In our ongoing search for the best accommodation in Southern Africa, we sent our professional reviewer, Pippa de Bruyn, to find the best self-catering cottages in Franschhoek.
Using TripAdvisor as a base, she inspected 42 of the top-ranked options in the B&B/Inn and Speciality Lodging categories, as well as a few new, unlisted cottages. Pippa found some fabulous places to stay and told us she’d ‘happily stay in almost any of the establishments [she] inspected’. Here are her favourites – eight of which can be booked for less than R450 per person per night. You won’t find a better tried-and-tested guide to the best places to stay in Franschhoek. Images by Teagan Cunniffe.
Why stay in Franschhoek?
The Ruperts. Richard Branson. Analjit Singh. People who are rich enough to live anywhere on the planet choose to own a piece of Franschhoek. And who can blame them?
There are still affordable places to stay
Get off the commercial high street and traverse the back roads that run through orchards and vineyards. Drive deeper into the valley, up its vineyard-carpeted flanks, and the 360-degree vantages will leave you gaping. Hats off to the polyglot locals who call this home – not a business park, or a high rise, or a plastic tunnel in sight. Just that satisfying sense of being dwarfed by one of nature’s great cathedrals. Who knew that in this valley of billionaires you can settle into a cosy en-suite cabin for R250 per person?
How I chose my accommodation
With exceptional, quality accommodation across all price points, I struggled to shorten my list of inspections and, after days of online research, settled on 42. I would happily stay in almost any of the establishments I inspected. Which is why this article focuses only on the best self-catering options; there will be a follow-up on the best B&Bs/hotels. And bear in mind that having a kitchen doesn’t mean you have to cook – Franschhoek prides itself on being the country’s gourmet capital, an appellation now fiercely contested by Stellenbosch – and it’s easy enough to pop over the Helshoogte Pass and draw your own conclusions as to whom should carry the culinary crown. With the planned opening of Bukhara and Haiku opposite Le Quartier Français (thank you Mr Singh), Franschhoek is at least finally diversifying.
Most romantic cottages
1. Waterfall Lodge
Part of Chamonix Cottages. TripAdvisor ranking No. 25 of 39 (Speciality Lodging)
It’s quite a trek to find this little gem. Following the signs to Chamonix you wind through enormous vineyards, ascending past fields of grazing zebra and antelope, past the Marco Polo Lodge (stuffed with animal trophies), rising ever higher and deeper into the cleft of the mountain until you reach the final hump to see – at the base of an enormous waterfall – Waterfall Lodge, a tiny stone-and-thatch house. With two single beds in the loft and a king-size bed in the bedroom, the house can ostensibly sleep a family of four but it’s going to be a very snug and cosy fit. Even two large and/or tall adults might find it Lilliputian. There is a small lounge and narrow kitchenette, between them the highly effective Queen Anne stove. Views are somewhat obscured by trees, and it’s at least 10 minutes to town. But the real draw is opening your back door and stepping up to your private fern-fringed, crystal-clear rock pool, into which fresh mountain water thunders from a dizzy height, generating negative ions to purify the air. Magical.
Cost: R1500 (sleeps 4), minimum two-night stay.
Best stand-alone cottage with private pool
2. Clementine Cottage
Located off Green Valley Road amid the vineyards and orchards of L’Avenir Farm, in a most picturesque part of the valley and a three-minute drive to the centre, Clementine Cottage has a great location. It’s an easy-living house: most of the self-catering cottages in the valley are repurposed labourers’ cottages, (i.e. lacking somewhat in proportion, space and privacy) but Clementine was purpose-built. As such the two en-suite bedrooms – located on either side of the lounge-kitchen area (dining is at the kitchen counter) – are identical in size. There are French doors from the lounge and kitchen that open onto a deep shaded veranda overlooking the decent-size pool and vineyards. The lounge furniture is centred around a large open fireplace and there’s an outdoor braai area with plenty of wood provided for both.
Cost: R1400 for two or R2400 for four. Serviced Monday to Saturday.
