A visit to the village of Franschhoek, the darling of the Cape Winelands, is like stepping into a fairy tale. Why just visit when you can spend the night? For a getaway steeped in opulence, we tapped our bucket lists and insider knowledge for the luxury destinations where you can relax and unwind in an idyllic setting. Some hotels lie deep in the vineyards – roll out of bed and into the vines and storybook châteaus, more or less – while others are the perfect perch from which to explore all that the region has to offer. Here are the homegrown hotels worthy of a place on every self-respecting bucket list. Discover the magic of the path less followed.
Editor’s pick: Le Quartier Français
A sumptuous hideaway with a zingy contemporary twist – all in an exceptionally convenient location
We all need glamour sometimes – and nowhere in the culinary capital delivers glitz quite like Le Quartier Français, a quietly confident, high-design boutique hotel hidden in plain sight. The hotel’s elegant façade amid beautifully coiffed grounds points onto the charming Huguenot Street. The village of Franschhoek is one of the most unspoiled areas in Cape Town, surrounded by cafés, restaurants, wine bars and trinket shops. Inside, the place feels modern but also precisely like the holidays. It would be difficult not to have a very special stay here, both thanks to the latest in luxury and the unfailingly warm, sincere and pitch-perfect service.
Just beyond the art-studded lobby, the bright-turquoise swimming pool is a thing of limpid temptation. The hotel’s position, set well back from the street, affords sweeping views of the mountains behind it. It’s the feeling of intimacy that makes the place. Only 21 auberge-style rooms and four suites mean Le Quartier Français is selective and full of charm, however, the hyped-up interiors (exquisite colour schemes, a multitude of textures, modern art and clever lighting) give it the edge. What you can expect from your room totally depends on which one you’ve booked, but there’s a pleasing coherence to the entire undertaking – softly carpeted and wrapped in chintz, with all the plush creature comforts to make for a memorable stay.
If you’re after more space, it’s definitely worth booking one of the roomier Four Quarters Suites that come with separate sitting areas and walk-in wardrobes. Swathed in energising orange with earthy browns, murky greens and ochre tones, our suite was complemented by slick air-conditioning, central heating and all the requisite contemporary luxuries – from fast, free Wi-Fi to a Nespresso machine. Founder Analjit Singh’s signature style permeates everything. Between the reams of patterned wallpaper, eclectic assortment of artwork and one of those cloud-like Leeu Collection beds (that can steal hours of sleep without trying), there were personal touches waiting for us too, such as fresh fruit and a bottle of red wine. Lights are modern, simple and dictate the mood. Taking centre stage in the marbled bathroom, with double sinks and black-and-white checkered floors, is the freestanding bathtub. The Healing Earth Lemon Verbena & Argan Oil bath products are the perfect late-night antidote to a day exploring the Winelands. Plus, the well-stocked mini bar has plenty of wine, gin and vodka to sip while you soak.
Le Quartier Français has a real trump card – its unbuttoned restaurant, Protégé, overseen by head chef Zane Soutar. It’s entirely conditioned to get you to relax: Dining is spread out across the front terrace, dining room (embellished with an open kitchen and an open bar) and back terrace. It feels airy and ample at quieter times of day and intimate and buzzy at night. On the menu of small plates to graze on, there’s a roti stuffed with spice-glazed lamb, rum braised pineapple and coriander; grass-fed beef and crispy sweetbreads in a puddle of pepper truffle cream; delicate Cape Malay seared tuna topped with kerala, curry leaf, sultana and chutney; and fantastically tender line fish with chimichurri, chorizo, smoked mussel and baby squid. Each plate places an emphasis on individual ingredients and elevated sophistication, creating exciting flavours that surprise as much as they fill you up. Cocktail lovers are spoiled with seasonal creations, as are sweet-toothed guests with a spin on a classic banoffee pie. Most of the evening footfall comes from outside guests rather than residents, which means the restaurant is often full. The addictively crunchy Korean fried chicken books out tables weeks in advance.
