Skip to main content

The Paarl, Western Cape Province, South Africa

Paarl Mountain

The Paarl Mountain, Western Cape, South Africa

The Paarl Mountain, Western Cape, South Africa

Paarl, only 60 kilometres (37.3 miles) from Cape Town @ Google Maps

Paarl, only 60 kilometres (37.3 miles) from Cape Town @ Google Maps

The Paarl

About 40 minutes drive from Cape Town is a town called the Paarl. Yes, The Paarl.

Afrikaans language rule: When a town or region has the same name as a gross physical feature or landform, we refer to it as 'the'.

Example: We live in the Paarl (the name of the mountain). We live in the Marico (the name of the river), We live in the Cape Province (referring to a specific cape in the sea.)

However, when the landform is named after a person or described with a colour, number, etc., we don’t use the article 'the'.

Example: We live in Stellenbosch. We live in Bloemfontein. We live in Mossel Bay.

Paarl is the Dutch word for pearl. Having an Afrikaans-speaking population of 87%, the residents of the Paarl use the Afrikaans word for 'pearl', which is 'pêrel', pronounced 'pa' (as in Pamela) 'rirl' (as in the 'irl' of girl, but instead of the 'g' in girl, the 'r' in 'pêrel' will be clearly heard - a sound that has to be accomplished in childhood.) The English pronunciation of Paarl is 'paa' (as in the nickname Pa for father) - 'l' (as in the 'rl' of girl).

The Paarl was named after a landform in the region - a granite mountain with three pearl-like rocks at its top. Intruded into the crust of the earth between ± 548 and 488 million years ago, it is the second largest granite outcrop in the world. The original inhabitants, the Khoikhoi and San people, named it the Tortoise Mountain, but for the Dutch the granite rocks looked more like pearls and diamonds. Read more about the Paarl Mountain HERE.

The Paarl is the third oldest European settlement in South Africa, founded by the Dutch governor Simon van der Stel in 1687 - thirty-five years after the first settlement (Cape Town) was founded, and eight years after the second settlement (Stellenbosch).

Today The Main Street of Paarl is considered to be the richest in different architectural styles of any street in South Africa. (I captured most of the buildings in the video below.)

Read more about the history of The Paarl HERE.

Tourist attractions in Paarl



There are many tourist attractions in Paarl and its immediate region. Find a list of them here:

  • More about Drakenstein
    Only 56km from Cape Town, Paarl offers historical charm, culture, architectural heritage, wine and fruit farms, breathtaking scenery and many cycling and nature trails.

Hippopotamus indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa,


Climbing the Paarl Mountain - the second largest granite outcrop in the world

Well aware of Paarl's history, and of current anti-European movements aiming to de-colonize and de-Westernise the country, we decided to climb the Paarl Mountain, or rather only the rock on top of the mountain, from where we will get a proper view on the fertile valley between the Paarl- and Du Toitskloof mountains. Envisioning the region as it was before Westernisation, without orchards, vegetable gardens, vineyards and structures of brick and steel - is quite a challenge.

The Paarl Mountain, including surrounding areas, is a nature reserve since 1977. From the Paarl Rock one looks down on the Berg River (Mountain River), and its man-made dams – the Nantes and Bethel dams. Once upon a time the Berg River was inhabited by thousands of Hippopotamus - a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa. They were extinguished for their meat and hides to such an extent that by the mid-1700's governor Tulbagh introduced a fine of 1000 guilders for anyone caught killing a hippo. After attacking and killing one of his employees, the last known hippo in this region was shot by Martin Melck in 1869. Nowadays hippos are only to be seen in game reserves and in zoos.

The restocking of the indigenous Berg-breede River Whitefish in the Bethel Dam was launched in 2012. Read more about this project HERE.

The Afrikaans Language Monument

Just a few miles from the Paarl Mountain, located on a hill, is the Afrikaans Language Monument. Completed in 1975, this is the only language monument in the world.

