is situated just 50 minutes from Cape Town in the midst of an exquisite mountainous region. The ‘French Quarter’ is a romantic destination, perfect for young lovers, newlyweds and those keen to reignite the flame. This sleepy town, located in the heart of the winelands, can be visited during any of the seasons.
The town was originally occupied by the French who resided there after fleeing from their homeland in 1685. Today, the inhabitants have kept up with the French traditions and way of life, bringing a unique French flair to the area.
Not only is Franschhoek one of the most gorgeous valleys in South Africa, but it is also a region of sophistication and culinary delights. Dubbed the gourmet gem of South Africa, there are more award-winning restaurants in the valley than anywhere else in South Africa.
These top attractions in Franschhoek are sure to warm the cockles of your heart and there is always something happening in this little town so be sure to check out the Franschhoek Wine Valley Calendar for a detailed list of events and dates.
Babylonstoren is one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms in South Africa. What makes this farm particularly unique is the fruit and vegetable garden. The garden is at the heart of the farm and it was inspired by the Company Gardens in Cape Town where ships would stock up with water, vegetables and fruit. The garden also reminds one of the mythical hanging gardens of Babylon, hence the name, Babylonstoren.
The Babylonstoren Garden is eight acres in size and is formal in structure. Over three-hundred varieties of plants are edible and grown in a biological manner. The fruit and vegetables are harvested and are used in the restaurant on site.
A visit to the Babylonstoren Gardens is a must for those wishing to unwind. One can also do a 3km walk throughout the area and guests are invited to join in on the harvesting, planting, pruning, or picking of the many fruit, herbs, nuts, spices and vegetables.
Entry fee is R10 and is donated to the Babylonstoren Trust.
The Huguenot Memorial Museum
Franschhoek is famous for its French history and a trip to the Huguenot Memorial Museum is definitely a worthwhile experience if you’re a history buff.
The Huguenot Memorial Museum aims to uphold the French customs that were brought to the area in the 1600’s. Here you’ll be able to learn how the French made wine, clothes and other products.
The cost is R10 for adults and R5 for children.
Upon exploring the area, you cannot miss the Huguenot Monument which stands erect and white in the centre of the town. This monument celebrates the French influence in the area. It was designed by J.C. Jongens and was built more recently in 1945. The Huguenot Monument also has religious symbolism and the three arches represent the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. A beautiful body of water and a luscious garden envelop the monument.
Franschhoek Wine Valley Food and Wine Route
Are you a lover of all things culinary? Then the Franschhoek Wine Valley Food and Wine Route should be on your list. Even 300 years down the line, French winemaking traditions are still apparent and winemakers still produce classic French cultivars. The route consists of more than 40 cellars and with so many boutique wineries, you cannot go wrong!
The many farms in exquisite settings are perfect for tastings, lunch or even picnics. Even with winter approaching, you won’t want to stay at home and miss out on a full-bodied glass of red. Most farms in Franschhoek offer meals or tastings and have fireplaces where visitors can cuddle up with a glass of their favourite wine. Wine pairings, chocolate making, cookery classes, olive oil tastings and estate tastings are just some of the activities on offer along this route.
The Franschhoek Motor Museum is a motor vehicle enthusiast’s dream come true. The museum provides visitors with the opportunity of reviewing more than a hundred years of motoring history. Set on Johann Rupert’s magnificent L’Ormarins wine farm, the museum has a wide collection of vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles and memorabilia. Vehicles range from a 1898 Beeston motor tricycle to a 2003 Ferrari Enzo supercar! You’ll find antique, veteran, vintage, post-vintage, post-45 and post-60 cars, all in pristine condition. There are over 220 vehicles and more than 80 exhibits on view at a given time. These exhibits are displayed in four halls cover a total of 2 700m2. All cars are displayed in chronological order and kept in a Cape Dutch-style building.
The cost is R60 to enter and bookings must be made well in advance.
Horse-riding through the Franschhoek Vineyards
There is no better way to explore the exceptional scenery of the area than on horseback. Trot through vineyards, forests and over hills. Besides the horse trails, other activities in the area include wine-tasting on horseback, hiking trails and fishing. The wine-tasting on horseback tour is a scenic ride through the vineyards, stopping at the Rickety Bridge Winery and Mont Rochelle.
Visit Paradise Stables for more information about these exclusive rides.
Browse Shops on the Quaint Main Street
Franschhoek’s main street offers a variety of restaurants and quaint shops. The host of galleries provide wonderful antiques and art collections. You’ll also find speciality shops such as fromagerie’s, a sofa maker and a chocolate factory! Indulge in the ultimate ‘Chocolate Experience’ held at Huguenot Fine Chocolates. This is a half hour activity which includes a chocolate-making demonstration and a chocolate tasting.
If you would prefer to see more of the scenery in the area and get some exercise, the Franschhoek area boasts a number of hiking trails. The Simonsberg Mountain in Franschhoek is a must-do! The trail is a circular ridge route and the hike can take between 6 to 8 hours. The mountain divides the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek areas and it is 1390 metres in height.
Another splendid hike is the La Motte Hiking Trail that stretches through the wine farm’s property. You’ll be able to see the stunning Cape Fold Mountain Range whose peaks are said to date back to over 250 million years ago. There is a R50 conservation fee that includes a bottle of water and a map of the area. Contact La Motte’s tasting room to book your hike – 021 8768000.
About the blogger
Elizabeth Joss is the main contributor of Fly First, a portal that aims to inspire South Africans to travel by offering them the very best flight fares.
Elizabeth is a creative writer, passionate about all things to do with travel. She enjoys writing articles about places off the beaten track. Follow Fly First on Facebook and Twitter or visit their travel blog.
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