A little way up the road from Franschhoek and across the thundering N1, Paarl (‘The Pearl’) lies in the shadow of an impressive cluster of massive 500-million-year-old granite boulders. On the same slopes is the Taal Monument, piercing the sky in symbolic salute to the Afrikaans language. This strong Afrikaans influence flows down the hill into the town itself and is reflected in rich Cape Dutch architecture along the main street, and in local contemporary culture. Apart from Victor Verster just up the road – where Madiba spent his final prison years before stepping out to an uncertain future – accommodation in Paarl comes mainly in the form of garden granny flats and fancy guesthouses, which the tourism office can tell you more about. Out of town though, there are one or two value options, but surprisingly, not much more than that.
Things To Do
- Paarl has a textured architectural heritage, most of it packed into a tight town-centre radius and combining striking examples of Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian styles. If one building looks like any other to you, book a walking tour at the tourism office.
- For further cultural thrill whip through the Paarl Museum, then nip up to the Afrikaans Language Monument.
- Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve is dominated by the enormous granite triplets: Paarl, Bretagne and Gordon. The 360-degree views of the Peninsula and Boland are impressive and the reserve has picnic spots, scenic drives, trout dams, walks and a diversity of fynbos. Avoid on hot summer or windy days.
- Introduce the kids to real live animals: 136 feathered species at the Paarl Bird Sanctuary; cheetah, buck and zeedonk (cross between a zebra and a donkey!) at Wiesenhof; 40 different species of slippery creatures at Die Vonds Snake Centre; and then, for the crunchy climax, 200 spine-chilling Nile crocodiles at Le Bonheur.
- Paarl satisfies most gourmet yearnings. Perched at the top of the rostrum on price and reputed standard, Bosman’s is housed in the Grand Roche Hotel and offers European fare and elaborate service. Several of the surrounding wine estates also have good restaurants, among them Rhebokskloof, while further down the food chain, Paarl itself sports a useful mix of coffee shops and grill houses.
- Pop John Platter into pocket and set a new world record for the number of wine farms visited in one morning. There are 30-plus or so estates dotted around the town. Fairview, Laborie and Rhebokskloof are a good introduction and among our favourites.
- Sporting opportunities around Paarl include canoeing on the Berg River, golf, hiking in the Du Toits Kloof mountains, and horse trails. Paarl’s tourism office is itching to tell you more.
Like your friendly host says, "Mooi Bly is not a 5-Star hotel, but it's very nice and peaceful for those who like to be in the countryside between vineyards and a beautiful garden." On offer at...
Where You'll Also Find Us
Arniston (Waenhuiskrans) • Barrydale • Baviaanskloof • Betty's Bay • Bonnievale • Bredasdorp • Caledon • Calitzdorp • Cape Agulhas & Struisbaai • Cape Peninsula & Surrounds • Cape St Francis & St Francis Bay • Ceres • Citrusdal • Clanwilliam & Cederberg • Colesberg • Darling • De Rust • Elands Bay • Gansbaai • George • Grabouw & Elgin Valley • Greyton • Hermanus • Hogsback • Jozi and Surrounds • Knysna • Ladismith • Malgas • Matjiesfontein • McGregor • Montagu • Mossel Bay • Napier • Oudtshoorn • Paarl • Plettenberg Bay • Port Elizabeth • Porterville • Pringle Bay, Betty's Bay and Kleinmond • Riebeek West & Riebeek-Kasteel • Robertson • Rustenburg • St Helena Bay • Stanford • Stilbaai • Sutherland • Swellendam • Tulbagh • Velddrif • Vermaaklikheid • Wellington • Wilderness • Worcester & Hex Valley • Yzerfontein