Philadelphia: A rural gem close to Cape Town

Posted by Sandra Jasinoski on 21 October 2011

Philadelphia (South Africa) appears to suffer from mistaken identity. I discovered this quaint town a few months ago whilst on a Sunday drive. But when I mentioned Philadelphia to my Capetonian colleagues, I was surprised to hear that they either: (1) had never heard of it, (2) assumed it was an informal settlement, or (3) thought I was referring to Philly, the big city in America. It became obvious that Philadelphia in the southern hemisphere deserved a travel blog.

Situated just off of the N7 on the R304, about 38 km north of Cape Town, Philadelphia offers a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town. It boasts a quiet main street with two cafes and a few art studios, as well as a wonderful restaurant in a restored mill. This quaint town is a great place to relax and unwind on a weekend.

Established in the 1860’s by farmers not wanting to travel great distances to attend church, this historic little town has managed to retain its charming character. Many of the original buildings have been converted into restaurants or little shops. For example, the old post office now houses the charming Stroep Sit Kafee, the general store is now Magic Minerals, and the old mill, is of course, de Malle Meul restaurant. There are also a couple of shops along the main road that sell boutique clothing, crafts, and decor.

Lured by the prospect of buying a beautiful and rare crystal specimen, my first stop on the main street was the Magic Minerals shop. There you can find minerals, crystals and gemstones from all over southern Africa, such as the beautiful emerald-green dioptase, as well as specimens from around the world. However, this shop doesn’t just cater to geologists, the jewellery, gifts and decorations can be appreciated by anyone who has a love for beautiful objects. The friendly, knowledgeable owners and their large orange cat, Orlando, make this a worthwhile stop.

Across the way in the old post office is Stroep Sit Kafee, which serves a wonderful breakfast as you enjoy a view of the quiet main street. An open fire keeps you toasty during those chilly spring mornings, and a refreshingly cool misting system is used during the summer months. You can enjoy jaffles stuffed with a savoury filling, or my personal favourite of French toast topped with ice cream.

If you are in the mood for something more hearty, de Malle Meul, located within the old flour mill, offers a great setting for a Sunday buffet. You can choose from a wide variety of traditional South African dishes and lavish desserts all for only R170. The Sunday buffet, served from noon till 3 pm, is quite popular so it is recommended that you make a reservation. The colourful and somewhat quirky paintings of the local artist Pieter van der Westhuizen adorn the main lounge area, and remnants of the inner workings of this 80+ year old mill are wonderfully preserved. De Malle Meul is also a popular place for conferences and weddings, which are held in the quaint chapel on the upper floor.

You can also enjoy a laid back lunch surrounded by the old horse stables at the Pepper Tree Coffee Shop. In the open courtyard you can sit under a shady tree and watch weaver birds take turns in the bird bath. There is also a lovely art gallery that displays paintings and photographic prints by local artists, and at the neighbouring Philadelphia Pottery you can try your hand at painting your own ceramic pottery (but call beforehand to make arrangements).

The small town of Philadelphia offers the perfect getaway for a weekend outing. Its country hospitality and laid back atmosphere can really help you unwind after a hectic week in the city.

Contact Information

De Malle Meul
Tel: 021 972 1097

Magic Minerals
Tel: 021 972 1139

Peppertree Art Gallery and Coffee Shop
Tel: 021 972 1916

Philadelphia Pottery
Tel: 084 800 7813

Stroep Sit Kafee
Tel: 074 460 3374

For accommodation options in Philadelphia, click here.

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