Out wine expert's guide to the leading properties in the breathtaking Cape Winelands
02 Jul 2020
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Aside from Cape Town, one of the most popular places to spend a few days during a holiday to South Africa are the breathtaking Cape Winelands. Found just a short drive from Cape Town the Winelands nonetheless feel a world away, with the busy city centre replaced by gentle boulevards, lush vineyards and towering mountains. As well as being a wonderful spot to tour wineries and taste their produce, visitors to the area can enjoy some of the country’s finest restaurant, shop in charming boutiques, walk through vineyards and ride through the stunning mountains. Many visitors choose to focus on quaint Franschhoek or the vibrant university town of Stellenbosch, whilst those looking to get off the beaten track can look further afield to Paarl, Robertson or Wellington – less well-known for sure but still amazing spots to spend a few days. There are so many places to choose from when planning where to stay, all with their own unique features, so here is out guide to where to stay depending on what your key factor when choosing a hotel is.
As you approach the main street of Franschhoek a discrete sign points you towards La Residence, with the road there leading through quiet residential streets until you reach imposing wrought-iron gates. Behind these lie La Residence, the ultimate luxury property in the Winelands, housed in a huge, Tuscan style villa, with burn orange walls, lush, sprawling lawns and framed with stunning views of the Franschhoek Mountains.
As you walk in to the main area you are immediately struck by the chequer-board marble floor, ornate furnishings and walls packed with precious works of art. The food is exquisite, arguably the best any hotel in South Africa offers and served in a variety if inspiring locations around the property. A covered veranda looks out over the gardens and is a very popular spot for breakfast and lunch, whilst a short stroll across the lawns guests can be found relaxing by the sparkling swimming pool where staff are always on hand to serve snacks and drinks. The bedrooms are all uniquely deigned and furnished, with a single colour theme running through each of them. Furnishings, artworks and décor have been sourced from all over the world with no thought to expense, creating some of the most incredible rooms one will ever see. This is a truly spectacular property, with few anywhere in the world able to match its opulence and character – a “must-stay” for those who want the best of the best.
One of the joys of staying in Franschhoek is that it has a genuine village feel to it, with visitors perfectly safe to stroll around at night to get to restaurants. With this in mind, a central location hotel is very sought-after, with nowhere offering this better than Le Quartier Francais, a long-standing Franschhoek favourite found in the heart of Huguenot Street, the main street running through the village. Indeed, the property has a village feel in itself, with bedrooms dotted around lush gardens, a swimming pool at its heart and an outstanding restaurant, La Petite Colombe, an outpost of the legendary Cape Town eatery La Colombe.
As soon as you leave the property you have a wealth of places to stroll to right on your doorstep – local microbreweries, an endless stream of outstanding restaurants, shops, galleries and museums, cafes and pubs, all of which are an integral part of Franschhoek life. By day or night take a stroll along Huguenot Street and drink in the unique atmosphere that makes Franschhoek one of the most desirable places to visit and live in South Africa. Le Quartier is one of the most beloved properties in the village and a long-standing favourite of Far and Wild – somewhere we are sure you will love.
Franschhoek is a wonderfully friendly places, where everyone you meets greets you with a smile and hello, shopkeepers and restaurant staff always on hand to offer advice of where to go next once you have departed their premises and friendly winery staff always happy to welcome you. In many ways Last Word Franschhoek is a microcosm of this, with nowhere better to stay if you prize amazing personalised service above all else. The bedrooms are very spacious and wonderfully comfortable with complimentary mini-bars (house drinks are free of charge throughout your stay) and indoor sitting areas – for a special treat book one of the Pool Suites which share an outdoor swimming pool.
The outdoor pool is a lovely spot to relax and enjoy the peaceful location of the property – down a quiet lane just off the main street running through Franschhoek. The outstanding service stems from the policy that the same duty manager will look after you throughout your stay, greeting you on check-in and remaining on hand for anything you might need until departure. From re-checking restaurant bookings (always key, especially at the most popular eateries) to helping plan days out, they ensure that all your needs are looked after. As a special treat they set up a platter of local cheeses and charcuterie, accompanied by Franschhoek wines, each evening on the terrace – the perfect way to set you up for dinner in one of the legendary local restaurants.
One of the newest additions to the Franschhoek Valley, Leeu Estates is the result of one man’s love for the Franschhoek Valley and everything it offers. During the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Indian entrepreneur Analjit Singh came to South Africa and Franschhoek, leaving with a desire to add to the world-class hotels and hospitality the valley was known for. By partnering with the local Mullineux family, who owned their eponymous winery, he acquired the land on which Leeu Estates now stands and set about creating one of the Winelands leading hotels. Perched on a remote hillside just outside of the village, with stunning views across the rolling wineries and up to the jagged mountains, this is one of the most peaceful and sought-after properties in Franschhoek.
The bedrooms are huge with a modern, minimalist feel to them, but with plenty of amenities and glorious en-suite bathrooms. Guests can enjoy one of the best dining options Franschhoek has to offer, as well as visits to the Mullineux Winery to taste their wares. In front of the property the swimming pool, sprawling lawns and beautiful sculpture garden are wonderful places to relax and enjoy the dramatic views across the glorious Franschhoek Valley.
For many visitors, the chance to stay on a working winery is high on their list of priorities, with the chance to stay amongst the vines, learn about the winemaking process and tasting an array of vintages something that really makes their trip. Enter the beautiful Mont Rochelle, a beautifully styled property set in the heart of the eponymous winery with stunning views to the mountains at the far end of the valley.
