The neighbouring towns of Paarl and Wellington, a 40-minute drive from Cape Town, today form a single urban unit at the heart of the Cape Winelands, surrounded by farms and some of South Africa's best-known wine estates.
In 1657, Abraham Gabbema led an expedition to find Khoi groups to barter with and to search for the legendary treasures of Monomotapa. On the day that they arrived in the Berg River Valley, the granite boulders, towards the west side of today's town, glistened in the sun after some rainfall. This prompted Gabbema to name this mountain “the Diamond and Pearl Mountain” from which the name Paarl was later derived.
Paarl boasts a unique cultural attraction: it was here that 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 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 famous "Co-operative Wine Growers' Association" (better known by its Afrikaans initials KWV). The 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 became a completely profit-driven private company that has no administrative role anymore.
The town is at the base of one of the oldest mountain passes in the country, Bain's Kloof Pass, built by master road-builder Andrew Geddes Bain.