Franschhoek
Close to the ground.

GPS: S 33 54.703 E 019 07.221 pop. 14,000 | elevation 274 m/899 ft

The picturesque town of Franschhoek is a little bit of France tucked within the breathtaking mountains of the Winelands. Franschhoek, meaning "French corner," was settled in 1688 by French Huguenot refugees who fled religious persecution during the 17th century. Today it's a gourmet and gastronomic Mecca in South Africa and boasts some of the best, and most expensive, restaurants in the country. The city is centered on the main Huguenot Street and is navigable on foot, with many good wineries within walking distance from the center of town. Nothing here caters to the budget crowd, but the quaint village and gourmet dining options make it well worth a visit.

Huguenot Monument

Huguenot Monument is hard to miss at the end of Huguenot St. Built in 1948, the monument commemorates the contribution of Huguenots to South Africa's history and culture and is surrounded by an expansive and beautifully manicured garden.


Huguenot Memorial Museum

Huguenot Memorial Museum tells the story of the persecution of the French Huguenots, their flight, settlement at the Cape and contribution to South Africa through pictures, artifacts and a lot of dense text. If you choose to wade through the haphazard displays, you may feel like you've gone through a war or two yourself.


Annex

In the more relatable Annex across the street, learn more about Franschhoek's local history. View ancient model Khoikhoi homes, get a feel for the town's first residents from their antique portraits, or pop into the attached shop for a souvenir or two. Bring a picnic basket along and lunch in the beautifully landscaped monument next door or get a light bite at the attached Café Antoinette tearoom.


Paradise Stables

Paradise Stables offers scenic one-hour guided tours on horseback throughout the valley for beginners and experienced riders. You can also opt for a four-hour ride that includes wine tasting at Rickety Bridge Winery and Mont Rochelle for R500.


Manic Cycles

Manic Cycles is the place to go for bike rentals or for an organized bike wine tour. The standard tour includes a scenic ride through the valley, wine tasting and a picnic, topped off by a souvenir bottle of local wine. Specialized tours with a heavier focus on either wine or on biking can be arranged as well.


Franschhoek Motor Museum

Franschhoek Motor Museum has an impressive collection of cars that represents the history of the automobile in South Africa. Located on the L'Ormarins Estate, it houses over 220 vehicles ranging from antique (pre-1904) vintage (1919-1930) to post-1960 and is a must-see for car lovers. After the hour-long tour you can stop at the estate's tasting center to sample some of their wines for R30.


Vineyards

Cabrière

Cabrière was founded in 1684 by French Huguenot Pierre Jourdan, who lent his talents and name to the estate's flagship wines. The tasting center is carved out of the side of the mountain. Cellar tours are offered daily, but it's best to wait until Saturday when the cellar master, armed with a flair for the dramatic, conducts the tour himself. If you can't make the tasting, the renowned Haut Cabrière Restaurant offers the same choice wines and a view overlooking the cellar.


Moreson

Moreson is a picturesque estate just outside of Franschhoek. You couldn't find a prettier setting for a tasting room, so be sure to take your glass outside. If you're taking a bottle home, try the slightly lower cost Miss Molly label - named for the owner's dog.


Mont Rochelle

Mont Rochelle is situated in the foothills of the mountains overlooking Franschhoek. The small tasting room serves dry whites and dry reds and the Country Kitchen Bistro can whip you up an afternoon meal under the sun.


Chamonix

Chamonix has a limited but good selection of wines, including a Methode Cap Classique and Pinot Noir. Tastings are in an old blacksmith's cottage beside the cellar, with outdoor tables to enjoy the wine. There is also a vineyard restaurant located up the road near the tasting room.


Huguenot Street is lined with boutique clothing stores, handmade craft shops, souvenir booths and high-end art galleries. Take your time exploring the length of the street and keep an eye out for shops that promote conscientious trade.


Tsonga

Tsonga sells chic handmade shoes and bags created through an empowerment program for Zulu women in the Drakensburg foothills.


Franschhoek Farmers' Market

Franschhoek Farmers' Market offers a variety of food delights for sale under the trees of the Dutch Reformed Church. Sample smoked cheeses and olives or stock up on organic vegetables, fresh breads and freerange eggs. A delicious way to spend a Saturday morning in Franschhoek.


Budget

Chamonix Guest Cottages

Chamonix Guest Cottages are seven Cape Dutch cottages in the middle of the Chamonix vineyard. They each have one or two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen, TV and fireplace and a braai on the outdoor deck. The tasting room and a vineyard restaurant are located within steps of the cottages.


