Vibrant, ever-changing Johannesburg is home to some incredible hotels with uniquely South African sensibilities.

Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city, was founded in the 1880s gold rush era and quickly became a place of stark contrasts where the squalor of townships met the pristine estates of European settlers. That contrast can still be seen today, from the Soweto township that was once the home of former South African president Nelson Mandela, to the rapidly gentrifying inner city and the swanky streets of Sandhurst. If you’re passing through on your way to a safari adventure, Joburg is a fascinating place to stop and explore. These are our five picks for hotels in the city.

The Winston Hotel 

Ornate gates open to a stunning colonial-style mansion that appears more like a grand private estate than a hotel. Rooms at The Winston are light-filled and well appointed with plenty of comfy armchairs, cosy rugs and king-size beds. Rooms are available at three different levels: Courtyard rooms, which have paved courtyards or balconies for private alfresco dining; Superior rooms with views over the central courtyard and swimming pool; and Deluxe rooms with huge windows, workstations and robes. Each room is themed: Royal Safari has a cowskin rug and sturdy king-size four-poster bed; Le Bijou features gilt mirrors and bright pops of colour; and Manor House has a Chesterfield bedhead and antique furniture. Dining at The Restaurant is a lesson in local cuisine – think slow-cooked springbok shanks and grilled boerewors (South African sausage). Book now

6 Tottenham Avenue, Melrose Estate, Johannesburg

Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa

Set within extensive grounds, the Saxon compound is an oasis of wild gardens, swimming pools and koi ponds. With its enormous suites and three standalone luxury villas, this boutique hotel skimps on nothing. Each level of accommodation has access to a 24-hour butler service and the Saxon Spa hydro facilities. Guests in suites and villas receive complimentary dry-cleaning, airport pick-up and transfer, Champagne on arrival, in-suite check-in and free access to all the minibar goodies. Traditional arts and crafts dot the buildings and grounds, while the rooms and public spaces are decorated in an earthy palette and elegantly furnished. Qunu restaurant, with its lush hanging gardens and terrace shaded by a canopy of fig trees, is named for Nelson Mandela’s country home and offers a traditional South African grill experience.

36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg 

The Michelangelo

Located in central Sandton, The Michelangelo is handy to shopping, transport and restaurants. The 242 rooms and suites are richly decorated with plush carpets, golden drapes and artworks and all have king-size beds. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at Piccolo Mondo restaurant, which overlooks Nelson Mandela Square, while the Italian-style Il Ritrovo lounge is situated in the light-filled central atrium. Along with business facilities and conference spaces, there’s the Intermezzo Tourist Lounge, which has showers and areas to relax – perfect for guests leaving late or arriving early. After a day of sightseeing, spend some time at the Executive Lifestyle Fitness Centre, where there’s a covered swimming pool and a steam bath. Book now

Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton, Johannesburg

African Pride Melrose Arch Hotel

Light, airy, modern rooms with pale timber floors and floor-to-ceiling windows are brightened with splashes of colour – an orange sofa, a deep-blue rug – at this inner-city hotel. It’s the bathrooms that really impress, though, with black-and-white tiled floors and enormous egg-shaped tubs complete with rubber ducks, rain showers and terry towelling robes. The suites have a separate lounge area, fireplace and kitchenette and all rooms have a surround-sound entertainment system and locally made Eartherapy Africa bathroom products. Breakfast is a smorgasbord of hot and cold dishes, the cosy Library Bar serves snacks and drinks until late, and the in-house March Restaurant specialises in modern African. There’s also a plethora of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. The incredible pool area is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner cocktail. Book now

1 Melrose Square, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg

The Residence

Palm trees sway and bright bougainvilleas climb the walls at this all-suite boutique hotel in affluent Houghton Estate. Swim a few laps of the pools, have a hit on the tennis court, head to the second-floor spa for some pampering or simply luxuriate in your suite. Each has a large balcony with spa bath, sun umbrella and sun loungers. Inside, the opulence continues with underfloor heating, an extra-long king-size bed and antique French chandeliers. There’s even a bath menu for the inside marble bath or the outside spa. The Madiba Suite features an enormous portrait of Nelson Mandela and a wine cellar. The dining room serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and a private dining area can be booked for up to 12 people. Book now

17 4th Avenue, Houghton, Johannesburg

5 Great Places to Stay in Johannesburg


Top image: The Michelangelo

SEE ALSO: Which South African Safari Experience is For You?

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