South Africa28 January 2020
The winelands of South Africa are less than an hour from Cape Town in the beautiful rolling hills. Stellenbosch, with its charming tree-lined streets, may be better known, but the quaint colonial town of Franschhoek is where you'll find itCape Town's best wine experience. The historic city center consists of one small but lively street. Beautiful, white Cape Dutch buildings mingle with lush greenery and sumptuous restaurants. Right in the middle is the ticket office for the Franschhoek Wine Tram and the boarding point for four routes that lead into South Africa's magnificent vineyards.
While certainly the best way to experience thatFranschhoek Wine Tramis to do every route (wouldn't that be nice?), most people don't have the time to spend four days or more in the Winelands. So we've put together a guide to the best Franschhoek Wine Tram route, so you can make the most of a single day on board.
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A guide to the best Franschhoek Wine Tram route
Why we love it: Top Reasons to Experience the Winelands by Tram
The best route: Why we vote for the orange or purple line
Route: A day on the orange line
Budget: Overview of the expected costs
Best Tips:Helpful tips for your day on the Franschhoek Wine Tram
Why we love the Franschhoek Wine Tram
- A charming ride –Wine tours are hard to get right. Nobody wants to be the designated driver, and getting on a tour bus can ruin the mood. We love biking around to wineries, walking, and taking small tours, but riding a vintage wine tram through the countryside is a whole new experience that adds an unbeatable charm (and convenience).
- wine storage- No need to lug your wine from winery to winery. As you board at each stop, they'll tag your purchases and store them securely for you to collect at the end of the day. (Though we might have bought less if it had weighed on us.)
- Security -The Winelands are not far from the surrounding townships of Cape Town and car thefts are notorious. Traveling in a group on the Wine Tram is safer than cruising around in a fancy car, especially if you're tanking on wine throughout the day. Also, riding the tram rules out drinking and driving.
- High Quality Winery Options –Arguably the best thing about the Franschhoek Wine Tram is the selection of wonderful wineries along the route, from boutiques to family-run establishments. It's not just hitting the mass commercialized wineries. And with eight line options, there's sure to be something for everyone.
- The welcome crowd –The Franschhoek Wine Tram knows how to start the day off right. As you settle into your chosen seat and receive a brief briefing on the logistics of the route, they'll pour you a cold glass of bubbly for you to sip along the way.
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Which route is the best?
The wine tram lines can be a bit confusing at first. There are four routes, each with a different color code. You can also drive each route in both directions, which is why you see eight lines. We think the orange and purple line is the best route on the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Here's why:
- A beautiful setting -These lines take you out of the valley and up into the scenic hills around Paarl. Rolling hills, grazing cattle fields and distant mountains set the backdrop for the day.
- Gourmet eats –The restaurants on this route are destinations in themselves.Babelim Babylonstoren is known for seasonal food from farm to table, beautifully prepared. just down the streetLust Bistro & Bakeryhighlights humble dishes perfectly paired with the region's wines. And Allée Bleue and Solms Delta both offer gourmet picnic baskets.
- Flexible schedule- One of the best things about the orange and purple lines is that the tram comesevery 35 minutes. The shorter time frame (most routes last an hour) allows for more flexibility. If you love a place, you can choose to stay longer without having to make another stop.
- The wine -But of course! The wine selection on this route is phenomenal. Whether you're looking for a crisp Chenin Blanc or a complex Cab Sauv, you'll find it all along the orange and purple lines, from grand wineries to boutique charmers.
- Accessibility -The Orange and Purple Lines are the only Franschhoek Wine Tram lines you can join if you are coming via those from Cape TownCitySightseeing-Transfer. They are also the only lines to have two starting point options: the ticket office in town, from which all lines depart, or Groot Drakenstein station in Paarl.
Related //A day on the Cape Town hop-on hop-off bus
Note: The purple line is the inverse of the orange line.
A day on the best Franschhoek Wine Tram route
Each route consists of 8-11 stops where you can hop off or skip. You can squeeze in a lot if you skip tours and focus on tastings, but we recommend prioritizing 3-5 to give you a more relaxed day. We've broken them down belowWine tram orange line.
