Top 5 things to do in Franschhoek, South Africa

Franschhoek Valley in Western Cape (South Africa) is one of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet. Flanked by the Huguenot Mountains and awash with clear streams running past rolling verdant vineyards, Franschhoek is about as picturesque as a small town can get. The people are inviting, it’s quiet, it’s safe to walk everywhere, and there are even a few hip eateries springing up thanks to the enthusiastic investments of Mr. Singh (owner of Leeu House and several other new establishments).

Savvy travellers flock to Franschhoek by the thousands in season, and South Africans spend weekends enjoying picnics on the sunny lawns of its many wine farms. There are literally thousands of options for sleep, play, dining, and of course wine tasting.

This article helps narrow down the various options. Check out our locally curated ‘Top 5’ things to do in Franschhoek and get ready to enjoy the best of the winelands:

1. Wander the gardens and enjoy farm to table dining at Babylonstoren

The 3.5 hectare (8 acre) gardens of Babylonstoren are utterly iconic. Using organic farming methods in a self-sufficient environment, the massive garden contains everything from stone fruit to medicinal herbs. Ducks and chickens wander freely, fertilizing the soil while streams fed from a local river water the plants. At each of the cafes and the incredibly stylish wine tasting room, visitors can enjoy a genuine farm-to-table wine and food experience. Not to be missed.

2. Wine tasting on horseback

Franschhoek is famous for its Bordeaux-inspired wine farms, and what better way to experience the farms than on horseback? Available for all levels from beginner to advanced, several passionate equestrians in the village can guide a walk along less trodden mountain paths to a curated list of wine farms. If you are nervous about ‘drinking and riding,’ a lift can be arranged back home – or you can just ask the horse to walk a bit slower.

3. Spend an afternoon at Boschendal Farm

Boschendal has become a haven of activity with an incredibly tasteful re-brand and re-design a few years ago. The farm has a colloquial charm, and houses several dining options as well as some pretty cool activities. You can ride a horse through the farm or go on a carriage ride. Go mountain biking in the mountains above the farm, and end with a picnic under the oak trees or a 5-star meal at The Werf.

4. Wine tasting at Chamonix Wine Farm

Franschhoek has many wine farms, but the consensus amongst wine makers is that Chamonix is by far the best of the lot. Their wines are incredibly complex yet smooth, and the tasting is done in an old fashioned cellar type room. On a warm summer day, go outside and listen to the gurgling sound of the adjacent stream while sipping the best wines in the valley!

5. Enjoy a dinner at Foliage

In the five star dining world, the concept of ‘rewilding’ is rare indeed. The delicious exception to this rule is Foliage. Chef Chris Erasmus is the multiple award winning chef who responsible for the groundbreaking foraging concept which informs a delightful menu in which everything is ‘wild.’ Book in advance to avoid the disappointing possibility of missing the opportunity to dine on wild things.

That sums up the highlighted travel experiences of Franschhoek in the Western Cape Winelands.  Feel free to let us know in the comments below whether you would like any more ‘locals’ tips on enjoying the best of this delightful winelands village.

Willow Constantine is the Founder of Bespoke Safari Co. Bespoke Safari Co. is a boutique travel agency offering cutting edge curated travel experiences in Africa.

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Comments (12)

  1. Ellen says:

    What a dream combo! Horse-riding and wine-tasting are two of my favourite activities.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Ellen, it sounds like Franschhoek could be an ideal destination for you. The horsess take you along the foothills and rolling vineyards of the mountains, so you really get a strong sense of the terroir. I hope you can come visit one day!

  2. Bob says:

    I’m a big fan of the idea of foraging. It makes the chefs look out for what’s seasonal and really reduces the number of food miles on your plate.

    It’s almost slow food as the chef sees what he or she has got to work with then they have the time to adapt and create their menu accordingly. I like to think that it prompts creativity too. I’d love to have a meal at Foliage.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      I agree wholeheartedly, Bob! If we can eat meals that make a minimal footprint ecologically, and which are grown wild and natural we are truly supporting the health and balance of the ecosystem and our bodies as well. Foliage has won several awards for harnessing principles of re-wilding and it’s a huge privilege to have a dining experience there!

    • Moyà Finn says:

      Going out and foraging for our food may seem like a tiny individual action. Some people would say that you are not going to save the planet by picking a mushroom but I would disagree. That small focus on the details changes our mindset we are thinking about the future of that planet and we have taken a decision to act in an environmentally responsible way.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Moya, this is very insightful and absolutely true. The more we can engage with the planet in the smallest possible way, the more connected we are to the land that sustains us, the more driven we are to protect it. Thank you for your wisdom.

  3. Julia says:

    Some of my friends love South Africa and often go back every 3 or 4 years. They love the country but they often do the same things time and time again. Usually they do a tour something like Cape Town, Garden Route and a safari. I get the feeling that Franschhoek could encourage them to break the pattern and try something new especially for those of them who love their wine. It sounds like a really welcoming small town with loads going on.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Julia, I feel exactly the same way! There are INCREDIBLE off the beaten path destinations in South Africa which would really transform the way you see this diverse and wildly beautiful nation. Some of my favourites are – Paternoster, Churchhaven, Cintsa, and St Lucia Wetlands. Please feel free to reach out if you want further ideas about how to have a truly unforgettable experience of South Africa!

  4. Robyn Kadis says:

    Gosh there is so much more to do in our gorgeous village. Hiking in our stunning mountains is a must for a start! Visiting wine farms by mountain bike is also very popular. Join a walking history or cultural tour. Have a picnic next to the river. Dance the night away at the local pubs over weekends. Check out the Huguenot, Perfume and Motors Museums. Eat delicious Belgian Waffles at Anni’s. Browse the more than 20 art galleries in the main road and wine farms. Sip bubbly and quaff some oysters at a selection of establishments. Enjoy the awesome Saturday Village Market and meet the locals. The list is endless. Our little village has so much to offer.

    • Willow Constantine says:

      Thank you so much for sharing all these amazing additional highlights of Franschhoek. It was really difficult to choose just a few that I even had to leave out the iconic Wine Tram – please feel free to continue offering suggestions as our readers love local knowledge!

  5. Kalyan Panja says:

    Oh wow, this sounds incredible. I didn’t have time to visit Franschhoek while I was in South Africa, but I’d love to go back. Your photos are great!

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