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Toringkerk, Paarl 62.JPG
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Clockwise from top: View of Paarl and the Drakenstein Mountains; Toringkerk; Paarl Mountains; St Petri Church; Paarl Town Hall; KWV; Afrikaans Language Monument.
Paarl CoA 2.svg
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Coordinates: 33°43′27″S18°57′21″E / 33.72417°S 18.95583°E / -33.72417; 18.95583
Country South Africa
Province Western Cape
District Cape Winelands
Municipality Drakenstein
  Total64.61 km2 (24.95 sq mi)
120 m (390 ft)
 (2023) [1]
  Density4,400/km2 (11,000/sq mi)
Racial makeup (2011)
   Black African 10.4%
   Coloured 69.9%
   Indian/Asian 0.6%
   White 17.9%
First languages (2011)
   Afrikaans 86.8%
   English 6.2%
   Xhosa 4.6%
Time zone UTC+2 (SAST)
Postal code (street)
PO box
Area code 021

Paarl ( /ˈpɑːrl/ ; Afrikaans: [ˈpɑːrl̩] ; derived from Parel, meaning "pearl" in Dutch [3] ) is a town with 285,574 inhabitants in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is the third-oldest European settlement in the Republic of South Africa (after Cape Town and Stellenbosch) and the largest town in the Cape Winelands. Due to the growth of the Mbekweni township, it is now a de facto urban unit with Wellington. It is situated about 60 kilometres (37 mi) northeast of Cape Town in the Western Cape Province and is known for its scenic environment and viticulture and fruit-growing heritage.[ citation needed ]


Paarl is the seat of the Drakenstein Local Municipality; although not part of the Cape Town metropolitan area, it falls within its economic catchment. Paarl is unusual among South African place-names, in being pronounced differently in English than in Afrikaans; likewise unusual about the town's name is Afrikaners customary attachment to it, saying not in Paarl, but rather in die Paarl, or in die Pêrel (literally, "in the Paarl").

Paarl gained additional international attention when, on 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela walked, with live international television coverage, out of Victor Verster Correctional Centre (now known as Drakenstein Correctional Centre) in Paarl ending his 27 years of imprisonment, and beginning a course to South Africa's post-apartheid era and, notably, to multi-racial elections. [4] Mandela spent three years in prison here living in a private house within the walls. Today, a bronze statue of Mandela stands outside the prison.

Paarl hosted 3 matches from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003. The headquarters of Ceres Fruit Juices is located in the city, although its namesake and source of much of the fruit, Ceres Valley, lies around one hour's drive to the northeast.

The district is particularly well known for its Pearl Mountain or "Paarl Rock". This huge granite rock consists of three rounded outcrops. Paarl Rock consists of intrusive igneous rock.


The area that is now known as Paarl was first and is still inhabited by the Khoikhoi. The Peninsular Khoikhoi people and the Cocoqua people live in this area divided by the Berg River Valley. The Cocoqua were cattle-herding people and among the richest of the Khoi tribes. They had between 16,000 and 18,000 members and originally called Paarl Mountain, "!hom ǃnāb/s" which means Tortoise Mountain . [5]

The Dutch East India Company, under the leadership of Jan van Riebeeck, established meat-trading relationships with the Khoikhoi people on the Table Bay coastline. In 1657, in search of new trading relationships inland, Abraham Gabemma saw a giant granite rock glistening in the sun after a rainstorm and named it "de Diamondt en de Peerlberg" (Diamond and Pearl Mountain), from which Paarl is derived. [3] [6] Gabemma (often also spelt Gabbema) was the Fiscal (public treasurer) for the settlement on the shores of Table Bay. The "diamonds" disappeared from the name, and it became known simply as Pearl Rock or Pearl Mountain.

In 1687, Governor Simon van der Stel gave the title to the first colonial farms in the area to "free burghers". The following year, the French Huguenots arrived in the Western Cape and began to settle on farms in the area. [5] The fertile soil and the Mediterranean-like climate of this region provided perfect conditions for farming. The settlers planted orchards, vegetable gardens and, above all, vineyards. [7] Thus began Paarl's long and continuing history as a major wine- and fruit-producing area of South Africa.