Read more about the Afrikaans Language Monument HERE.

Read more about the origin and development of the Afrikaans language HERE.

The Afrikaans Language Monument at Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa

The Afrikaans Language Monument at Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa

Scroll to Continue

Video: Afrikaans Language Monument

The Oude Woning (The Old Home)

The Paarl offers many attractions for the tourist, but having only one day to our disposal, and only half of it left, we headed to one of the oldest buildings in the town - the Oude Woning (The Old House). The original house was built in 1784 by Stephanus Petrus Jordaan in the traditional Cape Dutch architecture of the Afrikaner of those days. After accommodating many families since 1784, including some of my own relatives, it is today a Provincial Heritage Site hosting the Drakenstein Heemkring Archive.

De Oude Woning, 214 MainStreet, Paarl

De Oude Woning, 214 MainStreet, Paarl

De Oude Woning, 214 MainStreet, Paarl

Website of Drakenstein Heemkring Archive

Website of the Drakenstein Heemkring

Website of the Drakenstein Heemkring

The Drakenstein Heemkring Archive

The Drakenstein Heemkring Archive, with all its valuable manuscripts, photographs, books, genealogical records, church registers and research on original Huguenot farms, is a researcher's paradise.

Visit their website HERE.

The Gribble photo collection

One of the rooms in the Oude Woning hosts a precious collection of photos and antique/vintage cameras. Most of the pictures were taken by James (Jimmy) Gribble.

James Gribble (Sr) arrived in Cape Town from Cornwall in 1860. In 1869 he opened a photographic shop at 54 Hanover Street, Cape Town. Twenty years later - in 1888 - his son, James (Jr/Jimmy), set up an "Art Studio" in Market Square, Paarl. Jimmy's son, Harold, followed in his father's footsteps, and thereafter also Harold's daughter, Yvonne. In 1987 Yvonne rented the business out to a non-relative, R Zocher.

The quality of the photos in the Gribble-collection is amazingly 'modern', as if the only shortcoming of those antique cameras was their size.

Read more about early photographers in South Africa HERE.

PM Cross Building, 215 Main Road, Paarl

PM Cross Building, 215 Main Road, Paarl

PM Cross Building, 215 Main Road, Paarl

PM Cross Building, 215 Main Road, Paarl

PM Cross Building, 215 Main Road, Paarl

Strooidakkerk - the church with the thatched roof)

On our way back to Cape Town we lingered in the partly-restored cemetery of the third oldest Dutch Reformed congregation in SA. The first of the 7500 souls buried in this cemetery was laid to rest in 1720.

The cemetery is located on the same premises as the Strooidakkerk (the Afrikaans word for a church with a thatched-roof.) The French Hugenots established the congregation in 1691, but the permanent building, the Strooidakkerk, was only completed in 1805.

For some reason we always enjoy strolling in a graveyard. Confronted by the mortality of not only humans, but of everything on this planet, including the planet, we appreciate life and the present even more.

Cemetery of the Strooidak NGK parsonage, Paarl, South Africa

Cemetery of the Strooidak NGK parsonage, Paarl, South Africa

This is a video of our quick trip to the Paarl Mountain, Afrikaans Language Monument, Paarl Midtown, Oude Woning, the Strooidakkerk, and back to Cape Town. (Mus

Drakenstein Correctional Centre

The Drakenstein Correctional Centre, formerly Victor Verster Prison, is a low-security prison situated between Paarl and Franschhoek. After he had spent most of his 27 years in prison in the maximum security prison on Robben Island, and 6 years in the Pollsmoor Prison, Nelson Mandela was moved to the Victor Verster Prison on 9 December 1988, where he lived in a private house inside the prison compound. On the day of his release - 11 February 1990 - reporters from all over the world surrounded the prison, giving him worldwide publicity.

