With summer in full force, it’s high time to soak in the sunshine and give yourself a much-deserved break. But as glamorous as it can be to jet off somewhere, with the packing, the traffic and the mad dash to the airport, taking a getaway can be more exhausting than restorative. That’s why there’s never been a better time for a staycation. At these top picks, you needn’t miss out on the luxury or novelty of a far-flung locale thanks to world-class food, cocooning suites and spot-on service. Feel a million miles away when you’re anything but.
Editor’s pick: Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff
Best for: Couples, or anyone after a taste of off-the-charts luxury in a sea of activity
The crowd: A mix of honeymooning socialites, locals with a penchant for stealth luxury and well-heeled tourists lured by the reliability of the Four Seasons name
The hotel: It’s not as instantly easy to kick back and relax on a hometown holiday as it would be on, say, a tropical beach or some distant riviera. But Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff certainly helps. The all-encompassing, quietly elegant and reliably comfortable hotel atop Jan Smuts Avenue in the glitzy suburb of Westcliff combines homestay comforts with the experiences craved from a trip abroad, be that culinary, cultural or otherwise. Switched-on staff, a strong food and booze offering and a pampering spa with stunning views – they really do know what they’re doing here, and it all feels impressively effortless. Set directly in the shadow of the sprawling Joburg skyline, there’s a quiet elegance to this deeply civilised, unashamedly grand city crash pad. The building is extraordinarily ornate, and the rooms are a beguiling blend of modern Africa and muted contemporary flair. They must also be some of the most spacious (and whisper-quiet) in the City of Gold. As for the glossy white-veined coffee-marble bathrooms … they leave you wanting for nothing. Design aside, all rooms are kitted out with everything you need, including that Four Seasons bed, which is one of the most comfortable around. If you’re ever going to Boomerang a pillow fight on Instagram, these fluffy, luxurious beds are the place to do it.
The holiday vibe: The hotel is moments away from The Parks, it’s a short drive to Rosebank, and inner-city attractions such as the brand-new Jewel City regeneration project and our favourite design-focused development, 99 Juta Street aren’t far away. It’s also around the corner from the hipster hotspot of Melville and its slew of vintage shops, concept stores, restaurants and bars. But it’s difficult not to feel on holiday after spending time by the pool, which is so sumptuous it’s obscene and potentially the most stunning in Joburg – so spend as much time here as you can. The spa is for anyone feeling less than glamorous post-lockdown (raise your hand), showering you in full-body and beauty treatments, such as the Red Nomads treatment inspired by the Himba; a body mask with natural African plant ingredients. At the atmospheric Flames Restaurant, which fuses the more familiar with the exotic in a grand dining room, the attention to detail really is quite remarkable. Start with the Pacific oysters served with lemon, mignonette and Tabasco, followed up quickly with some small plates to share – think springbok carpaccio, prawn kataifi and, for the more adventurous, tender Galician-style octopus. Signature cuts of meat are the main event: The Chalmar 28-day rib eye tomahawk with mushroom sauce is indulgent if you’re feeling flush, but the fillet is just as delicious. Other highlights include the Norwegian salmon paired with mussels and an intriguing lemon butter sauce as well as the gnocchi al tartufo laced with wild mushrooms, crème fraiche, black truffle and a healthy layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Don’t be tempted to share the milk tart crème brûlée for dessert – you’ll want one to yourself.
Insider tip: Although breakfast is included with the room rate, we recommend sleeping in and treating yourself to the Early Brunch instead, which runs from 10h30 to 12h00 on Saturdays and Sundays only. Priced at R595 per person, the brunch includes a glass of champagne, a cold platter to share, one hot dish each from the kitchen and sweet treats. For mains, go classic with eggs benedict with cured Italian ham, eggs royale with smoked salmon or a Spanish omelette with chorizo, potato, peppers, Parmesan and rocket. Or, go rogue and order the chicken and waffles with southern fried chicken and a fried egg or the oak smoked beef brisket with potato terrine, beef crackling and port reduction. Try to bag a seat on the terrace for sunny-side-up views of the city.
67 Jan Smuts Avenue, Westcliff
011 481 6000
Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa
Best for: Wellness seekers
The crowd: High rollers enjoying the high life and local couples splashing out
The hotel: It would be difficult to come to Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, on a leafy gated spot at the end of a quiet residential street in Morningside, and not be impressed by the tranquil, suburban oasis setting and beautifully coiffed grounds combined with its off-the-charts luxury thanks to the laser-focused attention to detail. Originally a 10-acre manor house that formed part of the Oppenheimer estate, this is a hotel that leans into its inherent grandeur – it’s all lion’s head sculptures, monochrome tiles and tables, gold monkey pots, shiny phrenology busts and quirky knick-knacks. But a stay here is surprisingly relaxed as the distinctive, delightful Courtyard Suites – each different – have enough cool artefacts to make it feel more like your own apartment than a hotel. Dark teal clashes with spearmint cream, and deep red with pale pink, while gilded mirrors complement plush velvets and low-hanging lights. The sizeable bathrooms, which are almost suites in their own, each have double sinks, a freestanding bathtub and a rainfall shower.