Stop as //noble hill – Unfortunately closed during our visit due to renovation work.
stop two //Towers of Babylon–This property could easily take up your whole day if you let it. The lush gardens are perfect for a morning stroll. There are several on-site restaurants, as well as a bakery, spa, and boutique shop selling goods like homemade soap and lotions. We walked into the airy, glass-walled tasting room and shared a flight to start our day. Keep an eye on the clock to make sure you don't miss your boarding time as you head back from the gardens.
stop three //Backsberg–One wine tasting and we were famished. So we skipped Backsberg to come for lunch.
stop four //peace and lust- Lunch -We got here before the midday rush (luckily because we hadn't made a reservation) and were seated straight at a tableLust Bistro & Bakery. After sampling a few wines to accompany our delicious (and filling) meal, we made a quick detour to the wine shop and quaint tasting room before getting back on the tram.
stop five //Merle's pleasure–Also closed during our visit, the downside of traveling in the off-season.
stop six //Blue Alley–By now you've got the idea – sipping premium wines with a view of beautiful vineyards, that's what the orange line is all about. Allée Bleue is no exception. There we also (finally) tried South Africa's famous Pinotage for the first time.
Wein-Nerd-Fun-Fact:Pinotage is South Africa's unique red grape variety. The grape was cultivated by crossingPinot Noir and Hermitage(what they called Cinsault) almost a century ago. Her ease of cultivation (like Cinsault) made her popular for mass production. These wines met with harsh criticism and the grape was all but lost until quality producers began to focus on getting the best out of the grape. Now wineries like Allée Bleue proudly serve the tannin red.
stop seven //Solms-Delta–We actually planned on skipping this winery but ended up having time to do so and we are so glad we did. It's smaller than many and seems to get overlooked, but it should be high on your list. For one, the wine was amazing (and not just because we've had a few). The bottle we bought fulfilled our fond memories a few days later. Prices were on the lower end of others on the tour. The vineyard is stunning and there is a little production feel to the whole experience. There were few other visitors which meant we had a nice, personal experience.
Hot Tip:If you don't do the orange/purple route, consider a trip toSolms-Deltaon its own. They offer unique experiences likeforagingin the woods, that would be a great day trip.
stop eight //Boschental–The tasting terrace at Boschendal is set in a courtyard surrounded by the area's iconic white Cape Dutch buildings. They offer wine flights, premium tastings, and cheese or chocolate pairings. A perfect end to the day.
Our wine tram budget | orange line
The cost of your wine tram experience in Franschhoek depends heavily on your choices.Tastings range from R20-R150depending on the number of grape varieties and the quality of the wine. The biggest variance, however, is how much wine you want to buy. For reference, we've broken down what we spent on tastings, pairings, and food below. It is charged per person, although in some cases we shared a flight.
The tramway -R260 / $18 USD
Babylonstoren tasting* –R50 / $3,5 USD
Lust Bistro & Bakery Lunch –R250 / $18 USD
Allee Bleue Tasting –R100 // $7 USD (choice of three wines with cheese pairing)
Somms Delta Tasting –R45 / $3 USD (the express tasting of three varietals in the wine train)
Total per person (excluding wine purchases) = R705 / $48.5 USD
*At Babylonstoren we shared the tasting of 6 wines (R60) and 1 premium wine (R30). You can also do an express tasting of three wines for R30.
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Franschhoek Wine Tram | Best Tips
- Start early- While the prospect of tasting wine light and early might ward off the headache the next day, it's worth an early start. Reaching the first winery, especially on the orange and purple routes, may take some time. And these vineyards are beautiful and worth taking the time to walk around.
- Book lunch in advance –This isn't mandatory on slow days, but if you're visiting on a weekend or in high season, or are dying to eat at Babel, call ahead to make a reservation.
- Prioritize –Take a look at thoseTime schedulebefore your trip and choose your top 3 wineries. There's a good chance you'll have time for more, but it will help you decide when to hop off or not after a few drinks.
Have you been to the Winelands?What do you think is the best wine tram route in Franschhoek?
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