Visiting The Cape Winelands from Cape Town: Stellenbosch or Franschhoek?

If you’ve landed on this page, you’re visiting Cape Town and are likely a bit short on time (maybe only a day), and you’re trying to choose the better of the two towns to visit in The Cape Winelands. This isn’t an uncommon question and I myself had wondered the same before planning my trip to South Africa.

Firstly, a lot of people do The Cape Winelands as a daytrip from Cape Town, which in my opinion doesn’t do justice to this area. If you’re a wine enthusiast, make sure to take out at least one full day (with an overnight stay) to spend in the area. We spent 3 days in Cape Town, but I highly recommend doing Cape Town in 4 days and then moving out to The Cape Winelands on the fifth day. The key question – Stellenbosch or Franschhoek? Well, both offer amazing landscapes and have their own set of unique experiences which should help you make a better decision when it comes to what you prefer. We did a little bit of both by spending half a day in each of the towns (thanks to my FOMO), but I highly discourage you do that because you’ll end up regretting not being able to enjoy both to the fullest.

Visiting The Cape Winelands from Cape Town: Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is more commercial and popular of the two, which is why you’ll find a much larger range of wineries and wine tasting experiences. But also, this is where you’ll find the maximum crowds and the experiences are more on the larger scale. You’ll find wine at all price points, and the variety is so large that you’ll be spoiled for choice. We stayed at a working winery which also offered free wine tasting as part of the stay. The only downside was that their wine tasting experience lasted only until 5 pm and there was no restaurant on site for a late dinner, so we had to drive to the next winery where there was an excellent restaurant along a beautiful pond and rolling vineyards in the backdrop.

Suggested place to stay: Lovane Boutique Wine Estate and Guesthouse

Suggested places to try wine tasting: Tokara Wine Estate

Suggested place for lunch: Delaire Graff Estate (prior booking required)

Suggested place for dinner: Sansibar at Asara Wine Estate

Visiting The Cape Winelands from Cape Town: Franschhoek

Franschhoek for me was better of the two for the sole reason that we got to experience something unique here – the wine tram! I found Franschhoek to be lesser commercial and thus, more cozy, smaller and quieter. The landscapes here also looked much better with stunning mountain backdrops and charming French-inspired streetscapes, offering a more intimate and romantic ambiance. But the best part was the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a popular tourist attraction that offers a unique and enjoyable way to explore the vineyards, wineries, and picturesque landscapes of the valley.

The Franschhoek Wine Tram operates on a hop-on, hop-off basis, allowing passengers the flexibility to explore various wine estates at their own pace. You can choose from several different tram lines, each of which visits a selection of wine estates along a specific route.

The tram routes traverse through the picturesque Franschhoek Valley, offering stunning views of vineyards, mountains, and quaint Cape Dutch architecture. It’s a fantastic way to soak in the natural beauty of the region while enjoying a leisurely journey between wineries. The main highlight of the experience is, of course, the wine tasting. Each tram route includes visits to a selection of wine estates, where passengers can disembark to enjoy guided wine tastings and cellar tours. The wine estates featured on the tram routes are known for producing high-quality wines, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir, among others.

Throughout the journey, you will be provided with informative and entertaining commentary about the history, culture, and winemaking traditions of the Franschhoek Valley. You can purchase as much wine as you may want at the wineries, and these will all be stored for you in the tram; making it easy for you to collect the treasure at the end of the journey at the ticket office. We found the experience quite reasonably priced and the wines too.

So, whether you’re a wine enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply someone looking for a unique adventure, the wine tram is sure to delight with its combination of stunning scenery, delicious wines, and relaxed ambiance.

Suggested place to stay: La Petite Ferme

Suggested place for excellent coffee & breakfast: Terbodore Café (excellent coffee selection)

The final verdict: Stellenbosch or Franschhoek?

Both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek offer unforgettable experiences in the Cape Winelands. If you prefer a larger selection of wineries and a vibrant town atmosphere, Stellenbosch is your best bet. If you’re looking for a more intimate, gastronomic experience with a touch of French flair, Franschhoek is the ideal choice. My personal favourite was Franschhoek because of it’s intimate and romantic setting where Stellenbosch was more commercial and crowded. Also, The Wine Tram experience in Franschhoek was unique, allowing one to drink as much wine as they want without the hassle of driving or figuring out how to go from one winery to another. The landscapes are more majestic in Franschhoek too!