Franschhoek vs Stellenbosch – Which You Should Choose? (Local Advice)

stellenbosch vs franschhoek

So you want to know which is better, Franschhoek or Stellenbosch? My answer is both, but if you have to choose one; choose Franschhoek if you want an experience that is entirely different from South Africa; choose Stellenbosch if you want a more cultural South African experience. I’ll explain why, further below. In this article, I’ll provide an in-depth comparison of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Rather than offering the classic “top places to visit!”, we’ll delve deeper into the unique characteristics of these regions, their wine offerings, and the experiences they offer.

If you’re looking for a more meaningful exploration of these South African wine destinations, beyond the usual tourist highlights, then you’re in the right place. Join us as we uncover the distinct charm of Stellenbosch vs. Franschhoek.

I’m a Franschhoek fangirl, yes it’s smaller and I’ve probably been to every wine farm, but I don’t get tired of its beauty and charm. It’s got what we South Africans call “that thing”, which is another way to say a certain “je ne sais quoi”.

Go to Franschhoek if….

  • You want to explore a beautiful charming village with bistros, art galleries, and upmarket wineries.
  • You don’t want to deal with the hassle of traffic and finding parking
  • You want to visit some of the best wine farms and experience the wine tram
  • You want to visit the Franschhoek Motor Museum
  • You want to attend the Cap Classique wine festival
  • You want to attend the annual Bastille festival to celebrate French culture.

Go to Stellenbosch if….

  • If you are interested in learning about the history of this town visit the Village Museum and Stellenryk Wine Museum
  • You are a foodie who wants to experience some of the best wines and food tastings
  • You don’t want to drive too far, Stellenbosch is only 30 minutes from the city
  • You want to visit a place that’s not too touristy but has a fair mixture of locals, students, and tourists
  • You want to visit art galleries, small boutiques, and some of the best restaurants in South Africa

Social Events & Activities in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch

“It is a charming village that is known for its beauty and some of the best wine farms in the world.”

Franschhoek was established by French Huguenot settlers who arrived in this country in 1688 after being forced to flee France when King Louis XIV banned Protestantism in that country. They were then given Franschhoek to settle in but the original inhabitants of the place were the Khoisan people, the descendants of whom are still in the area. This village was known as Oliphants Hoek then due to the large number of elephants that also inhabited the place.

A mere 45-50 minutes drive from Cape Town city center (75 km / 47 mi) Franschhoek falls under the Stellenbosch municipality. It is a charming village that is known for its beauty and some of the best wine farms in the world.

Franschhoek is well-known for hosting very classy social events, the two largest being the Cap Classique & Champagne festival and Bastille Festival.

  • The Cap Classique & Champagne festival is held on the grounds of the Huguenot Monument every first weekend of December, on both Saturday and Sunday.
    • This is an event where all the wine farms get an opportunity to display their finest sparkling wines or Cap Classiques, while the patrons go around sampling, buying, and eating from the food stalls. Just picture a big outdoor-themed party held under large marquees with entertainment, in the form of live music and dancing. I’ve been going to one of these almost every year for the last 5 years. There is an entry fee of around 400 ZAR ($22) for the event which also covers a champagne flute and wine-tasting coupons. Please visit their website for more information for future events.
  • Bastille on the other hand is an annual celebration of French culture, to celebrate the French roots that this village was founded on.
    • Bastille Day, takes place every year on July 14, to commemorate the date of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, during the earliest stages of the French Revolution. The village turns red, white and blue as it’s transformed into a little French town for the entire weekend with revelers participating in the theme by wearing these colors or imitating the French with berets and all that jazz. One has to buy a ticket that allows you access to the wine tasting marquee, where Franschhoek wineries display their wares. The entry ticket which costs around 300 ZAR ($16) includes a complimentary tasting glass, 8 wine tasting coupons, and a tote bag! In the future you can always visit their website if you need more information.