In the mornings, lavish breakfast options include creamy yoghurt parfait or a crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside croissant stuffed with Black Forest ham and Boerenkaas. Continue the feast with a luxurious blend of sourdough, soft poached eggs, smoked Franschhoek trout and hollandaise sauce. The breakfast in bed forgoes none of the taste offered if you were to eat it in the restaurant – an element that often falls through the marble cracks of five-star hotels.
A final note: With everything at your fingertips, the service is more than good – it’s exemplary. Deeply attentive and ahead of the curve, the team seems genuinely grateful to work here. They’ll know your name in the lobby and remember your nightcap in the bar. So, is it worth it? Absolutely. For romantics, foodies and culture buffs, a sleepover at Le Quartier Français is an investment in terms of the happy memories it will bring. Leeu Collection’s unspoken motto is that the difference is in the detail … and ‘Le Quaf’ (as it’s affectionately known) lives up to it.
Cost: Auberge Rooms from R9,900, Grande Rooms from R11,200, Petite Garden Suites from R14,300, Pool Suites from R20,400 and Four Quarters Suites from R22,600 per room per night
Corner of Berg & Wilhelmina Streets, Franschhoek
021 492 2222
A magically restorative place for the work-hard, play-hard crowd
It’s not as if you needed another reason to visit this ethereal escape, but Ludus Magnus is undoubtedly the most significant opening in Franschhoek within the past year. An aggressively stylish home-from-home dressed in the French-Italian owners’ personal art collection, in a curious way, Ludus Magnus exists as much for South Africans as it does for visitors.
Blend quietly polished design with laidback Cape Winelands attitude and you get this off-the-grid hideout, distinguished by bold, dramatic black exteriors amid vineyards. The first thing you’ll notice from this statement property emerging from Two Rivers Farm are the views. It means there’s always something to catch your eye from the open-air terrace of its Manor House rooms – and reason to order local coffee for breakfast each morning. Just eight ultra-modern bedrooms in the Manor House allows a passionately bespoke approach rather than your classic design overhaul. All celebrate the landscape – including 14 citrus tree varieties, an olive grove and a shiraz vineyard – and pull a palette of greys and greens from the surrounding sun-soaked vineyards, combined with quirky contemporary happenings to lift them out of the ordinary. The views are always interesting, but the upstairs rooms are perhaps the most startling of all.
Aurelia, our boldly decorated room encased in glass, was elegant without being too much – an exceptionally large bed with clean, crisp bedding; playful yet grownup textures and materials; and complimentary colours that aren’t too dramatic. Even the fussiest will be hard-pressed to find fault with it. The bathroom was a design triumph too, with a glazed concrete floor and wallpaper with animal and plant motifs for an eclectic twist. The three villas enjoy the same scrumptious spec of design and embrace an everything-you-need-nothing-you-don’t ethos.
The sleek and sexy, loosely communal dining area is a central hub; a great place to connect with other travellers and share the day’s adventures. You can also arrange for a cosy private dinner – where feasts begin with butternut and ginger soup and end on sticky date pudding, paired with Thelema or Bartinney wines – if that’s what you prefer, along with early-morning beverages, baked goods, and delicious cold cuts and cheeses in Le Creuset crockery delivered to your door. We’re not sure what the guest-to-staff ratio is here, but it feels as if you have your own gracious member of staff personally taking care of you from the moment you arrive.
While there are plenty of award-winning hotels in Franschhoek – both in the village and on surrounding wine farms – none offer the luxury of space and the choice of leisure facilities that Ludus Magnus does. The whole point of being here is to get into the thick of it all, and the team here can assemble wellness and relaxation treatments, river kayaking, river tubing, horse riding, private yoga sessions, rugby, soccer, golf or trail running. The Olympian training pool backed by palm trees wouldn’t look out of place at a beach resort. From the pool, you look up to craggy mountain peaks that are blanketed in snow in winter. There’s also enough room in the gardens to tuck yourself away for a horizontal afternoon on a sunbed. With ample opportunities for fitness and pampering, it’s not hard to believe that some guests never leave the property.
