What You Should Know About Franschhoek, Western Cape

Founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, Franschhoek is renowned for having some of the top restaurants in South Africa. This, and the quiet town’s natural beauty, strong winemaking heritage and exquisite architecture, have helped make it what many describe as the ‘food and wine capital’ of South Africa.

Did you know?

Franschhoek is where the French first made wine in South Africa more than 300 years ago.

The Franschhoek Valley has treasures that make it one of the most magical places to visit in South Africa, not only for its scenic beauty, but also for its historical interest, wonderful wine farms and many gourmet restaurants.

The town’s original name was Olifantshoek (meaning ‘elephant corner’), a reference to the large herds of elephants that used to migrate into this sheltered valley.

But, it later became Franschhoek (or ‘French corner’) after 176 French Huguenot refugees were settled here back in 1688 by the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch were careful, however, to intersperse French families with Dutch families in a bid to promote integration, so consequently the French language was lost within three generations.

The elephants, too, are long gone, but the French influence lingers on in the names of the wine farms that dot this valley, like La Provence, La Motte and Cabrière, as well as French surnames, like Du Toit and Marais, which can be traced back to the Huguenots.

And every year, the village turns French again, decked out in the colours of the Tricolour as it celebrates Bastille Day on July 14.

A very popular Franschhoek activity is wine tasting and you can visit some of the world’s most-acclaimed wine estates here. Most of these wine estates started out as humble farms owned by the ‘Vignerons de Franschhoek’ (French winemakers of Franschhoek). Today, this is some of the most expensive real estate in the country.

The area is also famous for producing hand-turned sparkling wines in the French style, called Cap Classique (because the name Champagne may not be used outside of France), a technique pioneered by winemaker Achim von Arnim of Haute Cabrière.

This heritage is celebrated each year during a Cap Classique and Champagne Festival held in early December.

The town’s main road is lined with restaurants, some run by award-winning chefs like Reuben Riffel of Reuben’s Restaurant and Margot Janse van Vuuren of Le Quartier Francais, where it’s well worth trying to secure a table.

There are also other delectable items to be had here, such as hand-crafted chocolate and smoked salmon trout (raised in mountain dams in the area).

Franschhoek also hosts an annual literary festival that attracts big-name authors, the likes of history buff Anthony Beevor and Alexander McCall-Smit, the author of the popular No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

source: south africa


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