12 Storied Hotels in South Africa: Discover Oprah’s Favorite and the Room Where Winston Churchill Stayed

Why stay at an ordinary South Africa hotel when you can stay at a hotel with an interesting past. There are some people who seek adventure and those are the ones who may be inclined to book a hotel room at a haunted hotel or a hotel that Nelson Mandela once called home. There are some stories that are unsubstantiated but are so unbelievable that they are worth repeating. These are the stories that tend to draw in the curious traveler who seeks adventure.

If you want to get a good nights sleep and don’t want to risk hearing things go ‘bump’ in the middle of the night, a hotel with a questionable past might not be the best option for you. However, if you’re up for a little adventure, keep reading, you may just want to book one of our next hotels the next time you visit South Africa. Here is the list of our top 12 most storied hotels in South Africa:

1. Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town

The Mount Nelson Hotel is located in the city center of Cape Town, South Africa. It first opened its doors to the public in 1899 and was the first hotel in South Africa with both hot and cold water. Since the Second Boer War started later that year, the hotel became the headquarters where military plans where drawn. In 1919 the hotel was again a designated location but this time it was used as a ‘plague-free zone’, during which time the deadly influenza virus was sweeping through the city.

It is also worth noting that many famous people have stayed at The Mount Nelson Hotel, such as Winston Churchill, The Prince of Wales, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; the creator of Sherlock Holmes. It’s obvious by the caliber of people who stayed here that The Mount Nelson Hotel is something quite special and is probably a place worth visiting.

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2. Breakwater Lodge, Cape Town

Situated at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town is the Breakwater Lodge, which was originally built as a prison in 1859. The prisoners that were initially housed there were from Britain. These prisoners would travel to The Cape where they would construct the breakwater that would allow for the building of the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront harbor. Evidence of the when the hotel functioned as a prison is with the remaining treadmill that was used as a way of punishing prisoners. It wasn’t until the late 19th century when they begin to racially segregate black and white convicts.

The white prisoners were later moved to a newer building, that of which still stands today and is known as The Breakwater Lodge. After operating for ten years as a prison it became a detention center for juveniles and later, a hostel for black dockworkers. It’s hard to believe that it now operates as a popular, trendy hotel.

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3. The Kimberly Hotel Club & Boutique Hotel, Kimberly

If you have plans of visiting the historical cities of South Africa where the diamond trade was most prevalent then chances are that you’ll find yourself in Kimberley, South Africa. If you do then you may be interested in knowing that the Kimberley Hotel Club & Boutique Hotel was established in 1881, first as a Gentleman’s Club and later as a hotel. It was a hotel for the leading diamond financiers and businessmen to meet. The club was modeled after the famous gentlemen’s clubs found in London during that era. It was their way of getting as far away from common miners, dust, heat and the noise from the diamond digging.

The hotel has a haunting history. Since Kimberley is said to be one of the haunted cities in South Africa, it doesn’t surprise visitors when they hear how ghost visit the 136-year old hotel. One is said to be a woman dressed in white standing on the main staircase. In the dining room, some have said that there is a spooky waiter who is dressed in an 1880’s waiters uniform. The most interesting of all is the claim of that there is a ghost who grabs female guests bottoms. So if you decide to stay at the Kimberley Hotel don’t be surprised if you feel something come across your rear-end. It’s just one of the locals.

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4. The Saxon Hotel, Johannesburg

If these walls could talk! This was once the home of local Johannesburg, South African business tycoon Douw Steyn. Douw Steyn was a known friend of then political prisoner, Nelson Mandela. Upon his release from prison, Mr. Mandela was invited to stay with his dear friend in what would later become The Saxon Hotel. Given the beauty and serenity of the property, it is no wonder why he took his friend up on his offer. The Saxon Hotel is where Nelson Mandela was living when he wrote his famous autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom.

In more recent years, The Saxon Hotel has also welcomed dignitaries, such as Bill Clinton and Barak Obama. Other noticeable celebrities, such as Will Smith, Prince William and Harry, Oprah Winfrey, Mick Jagger, and U2 have also stayed at the luxury hotel situated in the upscale neighborhood of Sandhurst. By staying at The Saxon Hotel you will be in an elite class of people.

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5. Lord Milner Hotel, Western Cape

Situated in a small town in the Western Cape of South Africa sits the Lord Milner Hotel. The town, Matjiesfontein is known for the many ghostly stories that are told. During the South African Boer War, nearly 10,000 troops camped in the area. The hotel, which as built in 1899, was eventually used as a military hospital. However, this isn’t its only claim to fame.

It is well known for being a haunted hotel. One of the many stories told is about a nurse during the war, Kate, who mysteriously passed away. Hotel guests have reported seeing her staring from the hotel’s tower. Kate had a love of playing cards and some guests have even said that they could hear the sound of cards being shuffled from a room that was named “Kate’s Card Room. The town’s people and the hotel reception are eager to share stories of the hotels past with its guests. If you like a good bedtime story, book a room at the Lord Milner Hotel.

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6. The George Hotel, Zula Land

If you are familiar with the legend of Shaka Zulu, a Zulu King and warrior, you may be interested in staying at the George Hotel in Zulu Land. Zululand is situated just outside of Durban, South Africa and is known for the preservation of its Zulu heritage. The hotel was built in 1906 across from the Great 300 hectare Dlinza Forest. During the boom of the mining industry, the hotel was used as a Stock Exchange. It has survived uprisings and the repression of the Zulu’s during the Apartheid era.