Best cluster of cottages for a group
3. Riverside Cottages at La Bourgogne
TripAdvisor ranking No. 13 of 39 (Speciality Lodging)
Step onto the swing bridge that straddles a burbling stream to reach these cottages, and you know you’re in for something special. Built in the 1950s as three blocks to accommodate labourers, the six semi-detached cottages certainly aren’t going to win any architectural awards, nor do they offer the size and privacy of Clementine, Rose or Bo La Motte, but they are homely and comfortable, embedded in a lush, established and treed garden that runs down to the river bank, and half the price. The first block comprises the two-bedroom units – each opening onto a shared patio area and garden views. The four one-bedroom units are set back from here; of these, I favour Lemon – not only because it is the last cottage, offering a modicum of privacy (no walking past), but it also has the most inviting open-plan kitchen-dining-lounge space; a potential downside is it’s furnished with twin beds. Taken as a whole, La Bourgogne accommodates 16, has a charming communal pool area, and is ideal for a group of friends to take over.
Cost: one-bedroom unit R850 (sleeps two), two-bedroom two-bathroom (showers only) unit R1300 (sleeps four). Book all six cottages (sleeping 16) for two nights for R5500. Small mattresses for extra children cost R50 per day; camp cots are free. All bookings include a complimentary wine tasting in the pretty tasting room. The cottages are a two-minute drive to the village. Contact: labourgogne.co.za
Best budget cottages for horse lovers (or romance)
4. Courchevel Cottages
TripAdvisor ranking No. 49 of 59 (B&Bs in Franschhoek)
High up on the slopes of Chamonix farm is a swell of land on which the Courchevel (Heart of the Horse) estate is sprawled, its green fields criss-crossed with paddocks and studded with grazing horses (see cover image at top of this post). Perched on the edge are five former labourers’ cottages, with the most stupendous views of the toy-like valley, four of them now transformed by the delightful Sonja Hellinger. A passionate horsewoman (this is the first place I’ve inspected where there’s a paddock set aside for anyone who wants to come on holiday with their horse!), Sonja has unleashed her flair for decor, leaving the cottages rough and rustic, many with half-stripped walls, but spending money on lovely bathrooms and linen; the furniture choices are considered, every detail handpicked, and the whole shabby-chic atmosphere romantic. Three of the four cottages have large fireplaces, and all come stocked with wood, candles, delicious rusks, port, good filter coffee, toiletries – very generous given the price. Courchevel and Heart of the Horse, the only one-bedroom cottage set slightly further back, vie with Waterfall Lodge as the most romantic boltholes. Die Ou Stalle is the least satisfying option – no picture-window views and no fireplace.
Cost: Scott’s, Courchevel, Die Ou Stalle R1200 each (all sleep four); Heart of the Horse R800 (sleeps two). From December 2015 rates go up by R150.
Best value luxury cottages with private pools
5. Rose Cottages
TripAdvisor ranking No. 12 of 39, (Speciality Lodging)
Wow, what a bargain. Peace, privacy, space, a fireplace, private pool, and views so beautiful you’ll feel like pinching yourself. The warm and welcoming Joan Archibald has built two solid cottages in her farm-garden, far enough apart to be completely private. The Stables (my preference) is a two-bedroom cottage among the vineyards; The Vineyard, a double-storey beyond The Stables, sleeps up to five in one downstairs en-suite bedroom and an upstairs mezzanine en-suite bedroom. The Cottage – a spacious wing that is part of the main house and sleeping only two – is potentially the least private, though the adjoining main house (belonging to Joan’s Joburg-based daughter) is seldom occupied, in which case you have the terrace and pool to yourself, and the vineyard and mountain views from here are phenomenal. The farm is a two-minute drive from the village.
Cost: The Stables R2300 (sleeps four), The Vineyard R2500 (sleeps five), The Cottage R1600 (sleeps two). Minimum two-night stay from October to April. Serviced daily.
Best value in-village garden cottage for a couple
6. The Cottage On 55
Dutch arrivals Erna and Guido Louwerse have transformed their garden cottage into the most delightful two-unit B&B of which the larger deluxe is equipped for self-catering. An open-plan, light-filled studio-style room, it has a quirky corner fireplace and doors opening onto the pool area where breakfast is served (included in the rate regardless of whether you choose to self cater, and you’ll hardly feel like it given the restaurant choice just a short stroll down the street). Adjoining the studio room is another en-suite bedroom with a separate entrance from the garden – it’s set up in such a way that it shouldn’t affect your privacy when occupied.
