Since the 1980s, Franschhoek has been building an undeniable reputation as the culinary capital of South Africa. Lying in the Franschhoek Valley and ringed by craggy mountains that twinkle with a shaving of snow in the midyear winter, this quaint town’s roots actually date back to the 1680s. For centuries, since the French Huguenots settled here in 1688, it has been a centre of wine and agricultural production, the fertile valley soil and unique terroir making for some classic vintages.
‘Franschhoek’ means ‘French Corner’ and subtle aspects of France permeate the village. Bastille Day is celebrated with berets, baguettes and barrel rolling every 14 July, lavender is everywhere, and excellent charcuterie, cheese and Cap Classique (the official name of South African champagne) are easily found.
Even if you’re not a wine lover or gourmand, Franschhoek is still worth at least a two-day stay. History buffs can visit the Huguenot Memorial and Museum, petrol heads will spend hours at the Franschhoek Motor Museum at L’Omarins (which has a world-class collection of historical cars in immaculate condition) and art lovers can browse the many galleries and pop into the Pierneef Collection at La Motte to see originals by one of South Africa’s foremost modernist landscape artists.
Outdoorsy types can saddle up for mountain biking, hiking and horse riding (you can even go wine tasting on horseback – don’t worry, the horse knows the route from estate to estate!). There are also great golf courses in the area, including a Jack Nicklaus Signature course at Pearl Valley.
Of course, what Franschhoek is most famous for is its excellent restaurants and wine estates, which run the gamut from very traditional to contemporary (golfers will want to stop at the Ernie Els estate, which has some of the best views in the valley). If you’re serious about wine tasting and want to explore South African varietals like Pinotage to the fullest, leave the rental car at your hotel and jump on the Franschhoek Wine Tram or ask your African Safari Expert to create a bespoke guided wine tour for you. Thankfully, almost all estates will ship wine home for you, meaning you needn’t be concerned about your airplane luggage limit.
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