18 things to do in Paarl

Posted by Rachel Robinson on 1 August 2018

Paarl is home to a diverse range of wineries, but there are plenty of other attractions to keep you entertained. Here are 18 ideas to get you started.

Photo supplied by Paarl Tourism

The first thing most people think of when you say “Paarl” is wine farms or the Spice Route. But did you know that Paarl is not only the third oldest town in South Africa and boasts the longest main street, being 12km long? Paarl is indeed home to a diverse range of wineries, but there are plenty of other attractions to keep you entertained, be it for a day or a weekend. Here are 18 places that we loved to get you started.

1. The Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop and Weaving Studio

Contact: Tel 0847933666, alpacas.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

A visit to the alpacas is a wonderful and affordable day out for the whole family. Apart from having fun feeding the feisty alpacas, they do an Alpaca Barn Tour daily at 11:00 and 15:00 and you can also take an alpaca for walk! Just hold thumbs that they don’t spit on you – although they tend to do this to each other more than on humans! They also have camels (dromedaries) that have been regularly used in film shoots and adverts. You will also spot a llama or two!

Kids will love the play area which parents can keep an eye on from the coffee shop where they serve hot and cold beverages, cakes and croissants, along with pies and sandwiches. While you are there you can watch talented local ladies weave beautifully soft scarves, blankets and rugs, which are available to purchase from the coffee shop. They also have some rather cute toys, including alpacas and zebras, that even big kids will want to take home! This family-run business is well worth a visit and they are open daily from 10:00.

2. Amberg Art & Kitchen

Contact: Tel 0716446938, ambergartandkitchen.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

A Swiss-style house is not something you often see in the Cape winelands, so Amberg Art & Ktchen, found along the Du Toitskloof Pass, is something a little out of the ordinary. While the original owners were Swiss, the new owners are Austrian so you can expect some Austrian specialties on the menu. Peter and Klarisa have both worked for well-known establishments in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek before taking over Amberg a few months ago, so you can expect really good food in a warm and cheerful setting, surrounded by artworks by local artists.

They serve breakfasts, light meals, lunches and dinner, along with a kiddies menu. I can recommend the Austrian Ravioli and their Zwiebelrostbraten – tender grilled beef served with green beans wrapped in bacon and Bratkartoffeln with an onion-thyme sauce. If you have room, their desserts are delicious too! Amberg are open on Tuesday to Sunday from 09h00 for breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks, while dinner is available from 18:00 from Tuesday to Saturday. The restaurant is small so to ensure a seat it’s best to make a booking. They are also pet-friendly by arrangement.

3. Berg River Brewery

Contact: Tel 0218711390, bergriverbrewery.co.za

When I visited Berg River Brewery on a Saturday afternoon everything was a abuzz with preparations for a wedding reception. Despite this, they were only too happy to take myself and a friend through a beer tasting, which included four of their brews. Being in an industrial park, it’s quite fitting that everything has an industrial feel from the tasting room to their labels, which I thought were fabulously steam-punk in style! This craft beer brewery has been operating since 2015 and was started by two friends who both shared a love of beer and food. Apart from crafting their artisanal beers, they also built the taproom themselves and it’s a relaxed, fun spot close to the Berg River to enjoy a few bevvies.

In addition to beer on tap, there’s a small snack menu with burgers, chicken salad, chicken nuggets and nachos. They often have live bands and quiz nights, with all events being advertised on their Facebook page. Plus you can host private events there (like a wedding reception).

They are open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 09:00 and their Kristal Weizz (a low-alcohol, German-style beer) makes for a very good breakfast beer!

4. Mellasat Vineyards

Contact: Tel 0218624525, mellasat.com

Photo by Rachel Robinson

When you arrive at Mellasat, the first thing you’ll notice is the original farmhouse built in 1858, which is also part of the original cellar. Take note of the brookie lace as you’ll find it on their wine labels too. Mellasat is a very hands-on farm and it’s not uncommon for the chef to be rolling up his sleeves to lend a hand to bottling while the owner can be seen driving the farm tractor. Apart from vineyards, they also have guava orchards and produce their own delicious guava chutney!

