5 Things to Know About Visiting ​The Franschhoek Wine Valley

Today we’re recapping our visit to the Franschhoek Wine Valley near Cape Town, South Africa. It’s the latest installment in a series of recaps of our February 2019 trip to this gorgeous country. To see our other South Africa posts – click here:  International Trips

One of the things we were most looking forward to during our trip to South Africa was the wine. While doing our planning and research, we discovered how deep and rich South Africa’s wine history is, particularly in the valleys just outside of Cape Town. With lots of choices for towns and wine farms to visit, we settled on the Franschhoek (pronounced FRAHN-SHOOK) Valley, about 50 miles (80 km) east of the Cape Town business district.

Wine Barrel from Chamonix Wine Farm

Why choose the Franschhoek Wine Valley?

While the Constantia wine region located right in the suburbs of Cape Town was the closest to our AirBnB, and the Stellenbosch wine region is the most famous in the area, Franschhoek seemed to be a bit more our style.

Let’s just say we lean more towards the “throw the bottle in the backpack and open it by the campfire wine drinkers” and less towards the sommelier end of viticulture. Franschhoek is an approachable place to visit even if you’re not a big wine connoisseur.

About the Valley

In the late 1600’s the French Huguenots were being pushed out of the land near the Cape. They began the very rich agricultural history in the Franschhoek Wine Valley, including some of the wineries still in operation today. The area was named Franschhoek (Dutch for “French Quarter”).

Today the Valley claims to have some of the best whites (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Semillon, and Chenin Blanc) and full-bodied reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Merlot) in South Africa.

The Franschhoek Wine Tram

We also picked Franschhoek for the Franschhoek Wine Tram. It’s a one-day ticketed hop-on-hop-off wine tour through the valley. You choose your route, your wine farms, and then spend the day tasting and enjoying the beautiful valley while someone else worries about navigating around.

Not our typical national park experience, but one we wanted to highlight here as it ended up being one of the most relaxing days of the trip. Here’s what we ended up learning about the tour and some things we think you should know before you decide to visit.

Gallery of Franschhoek Wine Valley Images - wine glass, table set for wine tasting, wine barrel, wine tram


1. Book Tickets Before You Go.

This likely comes as a carry over from our experience at Table Mountain National Park, but one of the biggest lessons of our South Africa trip was how important it was to book everything ahead. We had previously purchased our Franschhoek Wine Tram tickets and were grateful we did. They connected us with a transfer service, so our driver to and from the valley was already arranged. From the time we woke up in the morning until we were dropped off around 6 pm that evening, we didn’t need to do any coordinating — just got to enjoy the wine!

To book tickets for the wine tram, visit their website or for other wine farm experiences, visit the Franschhoek Wine Valley’s community website.

Franschhoek Wine Tram

2. Plan Out Your Route.

The wine tram offers different routes for all different types of wine experiences. While all of the wineries offer tastings and sales, not all of them offer food pairings, restaurants, or wine cellar tours. With at least 8 different options for the hop-on-hop-off routes and curated wine tours, there’s something for everyone–you just need to know what you’d like to see (and drink) before you go.

We spent an hour or so researching the different wineries online, before we booked our “Yellow route” wine tram tickets. We knew we didn’t want to miss Grande Provence. Founded in 1694, it’s one of the oldest wineries in South Africa and one of the Top 100 heritage wine estates in the world. We also knew we wanted to have a cellar tour, so planned a stop at Chamonix.

Take the time up front to carefully plan your own route and wine tasting experience. You’ll know what to expect when you arrive and wont be disappointed to have missed the best parts of the Valley.

3. If you can, pair a wine farm stay.

While it wasn’t in the cards for this trip, as soon as we arrived in the Franschhoek wine valley, we wished we had more time to stay. Many of the wineries offer Bed and Breakfast or farm stay accommodations allowing visitors to get a full experience of what it’s like to own and operate a working winery.

You can bet we’ll be adding it to a future itinerary!

Statues in the gardens at Grande Provence in Franschhoek

4. Enjoy the gardens (they’re just as good as the wine!)

One of the best parts of Franschhoek and all of South African wineries is how carefully maintained the wine farms themselves are. Built not only to grow world-class wines, but also the gardens and grounds are gorgeously constructed. We spent just as much time enjoying the scenery as we enjoyed the wines. Take a few minutes before or after each tasting to wander around and enjoy the gardens.

Our favorites: the large oak trees on the lawn of Grande Provence, the panoramic view at Dieux Donne, and the Rickety Bridge grounds.

View of grapes and Franschhoek Wine Valley

5. End the Day Up Higher in the Valley

While doing our pre-trip research we read a lot about the sunsets in the Franschhoek wine valley. At certain points in the year, visitors can be treated to some outstanding views to end the day. We recommend choosing a winery located a bit higher up on the sidehills of the valley for your final stop of the day. The temps will be a bit cooler and you’ll be set up for the best view of sunset.

Grab a glass of wine and look out over a place that has been growing grapes for more than 300 years.

Our Bonus Tips

Two more bonus tips to share about a visit to Franschhoek:

  • Restaurant tables and cellar tour slots are limited in Franschhoek. These experiences are also not included in the ticket price of the wine tram. It’s best to make a reservation for your lunch and dinner a few days ahead. If you want to have a cellar experience, book that in advance as well.
  • Research the regulations about shipping wine back home before you go. We brought a few bottles back in our suitcase but saw many travelers packing airline-safe wine carriers after their tastings. The wine is VERY affordable compared to United States prices and in hindsight, we wished we could have taken advantage of bringing it home as a souvenir of our stay. Figure out the import regulations for alcohol and how to ship it home before you go!

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