Franschhoek is a small town in the Cape Winelands, just 80 km (50 miles) east of Cape Town. Known for its centuries old wineries and world class cuisine, this is definitely a place to add to your South Africa bucket list. There are plenty of things to do in Franschhoek, but be warned, fine wine and good food are often at the centre of them.
A brief history of Franschhoek Valley
Franschhoek was founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, who brought grapevines from their home country. Wine and other farms began popping up in the valley, which would grow to become one of South Africa’s best known wine regions. Most wineries today have French founders, French (sounding) names, and are built in the Cape Dutch architectural style.
This is a very brief summary of the history of Franschhoek. If you’re interested in its heritage, you could visit the Huguenot Memorial Museum and the adjoining memorial monument.
Go wine tasting
Going wine tasting is obviously one of the most popular things to do in Franschhoek. You can do so by tram, tuktuk, car, or bicycle, whichever you like best.
Wine tasting with the Franschhoek Wine Tram
Being the designated driver on a wine tasting trip is like being a diabetic in a candy shop. Sure, there are private wine tasting tours, but they can be pretty expensive. Franschhoek offers a fun and affordable alternative though: the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Their hop-on hop-off experience allows you to visit up to 6 wineries a day for only R220 (~ $18 ~ €15) per person. What are you waiting for?
Wine tasting with Tuk Tuk Franschhoek
If your budget is slightly bigger and you prefer a private wine tasting tour, then Tuk Tuk Franschhoek is for you. Their Full Day Wine Tour is similar to a tour on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, with 5 wine estates or 5 hours (whichever comes first) for R360 (~ $28 ~ €24) per person.
A private chauffeur will pick you up at your accommodation in a tuk tuk and drive you from winery to winery at your pace. If you’ve visited 5 wineries or the 5 hours have passed, you can extend the tour by paying extra per winery.
Note that their tuk tuks can transport up to 6 people. However, it’s a private tour, so you won’t have to share it with others if there’s less of you.
For more information on this tour and others on offer, including up-to-date pricing information, we refer to the Tuk Tuk Franschhoek website.
Other wine tours in Franschhoek
If you prefer a wine tasting tour by bike, check out these options:
Sample some of Franschhoek’s world class cuisine
In between all the wine tasting, you should definitely eat something. Not just to slow the absorption of alcohol into your system, but because Franschhoek has some world class food on offer.
Lots of wineries have wine pairing options, but they serve breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner as well. We particularly liked the cheese platter at La Bourgogne Farm and the pizza and wine pairing at La Couronne. Find out more about it in our Wine Tram post.
There are plenty of restaurants in Franschhoek’s city centre as well, catering to every budget. We wrote a whole post about it (click here to check it out), but can already tell you we absolutely loved the food at Ryan's Kitchen.
Visit Babylonstoren Garden
A visit to Babylonstoren is one of the favourite things to do in Franschhoek of locals and tourists alike. We were already impressed with their beautiful car park, not to mention their big lovely garden.
We spent about an hour strolling through the garden of Babylonstoren. They have all kinds of fruit trees, vegetable, herbal and flower gardens, which are all organic.
The gardeners harvest the fruits and vegetables year round for use in two farm-to-fork restaurants. There’s a Farm Shop at the estate as well, where they sell freshly baked bread, olive oil, all kinds of chutneys, and a bunch of souvenirs.
You can choose to explore the garden and the Greenhouse restaurant (an informal restaurant in a greenhouse) on your own, or join the guided garden tour. It leaves daily at 10:00 at the Farm Shop. Feel free to taste, smell and touch while walking.
If you want to get your hands dirty, you can join one of the paid workshops held regularly at Babylonstoren. With groups of no more than 20 people, they’re quite hands-on, combining learning and doing. All workshops start with a walk through the garden, starting at 10:00 at the Farm Shop, and take more or less the entire day. For more information on which workshops are on and what they cost, we refer to the Babylonstoren website.
When entering the Babylonstoren gates, you’re asked to pay a R10 (less than $1 or €1) entrance fee per person on weekdays, and R20 on weekends and holidays. Note that dogs are not allowed, as Babylonstoren is a working farm.
Picnic on a Franschhoek wine estate
How about enjoying the beautiful Franschhoek weather with a picnic? Add a glass of “grape juice” and a vineyard view and your lunch is pretty much perfect.
Quite a few wineries offer picnic options (find an overview here), but unfortunately we only had time to try one: the Rhone Rose Garden Picnic at Boschendal. Order your picnic beforehand, so they can prepare a basket to be picked up between 12:00 and 14:00. That basket will be filled with way too much yummy food made from their natural farm produce.
Whether you prefer your picnic at a table or on a blanket, in the sun or in the shade of the oak trees, the Boschendal personnel is there to help you with a smile. The picnic area is adjacent to the tasting room and winery, so feel free to explore those before or after your lunch.
The Rhone Rose Garden Picnic costs R480 for two (~ $37 ~ €31), which does not include any drinks. Take note that a 10% gratuity is automatically charged.
Explore the hiking trails in Franschhoek
The Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve is situated in the impressive mountains surrounding Franschhoek. The reserve has several hiking trails of differing difficulty and duration, all providing wonderful views of the valley.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time for hiking in Franschhoek, but you can find more information on the Mont Rochelle Nature Reserve website. Note that a day permit costs R50 (~ $4 ~ €3) per person.
How to get from Cape Town to Franschhoek
If you have a car at your disposal, allow for about a 75 minute drive from Cape Town to Franschhoek, depending on traffic.
You can take an Uber or Lyft as well, which will cost you probably somewhere around R700 (~ $54 ~ €45) one way. A regular taxi would charge you about twice that.
Sometimes your accommodation can arrange transport from Cape Town to Franschhoek. We also know that you can add in an optional transfer from Cape Town when booking the Franschhoek Wine Tram through their website. Prices start at R550 (~ $42 ~ €36) per person for a return transfer, based on 2 people booking. They can even accommodate an extended stay if you like to spend the night in Franschhoek.
Where to stay in Franschhoek
From a cosy bed & breakfast to a luxury stay on a wine estate, there are accommodation options for every taste and budget in Franschhoek. We stayed at 3 on Roux, a small and homey bed & breakfast, just a stone’s throw from the main street of Franschhoek.
How to get around in Franschhoek
If you choose your accommodation in Franschhoek right (take 3 on Roux B&B for example), you can get to most restaurants and the Franschhoek city centre on foot. If it’s too far you can call a taxi as well, or a tuk tuk from Tuk Tuk Franschhoek.
To get from winery to winery we recommend the Franschhoek Wine Tram (see above). If you want a more private experience, a tuktuk wine tour with Tuk Tuk Franschhoek (see above) is supposed to be pretty cool too.
There are plenty of things to do in Franschhoek to fill a couple of days, and it doesn’t always have to include wine. We definitely enjoyed our time in this cute and cosy town and would have loved to stay a little longer than 2 days to be able to do some hiking. The Wine Tram was big fun too though, and we wouldn’t have wanted to miss it for the world.
Did we convince you to pay Franschhoek a visit? If you’ve been, did we miss anything? We’d love to read it in the comments!
Note that not all of these options might be available during the South African winter, from June to August. Check the respective websites for more information.
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