Mellasat are mostly famous for their white Pinotage, which started in 2007 as an experiment. The barrel sold out at a wine show and now they only produce white Pinotage, having phased out red Pinotage in 2011. However, the most intriguing part of the farm for me was their Graveyard of Forgotten Wines, which can be found in the cellar when you do a Cellarmaster’s Reserve Tasting. It’s a collection of 400 odd wines dating back to 1946 and it’s loads of fun trying to locate a bottle that was produced in your birth year. If you have any very aged wine lurking about in your home somewhere, do donate it to their graveyard!

Apart from enjoying a wine tasting or wine pairing, along with snooping through dusty old wine bottles, you can also tuck into a cheese and charcuterie platter, book a picnic basket or book for their Burger Day, held on Saturday and Sunday every third weekend of the month where you can tuck into a wild boar burger or salmon burger. Currently it’s R219 for two burgers of your choice with a bottle of wine from the Dekkers Valley range.

They are open daily for tastings from 09:30, but bookings are essential for the Cellarmaster’s Reserve Tasting, burger weekend, platters and picnic baskets.

5. The Taal Monument

Contact: Tel 0218630543, taalmuseum.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

My Afrikaanse is nothing short of appalling, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t welcome at this impressive monument to the language – in fact they are even kind enough to translate most things into English. The Afrikaans Language Monument was designed by architect Jan van Wijk who found his inspiration in the round granite rocks in Paarl and the words of two Afrikaans authors, NP van Wyk Louw and CJ Langenhoven. Building work started in 1972 and was completed by the end of 1974. The result is a magnificent architectural feat that is really worth seeing when you are in Paarl. If you like architectural photography it’s perfect for that, but if it’s the history that interests you then you can join one of their guided tours.

Otherwise simply take a walk and take in the amphitheatre and enjoy views over the Groot Drakensteinberge, Simonsberg, Klapmutskop and Tafelberg mountains. There are poetry displays (in Afrikaans and not translated) and you can enjoy a picnic on the surrounding lawns (they also host full moon picnics and stargazing picnics). When you are finished exploring, pop into their coffee shop, which also boasts impressive views over the valley and is a peaceful spot to enjoy a simple breakfast or a light meal while the kids have fun in the play area. The monument is open daily from 08:00 and it’s worth noting that entrance is free on your birthday – simply take along your ID.

6. Bean in Love Coffee House and Roasteria

Contact: Tel 0218720987, beaninlove.co.za

Photo from Facebook page

While I didn’t personally visit Bean in Love, according to a Paarl local, this is a good spot to get your caffeine fix. Situated in a historic building with three open plan levels it’s a relaxing spot to sip on a cup of quality roasted coffee with beans coming from Guatemala, El Salvador and Columbia to name a few.

They serve hearty breakfasts and light meals, including sandwiches, quiches, burgers, fish cakes, wraps and pizza, along with cakes and treats. There is also a salad bar if you are looking for a healthy alternative. The deli stocks local delicacies, including Ryan Boon speciality meats and Oak Valley pork products. Bean in Love is open from Monday to Saturday.

7. Ridgeback Wines

Contact: Tel 0218698988, ridgebackwines.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

As you would expect, there are Ridgebacks at this family wine estate, but what you may not know is that they also have over 25 species of waterfowl, so birding enthusiasts will be in their element. Ducks, geese and swans serenely glide along the dam that surrounds the Deck Restaurant and children will love feeding the greedy Koi fish!

Originally a fruit farm, Ridgeback Wines now have a range of 19 wines (including MCC) and also grow olives. The best part is that no matter your budget, there is bound to be a wine that you’ll enjoy as they are proud of the fact that all their wines are good wines! Their platters are also excellent and perfect for sharing while you do a wine tasting. If you are looking for something more substantial they offer breakfasts and light meals. Ridgeback Wines are open seven days a week and they offer stylish accommodation options if you want to extend your visit.

8. Kikka Coffee Shop and Florist

Contact: Tel 0218720685, kikka-coffeeflorist.com

Photo from Facebook page

This bright and cheerful establishment along the main road in Paarl is well-loved by locals and it’s easy to see why. Who doesn’t love vibrant colours, comfy couches, beautiful flowers and good food! Apart from coffee, cake and healthy, comforting homemade meals, Kikka is also a florist, with flower arrangements available to order and for delivery. They can also be added to Kikka’s food and gift hampers so you can order a birthday present while you wait for your coffee.

You can pop in for a cup of coffee (beans are sourced from Terbodore’s Franschhoek Roastery) and a slice of cake (made from preservative-free wheat sourced from a nearby farm), or opt for something more substantial. Their menu includes a variety of breakfast options while lunch sees pancakes, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes, burgers and wraps. They also serve wine alongside smoothies and fresh fruit juices. Expect to take a while deciding what to have! Kikka are open Mondays to Saturdays.

9. Blacksmith Kitchen at Pearl Mountain Wines

Contact: Tel 0218701550, pearlmountain.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

The down-to-earth Retief family have lived on Pearl Mountain since 1873 and their restaurant, Blacksmith Kitchen (originally a blacksmith’s cottage in 1747) is the perfect place to enjoy a glass or two of Pearl Mountain wine and a delicious meal, while taking in the views of the Berg River Valley. You can also opt to do a wine tasting of their wines in the restaurant or the tasting room.

Pearl Mountain wines are made from wines grown on the farm are divided into the Stubborn Man range and the Retief range. I particularly like the fun Stubborn Man range that contains the fruits of the family stubbornness! The more serious Retief range includes a wooded Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Merlot and a Shiraz which pair perfectly with a fine dinner at their restaurant.

Blacksmith Kitchen has a cosy fireplace for chilly winter nights and a lovely outside area under trees that overlooks the vineyards and valley for summer days and nights. The kitchen is kept well-supplied with their vegetable patch, which I was rather envious of after being treated to a tour that went on a little longer than it should’ve, due to my interest in vegetable gardening! After my tour and wine tasting I tucked into a delicious wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil and topped with shimeji mushrooms and parmesan shavings, but one can choose from antipasti boards, cheesboards and wood-fired pizza, along with a selection of starters main courses, salads and desserts. Blacksmith Kitchen is open from Tuesday to Sunday and is well worth a visit. It’s popular, so best to make a booking to avoid disappointment.

10. Paarl Heritage Walk

Contact: Tel 0659058197, paarlhistoricaltours.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

The best way to see and learn about the third oldest permanent settlement in South Africa is to take a walk and there’s no better person to accompany you than Hybrè van Niekerk, who is very proud of the fact that she was born in the same year as the Taal Monument! She’s part of history herself!

Hybrè shares her passion for Paarl, its buildings and its people on a 1km walk along the main road. The walk takes just over two hours and will have you hearing interesting stories and learning fascinating historical facts while taking in manor houses, slave churches and the oldest remaining working well in town. I loved visiting Zeederberg Square where the wagons from Wellington would outspan the night before church, hearing about Reverend Gottlieb Wilhelm van der Lingden who locked the church doors and stopped the trains running during his sermons and how Paarl manufactured most of the wagons during the Gold Rush, along with learning the difference between Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and Cape Dutch houses. You’ll also learn about the famous oak trees that line the streets and visit the Ladies Bar in the historical Zomerlust Guesthouse where Abraham Pieter de Villiers had his famous brandy tap installed (it’s still there) and the only place where Paarl Rock Brandy is served. Tours are by appointment and they are a wonderful way to get to know one of the best-preserved towns in South Africa.

11. Jenny’s Home Cooking Experience

Contact: Tel 0218726104/ 0829255212, or visit her Facebook page

Dine with a local family in the town of Paarl, where Jenny Cloete and her family will share with you their love for people, the community and food in the comfort of their home, while giving you a taste of traditional South African cuisine. I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with this family, where we tucked into butternut soup with fresh bread, Cape Malay bobotie, with pumpkin fritters and rice, with a rich Malva pudding for dessert. We all sat around the table and chatted about our different lives and then moved to the lounge to watch the football. A real family affair, complete with a request to let them know that I was home safe when I left.

Jenny offers a choice of starters, mains and dessert, including Smoor Snoek, waterblommetjie bredie (in season) and milk tart or koeksisters. Please note that booking is essential and 48 hours notice is preferable.

12. Tea Under The Trees

Contact: Tel 072 871 9103, teaunderthetrees.co.za

Photo from website

Situated in a working farm along the main road in Paarl, Tea Under the Trees is a rather special experience where you are likely to have found that a few hours have quietly passed by while you have been enjoying absolute peace and tranquility. You are welcome to pop in and have a walk around and they welcome small groups for photo shoots.

In addition to exploring the beautifully kept gardens, you can shop for plants in their nursery, including succulents, herbs and vegetable seedlings, and browse through vintage items and trinkets in their antique shop, where new goods arrive on a weekly basis. Unfortunately the restaurant side of things has closed down, but you can order home-bakes (48 hours notice), including cheesecake, lemon meringue, milk tart, brownies, scones and quiches.

13. Knus Karoo Kombuis

Contact: Tel 0218768008, knus.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

The Karoo Kombuis is owned and run by two sisters who were brought up in the Karoo and is built on fond memories of eating pancakes at the Bazaar, picking apricots off the trees and tucking into grandma’s freshly baked breads. They serve light Karoo-inspired meals, including pancakes and roosterkoek, along with cakes and treats served with coffee or a glass of wine. The gift shop has products that are either produced in the Karoo or inspired by the Karoo, including rusks, jams, soaps and ceramics.

Roosterkoek is the main menu item here, being served with blltong, camembert and green fig preserve; poached eggs with salmon and Hollandaise sauce; Karoo wors with roasted cabbage and fried mushrooms; and roasted butternut and beetroot with feta and peppadews, to mention a few. I opted to have a chicken and mayonnaise pannekoek which didn’t’ disappoint, but the clear favourite here is the Broodlose Burger – a homemade Karoo beef patty served with mushrooms, roasted peppers, aubergine, baby marrows, caramelized onions, cream cheese and bone marrow. Almost every second order coming out of the kitchen was this dish, so it must be as good as it looks! They are open from Mondays to Saturdays and on the weekend it’s a popular spot for kitchen teas and baby showers, so it may be best to book if you want to make sure you get a table.

14. Fairview Wine and Cheese

Contact: Tel 0218632450, fairview.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Most people know about Fairview, but did you know that Fairview was born out of a humble butchery? An immigrant from Lithuania, Charles Back landed on our shores in 1902 and after working at the docks, took up a position as a butcher’s assistant. He then went on to open his own butchery in Paarl and as business boomed, he bought two farms, one of which being Fairview. Charles’ grandson, also Charles, now owns and runs Fairview and is responsible for the famous goats, along with introducing Mediterranean grapes such as Viognier, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah to the Cape. Charles began to make artisanal cheese, which is something you’ll find a lot of in Fairview’s deli!

The goats are probably the main attraction at Fairview (even the hedges are shaped into goat shapes) but there’s so much to do at this farm that it’s not surprising that it receives so many visitors, both local and international. Visitors can enjoy wine tastings, wine pairings and elegant Master Tastings and wine tutoring, along with purchasing jams, free-range eggs, artisanal breads and free range meat from the Deli. Naturally you’ll also find plenty of Fairview cheese – they have a range of over 50 cow’s milk and goat’s milk cheeses! If you are feeling peckish, The Goatshed has a menu consisting of farm-to-plate dishes, including breakfasts, lunches, light meals and cakes. I can heartily recommend the lamb shank pie! Twice a month they also host Food & Wine Evenings, being a four-course meal paired with wine. Fairview is open daily from 09:00 and is a must-see when you are in Paarl, whether it’s for the goats, the cheese, the food or the wine!

