Nestled in a fertile valley and ringed by majestic mountains, Franschhoek may appear to be merely a picturesque rural village, yet this is the food and wine heartland of South Africa and one of the premier destinations in the world of wine.
The spectacular scenery of this beautiful valley, where vineyards stretch across the mountain slopes and mighty oaks tower over original Cape Dutch farmhouses, nurtures this peaceful settlement that tells a colourful history.
When the Edict of Nantes was revoked in France in 1685, hundreds of Huguenots fled their homeland as Protestantism was outlawed. Of these, 227 arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, seeking refuge. Simon van der Stel, the Dutch governor at the time, led them over what is today the Helshoogte Mountain into the valley beyond and granted many of them farm land there. The valley was first called Olifantshoek (Elephant Corner), reminiscent of the vast numbers of elephants that roamed here freely, but with the settlement of the French Huguenots the name was soon changed to Franschhoek (French Corner).
Their heritage is preserved in the Huguenot Monument, which was erected in 1938 and proudly stands at the top of the village. The engravings speak of their religious persecution, their flight to South Africa, the strength of their belief and the influence they had on the development of the area. Each original Huguenot farm has a unique story to tell and their histories are chronicled in the nearby museum.
Today Franschhoek is one of the top five tourist destinations in South Africa, and an excellent base from which to explore the rest of the astounding world of the Winelands. The Franschhoek Valley is especially known for its tranquil beauty and relaxed atmosphere, the perfect setting to thoroughly enjoy the top class wines produced in this area.
The World of Wines
More than 300 years ago, the French Huguenots saw the potential of this fertile ground and began a wine industry that lives on to this day. Today, members of the Vignerons de Franschhoek (Winegrower's association) continue in this noble tradition and produce some of South Africa's top wines.
From crisp, fruity whites to rich, warm reds, Franschhoek offers all the noble cultivars and classic styles. The valley is especially renowned for its exquisite Cap Classique sparkling wines and ports.
The Franschhoek Valley boasts approximately 20 wine estates, many of which have retained their original French names and lovely Cape Dutch farmsteads. Small boutique wineries appeal to those in search of something unique, while larger estates offer cellar tours and conduct tastings.
The Gourmet Capital
Franschhoek's finer tastes don't end with wine. Leading chefs create internationally acclaimed culinary delights, and eight of South Africa's "Top 100 Restaurants" are in Franschhoek - little wonder that Franschhoek is referred to as the Gourmet Capital of the country. From light meals using the delicious fresh produce of the valley, to the reassuring familiarity of traditional Cape country fare, to the exciting indulgence of world-class French cuisine - Franschhoek offers a meal for every taste and a menu for every pocket. 28 excellent restaurants offer wonderful hospitality and great ambience - and, naturally, each meal is complemented by one of the fantastic local wines.
A Visitor's paradise
Franschhoek not only offers some of the world's finest wining and dining, but also a choice of superb accommodation. Luxurious small hotels, charming guesthouses, stylish self-catering cottages and beautiful B&B's will tempt you to stay in this quaint village. The character of Franschhoek is reflected in the hospitality of the friendly people who live here, and the scenic vineyards, spectacular views and awe-inspiring mountain landscape have long since enchanted the hearts of tourists and locals alike.
A walk down the main street may well take you a day. Coffee shops and restaurants offer taste bud temptations, shops and galleries provide a wonderful choice of antiques and a world-class collection of artworks, and crafts and curio shops sell souvenirs, inviting you to take just a small part of this unforgettable village home with you. There are also specialty shops such as cheese shops and a chocolate factory.
The spectacular mountains surrounding Franschhoek provide the perfect setting for numerous walking trails for the more energetic visitors. The La Motte Forestry Station offers hiking, horse riding, fly-fishing and cycling. Trout fishing is possible in various streams and dams surrounding the village. Experience a wine tour with a difference - on horseback or in a carriage. Local tour guides are available to advise and help you to explore all that the region has to offer.
If you happen to visit Franschhoek during our winter, remember the 14th of July. This is Bastille Day, when the village celebrates its French heritage with a wine and gourmet fair that attracts visitors from near and far.
All in all, the Franschhoek Valley is a truly special destination. With the breathtaking scenery, rich cultural heritage, warm and friendly people and an unrivaled wining and dining experience, what better place to spend some time than in Franschhoek?