The bedrooms are set throughout the property and are wonderfully spacious, with all of the amenities one could need, including their own Mont Rochelle rubber ducks, dressed as sommeliers, for guests to take home. There is an outdoor swimming pool and spacious lawns which overlook their winery, the perfect spots for soaking up the afternoon sunshine. A short stroll away guests will find their rustic restaurant and wine tasting room, where they can enjoy alfresco lunches and enjoy the superb vintages that the winery creates. The famed Franschhoek Wine Tram passes through Mont Rochelle on a daily basis, so guests can jump aboard and head off to explore the valley after starting their day of wine tasting in-house at Mont Rochelle.
One of Franschhoek’s mot iconic properties is the beautiful La Petite Ferme, which sits on a hillside on the far side of the village, offering residents a glorious countryside escape from which to explore the region. Long-styled as one of Franschhoek’s classical properties, it recently underwent a huge refurbishment, bringing a more modern style to the property, allowing it to compete on an even footing for luxury with properties down in the village.
The bedrooms are all beautifully designed with plenty of amenities – we love the rooms with private plunge pools on their verandas where guests can grab a drink or two and gaze out on the view down in to the valley below. The main area is a wonderful space, with a lovely open patio area for relaxing and enjoying alfresco meals, with a beautifully designed dining room for elegant evening meals. Roaring fires are lit in the winter, making the lounge and bar area a wonderfully welcoming spot in the cooler winter months. La Petite Ferme is home to its own mobile beauty spa, with a huge range of treatments offered in-room or out on the verandas, allowing guests to be pampered to their hearts’ content in this truly beautiful property.
On the outskirts of the charming university town of Stellenbosch, Lanzerac Hotel & Spa is a haven of tranquillity, with its gabled old main house set amongst seemingly endless wineries with a backdrop of rolling mountains. There is a very classical feel to the property, with the spacious rooms all having their own unique design, pieces of antique furnishings and beautiful views of the surrounding area. Meals are enjoyed in the hotel’s incredible restaurants, with especially enjoyable lunches served in their deli restaurant, with local cheeses and cured meats accompanied by a glass or two of Lanzerac’s famed wines.
Indeed, the Lanzerac winery is renowned for being home to the world’s first bottled Pinotage, which remains one of its flagship wines amongst a range of truly superb vintages. Above all of this, Lanzerac’s spa is one of the best in South Africa and draws visitors to the hotel from all over the world. Found a short walk from the hotel it has seven treatment rooms, stations for manicures and pedicures, an indoor heated swimming pool, two Rasul chambers, a sauna, steam room and mist room. The outdoor deck is the perfect place for a post-treatment laze in the sunshine, all helping to make this one of South Africa’s most comprehensive and sought-after spa experiences.
Visitors looking to experience what living in the Winelands is all about should always aim to stay in the heart of the university town of Stellenbosch. Renowned for its jacaranda tree lined streets, built to be wide enough to allow an ox cart to turn in them, this beautiful town offers a sedate place to spend a few days and is home to amazing wineries and excellent restaurants. Nestled on a quiet residential street, River Manor is a lovely little boutique hotel, with bedrooms housed in two original Stellenbosch houses, separated by a lovely garden and pool area where guests can relax in the afternoons, enjoy local wines and cheeses whilst they soak up the sunshine.
The location of the property means it is easy to stroll in to the centre of Stellenbosch in the day and in the evenings, with guests able to enjoy the abundant restaurant for which the town is known, as well as explore its historic buildings and learn more about the role the town has played in the development of South Africa. With a number of wineries easily accessed on the surrounds of Stellenbosch on a wine tour, this really is the perfect spot for getting a flavour of local life as well as enjoying everything that makes the Winelands such a desirable place to visit.
Whereas many visitors to the Winelands gravitate towards the fashionable centres of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the less popular town of Paarl is often bypassed, with its hotel offerings not being luxurious enough for many travellers. However, digging a little deeper, those who do want to stay somewhere a little different will find a true gem of a property, the beautiful Grande Roche hotel, sitting in the shadow of imposing Paarl rock. Set amidst sprawling wineries and with lush lawns, this is a wonderful place to sit back and relax, with a lovely swimming pool offering a welcoming respite from the heat of Cape afternoons.
The buildings are all built in Cape Dutch style, with bedrooms found in both the main house and the outbuildings, including stables, with décor designed to give a nod to the estate’s history. For a long time, Grande Roche has been renowned as one of the Winelands’ true culinary gems, with the recently reimagined Viande Restaurant offering innovative, seasonally inspired menus with locally sourced ingredients. Their Sunday brunches are an institution for locals and guests alike, especially during the long hot summers that this beautiful part of South Africa is renowned for.
Even more off the beaten track than Paarl is the small farming town of Wellington, found a little further north, nestled at the footed of rugged mountains, surrounded by large farms and wineries. The perfect spot for repeat visitors to the region who are looking to experience something a little different, there are a number of excellent places to stay here, with the beautiful Grand Dedale the undoubted stand out of them. Found at the end of a long dirt road, the hotel is housed in the historic manor house of the adjacent Doolhof Winery and has a very elegant and traditional feel to it. The food here is superb, with innovative menus presented for evening meals, picnic lunches provided for those heading out to explore and sumptuous breakfasts accompanied by locally produced Cap Classique sparkling wines.
The bedrooms all boast their own unique style and are very spacious, making this the ideal place for extended stays for wider explorations of the Winelands, as well as the beautiful inland areas that surround it. There is a sparkling swimming pool tucked away at one end of the property where guests can relax, enjoy drinks and soak up the sunshine. As well as wine tasting in the Doolhof tasting room, guests can enjoy horseriding, hiking and mountain bike trails in the surrounding mountains, as well as tours of Wellington’s other wineries, so there is plenty to do here. This truly wonderful property is managed by the enigmatic Angelo and his Wife Tina who really make this a truly special place to spend a few days.