South Africa is undoubtedly known for its wine. Whether it’s the smooth textures of a Pinotage or the crisp, fresh scent of a Chardonnay, the vineyards across the country have had decades of perfecting the process and taste, and ultimately, the South African wine reputation. While there are vineyards in all corners of South Africa, the Cape Winelands is the most renowned region for wine enthusiasts.
Located east of Cape Town (approximately a one-hour drive), the Cape Winelands is an area that encompasses beautiful towns like Franschhoek, Paarl, and Stellenbosch, among other smaller regions. While the region is famed for its wine, we’d highly recommend visiting the area even if you are not hugely into your wine. The landscape is breathtaking. As you leave Cape Town and the cosmopolitan city, you’ll drive through nothing but mountain ranges and miles of green, open farmland. This area is not only popular for tourists, but also for residents of Cape Town, who like to get out of the city for long weekends, and spending time with their families in villas in these Winelands.
Boasting a Mediterranean climate with warm weather, this region is great for growing grapes. In fact, the region is able to grow and produce good quality red and white wines, ports, brandies, and sherries. During a visit to the Cape Winelands, we’d highly recommend visiting a winery, and sampling their local wines. Sometimes for as low as 100 rand you can sample an array of red, white, and rose wines. Some of our favorite wineries in this region include Delaire Graff, Mont Rochelle, and Babylonstoren among many others.
Franschhoek is one of the most-visited towns in the South Africa Wineland region, and rightly so. Translated as the ‘French Corner’, Franschhoek is considered the ‘food and wine capital’ of the country. Some of the greatest South African chefs were trained and discovered here, and today, it is home to some renowned and award-winning restaurants.
The other charming town in the Cape Winelands is Stellenbosch. Although similar in size to Franschhoek, Stellenbosch (1679) is the second oldest settlement in South Africa, after Cape Town. As you walk through the beautiful streets, you’ll notice the influence of historic architecture – combining the Dutch, Victorian and Georgian characteristics. The town is also proud to home the prestigious University of Stellenbosch. Known particularly for its law, politics, and geography degrees, Stellenbosch has a younger and more vibrant feel to the town.
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Best hotels in the Cape Winelands
The two main towns to stay in the Winelands region are Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Depending on your interests, we’d recommend spending between two and three nights in the Winelands. If you want to be within walking distance of a variety of incredible restaurants, bars, and cafes, then Franschhoek is a good option. Walking through Franschhoek is safe, and evenings around the town square are often enjoyed with alfresco dining, live music, and of course, a glass of wine in your hand! Some of our favorite hotels include the Last Word and Le Quartier Francais.
If you are looking for a more remote place to stay, then we’d recommend staying in the accommodation offered in the wineries. These estates – like Lanzerac, Mont Rochelle, and Delaire Graff – are located on their own private land and are working farms and vineyards. The rooms and cottages on the grounds are much more private, but it will require a car journey into the center of towns like Franschhoek.
When to visit the Cape Winelands
This region is blessed with a warm, Mediterranean climate, so temperatures are pleasant year-round. The hottest time is the summer months of January to March, but the October to December period (South Africa’s spring) is also a great time to visit. If you are keen on walking and hiking, there are plenty of routes to do around this region, and clear, sunny days will make them very enjoyable. The period between April and September are the autumn and winter months, so they are much cooler. That said, the days can be around 14°C which is still pleasant.
Gemma our African Specialist
What is there to do in the Cape Winelands?
As the name suggests, the Cape Winelands are particularly known for their vineyards, where they grow a variety of grapes and make delicious, locally-sourced wine. This includes red, white and rose wine, as well as brandies, sherries and port. Of course, a wine tasting is something you must do during your time in the winelands. This can be done at any winery, as well as most of the restaurants in the towns. You are usually guided through the wines by a professional, with the opportunity to enjoy a sharing platter of food while you drink. There is a ‘wine tram’ in Franschhoek which is often quite a popular experience. This is a tram which takes you through the winelands, allowing you to get off and on at as many vineyards as you like. You can buy tickets when you are in Franschhoek and I will happily share my recommendations of the best vineyards to stop along the way.
Which is better, Stellenbosch or Franschhoek?
Both of these South African towns are charming in their own way. They are both rich in history, agriculture and architecture. One of the most enjoyable things to do is spend time walking through the town, embracing the museums, quaint shops and delicious cafes they both home. Franschhoek’s location offers more dramatic views – with mountains and steep valleys bordering the town, and is regarded as the culinary capital of the country. If you are looking for something more lively, Stellenbosch offers a good night scene in which the local and international students thrive off.
How long should I spend in the Cape Winelands?
There are a couple of options when it comes to visiting the winelands and how long you should spend. Because of its proximity to Cape Town (approximately a one-hour drive), it is possible to do a day trip. We can arrange this and it would be a private tour, with your own private vehicle and driver/guide. We will arrange for you to be picked up from your hotel in Cape Town, enjoy visits to vineyards and wine tasting, and lunch in Franschhoek. Another option is to spend a couple of nights in either Franschhoek or Stellenbosch to relax, and take in the surroundings at a slower pace. All of our trips are private so we can of course, recommend the best option to suit your interests.
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