Where to Stay in Cape Town Now
JS Editor Lindsey Olander checks into the Mother City’s colonial grande dames, historic mansions, and chic coastal boutiques.
With its incredible natural beauty, forward-thinking design, innovative cuisine, and stylish hotels, there’s never been a better time to visit the Mother City. So on a recent trip, I hit the ground running—perusing lobbies, comparing rooms, popping into restaurants, and sipping sundowner cocktails (hey, someone has to!)—to find the best hotels in the city. What I found? A heady mix of options both luxurious and charming, where views of the ocean and world-famous Table Mountain are put on full display. Here are my 12 favorite sleeps—plus one on the horizon.
This historic Georgian villa, declared a National Monument in the 1800s, is now a stately sleep that marries modern with old-world—think plush headboards and standalone bathtubs, black-and-white-checkered floors, and ornate fireplaces. The decor also takes a page from the bohemian lifestyle of Irish writer Oscar Wilde with its dramatic Versailles chairs, busy fabrics, and oversize vases overflowing with proteas (South Africa’s national flower).
The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa
The drive alone is worth the trek to this Dutch-style hotel: you'll drive along a winding coastal road towards Camps Bay, sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean and the imposing Twelve Apostles mountain range. Once there, the style is old-school plush—reproduction antiques, matching floral wallpaper and fabrics, lots of mirrors, and a sea-worthy palette of blues, greens, and taupes. But what sets this spot apart is the stunning sunsets you’ll see during sundowners from the award-winning Azure Restaurant or terrace of the Leopard Bar, which hosts nightly live music. When you want to strike out and explore, there’s a nature trail leading from the hotel straight into Table Mountain National Park, while an all-day shuttle transports guests to the V&A Waterfront some 15 minutes away.
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Belmond Mount Nelson
Forget water or mountain views—at this 1899 landmark, it’s all about the gorgeous gardens that make you feel like you’ve escaped to the winelands. Cape Town’s arguably most iconic hotel, nicknamed “The Pink Lady” for its rose-colored façade, harkens back to another era, when the likes of Winston Churchill, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and even the Dalai Lama took up residence. Today, it still draws names like Oprah Winfrey and Richard Gere with its sophisticated colonial-era architecture, sophisticated rooms featuring canopied beds and local art, and traditional high tea, considered one of the best in town.
Despite housing over 100 rooms, the red-brick Cape Grace, on its own quay along the V&A Waterfront, still manages to feel intimate. You can expect next-level service and a boutique feel, with nautical details such as hand-painted wall murals of various beach scenes and vintage life preserver rings. The hotel is also blessed with two unparalleled views: the bobbing boats in the marina, and the imposing Table Mountain that looms just beyond the city limits. After a light read in the atmospheric library (all heavy curtains, chandeliers, and stocked shelves), pop by for a dram at the “below-deck” Bascule bar, which stocks one of the city’s best whisky selections.
It’ll prove difficult to forget those sunsets from the terraces of this Edwardian mansion, built right into the slopes of Lion’s Head in one of Cape Town’s poshest suburbs. But take a tour through the grounds and you’ll make more than your fair share of memories, from the bluff-side gallery that houses the owner’s personal collection of South African art to the understated glamour of its 11 rooms, poolside gardens, and hushed restaurant that some say serves Cape Town's best breakfast. JS Tip: Ask for a tour of Villa 2 to see its corkscrew sculpture that holds some 1,500 rare local vintages.
The Table Bay Hotel
There might not be a grander entrance in Cape Town than that of Table Bay Hotel, opened in 1997 by Mandela himself. A palm-lined drive leads to an arsenal of buttoned-up doormen, on hand to escort you through a glassed-in portico to an immense atrium built around a floor-to-ceiling window view of Table Mountain. A recent $2 million refurb has brightened up the hotel's Victorian look—including a new brasserie that now sports brass-tacked chairs and leather banquettes—while its V&A harbor location—connected to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Center—remains its most compelling feature. The room to book: any of the junior corner suites, which offer mountain or water views.
The only hotel inside Table Mountain National Park (as well as the city’s only property with direct beach access), this 12-cabin lodge is a wild and remote escape just 20 minutes from town. Following a fire that ravaged the property in 2015, owner and decorator Gaye Corbett replanted the landscape with indigenous milkwood trees and redesigned each of the glass-and-timber suites after a different island—Sicily, Antigua, Zanzibar—while adding fireplaces and decks that jut out over the crashing waves below.
You might think you were visiting one of your more well-off Capetonian friends at this eight-room bolt hole in the foothills of Table Mountain, whose contemporary interiors (white-on-white beds, neon-colored pillows, original artwork, custom-designed tubs) read like a design magazine, and a staff that's as good as it gets—thanks, no doubt, to an owner who operates onsite. We suggest spending an afternoon sunning on your balcony or in the lounge by the communal plunge pool, then heading to nearby Kloof Street for some serious retail therapy.
Cape Heritage Hotel
A palpable sense of history fills the air at this 1771 corner building, where a pergola on the patio is rumored to house South Africa’s oldest grapevine and creaking floorboards lead to 17 quirky rooms decked out with four-poster beds, oriental rugs, and, in some, original teak ceilings. But the hotel's location on trendy Bree Street, one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, throws you right back into the present day. While there’s no pool or proper restaurant to speak of (you’re limited to a humble breakfast of pastries and smoothies), the rooftop hot tub is a highlight for its Table Mountain views.
Taj Cape Town
A former South Africa Reserve Bank is now the Taj Cape Town. While the landmark building’s roots are still very much intact (from the barrel-vaulted skylight supported by thick marble columns in the lobby to one of Cape Town’s oldest cage elevators to its Heritage Rooms, featuring paisley bedspreads and original mullioned windows), the newer Tower wing is decidedly more modern. Expect glass-walled bathtubs and private balconies with city or mountain views. In the mornings, listen for the chiming bells of St. George’s Cathedral, which sits directly across the street.
Cape View Clifton
Interior decorator Jess Latimer relied on her own good taste when designing this former family home. The seven-story property in the bluffs of affluent Clifton is now a chic coastal aerie, all creams and grays, African touches like faux-horns-as-hooks and botanical art, and proteas everywhere. Take in the views of the sea and Clifton’s beaches from one of its five guest rooms (or, if you’re ready to splurge, either of the two apartments that come with their own kitchens and balconies)—or, better yet, from the picture-perfect pool and sun deck.
Villa Zest Boutique Hotel
A waterfront grand dame this is not—the seven-room Villa Zest, tucked away in the city’s verdant Green Point suburb, trades the bay for the Bauhaus with a funky 70s-themed vibe: think mod egg chairs and shag rugs in the rooms and hallways lined with era-specific electronics like Toot-a-Loop radios and Polaroid cameras. Despite its retro leanings, this sleep isn’t without its luxury creature comforts, including a roof deck with ocean views and a lounge chair-lined pool by a garden with its own fire pit.
The Silo Hotel
Designer Liz Biden is behind some of South Africa’s most stunning properties—Royal Malewane in Kruger, Birkenhead House in Hermanus, La Residence in Franschhoek—but her latest might be her best yet. When The Silo debuted, it took over the top floors of a historic grain elevator on the V&A Waterfront, above the also-much-anticipated Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, with just 28 industrial-style rooms featuring 16-foot-high windows and a rooftop pool looking out towards Table Mountain and the Atlantic.
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