Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa
Franschhoek is gently nestled between towering mountains in the spectacular Cape Winelands. It is a picturesque little town, renowned for its world class wines and excellent restaurants. No trip to the Cape Winelands will be complete without descending on this jewel and exploring its beautiful sights.
As the name suggests, this beautiful town has some French influences. It is here that the Huguenots, who fled to South Africa to escape religious persecution in France in the late 17th Century, settled. French is no longer spoken in this town, but the French Huguenots have become such an integral part of the local community that many consider names like Marais, du Toit and Joubert to be Afrikaans names.
The French influence can, however; still be felt in this charming little town and, in around July, the town celebrates Bastille Day with such passion that it can only be matched in Paris - if at all. The wine is exceptional, with about 20 wineries scattered throughout the town.
Franschhoek offers a myriad of excellent accommodation options, from personalized guest houses and self catering farm cottages, to regal farm houses and world class hotels on wine farms. Franschhoek also offers wonderful crafts and antique shops and galleries. The main streets are lined with quaint coffee shops and sumptuous restaurants.
An interesting fact is that 8 of South Africa's 'Top 100' restaurants are located in Franschhoek, also known as the gourmet capital of the world. Leading chefs from around the world create culinary masterpieces, from world class al la carte dishes, to light meals using the freshest produce from the valley. Naturally, these meals are complimented by the finest wines in South Africa.
Most of the farms in Franschhoek still bear their original French names, and are usually complete with elegant Cape Dutch homesteads, towering oaks and sprawling vineyards. There is an abundance of wine cellars in Franschhoek, from small wineries catering for unique and premium brands, to large cellars that offer organized tours and conducted tastings.
For the more adventurous, Franschhoek offers some wonderful paragliding launch sites just above the town and in the nearby pine plantations, and some awesome mountain bike trails.
The roads are good and offer many choices of routes. The R45 continues through Franschhoek and rejoins the N2, passing through some of the charming towns on the way. Franschhoek is situated just an hour's drive from Cape Town, 22 kilometres from Stellenbosch, and is reached by following the R310 and then the R45.