If you opened this article in the hopes of reading about a romantic getaway to France, there’s no need to be disappointed when you find out this adventure only takes you to the Northern Free State. Never been to the beautiful little town of Parys? Well, it’s time to pack your bags and head up north.
I spent four years of my life in Potchefstroom and if you’ve been there, you will know that there’s not much to get excited about. Lucky for me, just across the Free State border and after a quick 30 minute drive, I discovered what would become one of my favourite places in South Africa.
Here’s why I fell in love with this Free State gem and why you may as well:
Pont De Val Riverside Estate
On my first trip to Parys, Pont De Val was my biggest surprise. This French countryside-inspired restaurant is set on the banks of the Vaal River. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought we were in the Cape Winelands. The setting is beautiful, and the food is noteworthy.
Their cheese platter was by far the best I’ve ever had (hard to believe, since I’m now surrounded by wine farms) and their wine list had all my favourite local options. They also have a wine and chocolate tasting, which is a great way to end a delicious lunch. Finish your day with a 30 minute sunset cruise on the river, and you will go home completely satisfied.
It’s situated inside a meteor-made crater
Parys is well-known for being in the Vredefort Dome, the largest recorded impact site on earth. The Dome was declared a World Heritage Site and is a huge tourist attraction all-year round. It’s hard to believe that a meteor that big can leave behind such a beautiful environment, and it’s something everyone needs to experience at least once in their lives.
Several activities are available in the Dome, such as guided walking tours, abseiling on cliffs, canoeing on flat water, white river rafting and angling.
Eat O’s so good pizza on the banks of the Vaal River
When you enter the town, turn left from the main road towards the river. Only a few hundred meters away, you will discover the best pizza in Parys, and one of the most beautiful settings too.
O’s Restaurant is right on the Vaal River, surrounded by lush green trees. Here you can sit on the deck, enjoy an ice cold craft beer and have a hard time choosing between their enticing selection of wood-fire pizzas.
Discover a piece of France in the Le Petit Paris Secret Passage
You will find the French theme is pretty much celebrated all over the town, much like it’s bigger namesake in Europe. Best of all, you will be delighted to discover a secret passage just off the main road of Parys, where the most beautiful fashion, jewellery, antique and gift shops are hiding.
This little courtyard looks like something straight out of Paris; and if you are lucky enough to get a seat at the coffee shop in the back, it’s not hard to imagine that you are somewhere in France, sipping on a Noisette.
Visit the Dog and Fig Craft Brewery
Situated just outside of Parys, this microbrewery means serious business. When you visit The Dog and Fig, you can expect brewing demonstrations, beer tastings and pairings. Or, you can sit back and slowly enjoy their award winning Stewige Stout.
At arrival you are invited to ‘Kick off your shoes’ (voluntarily of course). Their menu is a perfect mixture between German and South African inspired foods, and if you’re not there for the beer, they offer a selection of craft gin cocktails as well.
I’ve been to a few charming little towns in South Africa, including Clarens, Dullstroom, Elgin and Prince Albert, and I was thrilled to add Parys to this list. It’s small, it’s artsy, and well-worth your visit.
Have you been to Parys? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.