The holiday vibe: Simply wandering through the hotel’s gardens bulging with jacaranda blooms and a foliage-fringed pool, where you feel like you’ve walked into a painting, is quite enough. Though the opulent Balinese-style spa set in the bamboo forest gardens is one of the best in Joburg – even in the country – where experienced therapists pad around giving guests transformative aroma-oil and deep-tissue massages, invigorating QMS Medicosmetics and Sothys facials as well as men’s sprucing sessions. The treatments are absolutely worth splashing out on – we recommend either the Tip-to-Toe Treat or the personalised Sento Bath Journey. You’ll also spend a lot of time at shimmering subterranean restaurant Amuse-Bouche, which offers a sophisticated à la carte menu and an award-winning wine list. We flew threw a three-course French-influenced meal without even feeling vaguely uncomfortable, or hungry, afterwards – testament to the purity and precision of the creative dishes using local ingredients (seared scallops with crispy pork belly or pappardelle pasta in a lobster bisque with cognac crème, tarragon and pronto fresco, anyone?).
Insider tip: Pop your corks at Muse Champagne Room, a lavish little bar hidden away inside the hotel that serves top bubbles by French Champagne house, Perrier-Jouët and signature cocktails. The room is lovely, comfy and never too noisy, and the selection of canapés – which ranges from salmon ceviche with sour cream and black caviar to Parmesan churros – is not to be missed.
1 Alma Road, Morningside
011 804 2540
Menlyn Boutique Hotel
Best for: Anyone who wants to sleep more deeply than they ever have in their life
The crowd: Business travellers and big spenders yearning for a break from the norm (and maybe a break from the kids, too)
The hotel: In a city with so much history, Menlyn Boutique Hotel is a fresh breath of modernity. Located just a few minutes’ drive from Menlyn Park Shopping Centre, step inside and you’ll find yourself in a sweeping, art-filled lobby. It’s a truly transportive, tucked-away haven of serenity and relaxation, which makes it a posh home away from home where you can come and go as you please – stop by for a night or hunker down for a week or two. With only 27 rooms, the hotel has a distinctly residential feel with delicious finishes, and the rooms themselves are spacious but still intimate. The aesthetic here is an updated take on corporate interiors, with wood accents, neutral colours, beautiful fabrics and dramatic upholstered headboards. The tastefully outfitted rooms feel totally livable, especially with stately beds topped with luxurious bedding and fluffy pillows, so you can feel free to stretch out, toss and turn all night long. And, the staff’s tendency to go out of their way to accommodate families make a stay here comfortable in every imaginable way.
The holiday vibe: The hotel houses The Black Bamboo, one of the best South African restaurants (best restaurants period, actually) in the city. This is a place with personality, but it’s not all show – the dishes are a triumph of careful composition and texture. How about glazed five-spice duck breast with crispy skin, served with pickled cabbage, couscous, grilled apple and apple and radish slaw; or grilled kingklip in a beurre blanc sauce with smoothy, creamy polenta, sautéed spinach and curry sultana marmalade? Don’t forget dessert, either: Moist almond and honey cake and cream cheese-stuffed red velvet cookies are offered as the perfect end to dinner. It’s all ludicrously good value, and then there’s the service – clued-up and perfectly paced. For a bit of chill time, spend a full day treating yourself to a royal experience at Beauty Within, which offers traditional beauty services, de-stress treatments and herbal tea on tap. You’ll want to try the intensive full-body scrub for the full experience. Should you decide to step foot outside the hotel – there’s so much to do here that you actually don’t have to – you’ll be armed with dinner reservations, theatre tickets and anything else you fancy.
Insider tip: When you’re craving hefty, classic pizza done right, Holy Dough – the hotel’s no-frills joint serving fast, tasty slices – does it all, and we mean all. The Bleu topped with free-range chicken, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan, rocket and a rich homemade mayo is a highlight, but we can’t ever deny the Leal made with gorgeously stringy mozzarella, wood-fired butternut, caramelised onion and baby spinach.
209 Tugela Road, Ashlea Gardens, Pretoria
086 100 7387