Monument of Nelson Mandela in front of the Drakenstein Correctional Centre, Paarl, South Africa

Monument of Nelson Mandela in front of the Drakenstein Correctional Centre, Paarl, South Africa


Being the largest town in the Cape Winelands, there are many wineries in an around the Paarl, offering affordable tasting of excellent wines. Most of the wineries have restaurants, while some offers accommodation and tranquil holidays for lovers of mountains and valleys.

Read more of MartieCoetser's travelogues here -

Also read South Africa's history in only 4000 words -


Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on May 27, 2019:

Hi Johan. My son-in-law is a Cilliers. Descendent of the Voortrekker leader, Sarel Cilliers. I am busy updating the Coetzers/Coetser family tree. Would love to know more about the Cilliers. Enjoy the Paarl!

Johan Smulders from East London, South Africa on April 29, 2019:

Amazing article and I have put Paarl on my bucket list .Need to research my family name Cilliers who are from Huguenot stock and lived in that area. Perhaps a visit to the grave yard will be productive. Keep up the good work on South Africa.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on April 07, 2016:

Shyron, I'm so glad you enjoyed this travelogue of the Paarl. The Western Cape province is sure the most beautiful province in SA :)

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on March 13, 2016:

Martie, how beautiful your Paarl is and your pictures are great and beautiful also. I think Africa itself is beautiful. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Blessings my friend.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on March 06, 2016:

Wonderful DDE! How wonderful will it be if we could meet each other? I'm only 2 hours away from Johannesburg, but sadly 2 days from Cape Town...

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on February 24, 2016:

Awesome place! I am going back for a holiday end of this year.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on February 21, 2016:

Oh, Nell, When I win the lottery, I'm going to take you all on a tour of SA. How lovely would that be? In the meantime these travelogues have to do :)

Nell Rose from England on February 14, 2016:

Hi Martie, I came back for another read. I missed so much the first time I read it, I wish I could get on a plane and come over, how lovely would that be? what a lovely country, nell

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on February 11, 2016:

Hi Nadine, climbing the Paarl rock was just as exiting as climbing Trappieskop with you. Unforgettable!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on February 11, 2016:

Hi Flourish! I find cemeteries totally captivating, and I would like to know the reason :) It is not possible to visit all the countries in the world, so, I just love the opportunity to present virtual tours of South Africa, and I love enjoying those presented by others. I'm so glad you enjoy mine :)

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on February 08, 2016:

Great article again. We visited the monument and the Paarl Rock on my birthday two years ago, but the road to Paarl rock is truly shocking. You really need a four wheel drive. But we made it and back and it was well worth it.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 09, 2016:

I love your travel series. I will likely never venture to these parts so I like seeing South Africa through your eyes. I also like cemeteries!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 21, 2015:

Dear Mr B, thank you for taking me where I would never be able to go on my own, and for all your love and patience (while I take thousands of photos). You are MY perfect friend. Love you lots!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 21, 2015:

Suzette, your interest in my country is highly appreciated. I hate the current situation - the high crime rate, too many incompetent, self-centered and dishonest politicians and leaders all over the spectrum, too many poor, unemployed people. But knowing the history, the present seems to be a natural course of events. However, according to the past and the present, the future looks scary. We need a miracle. Maybe more than one. In the meantime we enjoy and appreciate what's right and beautiful. Take care!

Mr B on December 21, 2015:

Dear Beautiful Martie, as always you make me re live our good travel times together. Thank you for being such a good sport to climb the "ROCK" with me. It was a un forgettable experience. Thank you for making time to travel with me my PRFECT FRIEND, L U. :)

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on December 19, 2015:

I thought Paarl would mean pearl. Another fascinating travel log. I am bookmarking these as one day I plan to visit S. Africa. I think the mountain is gorgeous as all the places you depict here. Your photos are beautiful. You have presented S. Africa in such a beautiful way that it has piqued my interest. You have an interesting colonial history and I am intrigued by the Afrikanns language. (I don't know if I have used the correct term there or not.) Thanks so much for sharing your country and its history with us. Just beautiful.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 19, 2015:

Dankie vir jou bydrae, Johann :)

Johann Claassen on December 19, 2015:

Excellent work (and marketing for my town)!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 18, 2015:

Dearest drbj, your comments always mean a lot to me. Thank you so much for your ongoing support and encouragement :)

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 18, 2015:

Alicia, I appreciate the interest my fellow-hubbers show in my country. Although I have so much more to say, I try to keep it short and interesting. For those who want to know more, I insert links to relevant posts. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 18, 2015:

Dear Genna, I'm so glad you enjoy these virtual tours of my country. So next time you taste wine from SA, you will have an idea where it comes from. Paarl is the largest town in the Cape Winelands.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 18, 2015:

Hi, DaveOnline, glad to meet you! This was my first visit to the Paarl. I would love to live anywhere in the Western Cape Province.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 17, 2015:

Your beautiful travelogues, Martie, are enchanting as well as educational. I have learned far more about your beautiful country from you than I could expect. There is no substitute for the passion you project with your descriptive prose and exquisite photography. Thank you for sharing these travel treat treatises with the rest of us.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 16, 2015:

The photos and your video are beautiful, Martie. Thank you so much for sharing another look at your country. Your travel hubs are always very interesting and informative.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on December 16, 2015:

What gorgeous scenery, Martie, and architecture. Your photography is beautiful, and brings so much of this area to your grateful readers; we are virtual travelers of this fascinating country. How this granite Paarl Mountain got its name is interesting; along with the wineries and other points of interest.

David Edward Lynch from Port Elizabeth, South Africa on December 16, 2015:

An informative hub about Paarl; I like all the photos especially those of Cape Dutch buildings. I am also from South Africa and visited Paarl as a child - thanks for sharing.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2015:

Mckbirdbks - South Africa has many different climates and landscapes according to the climates. For example, our province, Kwazulu Natal, is like Florida, and our North-West Province is like Texas. Or so I've been told. Cape Town and immediate regions have a Mediterranean climate, and many mountains and valleys. I am honestly in love with my beautiful country, and sad because too many people take it for granted and even destroy it as far as they go. However, SA is very small comparing to the USA, so I can't even comprehend all the beauty in your neck of the woods. Always good to see you, Mck!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 15, 2015:

bravewarrior - Oh, how I wish I could play piano like that! The pianists is Christa Steyn, one of my very favourites. I am glad you enjoy my travelogues, Sha. Take care :)

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on December 14, 2015:

Hello Martie. I can't imagine how many hours it would take to follow all the links you provide regarding your beautiful country. I enjoyed your video, it added a personal touch. The photo essay is remarkable and enhances your work. I still cannot get over how similar the landscape is here in the Southwest and South Africa. Of course we don't have the Hippo's.

This is another feather in your hat in this South African series. We are all learning so much.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on December 14, 2015:

Martie, I love learning about your country through the travels you share with us. Your video is beautifully presented. Is that you playing piano in the background?

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 14, 2015:

Hi Peg, I'm glad you enjoyed the glimpse ;)

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on December 14, 2015:

Thanks for sharing this in-depth view of your picturesque travel memoir and informational glimpse into this part of the world. Incredible!

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 13, 2015:

MsDora, you will never regret a visit to South Africa. Thanks for your ongoing support :)

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 13, 2015:

Seriously, South Africa is on my wish list. So many attractions and I love the hills in your first picture. Talk about rich history. Thanks for the tour.

Martie Coetser (author) from South Africa on December 13, 2015:

Hi always exploring! Yes, Nelson Mandela was a remarkable man. Sadly, his followers don't even have half of his integrity and vision. Perhaps because they never got so much time to study history and politics - something Nelson Mandela did vigorously while he was in jail.