The Franschhoek Motor Museum – This is truly one of the best experiences that I recommend you add to your bucket list for when you visit Franschhoek, whether you’re a car enthusiast or not. When you visit the FMM you get immersed into over 100 years of automotive history. You’re transported into another era. Currently there are 220 vehicles including the 1898 Beeston motor tricycle, and they’re all displayed in four large halls in chronological order. The halls are de-humidified to preserve the condition of the cars. The museum is open from Mondays – Fridays from 10am – 5pm, and from 10am – 4pm on the weekends and public holidays. Entry fee is 80 ZAR ($4) and 60 ZAR ($3) for pensioners.

Motor Museum Franschhoek

Wine Tram – the wine tram is the best way to visit the different wine farms in Franschhoek without having to worry about driving while drinking alcohol. You can either take the hop-on-and-off option, or there are different lines to choose from that go to different wine farms. This option allows you to design your own experience of what you want to see, where to have lunch, etc. Or, you can choose one of the other options – These are curated experiences for serious wine and food connoisseurs who are accompanied by knowledgeable wine ambassadors to selected wine estates where they have premium pairings, tours of the cellars & vineyards, and different course lunches, depending on the package chosen. Groups of more than 15 people can book a group package which is usually tailored to your needs.

Stellenbosch is different from Franschhoek in the sense that it’s an eclectic mixture of local people

Stellenbosch is one of the oldest towns in the Western Cape, about 50 km (30 mi) outside of the city of Cape Town. The town is also known as the City of Oaks or Eikestad  (in Afrikaans and Dutch) due to the large number of oak trees planted by its founder, Simon van der Stel, from whom it takes its name.

Stellenbosch or “Stellies” as it is affectionately called by its residents, was founded in 1679. Stellenbosch is not only known for its charming beauty and wines but it is also home to one of the best universities in the country, if not globally, Stellenbosch University.

It is also known for Technopark, a modern science park situated next to Stellenbosch Golf Course. Stellenbosch is therefore different from Franschhoek in the sense that it’s an eclectic mixture of local people, students and tourists who populate the streets of this beautiful town, whereas Franschhoek is mainly made up of locals and tourists, which gives it its holiday feel, I guess. Stellenbosch is a Dutch town, Franschhoek is a little French village. But, apparently some Huguenot refugees who settled in Stellenbosch in 1690 started planting grapes because of the fertile land in the valleys around this town, and from then it grew to become the center of the South African wine industry.

Stellenbosch hosts a lot of food and wine pairings events that take place throughout the year with one of the most notable ones being the Winemakers Dinner.

  • Winemakers Dinner is a pairing event that’s hosted by Spier Wine Farm to showcase some of their best white wines.
    • Spier’s Sauvignon Blanc is a multi-award-winning wine in its category. At the dinner the wines are paired with seafood dishes like risotto and yellowtail ceviche for a gastronomic experience.
    • A ticket costs around 700 ZAR per person ($38).
  • Stellenbosch Street Soirees take place on selected days from November to March every year.
    • These are vibrant sundowner occasions where the focus is on mingling, tasting, and snacking that take place on Drostdy Street, which is usually partially closed off to traffic and decorated in a festive style to celebrate the event.
    • During the event, you will find numerous stalls that sell food in the form of light bites where you’ll also find a great selection of wines to choose from, depending on what’s available at the time. This is a great way to mingle with the Stellenbosch socialites and get the feel of the town.
    • Tickets cost 190 ZAR ($10) this year and the price includes a wine glass with 10 tasting coupons.
  • The Stellenbosch Wine Festival is a two-day event held in August
    • This event showcases the wines from in and around Stellenbosch. This year’s event cost 400 ZAR ($20) per ticket that included food and 18 tasting vouchers.

The Rupert Museum – if you love art the Rupert Museum houses a great collection of Modern South African art collected from 1940 to the early 2000s. This is an art that was collected by the late Dr. Anton and his wife Huberte Rupert. The museum also houses other collections such as the Rembrandt van Rijn collection of more contemporary South African art as well as Modern French tapestries and Italian paintings and sculptures.

