I have been to Cape Town 5 or more times over the last 10 years, and increasingly heard people (both locals and tourists) talk about Franschoek and how it was well worth a visit. So, finally, on this last trip we made a trip out to the town. And understand why it is so popular.
The town of Franschhoek is billed as, and encourages the reputation of being, the “gourmet capital” of South Africa. It is well known for having many outstanding restaurants, and despite being a small town of only about 15000 residents, will have a number of the best rated places to eat in the country in any year in the town.
Franschoek is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. It was established when the French Huguenots set off to South Africa to settle after their Protestant religion was made illegal. They were granted the land, which today is about an hour drive on good roads from Cape Town. The settlers established vineries and started wine making,and as you drive around you notice that almost all of the farms have French names.
The town is mostly centred along one main street, that is a mixture of Cape Dutch, Colonial and new developments. Overall it is well done, and the town is being developed with care and an eye for style. Even the revamped and updated old buildings are done with flair.
The town apparently really started to boom in the 1990s when Cape Townians started to visit it a lot for weekends, as due to it’s proximity to the city and good road network to get there it was a handy bolt area to relax and enjoy good food.
Today the town itself in addition to having all those restaurants, is also full of decor and handcrafted shops. They have a lot of great and stylish pieces, but overall seem quite costly. They do make for a good morning or afternoon of browsing and exploring.
At the end of the main street is a large memorial to the Huguenot settlers that established the town, and a museum just next to it. The memorial is pretty impressive and in beautifully maintained gardens.
Outside the town are the various vineyards, most of which will offer tastings and sell you wine. At most you pay a small fee to taste 4 or 5 wines. There is a map of all the various ones to visit at the Information Centre on the Main Street. Many of the vineyards also have restaurants to eat at, but in the main season and weekends it is best to book as they seem to get very full.
One of the vineyards (L’Ormarins Wine Estate) also hosts the impressive Franschhoek Motor Museum (topic of another blog posting), which is about 15 minutes drive out of town.
The town also has many Guest Houses in or around the town, many on the vineyards and some more up the mountain slopes that surround the town.
Like much of the Cape, you will see a lot of people being active and energetic and so all round the area you will see people cycling both for sport but also around the area.
Many people visiting the Cape spend a few nights in Franschhoek as part of a bigger tour around the area, but it is possible to do a day trip and go for lunch and see all there is to see. But it is a very quiet and peaceful town to chill out and relax in.
I recommend a visit.
Watch the video of the town I made: