The historical town of Paarl is one of the oldest, most beautiful neighbourhoods in South Africa.
About the area
Surrounded by vineyards, mountains and spectacular views, Paarl is the third oldest settlement in the Cape and well rooted in its history as a farming community, with beautiful buildings lining the 12km Main Street and a wealth of wine estates on its doorstep. “Because Paarl is such an old town, the architecture is pretty spectacular,” says Sam Taylor, who moved here six years ago. “Old Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Cape Dutch buildings, many of which are restored and beautifully maintained, give Paarl a uniquely Cape feel.”
The reputation of its schools and the country lifestyle have attracted many new families over recent years and the town has grown exponentially, but there is still a small-town feel with a backbone of long-term residents who were born and bred in the area, and a strong community vibe sustained by school events, church fetes, food festivals and old-fashioned hospitality. Another attraction for newcomers is the secure estate living complete with golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools, offered by several prestigious new developments such as Val de Vie, Pearl Valley and Boschenmeer, as well as easy access to the N1 for those commuting the 45 minutes to Cape Town or the airport.
It’s an active town with a host of sports facilities – from athletics stadiums to cricket pitches, a canoeing club, cycle tracks and more – but even without organised sports, the outdoors beckon with excellent hiking and mountain biking. Hiking up Paarl Rock isn’t just for tourists; kids love clambering over the granite rocks and family braais or summer picnics here are a must. If a lazy weekend lunch is more your thing, you’re spoilt for choice for neighbouring wine estates with gorgeous views, great food and of course wine, and the town has a growing array of cool coffee shops and stylish shopping including the historical farm building now renovated as Frater Square.
“Living in Paarl affords us the country living kind of lifestyle we enjoy, while still giving us access to anything we may need. The Paarl valley is so beautiful; we are surrounded on all sides by mountains and vineyards and the views are something that we never tire of.” Sam Taylor, resident
Things to do:
- Concerts and stargazing picnics at the Taal Monument
- Hiking up Paarl Rock
- Parkrun at Paarl Arboretum on Saturdays
- Farmers’ Market at Windmeul Winery the first Saturday of the month
- Backsberg Picnic Concerts in summer
- Paarl Boys’ High School
- Paarl Girls’ High school
- Paarl Gimnasium
- La Rochelle Girls’ High School
- Bridge House School
Best in food:
- Pizzeria at Under Oaks Wine Farm: for wood-fired pizzas
- The Goatshed at Fairview: for breakfast, lunch and cheese platters
- Bread & Butter: for coffee and cake
- Kikka: for breakfast, lunch and coffee
- Wilderer Distillery’s Pappa Grappa Ristorante: for Italian and German family food
- Bertus Basson at Spice Route: for authentic South Africa dining
This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.