In recent years the hotel has served as the greeting spot for many famous golfers who visit Eshowe for its annual golf weekend. It isn’t the hotel alone that is a draw for many of its guest; rather the hotel is now home to a craft beer pub. A historic hotel, cultural surrounds, and a beer pub, what more can you ask for your next hotel stay.

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7. Oude Werf Hotel

If you enjoy visiting historical church grounds, keep reading because there’s a good chance you’ll want to hear about our next historic hotel in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Situated in the wine region of Stellenbosch sits the home of where the congregation of South Africa first worshiped. The building was constructed in the late 1600’s, making it one of the oldest operating hotels in South Africa.

The church was later moved to a new location and the old churchyard or de Oude Werf in Dutch stood vacant for approximately 70 years. When the new landowner divided the site into lots to sale it caused religious division. The now Oude Werf Hotel was built on one of the lots and it was said that he would haunt the old yard on horseback for all of eternity. If you book your stay at Oude Werf you may experience a spiritual awakening.

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8. The Royal Hotel, Riebeek Kasteel

Located in Riebeek Kasteel in the Western Cape of South Africa is The Royal Hotel, built in 1862. It is the oldest licensed hotel on the Western Cape. Its history is interesting since two opposing sides of the Apartheid area were known to frequent the hotel, Daniel Malan and Jan Smuts, both of whom were from the Riebeek Valley. While both men served as prime minister of South Africa, they had different views about Apartheid. Jan Smut initially believed in the Apartheid laws but later changed his viewpoint. This caused him to lose his race for prime minister to Daniel Malan in 1948; who helped install the Apartheid laws. Smut was recognized as the first anti-apartheid politician.

Even though Apartheid no longer exists, remnants of it still exist in the fabric of South Africa. However, in 2005 a restroom that was used for non-whites was removed. This was considered a great victory in modern times. Guests of the hotel do not have to be reminded of this painful era in history when they book a room at the historic Royal Hotel.

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9. The Alphen Boutique Hotel, Constantia 

The Alphen is located in the luxurious, upscale neighborhood of Constantia, just minutes from Cape Town. The homestead was built in 1753 and once served as a wine estate and later a working farm and mill. The Alphen has maintained its original architecture and many of the buildings used while it was a working mill still remain today. In fact, one of the oldest buildings on the estate is its slave quarters, which have been integrated into the design of the luxury hotel.

This impressive hotel played host to many eccentric and fascinating guests, such as Mark Twain. The most interesting guest known to frequent the hotel was Dr. Barry, who lived as a man most of his life but on his deathbed, revealed that he was actually a woman! Ghostly figures of Dr. Barry have been known to roam the property on horseback, at night. When you book your stay at The Alphen, don’t be startled if you see a figure of him or (her) riding on horseback across the estate grounds.

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10. Silo Hotel, Cape Town

Located in Cape Town at the waterfront harbor sits the Silo Hotel. The reason that the outside of the Silo looks more like an industrial building than a hotel because for almost 80 years it served as the areas grain silo. After opening in 1924 it was then the tallest building in Sub-Saharan Africa. No one would have ever imagined that this towering complex could be converted into what is now Cape Town’s most sought-after luxury hotel. The silo was used for international exporting and trade and supported local farming communities of South Africa. The hotel was actually built in only one part of the silo building, the elevator tower. This was the actual operating facility where the bulk of the grain was stored, weighed, bagged, and distributed.

The hotel is far removed from the days of importing and exporting grain, in fact once inside you’ll likely forget that this is what the building was once used for. The Silo Hotel is a masterpiece. It’s where guest can stay in an industrial property that has gone from drab to fab with a modern, luxurious appeal.

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11. The Table Bay Hotel, Cape Town

The Table Bay Hotel, located at the famous V&A Waterfront of Cape Town, South Africa, is a favorite amongst many famous people worldwide. Due to its location, incredible views, and the five-star service that it offers, it’s no wonder so many celebrities, past and present, call The Table Bay Hotel home when visiting the mother city. Oscar, the sea lion statue is where you’ll discover the many A-list celebrities who have stayed at The Table Bay Hotel. There are plaques on Oscar that reveal that Sean Connery, Charlize Theron, Sarah Ferguson, Michael Jackson, Chris Rock, and Stevie Wonder have all stayed there. The hotel had the honor of welcoming then Illinois Senator, Barack Obama, who would then go on to become the 44th United States President.

Booking your stay at The Table Bay hotel means that you’ll be able to make your mark on the world with your own plaque on Oscar the seal. Who wouldn’t want to have their name alongside the likes of such celebrities?

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12. Bulwer Mountain Park Hotel, KwaZulu-Natal

Just outside of Durban, South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal sits the Bulwer Mountain Park Hotel. What was once a lovely manor house has been converted into a hotel with a ghostly past. It is said that this hotel has up to eight ghosts. Yes, you read that right Eight! Those creaking floors aren’t just because the building dates back to the 1940’s but because ghosts that walk the floors. Some of the ghost seen is the original hotel owner who committed suicide before completing the hotel, Mathilda, a little girl who sits on the wooden staircase, and Wisp, a small white dog seen walking through the passageways of the hotel.

While the idea of so many ghosts in a hotel may frighten some away, there are some who are intrigued by the idea of a ghost being present. With so many ghosts on one property, when staying at the Mountain Park Hotel, it’s sure to be anything but an ordinary hotel stay.

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