Cost: R1500 for the deluxe (sleeps two). Includes breakfast.
Most stylish and luxurious in-village home
7. The Library
It’s delightful being able to stroll to dinner at night, yet have the flexibility to prepare your own meals, but self-catering options usually forego style for convenience. Not so with Jo Sinfield’s small portfolio of charming houses in the village, of which the best three – The Library, The Map Room and Explorers Club – he owns. For a large party of friends with children, Explorers Club is the one to book, but if you are looking for the loveliest rental in the village, The Library is it. Downstairs are two enormous en-suite bedrooms that open to the pool and garden, in which the third en-suite bedroom ‘cottage’ is located, but the real draw is the upstairs living area: a huge airy open-plan living space, richly textured with carpets, books and beautiful objets, and opening onto a deck with magnificent mountain views. The two-bedroom Map Room enjoys a similar configuration, on a much smaller scale – it’s gorgeous, affordable, and thus almost always booked.
Cost: The Map Room R2300 to R3000 (sleeps two to four); Explorers Club R4300 to R7200 (sleeps two to 10); The Library R4950 to R6850 (sleeps two to six). Festive period surcharges apply.
Most authentic farm-cottage accommodation
8. Bo La Motte Farm Cottages
TripAdvisor ranking No. 2 of 39, (Speciality Lodging)
The aim of the owners is to maintain Bo La Motte’s historical rural character, on land that has been farmed since the late 1600s. This they have certainly achieved, with five unpretentious, comfortable and well-equipped cottages, of which two in particular – Goose and Milkwood – retain original features that provide an authentic farm-cottage character. Both are two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottages surrounded by lush grass lawns, recently upgraded but with their original open fireplaces and walls as thick as the length of your forearm. Pear Tree Cottage, the other two-bedroom alternative, has lovely views (though I should imagine less attractive when the dam in front is less full in high summer) but it’s more modern (Cape Victorian style) with a Jetmaster rather than an open fireplace. If Goose and Milkwood are full, I’d personally opt for similarly priced Clementine Cottage or Rose Cottages. Then again, Bo La Motte is one of Franschhoek’s most popular options, just two minutes’ drive to the village, so you’ll be lucky to bag any one of the five unless you book well in advance.
Cost: Goose, Milkwood and Pear Tree R2100 (each sleep four); Oak R1100 (sleeps two) and Pump House R900 (sleeps two). Extra children’s beds or cots are available on request. Serviced every day except Sundays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
More accommodation in Franschhoek
9. Otter’s Bend Lodge
Otter’s Bend Lodge comprises five adjoining en-suite bedrooms, a dorm room and two cottages – all share access to Otter’s Barrel, the fully equipped communal self-catering area next to the river, with a small pool. From R300 per person and R500 sharing.
10. Bird Cottage
Bird Cottage is a dinky two-bedroom cottage built in Cape Victorian style with great views, located high up on the slopes of Montagne Farm – not easy to find, and a bit far to nip into town but at the base of a wonderful conservation area, making this an ideal retreat for hikers. R700 sharing; R1400 for four (although there is a small discount if four book).
11. Stony Brook Cottages
Stony Brook Cottages – a conversion of a string of labourers’ cottages – are located on a very pretty wine farm and comprise five units (four one-bedroom; one two-bedroom) that share a small communal pool. If you like privacy you’ll find the proximity of neighbours unnerving but the setting is glorious. From R850 sharing.
12. Gooding’s Groves
Gooding’s Groves is located off the busy R45, so not quite as peaceful as the other suggestions on these pages; that said I’d be happy enough in either of the two semi self-catering Barn Suites. R1700 (sleeps four). There’s also a separate two-bedroom house with its own pool. R2600 (sleeps four).
Also read: Guide to Graaff-Reinet accommodation
This article was first published in the October 2015 issue of Getaway magazine.
Please note that while all prices were correct at time of publication, they are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please be sure to check with them before booking.