Tucked away in the Groot Drakenstein Mountains, the Franschhoek Wine Route is considered South Africa’s “gourmet capital”. Franschhoek translates to “French corner” and the entire region has hints of its historical beginning, and you will experience a pervasive French influence in the wine making, dining, art and design. If you love food and adore luxury, then this is the place for you.
The Franschhoek winelands fall within both the Western Cape’s coastal wine-growing region and form part of the Paarl wine district. There are 43 active wineries along the route, ranging from popular brands like Boschendal and L’Ormarins to very small, artisan producers like My Wyn (pronounced “My Vayn”) and Black Elephant Vintners.
Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Semillon farmers make up the bulk of the vineyard plantings in Franschhoek, making Franschhoek a “must do” for every wine lover.
The town of Stellenbosch is 50km to the east of Cape Town. From the airport, you take the N2 towards Somerset West, turn left onto the R310 and follow the road into Stellenbosch. Alternatively, there are national bus routes and daily train stops to the university town of Stellenbosch.
There are daily international flights to Cape Town International Airport, and Franschhoek is approximately 70km from the airport, around an hour by car.
Car rentals are available for a more scenic drive via the N1 national route.
The Franschhoek, Paarl and Stellenbosch wine routes are all worth exploring. You can also visit the Drakenstein Prison (formerly Victor Verster) as well as the Mont Rochelle and Paarl Nature reserves, treat yourself to a horseback wine tour, pop into the Pearl Valley Golf Estate or visit the Franschhoek Motor Museum.
The annual Stellenbosch Wine Festival usually takes place in July. The Spier Performing Arts Festival occurs annually in February or March.
The full-day Vineyard Hiking Trail is best enjoyed in autumn or spring. It´s 24km long and starts above the Oude Libertas Centre. It then moves through the forest plantations, vineyards, olive groves and coastal renosterveld.
Take a tour of Mooiwater Township or Pniel, and see French-Huguenot architecture at Boschendal Manor (1685), Burgundy Bourgogne Farm, or the Dutch Reformed Church (1847).
Always lookout for a bicycle rental shop as this area is the perfect place to explore on two wheels and a great way to get active.
A wide selection of accommodation is offered, including categories such as backpackers, guesthouses, hotels, self-catering units and B&Bs in Stellenbosch and surrounding areas.
There is no shortage of dining opportunities in and around Stellenbosch. Book a table at one of the estate restaurants and enjoy a leisurely lunch in an idyllic setting.
Stock up at one of the wine estates.
When it comes to Stellenbosch, any time of the year is good, but it does rain in winter.
Franschhoek is especially lovely from September (early spring) to April (end of summer).
A long-weekend stay is the popular choice but to get the most out of your trip to Stellenbosch, a five-day break is best.
Stellenbosch owes its name to the former governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. He established this settlement on the banks of the Eerste River in 1679, making it the second-oldest formal settlement in South Africa.
It lies between the impressive Simonsberg Mountains and the more modest Papegaaiberg (“Parrot Mountain”) and is a beautiful university town with oak tree-lined streets and students whizzing by whitewashed, original Cape Dutch buildings on their bicycles. With its many sidewalk cafes and restaurants, it's an idyllic setting to explore on foot.
Many leading wine estates are located here and Stellenbosch is home to some of the best restaurants in the country. Look out for Rust en Vrede, Jordan and Terroir, all of which have made it on to the Eat Out award list for the top 10 restaurants in the country.
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