Paarl is a city with 191,013 inhabitants in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It is the third oldest town and 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 renowned for its haunting scenic beauty and deep viticulture and fruit growing heritage.
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 in South Africa in that the name of the place is pronounced differently in English and Afrikaans. An unusual feature of the name of the town is that Afrikaners customarily attach the definite article to it: people say in die Paarl or in die Pêrel ("in the Paarl"), rather than in Paarl.
Paarl gained international attention when, on 11 February 1990, Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster Correctional Centre (now known as Drakenstein Correctional Centre) in Paarl ending 27 years of imprisonment and beginning the march to South Africa's post-apartheid era and multi-racial elections. 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 a match from the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003. The headquarters of Ceres Fruit Juices are located in the city, although its namesake, Ceres valley and source of much of the fruit, is 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 is formed by three rounded outcrops that make up Paarl Mountain and has been compared in majesty to Uluru (formerly known as Ayers Rock) in Australia. (However, they are not geologically similar. Paarl Rock consists of intrusive igneous rock, while Uluru is a sedimentary remnant).