15. Discover local arts and crafts

Contact: Tel 0728724842

If you like art, there is no shortage of artists and galleries in Paarl. Pick up a map at the Information Centre along the main road and prepare to be overwhelmed with the choices!

From cloth dolls to fine art and mosaics, to antiques, glassware, sculptures and recycled items, there’s definitely something for everyone. Some of the studios also offer classes from fine art to mosaics and decorative art.

16. Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm

Contact: Tel 0218631142, lebonheurcrocfarm.co.za

Photo from Facebook page

This crocodile farm on the outskirts of Paarl is perfect for both families and the adventure-seeking person. They have crocodile tours every 45 minutes on daily basis which will see you walking across open dams via ramps to visit over 300 crocodiles. You can also view the crocodiles underwater through aquarium-style viewing panels and in the summer months you can watch them being fed. Those looking for a bit more of a thrill can do a crocodile cage dive, also available on a daily basis. Plus there’s a snake park where you can see indigenous and exotic snakes, with snake shows on weekends.

When you start feeling peckish, you can tuck into a homemade crocodile pie or enjoy a pizza from their pizzeria which overlooks a waterfront garden with a safe play area for children. Pre-booked picnic baskets are also available, along with braai areas by the dam.

17. Goede Hoop Butchery

Contact: 0218632965, goedehoopvleis.co.za

It may seem strange to include a butchery, but this family-owned business has a sterling reputation with the locals and judging by the queues inside on a Saturday morning, they are the place to go if you need to get some meat for your braai when staying in Paarl.

The Van Tonder family has been in the meat industry since the 1950s and they foresee this tradition will continue through the generations. They supply many of the best restaurants in and around the Boland and the Cape Peninsula and also offer a complete venison processing service for hunters during the hunting season. You’ll find top quality meats, from beef to Namibian lamb, and pork chops to boerewors. They also supply hampers, including a 10kg braai hamper. They are open every day of the week from 08:00.

18. Under Oaks Farm

Contact: Tel 0218698045 (tastings) / 0218698962 (pizzeria), underoaks.co.za

Photo by Rachel Robinson

Without a doubt, the best pizza in town! The locals say so and I can definitely vouch for their delicious wood-fired pizzas which can be enjoyed in their charming courtyard overlooking the dam and Hereford cow herd (you may also spot Babe, their potbelly pig). In addition they offer platters, pasta dishes and salads, along with gluten-free and banting options. Apart from their famous pizzas, Under Oaks also produces some fine wines and their tasting room (complete with a charming ginger cat called Tammy) is open from Tuesday to Sunday. If you fancy a little more than just a tasting, do enquire about their wine pairings which change according to the season.

If you like a good story, Under Oaks has a rather interesting history. Ansela van Bengale was one of 11 slaves that arrived in the Cape from North East India and after working for Jan van Riebeek, she was one of the first slaves in the Cape to be set free in 1666. In 1668, Ansela married Arnoldus Willem Basson and they had seven children. When Arnoldus died, Ansela inherited handsomely and in 1706 she acquired the farm Honswyk, now Under Oaks. It was bought by the current owners in 2004.

If you really want to splash out, then book a stay in one of their suites overlooking the dam, vineyards and mountains. Getaway were hosted for two nights at Under Oaks in a Luxury Room and it was luxurious indeed, complete with the best linen and a patio with comfy wicker chairs from which to take in the start of a day on a working wine farm. Breakfast is included in the tariff and includes a seasonal buffet and a hot dish of the day, enjoyed in the charming Manor House.

Photo by Rachel Robinson


Published July 2018

Is there anything special you love about Paarl? Let us know in the comments below.

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