5 Best Ways To Celebrate Heritage Day In Paarl
Heritage Day in South Africa is so much more than just a day of sharing a meal prepared over sizzling coals. It's about celebrating South Africa’s living heritage - its diverse culture, indigenous traditions, and rich history passed on from generation to generation.
Whether you’re planning to embark on a solo road trip through the Cape Winelands or a family-friendly vacation away from the bustling city, you’ll find an array of things to do in Paarl this Heritage Day.
But before fast-tracking your way to the five best ways to celebrate South Africa’s living heritage, let's delve into the historical tapestry of Paarl.
The Heritage of Paarl
As the third-oldest European settlement in the Western Cape, Paarl’s heritage first took root as a farming community of just 20 farmers, in 1687.
The origin of this sleepy town’s name lies in the elaborate journals of Abraham Gabbema, a merchant of the Dutch East India Company. He eloquently describes leaving the Cape in search of cattle and uncovering a kloof situated between the “Diamond and Pearl mountains”, referring to the glistening granite formations in the Paarl mountain range. And, as the word for pearl in Dutch is ‘parel’, so the town derived its name.
Paarl’s heritage is as diverse as it is beautiful, its cultural origins steeped in African, Eastern, Dutch, French, Eastern European, Italian, as well as Xhosa and Khoisan lineage.
So in the local tradition of celebrating South Africa’s living heritage, let's take a closer look at the five best ways to celebrate Heritage Day in Paarl, South Africa.
1. Visit the Cape Winelands
Source: Pexels - PicJumbo.com
The Paarl Wine Route, also known as the “Red Route”, is aptly named after its exquisite range of red wine. Paarl’s wine-making excellence stems from the French Huguenots who arrived in the region in 1688 and have been satiating wine lovers’ palettes for more than 350 years.
The Cape Winelands, which produces around 68% of South Africa’s wine, is the central hub of the country's wine business and the culture surrounding it.
Some worthwhile farms offering wine tasting in Cape Town on the Paarl Wine Route include:
- Joostenberg Wine Estate
- Noble Hill Wine Estate
- Under Oaks
- Windmeul Kelder
And in surrounding areas:
- La Motte
- Leopards Leap
- Mitre’s Edge
Cape Town wine tasting prices in the region vary, starting at around R65 per person; however, there are also various wine/food pairing options, from nougat, cheese or biltong, to delectable three-course meals.
Bringing the whole family? Not to worry. Most wine farms have outdoor activities or play areas for the kids, making it a great family friendly day out.
2. Spice Things Up
Source: Pexels - Karolina Grabowska
This one is for the foodies! The Spice Route, a farm located at the bottom of Paarl mountain, is just 45 minutes drive from Cape Town. It's a delightful way to experience Paarl as a family, with something to indulge every palette.
Spice Route derives its name from the Dutch East India Company, which used the Cape Colony as a stopover on its way to gather spices from the East. So, if you want to tuck into some of the most flavorful local culinary delights, Spice Route is definitely one of the top things to do in Paarl this Heritage Day.
With 13 artisanal stores and restaurants to choose from, the most challenging part of your visit to the Spice Route will be choosing which restaurant to dine at first.
This wine/food/chocolate lover's paradise in southern Paarl boasts a beer garden, various distilleries and farm-style bistros serving up an assortment of delectable dishes made with locally sourced produce.
My go-to has to be the Parma ham and rocket thin-crust pizza drizzled with Banhoek chilli oil at La Grapperia, accompanied by a Wilderer G&T or CBC craft beer on tap. It also has a kiddies menu and is conveniently situated opposite the play area, allowing you to enjoy views of Table mountain over 70km away while still being able to keep an eye on the kids.
Other excellent dining options include:
- Brenda’s Deli (preserves and jam)
- Jewell’s Restaurant
- Barley and Biltong
CBC brewery, Wilderer Distillery and Spice Route Wines (small batch wines from the Swartland area) offers great Cape Town wine tastings, as well as craft beer and gin tastings, ranging from R35 to R75, while chocolate tasting at De Villiers Café starts at just R30.
Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the 50m track on the Hero Adventure Trail. It's important to note, whether you intend to run, hike or bike, you’ll need to register and buy a day pass to enjoy views of the vineyards and olive farms.
3. Uncover the Natural Beauty of Paarl’s Nature Reserve
Source: Pexels - Jean van der Meulen
The Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (CWBR), nestled in the Cape Floral Kingdom, is roughly 40 kilometers or a mere two-hour drive east of Cape Town. It officially became South Africa’s fifth biosphere reserve, and a UNESCO world heritage site in South Africa, in September 2007 - all 322,032 hectares of it!
