Franschhoek is a village in valley surrounded by mountains on three sides, with vineyards down every other back street. The Dutch East India Company gave this valley to a group of around 200 French Huguenots who fled to South Africa to escape persecution in the 17th century.
They made themselves at home, establishing wine estates and giving everything French names. While the French names, food and wine-making traditions live on, the descendents of those original French inhabitants are hard to find today.
One thing that is not hard to find in Franschhoek is a good place to eat. The high street houses a large number of pleasant restaurants, including that of Le Quartier Francais, judged to be the ‘Best in Africa’ – quite an accolade. It’s pretty well the culinary capital of South Africa, with no less than eight of South Africa’s ‘Top 100 Restaurants’. There are also a substantial number of craft shops, cook shops and delicatessens.
Places to stay
There are so many super places to stay in Franschoek. Queen of them all is the award-winning Le Quartier Francais, but for those who want something less ritzy, Akademie Street Guesthouses also has that wow factor at considerably lower cost.
On the outskirts of town, on the way to the Franschhoek Pass, there is La Petite Ferme and Franschhoek Country House. Further still, Cathbert Country Inn – buried deep among the vineyards in a completely rural setting is an old favourite of ours.
There are lots of other lovely places we use and which – La Couronne for one which has reopened and Klein Genot for another.
From Franschhoek, you can head in one of three directions: south-west to Stellenbosch and on to Cape Town; north to the N1 motorway which soon takes you to Worcester and the start of the scenic overland R62 route to Oudtshoorn; or there is a lovely drive out of the valley over a mountain pass to Villiersdorp. From there, you can descend to the N2 and either drive east to Garden Route or south to the sea for some whale-watching at Hermanus.