Less than an hour's drive from Cape Town and its golden beaches,
lies another one of the Cape's gems … or rather, pearls.
In 1657 Abraham Gabemma set out inland to search
for new meat resources. It was after a rainstorm when he saw a mountain
in the distance, with a giant granite rock which glistened like
a wet pearl in the sun. He named the mountain "Peerleberg"
(Pearl Mountain), which later became Paarl Mountain and the town
that evolved at its base was named Paarl.
It was 30 years after the discovery of this fertile
valley that farms were given to pioneers, shortly before the arrival
of the Huguenots in 1688. The pioneers started with their work and
in 1699 the first water mill was put to use. The first church, the
"Strooidak Kerk" (Thatch Roof Church) was consecrated
in 1805, and today it is the oldest church building still in use.
The gables are regarded as the most attractive of their kind to
The Old Parsonage "De Oude Pastorie"
was built in 1787 and is one of the most precious architectural
treasures of Paarl, situated below the impressive "Toringkerk"
(Tower Church). It was bought by the municipality in 1937 to celebrate
the 250th anniversary of the arrival of the Huguenots, and today
houses the Oude Pastorie Museum, which displays an interesting collection
of Cape Dutch furniture and silver and copperware.
Another museum well worth a visit is the Paarl
Museum. The original building was used to accommodate eleven ministers
from the Strooidak Kerk between 1715 and 1872. In 1872 the property
was sold to the Thom family and remained in their possession until
1924. It was then used as a boys' hostel by Paarl Gymnasium High
School, until it was purchased by the Paarl Town Council. The building
was renovated in 1939 and opened as the Huguenot Museum. The name
changed in 1969 to the Old Parsonage Museum, and again on March
1st, 1995 to its present name, the Paarl Museum.
The museum focuses on the history of Paarl and
displays a fascinating collection of Cape Antiques, artefacts, documents
and photographs, which reflect the cultural diversity and development
of the town.
Although Paarl is not the oldest town after Cape
Town, it did have a significant influence on South Africa's history.
In 1840 it became the first town to have a municipality. Paarl was
the major supplier of wagons and played an important role in the
Great Trek, which led to the discovery of the rest of the country.
The intriguing Afrikaans Language Monument was inaugurated on the
10th of October 1975, to represent the influence that the residents
of Paarl had on the development of the Afrikaans Language.
Paarl is surrounded by a naturally beautiful countryside,
dotted with many farms and smallholdings. Few towns are blessed
with a landscape this dramatic, where the massive granite mountain
contrasts with its picturesque fynbos vegetation, the famous Paarl
Rock set among ancient wild olives, rock candle woods and wagon
trees. Paarl Mountain offers several viewpoints, from where you
have a panoramic view towards Table Mountain and the sea in the
west, and the Boland Mountain ranges in the east.
Visitors to Paarl are presented with a vast variety
of attractions, scenic drives and hiking trails, wine tasting opportunities
and outstanding dining possibilities. Outdoor entertainment includes
daring 4x4 trails, mountain-biking through the hills, invigorating
hikes through the mountains followed by picnics at a sparkling mountain
stream, or trout or bass catching to provide a fantastically fresh
dinner. Experience the vastness of the vineyards and fynbos on horseback,
or enjoy a birds-eye-view of Paarl Mountains granite pearls from
a hot-air balloon. Paarl boasts its own exquisite golf course, and
a really special treat is the amazing world of butterflies, crocodiles
and snakes which awaits you just outside this lovely town.
Paarl and its wines
is well known for its excellent wines
Paarl proudly accommodates the Headquarters of the South African
wine industry, the Co-operative Wine Grower's Association, better
known as the KWV. The KWV is a South African institution whose unique
achievements and top quality wines and spirits have earned it an
outstanding international reputation.
Paarl Vintners is an all-encompassing organisation
that has established Paarl as one of the leading wine regions in
the world. Since its inception, the organisation has made a significant
impact, not only in the Paarl region, but also in the broader wine
world. Some achievements are the first Braille Wine Route guide
to assist blind wine lovers, the establishment of a wine-tasting
competition for cellar workers and the arrangement of educational
and specialist wine seminars.
Paarl and its immediate vicinity boast enough wine
cellars and estates to justify its own wine route. Wine cellars
on the Paarl Wine Route include:
- Boland Wine Cellar, with its charming new, underground tasting
- De Zoete Inval, which has become a popular meeting place for
family, friends and visitors. Cheese and cheese pastry are served
in between exceptional wines.
- The KWV - apart from producing wines and spirits of internationally
renowned quality, the KWV also sponsors the annual Berg River
Canoe Marathon, which takes place in September and attracts participants
from near and far.
- Laborie Estate, which serves elegant wines and divine traditional
dishes in a stylish restaurant, where the splendour of the Paarl
Valley stretches away in an incredible vista.
- Nederburg, located on the northern end of Paarl and the setting
for the fabulous Nederburg Wine Auction each year during April.
This event is considered a highlight on the International wine
calendar that attracts wine lovers from around the globe. The
Auction takes place over two days and main features include an
international guest speaker, a trend-setting fashion show and,
of course, the auction itself.
- Fairview, a unique experience - peacocks scatter as you drive
past the famous goat tower. The tasting room is warm and welcoming,
and a large selection of fine wines and delicious cheeses tempt
the palate. Fairview not only produces award-winning wines, but
also Jersey milk Brie and Camembert, as well as a wide variety
of Italian and French style goats and sheep's cheeses.
The wine estates that belong to the wine route
arrange tours for visitors and provide an opportunity to meet the
wine makers in person, to sample their produce and to purchase these
excellent, nationally and internationally acclaimed red and white
Other attractions in Paarl
- The Wine Route Ostrich Farm in Paarl offers a fun day, filled
with activities such as watching Emus and white Ostriches on show,
walking the guided tour and cooing over ostrich chicks. Enjoy
speciality dishes such as ostrich or crocodile steak at the restaurant,
or request a spitbraai with a live Marimba band as entertainment.
- The Paarl Rock Brandy Cellar was founded by the De Villiers
brothers in 1856. Since then, their exquisite brandy has been
awarded more than 200 medals and awards, at both local and international
shows - an achievement unrivalled by any other South African brandy!
- The Wagonmaker's Museum tells of one of the most prosperous
industries in historic Paarl. Wagon making developed from a number
of one-man workshops into a full industry with large factories.
Especially during the Anglo Boer War and the years following that,
the factories worked around the clock to meet the demands. However,
after 1914 and with the advent of the motor car era, the wagon
making industry declined very rapidly. The museum preserves the
glory of these romantic days and is well worth a visit.
- Another special treat is Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm, situated
just south of Paarl. The farm is home to more than 1,000 crocodiles,
and the daily guided tours are both educational and entertaining.
After being awed by these prehistoric creatures, visitors can
capture the memory in a souvenir from the curio shop, or enjoy
the farm's speciality crocodile pie at the cafeteria.
- . . . and much, much more !!!
Paarl has so much to offer - a magnificent countryside,
five mountain passes, a bounty of fruit orchards and beautiful vineyards,
with the Berg River winding its way through and giving life to this
fertile valley. Add to this a rich cultural heritage and diversity
of historic buildings throughout the town, balanced by top-modern
architecture and amenities. Excellent dining and exquisite wines,
friendly people and a transcending feeling of tranquillity - be
sure to experience all this for yourself!