Franschhoek is known as the ‘Culinary Capital of South Africa’ and for good reason. Although the list varies year-to-year, up to eight of South Africa’s ‘Top 100’ restaurants are based in the small town of Franschhoek. There are currently three in the Top 10.
Franschhoek (‘French Corner’ in Dutch) is a picturesque village where the laid back café culture has a distinctly French charm. Full of character, Franschhoek is distinguished by its fine colonial architecture, numerous gourmet restaurants, art galleries and curio shops.
Despite its diminutive size, Franschhoek boasts an incredible range of snug cafés and stylish restaurants with every style of food on offer. From traditional English pub food to classic French bistro fare and from superb wood-fired pizzas to contemporary Indian cuisine – there is something for every palate.
Recommended Franschhoek Restaurants
Foliage, The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, Bread&Wine at Môreson, Grande Provence, The Kitchen at Maison, Pierneef a La Motte, Ruben’s and Ryan’s Kitchen.
Recommended Franschhoek Wine Estates
Chamonix, Boekenhoutskloof, La Motte, L’Ormarins, Grande Provence, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines, Rupert & Rothschild, Stoney Brook, Franschhoek Pass Winery, Haute Cabriere and Colmont.
The Royal Portfolio’s Top 10 Restaurants in the Cape Winelands
HISTORY OF FRANSCHHOEK
The first French Huguenot settlers arrived in South Africa at Franschhoek in 1688 and their influence lives on, for this is a destination undeniably devoted to the creation and enjoyment of good food and wine.
Many of the original French Huguenot refugees were given land by the Dutch government in a valley called Olifantshoek (“Elephants’ corner”), so named because of the elephants that crossed into the valley to calve. The name of the area soon changed to le Coin Français (“the French Corner”), and later to Franschhoek, with many of the settlers naming their new farms after the areas in France from which they came. La Motte, Champagne, La Cotte, Haute Cabrière, La Provence, Bourgogne, La Terra de Luc and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms — most of which retain their original Cape Dutch farm houses today.
THE HUGUENOT MONUMENT
The French heritage is commemorated by the Huguenot Monument which stands at the end of the town. The museum nearby chronicles the history of the first settlers, with each of the original Huguenot farms having its own fascinating story to tell. The Cape Dutch architecture in much of the village is unspoilt, as restrictions have been placed on the extent of renovations and new construction in order to preserve the spirit of the original settlers to the area.
In 1904 a 27 km train line was built between Paarl and Franschhoek to serve as an alternative to ox drawn carts for farmers wanting to get their produce to market. Steam locomotives operated along the route until diesel locomotives took over in the 1970s and then, in the 1990s, as the need for rail transport decreased, service along the railway line was discontinued. The branch line was reinstated in 2012 by a private operator which now operates as the Franschhoek Wine Tram.
A VIBRANT CULTURE
Within the vicinity of the village there are more than 40 wine estates, many of which offer classical concerts, art exhibitions and jazz evenings alongside cellar tours, tutored wine tastings and award-winning dining experiences.
Franschhoek has become synonymous with exciting art, culture and gourmet festivals throughout the year.
Top of the calendar are:
Literary Festival (May)
Bastille Festival (July)
Franschhoek Uncorked (September)
Open Gardens Festival (October)
Cap Classique & Champagne Festival (December)
Wine-making has an illustrious 300-year old history in the Franschhoek Valley. The oldest family-owned wine farms are worth visiting for their architecture and beautiful vineyards alone. Whether you are a connoisseur with your own cellar or an enthusiastic newcomer to the wonderful world of wine, wine tasting in Franschhoek offers a unique and diverse experience for oenophiles.
You’ll learn about the wine-making process and gain an understanding of what makes South African wine so special as well as the differences between new world and old world wines.
STELLENBOSCH AND PAARL
Stellenbosch and Paarl are a short distance from Franschhoek and are well worth exploring for a complete Wine Country experience. Different terroirs lend themselves to different wine styles and varietals while Stellenbosch also has several top rated restaurants.
Some of our favourite Stellenbosch and Paarl Wine Estates and Restaurants include Tokara, Thelema, Delaire Graff, Babylonstoren, Glen Carlou, Cavalli, Overture, Rust en Vrede, Terroir and Jordan.
WHEN TO VISIT
Franschhoek has something to offer all year round. Peak season is during the summer months from November until April when temperatures soar above 30 degrees celsius.
During the winter months, temperatures drop to an average of about 18 degrees while visitors enjoy crackling fireplaces, red wine and the many festivals hosted in the valley.