It boasts four beautiful nature reserves - the Greater Simonsberg Conservancy, Limietberg, Mont Rochelle and Jonkershoek. Rich in biodiversity, the Cape Fold Mountains are home to 20% of all plant species in Africa.
You’ll discover world-class vineyards, small farming communities and cozy historic towns in the surrounding areas. At the same time, outdoor lovers can enjoy basking in the exquisite sights of deep river valleys, spectacular flora and fauna (known for fynbos, leopards, cape eagle owls, caracals and klipspringers), forests and mountain ranges.
Lying in the Du Toitskloof Mountains close to Paarl, Limietberg Nature Reserve has nine tranquil nature trails perfect for hiking enthusiasts keen to catch a glimpse of the Cape Sugarbird and Protea Canary.
The Tweede Tol picnic area makes for a perfect family friendly outing. It's best to book in advance or get there early, as the entrance is limited to 120 people per day. There is a conservation fee of R30 for children and R50 for adult day passes.
Outdoor activities start at R50 per adult and R30 per child and include hiking, angling, river rafting and kayaking while camping costs R180 during off-peak and R460 during peak season.
4. Make It Monumental
Paarl is steeped in rich cultural heritage and, believe it or not, has a monument commemorating one of South Africa’s official languages. Afrikaans Taal Monument sits at the foot of Paarl Mountain atop Paarl Rock. It was designed by architect Jan van Wijk, the opening dating back to October 10, 1975.
From the top, you’ll not only be able to take in the breathtaking views of Paarl but Table Mountain, Hottentots Holland and Stellenbosch mountain ranges in the distance.
Feeling peckish? Enjoy a bite to eat at the coffee shop or feast your eyes on various Afrikaans artworks exhibited in the open-air gallery. The picnic area has playgrounds and plenty of outdoor activities to keep the whole family amused, not to mention that it has some of the best downhill biking and hiking trails Cape Town has to offer.
Couples and solo travelers can enjoy a night under Paarl's starry skies on a full moon/stargazing picnic or unwind at a concert in the Garden Theatre or Amphitheatre. Or why not get the best of both worlds - visit the Garden Theatre and get free entrance to Taal Monument!
Entrance fees range from R40 for adults to R10 for kids under six, although tour group prices are negotiable if requested in writing and booked in advance. It’s open from Monday to Sunday between 8:00 and 16:45, except for Christmas and New Year's Day - bookings can be made online via Computicket or at the gate. For more information, visit the Afrikaans Taal Monument website.
5. Take a Walk Down Memory Lane
The Paarl Historical Walking Tour is an architectural fundi’s delight and is one of the most memorable things to do in Paarl!
Although some historic buildings have been modernized, you’ll discover Paarl’s heritage interlaced in its architecture. Scattered along Paarl’s 12km main road, you’ll find immaculately preserved buildings showcasing Cape Dutch, Victorian, Edwardian, Georgian and Art Deco influences.
The Press Building, also known as the Dutch Renaissance Revival, is one of the most unique historic buildings on the walk - you can’t miss its distinct turrets and thatch roof.
Toringkerk, or “Tower Church” dates back to 1911 and is one of the most renowned buildings in Paarl. Its neo-Gothic grandeur is reflected in its architectural features such as it rose windows and 57m tall tower, one of the tallest in South Africa.
Protea Bioscope or Cinema is an Art Deco masterpiece. It dates back to 1939 and still houses some original artefacts, such as a 1927 Peerless Magnarc vintage cinema projector - rumor has it there’s also an original Volvo ad on film in the archives.
And for art lovers, the Hout Street Gallery, de Kraal Gallery and Gallery 88 are three of the more well-known of the town's many art galleries on the walking tour. The Jack Meyer Art Centre and Kate van Putten’s porcelain ceramic studio, located just off the main road, are also worth checking out.
One last historic building worth a mention is La Maison on Main, located just next door to the Het Gesticht museum, which dates back to the 1900s. Owners Mark and Loretta Alley transformed this hidden gem into one of the most charming boutique accommodation Paarl has to offer while still honoring its heritage. The results - breathtaking.
If you’re looking for family friendly self catering accommodation in Paarl South Africa, La Maison on Main offers all the amenities and comfort of home, conveniently located in the heart of Paarl. La Maison on Main is listed on all secure booking sites, such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Safarinow.com, Places, SA-venues.com, Capestay.com, Booknow.co.za, Afristay, Trivago, Sleeping-out and Lekkerslaap, and for ease of booking and exclusive offers, simply book directly with the hosts.