Mid-range

The Map Room

The Map Room is a sleek and tasteful self-catering house with two spacious bedrooms. The open-plan kitchen and living room has a fireplace and glass doors that open to a deck and braai. The friendly host Jo knows the area well and can help you plan a perfect Franschhoek experience.


Le Ballon Rouge

Le Ballon Rouge is centrally located in a historic 1904 Victorian homestead just one block from Huguenot Street. The 10 rooms are warmly appointed and have beautiful en-suite bathrooms and access to a courtyard in back. There are also two enormous upper-level Superior Suites with their own private decks.


Top-end

Mont Rochelle Hotel

Mont Rochelle Hotel is a 5-star vineyard lodge situated in the foothills of the mountainside overlooking Franschhoek. There are 22 luxury rooms and suites within the Cape Dutch manor house; each has a spacious bathroom and beautiful views. Attached to the hotel is the formal restaurant, Mange Tout.


Le Quartier Français

Le Quartier Français is an elite village oasis in the heart of Franschhoek. Each of the rooms is exquisite, boasting whimsical personal touches and a flair for color; many offer their own private pool or garden. The staff is warm and professional and go above and beyond their duties to ensure that your stay is memorable. Le Quartier is also home to one of the country's finest and most exclusive restaurants, the Tasting Room.


Reservations are essential to get a table most nights in Franschhoek's top restaurants.


Reuben's

Reuben's is a local favorite and consistently one of the more popular restaurants in town. They serve high quality, well-crafted meals focusing on steak and regional meat specialties. The large courtyard fills up in the evenings with families and tourists alike, and everyone is assured to leave satisfied.


Bread & Wine

Bread & Wine is nestled in the Moreson Vineyard at the foot of the mountains surrounding Franschhoek. Here you'll find simple but elegantly executed fare that will make you wonder why food can't taste this good all the time. If you forget to make lunch reservations or are on a tight budget, the grocery counter will still satisfy your culinary dreams with especially good bread and antipasto.


Haute Cabrière Cellar

Haute Cabrière Cellar is dramatically situated in the arched-brick cavern overlooking the Pinot Noir maturation cellar of the Haute Cabrire winery. Chef Matthew Gordon's culinary innovations are meant to be paired with the estate's fine wines and dishes can be served tapas-style or as a full meal. Full of flavor and expertly executed, you'll want to try more than one. We recommend the sesame-crusted tuna tataki accompanied by an Asian salad and ginger dressing - delicious.


Tasting Room

Tasting Room is Franschhoek's premier restaurant and is considered among the top restaurants in the world. That being said, it may be difficult to get a table if you don't make reservations weeks in advance.


Ici

Ici is the less expensive sister restaurant of (and shares the same kitchen as) the neighboring Tasting Room. You can dine in velvet chairs under colored chandeliers or find a spot on the less painfully chic back terrace.


French Connection

French Connection has a petite menu of superb meals such as mushroom risotto, roasted duck, veal schnitzel and wildebeest loin. By the same owner as the Haute Cabrière Cellar restaurant, it has fewer frills but an equal emphasis on incredible food. The restaurant offers sidewalk dining and a large selection of local and imported wine.


Topsi & Co

Topsi & Co is tucked away from the busy main street and offers unpretentious old world charm with a twist of quirk. The unique, home-style South African specials change daily, but range from venison to warthog loin and a delectable crispy duck. It's a BYOB establishment and your personable host, Topsi, will gladly pop open your wine for no charge. Entrance is off Huguenot Street, down the brick alley next to the FNB.


Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is a chic and unpretentious restaurant with a wide selection of seafood and Asian-fusion tapas. Watch the chef flame-grill your order in the open kitchen behind the counter.


Essence Restaurant & Coffee Bar

Essence Restaurant & Coffee Bar is a casually elegant coffee and lunch spot that offers breakfast, light meals and an array of desserts. Nab a spot on the side porch to get out of the hubbub of Huguenot Street or sit out front for some prime people watching.


Elephant & Barrel

Elephant & Barrel is an English pub and a local Franschhoek watering hole hidden in a large courtyard off of Huguenot Street. Food and cocktails are served at the large dark wood bar inside, but in the evenings the crowd hangs outside in the courtyard.


Screening Room

Screening Room is a cozy cinematic experience at Le Quartier Français. Their screening room shows a range of classics, cinema nouveau, and new releases as you sip on a complimentary glass of local wine. Book ahead to ensure a spot on their soft, pink leather seats or one of the sofas in the back. Check online for updated listings and screening information. Bookings are essential and can be made at the Touches and Tastes shop in Le Quartier Français between 9am and 5pm.