WORDS: KIT HEATHCOCK IMAGES: NATASHA LASSEN
The ever-growing town of Paarl has become a magnet for families relocating from elsewhere in South Africa, who enjoy all the ingredients of small-town living, close enough to Cape Town and the airport for convenience.
“A reason I love living in Paarl is that I feel safe,” says Nikki Küstner, who moved here ﬁve years ago. “There’s still a feeling of freedom in the town. My daughter and her friends watch movies at our tiny theatre or go to coffee shops. Paarl is quiet, everything is in close proximity, and traffic is not an issue.”
Despite its growth – in the business arena as well as residential – Paarl remains a small farming town at heart, its ﬂourishing wine and fruit-growing valley still the pulse of the community. “I absolutely love the mountains, vineyards, great restaurants, beautiful historic buildings and the fact the airport is only 40 minutes away. However, it’s the people that live here and the incredible sense of community that makes my heart beat with warmth,” says Marie-Louise Laubscher.
Wiwe Pretorius experienced that same warmth when they bought a wine farm here 30 years ago. “You’re only a ‘Paarliet’ after having lived here for at least 20 years, they told me. We were warmly welcomed by the farming community, and I’m proud to say I belong in Paarl now. We chose this superb town because of its rural beauty and incredibly rich heritage, but really, we just fell in love!”
Whether you’re looking for a heritage Victorian home with a large garden in the historic centre, a newly-built luxury home in a secure estate, an affordable apartment or small house in a quiet residential area, a small farm or a retirement property, Paarl really does have something for everyone.
Upmarket lifestyle estate living has become the focus for many new developments. Luxury estates such as Val de Vie, Boschenmeer and Pearl Valley are considered an integral part of Paarl now, with their golf facilities and scenic setting along the Berg River.
Paarl Girls High, La Rochelle, Paarl Boys High, and Paarl Gimnasium all have a rich history of tradition, along with their associated primary schools, and are a big part of Paarl’s attraction for families. “All the schools in Paarl are good. They individually serve different niche markets, and as such, must count among the best in the country,” says Wiwe.
The whole community is actively involved in the schools and they play a big part in the dynamic of town life. Alternative private school options include Bridge House in the Franschhoek valley, Simond Private School, a dual-medium community school, and a Green School – part of the international pre and primary school movement that started in Bali – opens next year.
Paarl is perfectly placed for an active outdoor lifestyle: renowned for its school sports, canoeing on the Berg River – the annual Berg River canoe marathon starts here – ﬁshing, hiking, klooﬁng, climbing and mountain biking in the mountain nature reserves around the town, or horse-riding at one of the equestrian farms in the area.
With all the wine estates, markets and local festivals there’s always something happening in Paarl and the neighbouring towns of Wellington, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. “When I moved to Paarl in 2015, I was amazed to ﬁnd an average of 18 large events every weekend,” says Arno Hattingh, who started PaarlApp, which has grown to 23,000 users in less than three years. “Our area has developed so rapidly that we have new offerings all the time.”
Then there’s the relaxed coffee shop culture in town, galleries and artisan shops to explore, and the fabulous array of restaurants, eateries and family activities on the surrounding wine estates. Or take a picnic up to the Taal Monument and enjoy sunset and stargazing with one of the best views in the Cape.
Everything about Paarl has a good feel. I am a farm girl, I love the smalltown atmosphere, with vineyards in the centre of town, surrounded by beautiful colourful mountains, where every season leads to something new. Birds are still living in our gardens and frogs sing their songs before and after the rain. WIWE PRETORIUS, RESIDENT
- Noop: creative contemporary cuisine on the historic Main Road
- Kikka: quirky colourful coffee shop baking cakes and breads in-house
- Giovanni’s at Laborie: pizzas, pastas and Italian food with mountain views
- Terra Mare: welcoming bistro with the best of Italian, Swiss and South African cuisines
- Backs: breakfasts, lunch and deli take-home treats
- Knus: Karoo farmstyle breakfasts, lunches and coffee shop fare
- Spice Route: Jewells, La Grapperia, Barley and Biltong, DV Cafe
- The Goatshed at Fairview: delicious lunches and cheeses
- Faber at Avondale: ﬁ ne-dining on a biodynamic wine farm
- Viande at Grande Roche: new restaurant at Paarl’s iconic hotel
- Parkrun at the arboretum each Saturday
- Old Mill Theatre is a community theatre in Afrikaans and English and hosts open mic nights
- Horse-riding picnics, boeresport on horseback and riding through mountain dams in summer
- Mountain biking and hiking on the trails in Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve
- The Taal Monument for summer concerts, picnics and amazing views
- Canoeing – Paarl is the start of the Berg River canoe marathon each July
- Wine-tasting along the Paarl Wine Route
- Alpaca Loom studio to see alpacas, llamas and other animals
- Laborie Centre: quick shopping at Woolworths Food and Clicks
- Paarl Mall: Woolworths, Pick n Pay, high street fashion
- Rembrandt Mall: OK Food, Buco Hardware, speciality food stores and services
- Frater Square: chic lifestyle and food outlets
- Explore Main Road for delis, galleries, lifestyle stores, antiques and more
- Visit the surrounding farms and wine estates to buy cheese, olive oil, wine and much more at cellar door prices