains, with views over the valley, Haute Cabrière has a serene underground cellar built into the side of Franschhoek Mountain.
Wine tasting at Sternberg
Pay a visit to the Cape’s first farm, Sternberg which was established in 1682. With its outstanding wines and spectacular views, this is a lovely place for wine-tasting or lunch by the pool.
Lunch at Le Petite Ferme
Another beautiful spot to enjoy stunning views over the vines and mountains, La Petite Ferme offers country cuisine with a contemporary touch, showcasing seasonal produce from the region. The wines are excellent as well.
Other restaurants worth checking out include, the new Protégé, Foliage, and Le Coin. Other wine-tasting spots we can recommend include, Holden Manz, Paserene, and Grande Provence for bubbly.
What to do
Take a stroll along the charming main street of Franschhoek, checking out the art galleries and cute cafes (we especially like the coffee from Big Dog Cafe).
Check out the Saturday morning Franschhoek Village Market – held every Saturday morning under the trees at the Dutch Reformed Church on Huguenot Road. Come here for delicious food stalls, art, craft, produce, and live music.
Go for a hike in the nearby Franschhoek Pass (with its many hiking trails to choose from).
For a bit of pampering (ladies, if you need a blow dry), we can recommend Salon La Belle on the main street.
Play golf. Franschhoek is known not only for its natural beauty but its excellent golf courses as well. The Pearl Valley Golf Estate, renowned as one of the top ten courses in South Africa, is just half an hour from the centre of town. The Estate boasts the acclaimed Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, listed as one of the best par 5’s in South Africa.
Georgia Hopkins is a travel writer and contributor to Evening Standard Lifestyle. Follow Georgia Hopkins on Instagram @_itsbeautifulhere.
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