There are also many art galleries in the area that you can visit:

  • MOK gallery is located in Muratie wine estate, which is well-known not only for its wines but for its mountain biking and hiking trails as well
  • Art Gallery & Wine Bar on Dorp Street. This showcases local talent in a way that combines it with a wine-tasting experience

Spier – is one of the largest wine farms in Stellenbosch and its wines are well-known all over the world. They have been named South African Producer of the Year by the International Wine & Spirit Competition twice. They were named one of the 100 World’s Best Vineyards in 2021, and Editor’s Choice – Winery of the Year in 2022.

Spier is not just a wine farm too.

They are also known for their food culture, most of it grows on their farm, and they have a number of restaurants and a hotel on-site. Since Spier is such a large estate, it offers quite a number of activities such as wine tasting, picnicking on their lawns (purchase baskets online), health spa, craft market, bike trails, the vineyard Segway tours (I highly recommend it), eagle encounters and self-guided walks.

Wine Varieties & Wine Tasting

Franschhoek is definitely much smaller than Stellies. It has only 1254 hectares of land under vine, and is more inland than Stellenbosch and so here you will find varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Syrah. Stellenbosch on the other hand has 15,252 hectares of land under vine. In Stellies you will find numerous varieties of wine with the most prominent being the Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Stellenbosch is also known as the birthplace of Pinotage, a hybrid grape that was created by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault in 1924. 

All the wine farms offer wine tastings and it may be hard sometimes to decide which ones to visit, especially if you’re only in Cape Town for a short stay. I’m only going to mention a few here that I think are definitely worth a visit.

Wine Estates & Wineries You Can Visit

Wine estates & wineries in Franschhoek:

  • Haute Cabriere
  • La Motte
  • Boschendal
  • L’Ormarins
  • Lynx

Haute Cabriere – I don’t know whether it’s their Cap Classiques, their entire wine range, or the location that offers the best views of the valley, but there’s something about Haute Cabriere that makes me want everyone to experience it for themselves. They are open for tastings from 10am-5pm on Mondays to Saturdays and until 4pm on Sundays, with tastings starting from 90 ZAR ($5)- 110 ZAR ($6). They also conduct wine tours daily at midday – bookings are recommended. The on-site restaurant which serves mainly French cuisine is open daily from 12pm-3:30pm.

La Motte – At La Motte you will truly indulge your senses when you sample their internationally acclaimed wine selection that includes the La Motte Sauvignon Blanc, Millennium and Vin de Joie Rosé, the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. Their tasting also includes limited releases such as the La Motte MCC and Hanneli R as well as the premium Pierneef Collection. The tasting of their vintage collection called “Vinoteque Tasting” is strictly by appointment only and costs 300 ZAR ($17) per person. It is available only from 9am-4pm on Tuesdays – Fridays. They also offer the Varietal Glass-Specific tasting. The normal classic tasting where you sample 6 wines from their classic and estate ranges starts from 80 ZAR ($4) per person.

Boschendal is a working farm. That means they are also known for their food, farm-style luxury accommodation, and numerous activities on-site, though most importantly for their award-winning wines. They offer two types of tastings – the WERF and Cellar Door tastings and both include food-pairings. Cellar Door does breakfast canapes and wine pairing from 95 ZAR ($5) per person for wine only, up to 180 ZAR ($10) per person for a food-pairing (chocolate, cheese, or charcuterie platters). The costs are the same for WERF the only difference being in the food menu. Boschendal is great for picnics too and you can purchase the picnic baskets on site.

L’Ormarins – The Anthonij Rupert Tasting Room is at the farm’s historic and recently refurbished Manor House. Visit the estate for a bespoke wine tasting experience that features their L’Ormarins, Cape of Good Hope, and other Anthonij Rupert wine ranges. The manor is beautifully furnished throughout in the mid-nineteenth century Cape Dutch style, it is really something to experience as you get transported to another era. Their wine tastings start from 70 ZAR ($4) pp to 115 ZAR ($6) pp for their flagship range. You can also visit the estate to enjoy high tea in their beautiful garden for 295 ZAR ($16) pp.