In 1875 a congregation was formed out of a desire to be educated in their mother tongue. This was the result of a Reverend GWA van der Lingen idea who tried to motivate and convince people of his principles. The congregation would raise funds and begin construction of a church that would later be known as the "Toring Kerk" (Tower Church). Construction finished in 1905. The church contains materials imported from London and Egypt. [8]

The arrival of the European settlers brought on a conflict with the Khoikhoi people, as land and water resources began to be contested and the Khoi traditions of communal land use came in conflict with the settler's concept of private property. The Khoi peoples were defeated in local war and were further decimated by European diseases. The population scattered inland toward the Orange River or became labourers on settler farms. [5]


In the 2001 census Paarl's population was recorded as being 82,713 people in 20,138 households, in a land area of 32.2 square kilometres (12.4 sq mi). A total of 67.8% of the inhabitants described themselves as "Coloured", 21.2% as "White", 10.5% as "Black African", and 0.5% as "Indian or Asian". Regarding language, 85.6% spoke Afrikaans as their first language, 8.5% spoke Xhosa, and 5.2% spoke English. [9]

The Tower Church in central Paarl Toringkerk noordaansig.JPG
The Tower Church in central Paarl

Main sights

Paarl Rock Paarl mountains.jpg
Paarl Rock
Afrikaanse Taalmonument in Paarl Taalmonument 2.JPG
Afrikaanse Taalmonument in Paarl

Like many towns in the Cape Winelands, Paarl is home to many Cape Dutch houses, gardens and streets lined with old oak trees.[ citation needed ]

Paarl was the place where the foundations of the Afrikaans language were laid by the Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners. The "Afrikaanse Taalmonument" (monument to the Afrikaans language) on the slopes of Paarl Mountain, the Language Museum (Taalmuseum) and the Afrikaans Language Route through Dal Josaphat are memorials to this achievement.

The former headquarters of the wine industry in South Africa is also situated here. This was the "Co-operative Wine Growers' Association" (better known by its Afrikaans initials KWV). KWV became a South African institution that has acquired an international reputation based on its unique achievements and its imprint of quality on the local wine industry. Over the past decade, however, KWV has been privatized and no longer has an administrative role in the South African wine industry. (KWV's main wine production and maturation facilities are on its Paarl premises, while its brandy production takes place in Worcester and grape juice concentrate production in Upington in the Northern Cape.)

Sights include Cape Dutch buildings (17-19th Century), scenic drives, hiking trails, excellent restaurants and the Paarl wine route, with its many wine tasting opportunities. [10]

The old Spice Route Paarl, which was initiated in 1997 by Charles Back, the owner of this estate as well as of Fairview, provides an opportunity for visitors to appreciate and taste local delicacies from the Western Cape. In addition to that, a range of art galleries and the traditional way of organic dark chocolate production can be explored. The heritage of the Spice Route farm goes back to the historical mariners who used to trade Eastern spices to Europe along the "Spice Route" for spice trade in the 15th century. [11]

The Paarl Rock itself is these days a common destination for rock climbers.[ citation needed ] However, in the pioneering period of rock climbing in South Africa, the mountain was ignored or shunned because its steep faces were so smooth and unfissured that climbers could find no place to attach "runners" or anchor points for belays. The first climbing routes up the rock were pioneered in 1969 by J. W. Marchant and G. Athiros, the former from the University of Cape Town Mountain and Ski Club. Soon afterwards Marchant and John Knight established a few routes on which the rope was run out for 100 m (330 ft) or more with no protection whatsoever. [12] This was in the days before bolting was possible, and these achievements are still held in high regard today.[ citation needed ] Nowadays protection is afforded by bolts in the granite, and there are on Paarl Rock a few dozen routes that attract the best climbers of the current generation. [ citation needed ] (All of these climbs remain dangerous for the inexperienced.)[ citation needed ]


Amongst the neighbourhoods are De Zoete Inval (a middle-class suburb in the south); Courtrai (a wealthy suburb in the southern part of town); Central Paarl (generally known as Upper-Paarl and also containing a lot of wealthy suburbs); Lemoenkloof (a wealthy suburb between the central and northern parts of town); Northern Paarl (middle-class suburb, including the area of Groenvlei); Denneburg (a middle class suburb) as well as Klein Parys (both in the south-east of the town); Vrykyk (in the south), Charleston Hill (east of the Railway line) and areas in the eastern part of the town such as New Orleans, New York, Amstelhof, Lantana and Klein Nederburg.

There are also large gated communities developed towards the South of the town on the way to Franschhoek, such as Boschenmeer (golf estate), Val de Vie Estate (polo estate) and Pearl Valley (golf estate).


