Image Alt

Franschhoek Wine Tram – The Essential Guide

Franschhoek Wine Tram – The Essential Guide

There’s no better way to experience the heart of South Africa’s wine country than the incredible Franschhoek Wine Tram. Trundling its way through the lush rolling hills, blanketed by grapevines, and delivering you to the doorsteps of the best vineyards in the country. In this essential guide we’ll cover what you can expect from the wine tram, how it works, the best lines to choose, and plenty more.

You don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to enjoy the Franschhoek Wine Tram, there’s something for everyone. From playgrounds and jungle gyms for the kids, to cultural experiences like art galleries or landscaped gardens, and even a relaxing spa for some down time.

Franschhoek, South Africa

Located in the Western Cape in South Africa, just an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Franschhoek is a small town with a big reputation.

Known as the food and wine heartland of South Africa, the Franschhoek Valley is home to some of the country’s most prestigious vineyards and gourmet restaurants. Thanks to its rich history, stunning mountain views, and great wines, Franschhoek has become a must-visit for any South Africa itinerary.

The Wine Tram

The Franschhoek Wine Tram is a rather recent addition to the area, only opening to the public in 2012. The original railway tracks, however, have over a century long history behind them. The lines have been in use since 1904 and were designed to bring farmers produce from the valley to market.

Until the 1970s they used steam locomotives before switching to diesel trains. The 1990s saw the end of the service altogether as the demand for rail transport declined. Over a decade later, the Franschhoek Wine Tram breathed new life into the valley with its first vehicle. Today they have a number of double-decker trams running on five different lines (red, blue, pink, navy, and orange) as well as a few open-air buses.

The buses operate in the same way as the tram and are considered part of the same line. They’ve recently changed the way it works and now most lines involve a tram and an open-air bus, the only exception being the orange line. With the other lines you can decide whether to start the day on the bus and end on the tram or vice versa. Admittedly, the bus isn’t quite as fun as riding a 1920s style tram, but some of the wineries aren’t near the tracks, so what can you do?

Where Does the Wine Tram Depart From?

Your journey begins at either the Franschhoek Terminal for the red, blue, and pink lines, or the Groot Drakenstein Terminal for the navy and orange lines.

You’ll need to be here before your departure time to collect the tickets. Both terminals have gift shops and cafes, so you can always turn up early for a souvenir browse and a morning coffee.

There’s plenty of free parking at the terminals but be sure there’s a designated driver if you’re planning on driving later!

How Does the Franschhoek Wine Tram Work?

The Wine Tram operates as a hop-on, hop-off tour, with five different lines and dozens of stops. Each line has its own exclusive list of vineyards, and you can stop at a maximum of six in a day. The trams all finish at the same time, so to make it to six, you need to book the earliest timeslot. Each hour later you book means one less vineyard you can visit.

Most stops have a service every hour which is enough time at the majority of the wineries. Some of the larger estates suggest two hours, and of course any extra activities may take longer than this.

Which Line is Best on the Franschhoek Wine Tram?

At this point you might be wondering “how on earth am I supposed to choose from these unique lines and their amazing wineries?”. That’s a good question, and we’re here to help make that decision easier.

Each line is definitely worth visiting, but since time is precious for most travelers, you’re probably going to want to pick the best. It all depends on where your interests lie and so below we’ve categorized the best line for wine lovers, couples, those with a sweet tooth, cultural types, and families.

Best Line for Wine Lovers

First up, are the oenophiles – yes, that is a word, we promise. The wine lovers of the world won’t be disappointed with Franschhoek. An area with some of South Africa’s best vineyards, home to award-winning wines.

The red line is the perfect day for those seeking a superior tipple. With highly rated vineyards like Eikehof, Grand Provence, and Lynx you can guarantee a great glass of wine. And to put your nose and palate skills to the test, Franschhoek Cellar has a wine tasting challenge.

Best Line for Couples

If you’re searching for a romantic day on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, then look no further than the orange line.

This line features classy vineyards like Babylonstoren, Vrede en Lust, and Plaisir with its welcoming log fire and stunning artwork.

There are plenty of cute activities at the orange line wineries like spa treatments, garden walks, and horse-drawn carriage rides. There are noticeably less families and kids on this line, making it the ideal couples getaway.

Best Line for a Sweet Tooth

For some, nothing quite hits the spot like a sweet treat, and we hear ya! For the chocoholics and confectionary connoisseurs, the best option has to be the blue line.