Lynx – This wine farm is somewhat situated between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. Whether you prefer to enjoy a glass of wine with some nibbles, or you would rather experience a guided wine tasting Lynx is the place to be. Their bodega is located in the middle of the farm with views of the Frankenstein Mountains, you can choose to indulge your senses in their food and wine pairings, homemade light dishes, or the sausage and cheese platters, or just go there to enjoy the sundowners.

Wine estates & wineries in Stellenbosch:

  • Delaire Graff 
  • Tokara
  • Spier
  • Murati
  • De Morgenzon

Delaire Graff – When you picture Delaire Graff think upmarket, chic, classy, and any other similar word that comes to mind. It’s probably those very words that make it a “must-visit” winery for most people which makes it very busy, unfortunately. I visited on a Sunday and just to get a table, inside or outside was a challenge but if you’re patient, which you may as well be after driving all the way there, you will be happy you waited! You visit Delaire Graff to experience a combination of award-winning wines, food, art, and luxury shopping, in one of the most scenic locations in Stellies.

Wine tasting is available from 10am – 8pm on Mondays to Saturdays and till 5pm on Sundays. Starting from 75 ZAR ($4) pp for three wines you can pay up to 300 ZAR ($17) pp for four of their best wines, and you can choose from a selection of food platters, up to 485 ZAR ($27) for a charcuterie platter. Delaire Graff also has limited accommodation on and off-site in the form of luxury lodges.

Tokara is one of the most popular, well-known wine estates in Stellenbosch. Their focus is on the Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc which is reflected in their Premium, Reserve, and Director’s Collections which includes the Tokara Telos, the pinnacle of their wines priced at 4800 ZAR ($267) per bottle. Wine tastings are available by reservation and the prices are not displayed on their website, though I’m told they are reasonable. Tokara also grows olives and so they’re well-known for their Tokara cold-pressed olive oil, which can be paired with the wine tasting.

I have already mentioned Spier above but when it comes to wine tasting make sure you make a booking to avoid disappointment. Their tastings start from 85 ZAR ($5) pp for three wines from their signature range to 300 ZAR ($17) pp for a wine blending experience where you learn to make your own blend! They also have a 50 ZAR ($2) grape juice-tasting experience for little ones, which is pretty cool, I think. All of these can be paired with tasting platters that cost from 160 ZAR ($9) to 280 ($15) per platter.

Murati was also mentioned above for its biking and hiking trails and the MOK Gallery. Their wine tastings start from 100 ZAR ($6) to 300 ZAR ($17) for the flagship wines and they’re open every day from 9am-5pm. They also have a farm kitchen that is open from Wednesday to Sunday for breakfast and lunch. Limited accommodation is available on-site in the form of a guest cottage and a studio.

De Morgenzon is one of the most beautiful wine estates in Cape Town and you get to see why as you drive up the 2.5 km driveway from the front gate to the house! They pride themselves in their gardens, specifically “a 91-hectare garden interspersed with 55 hectares of carefully tended vineyards” as per their description. They also pride themselves in the fact that their vines get special and unique treatment in the form of music therapy, with strategically placed speakers that play classical music all day, which the owners believe affects the growth of the plant and maybe the taste of the produce.

At De Morgenzon you choose your own wines to taste and pay per wine that you choose. There is no accommodation or restaurant on site.

Scenic Beauty Sites & Attractions

Franschhoek is smaller so it may be a bit unfair to compare their activities and sites with what you get out of Stellenbosch but I’ll try.

The natural beauty of the valley is stunning and you experience this from different angles, as you approach the village and see the huge welcoming sign that’s proudly ‘stamped’ on the mountain and when you are inside the village. There are however some places that offer jaw-dropping moments and in my opinion both Dieu Donne and Haute Cabriere offer those views.

I didn’t mention Dieu Donne under the wine estates because I ran out of space, but I highly recommend it, for wine tasting, for their restaurant the Country Grand, and also because they participate in the Franschhoek Uncorked festival which takes place every year. The festival runs over the weekend and a ticket buys you entry into 6 different estates, you choose from the list of participating estates, and you go around enjoying tastings at every one of those. Your ticket comes with a tasting glass.

