Franschhoek Dreaming at Akademie Street Boutique Hotel
A myriad number of hospitality awards greet you as you approach the front door of Akademie Street Boutique Hotel in Franschhoek, two of which include TripAdvisor's World's Best Boutique Hotel and World's Most Romantic Hotel – both bestowed last year – and are the newest accolades to join the profusion of achievements garnered since the establishment's opening. A weekend at the hotel solidifies these achievements: it is faultless.
This boon of well-deserved press might be the defining card that draws international visitors to Akademie's front door – a luxury hotel that's as comfortable as it is stylish, and undeniably so with top Cape Town designer Gregory Mellor at the interior's helm. Whether it is the fact that it occupies a whitewashed 19th-century Cape Dutch homestead, located in one of the oldest and quaintest towns in South Africa, or the effortlessly understated and elegant furnishings that instantly transform you to slower, bygone times – not to mention Declan Mackle and his friendly, hospitable team – at Akademie, nothing is overlooked, nothing is too much trouble.
The hotel's Oortuiging building dates to around 1860 and serves as a congenial base from which to explore the historic Franschhoek Winelands; the wine farms, novelty shops that pepper the main street, fine-dining destinations that equally compete on an international level, the cute-as-can-be Saturday morning market, and striking French Huguenot monument and museum that overlooks the town's centre. Each room at Akademie is intricately thought through – finely polished without pretension.
Mellor was involved in all aspects of the design process, from the hotel's decidedly pared-down creative direction to its architectural blueprint, custom furniture design and decor, as well as the import of authentic Russian and French antiques. Rooted in country tradition, the rooms and suites feel like a home away from home (except much, much nicer). Known for its expansive breakfast (naturally, to line your tummy for a full day of wine tasting), the 8am to 10am feast includes seasonal fruit, and continental and full English breakfasts. In the early evening between 6pm and 8pm enjoy cocktails, wine and bubbly in the exceedingly charming glass conservatory deemed 'The Orangerie' while being serenaded fireside (in winter) by a pianist on a vintage grand piano – I'm not even making this up! The remainder of the evening is yours to explore Franschhoek's fine-dining scene as you will.
At Akademie Street Hotel, even the items you'd never deem necessary are considered: a wood-fired hot tub and private pool; beautiful labelling and hand-drawn designs (the hotel's consistent identity); vintage bicycles that you can cycle into 'town' to collect cheese, wine and baguettes; a fully functional country-style kitchen featuring Smeg appliances and a handy pewter French press; libraries and relaxation rooms, and beautiful handpainted murals – even a vintage gramophone (controlled via Bluetooth, of course).
Why the hotel has repeatedly won international awards is entrenched over and over again. Charming in the summer and snug in the winter, it's a destination to visit all year round – an essential addition to your travel bucket list. Akademie Street Boutique Hotel is at 5 Akademie Street, Franschhoek. To make a booking (note they will be closed for three months for their annual mid-winter refurb, reopening in August) and seize available specials