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TTucked away in the Groot Drakenstein Mountains, the Franschhoek Wine Route is considered South Africa’s “gourmet capital”. Franschhoek translates to “French corner” and the entire region has hints of its historical beginnings, where you will experience a pervasive French influence in the wine making, dining, art and design.
It’s wine time
The vineyards were first planted more than 300 years ago by French Huguenot immigrants, so the culture and heritage of wine in the Franschhoek area are deeply intertwined. The farms here are smaller and more intimate than nearby Stellenbosch and you will taste some excellent boutique wines, as well as some of the more famous ones. Excellent wine farms abound including Boschendal, Rickety Bridge, Haute Cabrière, Bellingham, Leopard's Leap, Graham Beck, Backsberg, Babylonstoren and La Motte. Read more about the Franschhoek Wine Route.
Which brings us to the Wine Tram. Unless you have a designated driver, we suggest this fun outing. You won’t know which farms you are visiting until the day, but we can promise that you won’t be disappointed. The tram runs from the town alongside the farms and you can take all the time you need to experience each place.
Visit a farm
Some wine farms are farm-farms too. The most popular is Babylonstoren. Pet the donkeys, wander through the beautiful gardens and marvel at old farming techniques, such as trellis growing, water furrows and weirs. Kids will love it here, and adults will be able to enjoy a wine tasting or meal in the excellent restaurant (there's also a child-friendly restaurant in an old greenhouse if you have children with you). If you’re interested in design, a visit to Babylonstoren is a must.
Buy preserves and local goods
Most of the wine farms have excellent shops, where you will find farm produce and local delicacies. Look out for cheeses, biltong, droewors, jams made with local fruits, marmalades, and fresh bread. The valley is also home to incredible fruit farms. Most of the fruit are premium and exported overseas to exclusive vendors. While here you can taste just how good the fruit is. Look out for melons, guavas and lemons. There are also local craft foods such as creams made from natural ingredients as well as straw hats and local books.
Learn about the Huguenots
At the end of Franschhoek's main street, you’ll find the Huguenot Monument and the Huguenot Memorial Museum. The monument commemorates the Huguenot immigrants who fled Catholic-ruled France and settled here in the late 1600s. The focal point of the monument is a woman standing on a globe; she represents the breaking of the shackles and freedom of conscience.
The monument is beautifully designed and therefore very photogenic. Walk all the way round for good opportunities to get all the viewpoints and backdrops
LLearn some revisionist history
Solms Delta is a wine farm where the story of transformation starts with celebrating the original owners. Archaeological digs on the land revealed physical histories of the families who still live and work the land. The wine farm, therefore, began a process of showcasing histories of music, farming and family in the museum, while following through by restructuring ownership rights and equity with workers and families on the farm. There’s also some excellent wine.
Drive down the main street and pick a commercial gallery in which to browse. You can also visit the renowned farm of La Motte, where there is a beautiful modern art museum of JH Pierneef’s work, acquired by the Rupert family. There’s also an area in the La Motte Museum reserved for modern art. You'll want to keep an eye on the artists featured here; the owners of La Motte are known for their impeccable taste, not only in wine and food, but also in art.
Eat all the food
Franschhoek has earned its reputation as the gourmet capital of South Africa. There are many small and excellent restaurants, some of them world class. In town, there’s a restaurant owned by Reuben Riffel (a South African celebrity chef), aptly named Reubens, while all wine farms have excellent kitchens, some of which are on the Top 10 Eat Out Awards list.
Franschhoek chefs make the most of the Franschhoek Valley's abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, and wines are perfectly paired by these great chefs with each course. In summer and during festivals, restaurants can be booked up weeks and even months in advance, so be sure to book early.
Go for a walk
Franschhoek is set in beautiful surroundings. In winter, it often snows, making the surrounds even more picturesque. Autumn is a leafy wonderland, spring erupts in cosmos (local indigenous flowers) and summer is hot and glorious. Take a walk down the main road, through the vineyards or gardens of a wine farm, or be more adventurous and hike in the Franschhoek Mountains.
Sit back and relax in your amazing hotel
Boutique, home or farm, cottage, villa or romantic hotel, Franschhoek has amazing accommodation options. Many places will have something interesting on site, like a working farm, ancient well, reading room or vineyard. In summer, be sure to book long in advance, as local establishments experience 100% occupancy. In winter, you might well find some great deals.
Contact Franschhoek Tourism (+27 21 876 2861, firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about this beautiful part of South Africa.