Franschhoek hosts a lot of similar events throughout the year like the Chenin Family Festival, the Shiraz and Charcuterie, and the Cabernet Franc Carnival. I already mentioned the biggest two, the Cap Classique & Champagne Festival and the Bastille Festival.

Then there is the Wine Tram and the Motor Museum, both of which I have covered in detail above.

I also mentioned that theCap Classique & Champagne Festival is held at the Huguenot Monument. Unveiled in 1948 the monument was built to honor the French Huguenot Protestants who settled in and established Franschhoek in the 17th and 18th century after fleeing persecution from their country. So the monument is a symbol of their faith, with each piece representing a certain aspect of their Christian faith from the three high arches that symbolize the Holy Trinity, to the mother Mary figure.

The museum on-site teaches about the history of the Huguenots, and the tools they used to make wine, and the type of clothes they wore. There are also two old wine cellars on-site which no longer function as wine cellars but display some of the old equipment, and there’s a Perfume Museum. So from all of this you can see that Franschhoek is built around their wine, food, and French culture and so that’s what you get when you visit this place.

Stellenbosch, however, has a lot more to offer. I already mentioned the Rupert Museum above. Other activities include: visiting the Sculpture Garden which you will find at Mulberry Farm.

Here over 60 sculptures are on display, and you can also get lost in the fynbos (A South African Biome). There is a small tea and coffee shop on-site. They only take bookings and the tickets cost 220 ZAR ($12) for adults and 150 ZAR ($8) for students and pensioners. Stellenbosch is also known for its art scene and their many art galleries so if art is your thing, why not participate in a guided walk to visit the studios and the artists? You also get to learn about the history of the town on your guided walk. Tickets cost around 280 ZAR ($15).

Those who have children may want to visit Wonderland at Hazendal Wine Farm, a state-of-the-art edutainment center where kids can exercise their creativity. Hazendal itself has a lot to offer, it’s a world class venue that many use as a wedding destination, it offers adventure mini-golf, great wines and so much more. Another great option for families is Strawberry Farm, which offers lots of play activities and strawberry picking for the whole family.

Earlier I mentioned Segway rides and picnics at Spier Wine Estate, but I didn’t tell you that Spier has a large collection of contemporary art including 31 outdoor sculptures and a Mosaic Kraal. Then there’s wine tasting of course and so you can definitely spend a whole day here. Segway tours start from 420 ZAR ($23) for an hour’s ride.

Nature lovers will be spoiled for choice in Stellenbosch, from the University’s Botanical Garden, to Jonkershoek Nature Reserve with its many biking trails, to the Eden Forest, there’s so much to do. Stellenbosch also offers hot-air ballooning and craft markets, and I just know I haven’t covered everything, but this was to give you an idea of the variety of activities that this beautiful town offers.

Food & Accomodation

When it comes to food and accommodation the majority of the wine farms mentioned here have top-notch restaurants and accommodation on-site, so I’m only going to mention just three suggestions from each place to give you the best.

Haute Cabriere offers excellent food, paired with the finest wines and stunning views to make this one of the best experiences in my opinion. Open for lunch every day from 12-3:30 pm, they require a booking and a deposit payment of 200 ZAR ($11). Starters include steak tartare and chargrilled octopus, and for mains expect slow-cooked lamb shoulder and Cape Malay seafood curry.

La Petite Colombe is located at Leeu Estates. This restaurant is truly one of the most coveted dining experiences in Franschhoek and Cape Town. The venue offers stunning views of both the Franschhoek Valley and the Pass. Only serving lunch from Monday – to Sunday expect to pay up to 1195 ZAR ($66) for a reduced menu which includes a bread trolley, line fish chowder, karoo wagyu, and a sweets trolley, or 1595 ZAR ($89) for the chef’s experience. There’s a vegetarian option as well. The chef’s experience is available for dinner daily.

Mon Amour is a bistro that pays homage to Parisian cafe culture. The theme of an enchanted forest, the live music, and the actual cuisine, all work together to transport you to some type of Alice in Wonderland experience. Mon Amour draws its food inspiration from Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian food, so expect to find dishes like Lamb Rogan Josh, pizzas, and oysters on their menu.

