If you’re a lover of wine (like me), I’m sure you have the usual suspects like Napa, Sonoma, Tuscany and Bordeaux on your travel radar. I’m here to tell you – if you haven’t already – you HAVE TO add South Africa’s Cape Winelands to your travel bucket list. This underrated wine mecca, located just 45 minutes east of Cape Town, is overflowing with French-inspired street cafes, white-washed Cape Dutch farmhouses, centuries-old family-owned vineyards that will make you S W O O N.
The two main towns in the Cape Winelands, Franschhoek + Stellenbosch,are equally charming and conveniently close to one another (à la Napa & Sonoma), so you really can’t go wrong staying in either. That being said, I fell head-over-heels in lurrrrve with our hotel in Franschhoek and I cannot wait to tell you all about it!
While there are so many beautiful places to stay in the Cape Winelands, I am 100% biased toward the little slice of paradise that is Babylonstoren Farm Hotel. I obviously did tons of psycho research about each and every hotel in the area, but I just kept coming back to this one (plus it was highly recommended to us by our fab travel gurus at Scott Dunn). This 17th century Cape Dutch farm is so much more than a hotel. We had an absolutely incredible experience staying (& eating & drinking & exploring) here on the last few days of our South African honeymoon.
Here are the top 5 reasons why Babylonstoren has to top any wine enthusiast’s destination wishlist.
1.) THE EXCEPTIONAL WINE //
I had to start with the obvious, since this is clearly our priority in wine country (I mean, duh). I loved that you could take a leisurely bike ride through the property’s rows & rows of grapes, then make your way to the chic, minimalistic tasting room for a chilled glass of Viognier (even before noon – they don’t judge.) The floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the lush vineyard and sunlight floods the bright and airy space. So. Dreamy. If you’re into learning more about the wine-making process, they offer tours of the vineyard and production facilities as well. All their wines were fantastic, but my personal favorites were the Chenin Blanc + Shiraz.
2.) THE SPECTACULAR GARDENS //
Babylonstoren‘s property is spread across 1,400 acres, and it has the most magnificent garden. They grow over 300 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers – all of which are either edible or have medicinal value. They even offer a daily tour of the garden, where you’re encouraged to pick, smell, taste & touch the plants – plus you get a little sneak-peek of what you can expect on the evening’s dinner menu!
3.) THE NATURE //
If you’re an animal or nature lover, you’re in luck. You’ll find friendly little chickens, ducks and turkeys freely roaming around the grounds. can’t.handle.thecuteness. We formed a special bond with Rachel the donkey, who lived just outside our window and seemed to take a shine to Nick. The farm also curates weekly experiences that allow guests to immerse themselves & connect with nature, including the weekly tea ritual in the Healing Garden and additional hands-on workshops like the art of growing succulents or planting your own edible plants (can I just live here & be a forager?) If you ever need a break from sipping wines in the tasting room or vineyard hopping, you can hike the 1,400 acres of property, canoe in the lake or bike ride through the vineyards to pass the time.
4.) THE FOOD //
Before I’d even heard of the hotel, I’d read several articles about Babylonstoren‘s award-winning restaurant, Babel, which I couldn’t wait to try. The restaurant lives up to the high praise with its locally-grown, seasonally-focused menu, yet is also completely approachable for breakfast, lunch or dinner (not pretentious or stuffy AT ALL.) The breakfast spread consisted of fresh-baked breads, a rainbow of fruits & veggies, charcuterie & cheese (the gooey-est brie from the nearby dairy farm!), fresh-squeezed juices (even green juice!), and housemade granola. Not to mention the delicious farm-fresh eggs & vegetable omelettes they’d cook to order. Dinner was equally impressive, with the standout dish being the warm cauliflower soup with Western Cape mussels, smoked artichoke & Gorgonzola ice cream (yes, that is apparently a thing and it is LIFE). They also have perfect wine pairings for every dish, naturally.
For lunchtime eats, we favored the laidback indoor/outdoor Greenhouse restaurant, also conveniently located right on the property. This is one of those places that reminds you that even the simplest ingredients can make for the most memorable, satisfying meal. Their sandwiches reminded me of something you’d get from a French cafe, with nothing but a just-baked baguette, local ham & cheese, greens from the garden + a simple yet delicious fig compote. Oh, and it came with the prettiest little jar salad with picked-from-the-garden veggies. Can you even?!!
5.) THE ZEN VIBES //
After a truly exhausting day of wine-drinking (hard life), we loved finishing our day with a sweat in the Himalayan salt room, a dip in the peaceful outdoor pool & a soak in the hot spa (with a glass of bubbly in hand, of course.) If you want to indulge a bit more, they also offer massage therapy, body wraps, facials and even an ancient hammam cleansing ritual, if that’s your jam.
We genuinely could have spent a week unwinding & imbibing in this peaceful retreat, but I am so thankful we were able to dedicate two fabulous days of our honeymoon here. If you end up staying somewhere else, or just coming to the Cape Winelands for a day trip from Cape Town, the good news is that Babylonstoren is a winery in its own right (the hotel is just one part of this stunning property) so you can easily stop by for a tour, tasting, a meal or all three!
Have any of you been to the Cape Winelands? I’d love to hear your fave wineries, hotels, restaurants, etc! For more dets on South Africa and all my favorite spots, check out my tips for the perfect itinerary, a day in the life on safari, and my complete guide to eating & drinking your way through Cape Town. If you have any questions at all, would love love love to hear from you. Feel free to say hi on Instagram @laurengrillon or comment below!