Many of the vineyards offer food pairings, but the blue line has the lion’s share of the sweet offerings. With chocolate, Turkish delight, and nougat pairings, as well as Maison’s delicious desserts, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Best Line for Culture Vultures

With an abundance of interesting activities to enjoy, the pink line is the best for those that want a bit of culture between drinks.

Featuring plenty of cellar tours, an antique Ford collection, art galleries, and sculptured gardens, there’s a good mix of things to see. For a more out-there and unique experience, you can also meet ‘Pigcasso’ the painting pig and watch him create one of his masterpieces. Francis Bacon has nothing on this guy!

Best Line for Families with Kids

Boasting five stops with jungle gyms and tons of kid-friendly acitivites, the navy line is a solid choice for the little ones.

For older children, the blue line may be a better option as La Bri, Mont Rochelle, and Rickety Bridge all offer kiddies pairing or juice tasting. And for some downtime at the end of your day, there’s a childminder at the Franschhoek Cellar play area.

How Long is the Franschhoek Wine Tram?

The amount of time you spend on the Wine Tram experience can vary widely. It all depends on the departure time you book, how many wineries you decide to hop off at, and how long you spend at each.

You could even decide to only spend a couple of hours there, just stopping at one winery. However, we’d advise starting your journey early to make the most of your day. Departing on the earliest time slots typically allow you to stop at a maximum of six vineyards lasting around 7 to 8 hours.

How Much Does Wine Tasting Cost in Franschhoek?

As you can imagine, the wine tasting fees in Franschhoek can range from very modest to high-end premium.

Unless you’re after something very special, the average price is between R75 to R200 ($4-11) per tasting. Also, some estates offer complimentary tastings with the purchase of wine, which is a great bonus!

How to Book the Franschhoek Wine Tram

You can book your tickets for the wine tram on the official Franschhoek Wine Tram website. As well as regular tram and bus tickets, you can book packages like wine and cuisine experiences.

It’s important to note that many of the activities mentioned have to be booked in advance directly with the estates. Most of the activities including a lot of the food pairings can be arranged on arrival but there are a few that can’t. So, if you fancy a tour around a cellar, a food pairing experience, or a dip in the spa, it’s best to check the booking requirements.

Take a look at the Franschhoek Wine Tram timetables, the ones marked in red require pre-booking.

Where to Stay Near Franschhoek

The two best locations to stay for the Wine Tram are nearby in Franschhoek itself or the neighboring area of Stellenbosch – also famed for its wineries. The best part about this region is that you can even find affordable places overlooking the vineyards!

Franschhoek Accommodation

There’s a wide range of accommodation in Franschhoek from budget-friendly to luxury, so choose something that suits your price range.

Stellenbosch Accommodation

Just a stone’s throw away, Stellenbosch accommodation also offers quaint places for smaller budgets right up to luxurious estates.

How to Get to Franschhoek

Located about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, the easiest way to get to Franschhoek is by car.

If you’re not driving, you can book a private chauffeur along with your ticket on the Franschhoek Wine Tram site.

Alternatively, and often cheaper for small groups, you can book the Wine Tram with transfers from your hotel in Cape Town and you can choose which color line you take. There’s also the Wine Tram with transfers from bus stops around Cape Town. While the second option is cheaper again, there is the inconvenience of getting to the bus stop and you don’t get to choose which tram line you ride with this option.

Getting Around Franschhoek

While the Wine Tram is an excellent way to explore the wineries, a car rental can be handy for reaching accommodations or restaurants not covered by the tram routes.

Some accommodations offer shuttle services, and local taxis are available for shorter trips.

How Long to Stay in Franschhoek

The absolute minimum time would be a day trip from Cape Town or to arrive early and stay the night. If you’re on a road trip and have limited time this might be the best option.

But for big wine fans or anyone wanting to fully embrace the Franschhoek experience, two to three days is recommended. This allows ample time to explore several lines, enjoy the local cuisine, and simply enjoy the serene beauty of the valley.

Final Thoughts on Franschhoek Wine Tram

We’ll hope you agree that there’s more to the Franschhoek Wine Tram than simply drinking wine, although the quality of the vineyards here makes the wine sampling a good enough reason to visit alone.

With the classy interiors of the vineyards, the incredible surrounding scenery, and the interesting and varied activities, there’s something for everyone to enjoy on the Wine Tram and an experience we’d highly recommend!

Post a Comment