This story was updated on 14 May 2019.
Believe it or not it IS possible to do South Africa’s gourmet capital affordably – just drink in inspiration and binge on food for the soul, says Nancy Richards.
Maison et jardin
You may never own one, nor even stay in one – but there’s nothing to stop you admiring all the pretty lavender, broekie lace and picket fence homes just off the main street. Pick up exterior decor tips for your humble plek back in the city burbs, and gasp while peering at property prices in the estate agents’ windows.
Pity not to try any wine in this land of the vignerons – so you can taste, but no rules say you have to buy. Soak up l‘experience with a fabulous vineyard view from the balcony at La Bri (tasting from R60pp for four wines and R70 for pairings of three wines with snacks) or splash out and try the two non-vintage bubbles at Le Lude (tasting from R90). Bonus here you can also wander their superb landscaped grounds and collector’s rose garden.
Looking for more wine tasting options? Then take a look at our list of the best wine tasting spots in Franschhoek.
La Bri +27 (0) 21 876 2593
Le Lude +27 (0) 21 100 3464
Drink to your health
Prefer a more sober beverage? Go to the Medicinal Herb Garden at the end of town and buy a bottle of detoxifying buchu water for R60. In this small but creatively meandering space laid out next to the old railway tracks, you can also buy bundles of soothing impepho and other healing herbs. Call Rastaman Judah James for info on 072 469 2240.
There’s a feast of art in the public squares and galleries. No need to invest, just look with discerning eyes and note favourites for when your lotto ticket pays out. Find sculptures from the continent at African Art in Huguenot St and Garden Gallery in Hugenote Square or follow the Franschhoek Art Route with 25 destinations – pick up a map at info offices.
Work up an appetite by trawling the main street eateries, and look for bargains – like this one at the Village Tart (prices may have changed since this photo was taken in 2017). Alternatively pop in to the Woolworths or Pick n Pay, buy-your-own fresh fare, find a leafy spot, preferably near some vines, and enjoy le pique-nique.
The Village Tart +27 (0) 21 876 264
The town hasn’t always been a stylish tourist destination – once it was a bleak valley filled with marauding animals. Visit the truly fascinating Huguenot Memorial Museum and find out what the French Huguenots saw when they were corralled here in the late 17th century. Entrance to the main museum building, annex, Perfume Museum and the monument is R80pp (R40 for students and children). Grab a bargain cappuccino at the onsite Oude Slavenhuis for R22 or a verre du vin from R30.
Huguenot Memorial Museum +27 (0) 21 876 2532; [email protected]
Gifts and souvenirs that won’t break the bank, are available fresh off the production line at the Franschhoek Craft Centre co-founded 20 years ago by local craftswoman Joan Jephta.
Franschhoek Craft Centre +27 (0) 21 876 4029; [email protected]
Browse the irresistible second-hand bookshop The Treasure House and pick up some bargain titles and cookbooks.
The Treasure House +27 (0) 21 876-2167; [email protected]
Join in with the residents at the Franschhoek Village Market in the centre of town every Saturday from 9am to 3pm. Weather permitting, the place hums with activity around homemade food and craft stalls, the music is live and people watching is for nothing. Entrance is free and dogs are welcome. Just keep in mind that most vendors only accept cash, but also have Snapscan facilities too.
You also might like: Must-do Markets – Western Cape
Best bargain in town is a sleep over at the Franschhoek Travellers’ Lodge – former boarding house, freshened up with rooms for individuals, couples, families or groups – from R310pp per night. Minutes from the town centre, there’s also a sunny lounge and lawns for chilling.
Franschhoek Travellers’ Lodge +27 (0) 21 876 2537; +27 (0) 84 941 4335; [email protected]
On your bike
Save fuel and footslog, hire a bike from Franschhoek Cycles to cruise the wine estates. You can opt for a bike for R250 for half a day or R350 for a full day. If you’re not willing to put in the peddle power, then consider an e-bike at R350 for half a day and R550 for a full day.
You also might like: Enjoy an Easy Ride on an E-bike Tour in Cape Town
Franschhoek Cycles +27 (0) 21 876 4956; [email protected]
Finally – a beautiful view is absolutely free. So just allow lots of image space on Instagram or Facebook – and Franschhoek is yours for the taking!
Words and Photography Nancy Richards