The Spice Route and wine farms are the first things most people think of when Paarl is mentioned. 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, writes Rachel Robinson from Getaway.
Here are 9 places that we loved to get you started.
1. The Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop and Weaving Studio
Contact: Tel 0847933666, alpacas.co.za
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 hourly Alpaca Barn Tour daily from 11:00 where you can also take an alpaca for a 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!
The play area is perfect! Parents can keep an eye on the kids from the coffee shop while they indulge in a hot or cold beverage, cake, croissant, pie, or sandwich. 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 9:30am to 5:30pm.
2. Amberg Art & Kitchen
Contact: Tel 0716446938, ambergartandkitchen.co.za
A Swiss-style house is not something you see very often in the Cape winelands, so Amberg Art & Kitchen, 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 years 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 is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 10pm. 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 abuzz with preparations for a wedding reception. Despite this, they were only too happy to take me 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).
Due to COVID-19 regulations, they are only open on Friday and Saturdays from 10am and their Kristal Weizz (a low-alcohol, German-style beer) makes for a very good breakfast beer!
4. The Taal Monument
Contact: Tel 0218630543, taalmuseum.co.za
My Afrikaans is nothing short of appalling, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t welcome at this impressive monument. 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 8am to 5pm and it’s worth noting that entrance is free on your birthday – simply take along your ID. Entry for adults is R40, R10 for registered students (bring student card along), and kids under the age of 18.
5. Bean in Love Coffee House and Roasteria
Contact: Tel 0218720987, beaninlove.co.za
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 specialty meats and Oak Valley pork products. Bean in Love is open from Monday to Friday from 07:00 to 17:00, and Saturday from 8am to 2pm.
6. Ridgeback Wines
Contact: Tel 0218698988, ridgebackwines.co.za
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 grows 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.
7. Kikka Coffee Shop and Florist
Contact: Tel 0218720685, kikka-coffeeflorist.com
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 is open from Mondays to Fridays (07:00 to 17:00) and Saturdays from 8am to 3pm.
8. Paarl Heritage Walk
Contact: Tel 0659058197, paarlhistoricaltours.co.za
The best way to see and learn about the third oldest permanent settlement in South Africa is to take a walk. There’s no better person to accompany you than Hybrè van Niekerk, who is very proud to be 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 and slave churches. 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.
9. Jenny’s Home Cooking Experience
Contact: Tel 0218726104/ 0829255212, or visit her Facebook page
Dine with Jenny Cloete and her family as they share 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.