Whilst Franschhoek gets most of the acclaim when it comes to South African wine country, it’s far from being a town in isolation. In fact, just a short drive in each direction reveals a variety of other charming villages and towns, each of which boasts its own distinct character.
Just twenty minutes north of Franschhoek is one of South Africa’s oldest towns. Founded in 1687, Paarl is probably best known for its scorching summer heat, as well as its established resident wineries like KWV and Nederburg, which date back centuries.
While it’s not quite as quaint, nor as subtly sophisticated as its southerly counterpart, Paarl has a charm all its own, and is home to plenty of exquisite restaurants, wineries and leisure activities that make it a destination well worth visiting.
Here are a few reasons to hop on the R45 and pay Paarl (or ‘die Perel’ as it’s affectionately known by locals) a visit:
Score a hole in one
Paarl is home to two of the Boland’s best golf courses, both within easy reach of Franschhoek. Jack Nicklaus-designed Pearl Valley offers up a breathtaking course deep in the heart of the valley, while the Paarl Golf Club at Boschenmeer Estate is home to 27 spectacular holes, all of which boast sweeping panoramic mountain views.
Paarl Golf Club: 021 863 1140
Pearl Valley: 021 867 8045
Celebrate local heritage
Visible from pretty much every angle in Paarl, the Afrikaans Taal Monument sits high above the town, its distinct spires an iconic landmark of a town steeped in Afrikaans history. Take a walk through this fascinating structure, exploring the region’s heritage and the development of the Afrikaans language, and make sure to take a walk through the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, which offers spectacular views across the valley as far as Table Mountain.
Experience the terroir
Paarl is home to some of South Africa’s oldest and most established wine farms, among them KWV and Nederburg. The former offers a variety of interesting cellar tours and tasting experiences, whilst the latter’s sprawling grounds and award-winning blends make it well worth the trip. If you’re after more contemporary tastes, head to Avondale Winery, where you’ll be able to sample what’s widely regarded as the country’s finest MCC.
Wine and Dine
Franschhoek might be known for its foodie culture, but Paarl isn’t far behind when it comes to impressive culinary offerings. If it’s fine dining you’re after, make sure to book a table at Bosman’s at Grande Roche Hotel, where you’ll be able to savour local flavours with a full view of the spectacular Roodeberg. For more casual, but equally spectacular options, try Noop in the oak and jacaranda-lined Main Road, or tuck into a gourmet pizza at the Blacksmith’s Kitchen.