Paarl is considered a treasure chest of South African architecture.
The development of Paarl from its earliest times to today is reflected in the variety of architectural styles contained in its Main Street.
They range from the earliest Cape Dutch through to the elegant English styles, from the ornamental Victorian, to Art Deco giving the street its unique character.
Some of the most interesting buildings are:
Strooidakkerk (Thatched Roof Church)
In 1687 the first grants were given to German, Dutch and French settlers in the Paarl area but it was only after 1717, when the church was established here, that the town itself started developing rapidly.
Not withstanding its great simplicity, the interior of this church is exceptionally dignified.
The churchyard adjacent to an attractive garden encloses the biggest collection of gabled burial vaults in the Western Cape.
Many artisans and merchants settled in between the farms along the 11 km stretch of Main Road - the longest Main Road in the country.
After 1806 the architecture was influenced by the British style of building which favoured larger windows, double storey buildings and slate roofs. Many Cape Dutch homes were converted to express the new fashion.
The latter half of the 19th century heralded major commercial development in Paarl. At the same time the flamboyant Victorian style became popular.
This is typified by the verandahs with their intricate cast-iron decorations, corrugated iron roofs and plaster mouldings. Once again the facades of many houses were changed.
Described as a "Dutch Renaissance Revival" building and built in 1897, it has the intricate detail of an important Victorian building - decorative gables, Welsh slate roof, turrets and balcony.
Another feature is the white painted outlines of the bricks on a red background.
Zion Church was completed in 1842 after lengthy money-collecting schemes which even included collecting in England. It was restored in 1983 and is once again being used as a church.
191 Main Street
This gabled house dates back to 1790 and has typical yelow-wood ceiling and doors, thatched roof, casement windows and green shutters.
This imposing building was completed in 1928. The clean lines are accentuated by the pediment and bell-tower. The pillars are made of local granite and the whole building is painted white in contrast to the darker background of Paarl mountain.
The Oldest Building
As far as is presently known, Bethel in Mill St is the oldest surviving building in Paarl.
Reference to the house dates back to 1710 and the floor plan has not been altered since 1756, although the facade was later altered to attain a Victorian look.
Among the other attractive church buildings in Paarl are the historic Holy Trinity (Anglican) Church in Main Street, the St Petri Lutheran Church in Mill St, the old Zion Church in Zion St, the Jewish Synagogue in Synagogue St, the Muslim Chapel in Breda St and the Toringkerk in Main St
The Old Parsonage (Ou Pastorie)
The Old Parsonage in one of the most significant architectural treasures of Paarl. This building, situated below the impressive Tower Church (Toringkerk) in Main St, was completed in 1786.
It houses the Paarl Museum including an exceptional collection of Cape Dutch furniture and Cape silver and copperware.
This impressive building in Main Street, head quarters of the KWV, was completed in 1958 and stands on one of the first five farms within the present urban area of Paarl, granted to the French Huguenots by Simon Van Der Stel.
Scores of other noteworthy houses and farms are to be found in Paarl district. The homestead at Nederburg was built in 1800 and was, until recently altered, the only historical house in the Cape which had survived untouched and undamaged.
In De Jongh's Lane are three fine examples of Cape-Dutch buildings and Rozenfontein in Main St possibly dates back to the mid-19th century.
Het Gesticht in Main St, Goedeverwachting, Huis Verening, the old WP Bank as well as the Laborie Homestead are among other buildings in Paarl worthy of a visit.