Though the real draw may be the mission of the hotel itself. Environmental sustainability is an everyday priority for the husband-and-wife-owners. They’ve planted banana, pear, plum, mango, litchi, avocado and macadamia nut trees, but the fact that Ludus Magnus generates its own water and electricity is even more impressive. Along with birdsong, such knowledge can help each guest sleep just a little more soundly. Ludus Magnus is everybody’s fantasy hideaway – an elevated adventure base camp for both earth-minded and privacy-seeking travellers.
Cost: R6,900 per Manor House room per night from 1 May to 30 September or R8,900 per Manor House room per night from 1 October to 30 April (minimum two-night stay)
Two Rivers Farm (Portion 9), R45 Main Road, Franschhoek
087 057 4506
An exclusive working farm to catch the prettiest landscapes of the season
Set against a dramatic mountainous backdrop, Franschhoek is a place of natural beauty all year round. But in the cold months, it’s hard to imagine a better place to see whole mountainsides and valleys of trees turning from spring-summer greens to a fiery palette of oranges and reds. The family-owned Fransvliet Guesthouse among the copper and crimson leaves is a cosy winter refuge that’s actually affordable – one where you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or location.
There’s an immediate excitement outside Fransvliet Estate’s unassuming entrance. Sweeping down the driveway, weaving between rows of vines and dusty blue hydrangeas, you know you’ve arrived somewhere truly magical. From a distance, your destination looks like a simple farmhouse surrounded by white cottages. But close up, they’re elegantly designed with plenty of thoughtful touches. You’re close to town and right next to Maison Estate (it’s worth booking lunch at Chef’s Warehouse at Maison), so you can’t do much better. Five suites – namely Sauvignon, Chenin, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Shiraz – are dotted around lush gardens and grounds. The tranquil bedrooms sleep a small total of 10 guests and are suitably intimate.
The star of the estate is the Chardonnay suite – generously proportioned with a palpable sense of contemporary calm. Cleverly, it manages to feel like an extension of its natural surroundings: Fresh white walls sing next to a variety of greens and all things lemon-coloured, creating a striking signature aesthetic. The light-filled room comes with crisp linen, air conditioning, a wood-burning fireplace, a smart TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, a Nespresso machine, heated bathroom floors, a freestanding bath and bespoke Molton Brown toiletries lined up along the double vanity. It’s fabulous for extended stays or anyone with a lot of luggage to unpack.
The guesthouse doesn’t have a restaurant, however, there’s a solid breakfast offering each morning. Arrive to fruits, yoghurts, seeds, nuts, baskets of fragrant breads and freshly pressed seasonal juices, such as zesty cantaloupe, orange, ginger and turmeric. Well-executed hot dishes change daily, but the portobello eggs Benedict with black forest ham and homemade hollandaise sauce is a sure bet. In the summer months, you can ask the staff to pack you a gourmet picnic. With quintessential summertime nibbles and indulgent delicacies, you’d be a fool not to. Otherwise, no other food is served, so stock your in-room fridge with goodies.
Best of all is the welcome dollop of peace and quiet at Fransvliet Guesthouse. Come here to follow the country paths, walk through the vineyards and savour the sunset with a glass of local shiraz or cabernet sauvignon. From back roads to olive groves, you could explore for a whole week and spot something new each day. An added benefit for hotel guests is that general manager Victor knows the ins and outs of the area and is happy to offer his local tips.
Cost: R1,720 per suite per night during low season (1 May to 14 October), R2,150 per suite per night during mid-season (15 October to 22 December and 1 March to 30 April), R2,580 per suite per night during high season (11 January to 28 February) and R5,375 per suite per night during peak season (23 December to 10 January)
Fransvliet Estate, R45 Main Road, Franschhoek
021 876 3726