Gate at Quoin Rock promises an extraordinary dining experience and my only regret is that I’ve never been, though I shamelessly stalk them on Instagram because of their beautiful pictures of the place and food. It’s definitely on my bucket list. But from doing a bit of research I know that they are open Wednesdays till Sundays from 12-1:30 pm and for dinner on Fridays & Saturdays, at 6 pm. The restaurant only takes 40 people so booking is essential. Expect to pay from 900 ZAR ($50) pp for a reduced menu, to 1250 ZAR ($70) for a tasting menu which includes duck and prawns. There are vegetarian options for both menus.

Ernie Els is a famous South African golfer who owns a wine farm that is named after him, the Ernie Els Wines. The restaurant inside the estate is a modern farm-style restaurant that serves farm-style cuisine Ernie Else wines and The Big Easy, his other brand. The stunning views, the architecture, and the interior decor make this one of the best and most coveted experiences when it comes to fine dining in the Western Cape. Here you can expect a varied menu that features grilled line fish with Mediterranean vegetables; fillet medallions with roughly-cut potato chips and a Karoo lamb rack. They’re open from Wednesday – Sunday, 12–3.30 pm (lunch) and Thursday – Saturday, 6–9:30 pm (dinner).

Cavalli Estate is quite an experience. I dined there with friends to celebrate one of my friend’s graduation from Stellenbosch University. I hear the views of the dam, the mountains, and the indigenous garden are out of this world but unfortunately, I was there during nighttime. I can tell you about the food though, in fact, I can show you the pics I took (above)! My friends and I shared a huge piece of steak that came with vegetables and had other things as well. Other items on the menu are confit lamb with cavolo nero and cured yellowtail with ginger pumpkin broth. They also have vegetarian options, and there’s a choice between à la carte or a five-course chef’s menu.

When it comes to accommodation – the Le Franschhoek Hotel is one of my favorites, and so is L’Ermitage Chateau & Villas in Franschhoek. Spier offers apartment-style hotel rooms, and I mentioned other wine estates that have accommodations here as well. Majeka House is also one of the highly recommended places.

Safety & Hospitality‍

Cape town safety map, from our full article about safety here:

I find both places to be fairly safe and I’m usually on the side of caution. I’ve honestly never felt unsafe in either Stellenbosch or Franschhoek. The locals are pretty well-mannered and the service staff is very friendly and always doing their best to please. Some people find Stellies to be a bit racist though. Regarding safety, I had an incident in Franschhoek where my friend and I were renting an apartment for the weekend and the front door lock jammed, so we spent the entire night with the place unlocked but we were fine.

Unfortunately, there was at some point a spate of farm killings in this country targeting farm owners and this was widely circulated in the media. This isn’t to say that there aren’t any other crimes happening in these areas, but I suspect it’s mainly petty crime due to high unemployment rates in these areas.

Both Franschhoek and Stellenbosch have townships built within their borders where they mainly draw their labor force, and the majority of the people from those communities are unemployed and abuse substances. So take the usual precautions and do not openly display your valuables.

Budgeting

The activities mentioned here such as fine dining and wine tastings are not cheap, and neither is accommodation.

In fact many people, including myself, believe that Franschhoek may be slightly more expensive because it’s more of a holiday destination, whereas Stellenbosch is a working town with a huge student population and so the prices are less ‘touristy’. Since I already mentioned the prices of the activities and wine tastings above, I’m only going to mention accommodation here.

Average budget for hotels in Stellenbosch & Franschhoek:

  • Budget – 750 ZAR ($41) – 2500 ZAR ($140)
  • Mid-range – 2600 ZAR ($145 – 4500 ZAR ($250)
  • Luxury – 6200 ZAR ($350) +

The prices in Franschhoek are slightly higher with the cheapest starting at 1200 ZAR ($66) per night for a room in a guesthouse, to the cheapest room being 4000 ZAR ($222) at Le Franschhoek Hotel, and other properties way above that. AirBnB is also a great option and there are many to choose from. I have used both options and for hotels I always go to booking.com to get the best prices and discounts.

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