The town boasts some of the best known governmental academic high schools in the country including Paarl Gimnasium High School, La Rochelle Girls' High School, Paarl Boys' High School, Paarl Girls’ High School, Boland Agricultural High, Paulus Joubert High,Noorder Paarl High School, New Orleans Secondary and Klein Nederburg Secondary. Paarl Girls' High was placed 17th in the National Senior Certificate's "Excellence in academic performance" awards in 2012. New Orleans Secondary is the school where the Miss South Africa (2018), Tamaryn Green, completed her secondary education. Independent schools such as Simond Private School (est. 1852) and Bridge House also feature in this region. Bridge House, listed as one of the most expensive independent schools in South Africa, offers boarding facilities. These schools offer the IEB examinations as distinct from the National Senior Certificate offered by government schools. [13]


Climate data for Paarl
Mean daily maximum °C (°F)29.7
Daily mean °C (°F)22.7
Mean daily minimum °C (°F)15.8
Average precipitation mm (inches)16
Source: [14]


The N1 national highway is the main freeway intersecting Paarl, running south of the city from the city of Cape Town in the south-west to Worcester and further onwards to Bloemfontein, Johannesburg and Pretoria in the north-east intersecting four on and off-ramp interchanges within Paarl including the R45 Main Road (Exit 55), Cecilia Street (Exit 57), R301 Jan van Riebeeck Drive (Exit 59) and Sonstraal Road (Exit 62) interchanges.

As a regional hub, Paarl is located at the centre three regional routes including the R45 (Main Road) which runs from Franschhoek and Villiersdorp in the south-west to Malmesbury and Vredenburg in the Cape West Coast which is to the north-west. The R101 (Main Road; Market Street; Langenhoven Avenue) runs from Klapmuts and Kraaifontein in the south-west, passing through Paarl and climbing over the Du Toitskloof Mountains as Du Toitskloof Pass to join the N1 to Worcester. The R101 was the original N1 and served the same function before the construction of the highway. The R301 (Jan van Riebeeck Drive) runs from Franschhoek (via the R45) in the south-west to Mbekweni and Wellington in the north and over the Bainskloof Pass to Ceres in the north-west (via the R43).

Notable people

Coats of arms

Municipality (1) — On 18 July 1905, the municipal council accepted a coat of arms presented by Adriaan Moorrees  [ af ]. [16] It was the arms of Hendrik van Reede van Drakenstein : a silver shield charged with two dancetty black bars and crowned with a golden coronet. The supporters were two golden gryphons. The motto was Pour le salut du peuple ("For the wellbeing of the people"). Sometimes, the arms were depicted as silver dancetty bars on a blue shield.

Paarl coat of arms (1951) Paarl CoA 2.svg
Paarl coat of arms (1951)

Municipality (2) — The arms were re-designed in 1950 by Colin Graham Botha, and granted by the College of Arms on 22 January 1951. They were published in the Cape Province's Official Gazette in 1955, re-granted by the provincial administrator in 1967, and certified by the Bureau of Heraldry in 1969. [17]

In the new version, each of the dancetty bars on the shield displayed two pearls; the supporters were red with blue wings dotted with golden fleurs de lis; and the crest was a red demi-gryphon with blue wings holding a bunch of grapes.

Divisional Council — The divisional council was the local authority which administered the rural areas outside the town. It registered a coat of arms at the Bureau of Heraldry on 20 October 1978. Once again, the Van Reede shield formed the basis of the design. Down the middle of the shield was a red pale displaying a bunch of grapes between two pearls. The crest was a fleur de lis. The motto was Animus et fata ("Courage and fortune"). [17]

Mbekweni — The local authority for the Black township of Mbekweni registered arms at the Bureau on 5 May 1989. The shield is divided per chevron into red and green, with a golden chevron rompu across the centre and a silver cross pommy below it. Above the arms was a green mural crown decorated with a band of red edged in gold. The motto was uXolo neMpulelelo. [17]

See also

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  1. 1 2 "Paarl Population 2023". Paarlpopulation2023.
  2. 1 2 "Main Place Paarl". Census 2011.
  3. 1 2 Raper, P. E., "Paarl", Dictionary of Southern African Place Names, retrieved 28 October 2013
  4. BBC on this Day 11 Feb 1990: Freedom of Nelson Mandela
  5. 1 2 3 "History of Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa". Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  6. The concise illustrated South African Encyclopaedia. P. Schirmer, 1980. Central News Agency, Johannesburg. First edition, about 211pp
  7. A General Collection of the Best and Most Interesting Voyages and Travels in All Parts of the World, Vol XVI. John Pinkerton, 1814. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme.
  8. NG Toringkerk pamphlet handed out by the church itself
  9. "Main Place 'Paarl'". Census 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
  10. "Things to do in Paarl | Paarl Directory". Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  11. "The Swartland Revolution | Spice Route Winery". Archived from the original on 21 September 2015. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  12. Annual Bulletin. University of Cape Town Mountain and Ski Club (UCTMSC), 1970.
  13. "Western Cape Education Department National Senior Certificate (NSC) Awards for 2012" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
  14. "Climate: Paarl" . Retrieved 14 April 2018.
  15. Bearing Drakenstein flag in the provincial legislature
  16. Western Cape Archives : Paarl Municipal Minutes (18 July 1905).
  17. 1 2 3 National Archives of South Africa : Data of the Bureau of Heraldry