Planning what to see and do whilst visiting Franschhoek can be somewhat overwhelming given the incredible range of activities, places to stay and wine farms. Here are 10 of our favourite things to do in Franschhoek, South Africa’s food and wine capital.
1. Visit the gardens of Babylonstoren
This place is paradise found. Babylonstoren can be found in the Drakenstein Valley between Paarl and Franschhoek. Tranformed by Karen Roos and Koos Bekker, the main attraction is the astounding gardens – these really have to be seen to be believed. At all times of the year, there’s something new to explore, like the collection of 7,000 clivias in full bloom, and for the price of just R10 you are free to wander the gardens like Alice in Wonderland. If you have the time though, it’s definitely worth booking for one of the garden tours and we guarantee you’ll be totally inspired by every little detail.
There are two restaurants on offer here, Babel, the signature restaurant (book in advance) where you will be treated to a seasonal feast, or you can pop in to the Greenhouse restaurant for quite possibly the most beautiful salads and sandwiches you’ve ever seen. After lunch, continue to explore, or check in to the Spa (again, book ahead) and enjoy the fabulous shop.
2. Book an informed and entertaining wine tour
Much like when visiting Paris or Rome and spending hours leafing through guidebooks to make sure you aren’t missing any of the once-in-a-lifetime attractions, the abundance of world-leading wine farms can have that same, slightly panicky effect on those who want to see it all and take it all in. If you are a wine enthusiast and can identify with this feeling, don’t fret, help is on hand in the form of Richard Hilton’s wine tours. Richard offers tailor-made, privately escorted tours to the region. He will ensure that you see the very best that Franschhoek has to offer and will lace the tour with his fierce passion, knowledge and expertise. An informed, entertaining day out… perfect for the wine lover, amateur or wine collector.
3. Eat, drink and be merry at Bread & Wine
If Franschhoek is the gourmet capital of South Africa, then Bread & Wine must be one of the jewels in the crown. The chef, Neil Jewell, specialises in charcuterie so be sure to enjoy the best of what the seasonal menu has to offer and sip on some Miss Molly bubbles in the Môreson garden. And, if you’re taking the kids, they’ll have a blast on the lawns and splashing in the water features.
4. Get onboard the Franschhoek wine tram
This one is a little touristy but what’s not to love about a tram that takes you to seven wine farms including the likes of Mont Rochelle, Rickety Bridge, Maison and Dieu Donne and takes any stress away from having to drive. If you are travelling alone or you’d like to meet like-minded people, it’s also great fun and you may well find, especially after a few wine tastings, that you’ve made some life-long friends. This is a good choice for families, as the kids are guaranteed to enjoy the ride. And it’s not only wine – the micro-brewery at Dieu Donne is definitely worth checking out. Tickets cost R200 for adults and include complimentary wine tastings. Head this way to book.
5. Go for a cycle ride
Too much wining and dining can make you feel a little sluggish, so hopping on a bike and then appreciating that next glass of vino can be rewarding and a whole heap of fun with great friends. You can hire a bike from Franschhoek Cycles or your accommodation may well have a bike waiting for you. Ask for advice on routes. If exercise is your thing, then there are also plenty of hiking trails in the area, especially in the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve and excellent mountain bike trails at Jonkershoek.
6. Take a drive
Driving over the Franschhoek pass is absolutely spectacular. Take a look at the incredible views right across the valley and the Simonsberg mountain and appreciate the season in which you are visiting this beautiful area.
7. Stay somewhere wonderful
The ridiculously wonderful hotels and boutique guesthouses you have to choose from when visiting Franschhoek are, without doubt, one of the best parts of any stay in the area. Perhaps you’d like somewhere intimate and cosy like La Petite Ferme or something out-of-this-world, like La Residence – let Greatest Africa help you choose the right accommodation for you. Expect luxury, peace and tranquility and to never want to leave.
8. Discover some of the culture
Aside from the wine farms, just wandering down the main road in Franschhoek, perhaps stopping for a coffee here, a pancake there, or to peruse some of the many art galleries, is a lot of fun. The Motor Museum and the Huguenot Memorial Museum are also certainly worth a visit and, if you are in town on a Saturday, pop in to the village market or have a beer and watch the rugby at the Elephant & Barrel. Be sure to also keep an eye out for the many festivals on throughout the year. Annual highlights include Bastille Day, the literary festival, Franschhoek Uncorked and the Franschhoek Summer Wines Festival.
9. Book a table at The Tasting Room, Le Quartier Francais
Chef Margot Janse’s restaurant, The Tasting Room, has been voted as one of the best restaurants in the world, many times over. If fine dining is your thing, then book way in advance for this mind-blowing taste sensation. You’ll need a good three and a half hours though, to really experience the culinary journey.
10. Play giant darts
Mont Rochelle is owned by the one and only Sir Richard Branson. Call your family and friends, book a table and enjoy the perfect afternoon with superb wine, food and even giant lawn darts. If you are able, consider staying at this beautiful hotel and book a treatment or two at their superb spa. Aren’t you keen?
There’s so much to see and do in Franschhoek and we hope this list has inspired you to plan your next trip. Whether you are planning a quick weekend getaway without the kids or you are looking for ten-day holiday of a lifetime, get in touch with Greatest Africa and we would be glad to help.