The Western Cape is home to most of the oldest hotels in South Africa. Behind each building lies a history that is both fascinating and interesting. Here are some of our favourite hotels and the rich history that shaped them. If only walls could talk.
The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
The Mount Nelson Hotel, in the heart of Cape Town, tells the tale of a bygone era – one of class, sophistication and unmatched beauty. At the foothill of Table Mountain, the pink exterior building is steeped in history dating back to the 1800’s. The doors to the hotel officially opened in 1899 just before the start of the South African War. What most don’t know is that it was painted pink to symbolise peace in 1918. The palm-lined driveway dates all the way back to 1925.
Contact: 021 483 1000
Address: 76 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town
Houw Hoek Hotel
About 80kms outside of Cape Town, set in between babbling streams and towering hills in the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, lies the Houw Hoek Hotel. In the days of the Dutch East India Company, the hotel was the site of a toll gate on a wagon road to the east interior. It was built in 1779 and holds the oldest liquor licence in South Africa – so you can rightfully say it has been one of the most joy-filled spots in the country for the longest time.
Address: N2, Houw Hoek, Grabouw, Western Cape
Contact: 028 284 9646 or 074 148 7638
Chapman’s Peak Hotel
Located in Hout Bay, and at the foot of one of the most scenic drives in the world, Chapman’s Peak Hotel was previously called the Beach Hotel. It was built in the early 1900’s and burned to the ground in 1903. The manager was counting the days takings when a lamp fell over and caused the disastrous fire. No one was hurt in the fire, but the manager’s daughter did lose all her wedding clothing for her upcoming nuptials. The hotel was rebuilt and renamed Chapman’s Peak Hotel because of the popular drive. Some of the hotel’s features are still in tact today.
Address: Chapmans Peak Drive, Hout Bay
Contact: 021 790 1036 or 021 790 4403
Oude Werf Hotel
One of the oldest hotels in Stellenbosch, the Oude Werf Hotel was first established as a thatch-roof church in 1686. The church was called d’Ouwe Werf or ‘the old yard’ and requested by Dutch governor Simon van der Stel. A fire in 1710 destroyed the church. Rebuilt in 1802 as an inn, another fire burned down the establishment not even a year later. Once again the hotel was rebuilt, only to suffer the same fate 80 years later. In 1973 the property was rebuilt and restored by yet another owner. In 2007 it changed hands again and the hotel was given a facelift – and now stands as the Oude Werf Hotel today. Under the hotel’s kitchen is a preserved church graveyard that is still visible.
Address: 30 Church Street, Stellenbosch
Contact: 021 887 4606
The Lord Milner hotel
The only way to describe Matjiesfontein is ‘the place that stood still’. There are very few places in this country that have the timeless charm and standstill history of this little Karoo town. The building that is now the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein was constructed in 1899 by James Logan, who is also the founder of the town, during the start of the South African War. It was initially used as a military hospital and then as a lookout post. In 1968 David Rawson bought the building, renamed it The Lord Milner Hotel and reopened it in 1970. Matjiesfontein was preserved as a National Heritage Site in 1975 and will remain as such.
Address: Matjiesfontein, 6901
Contact: 023 561 3011
Cape Heritage hotel
In the middle of the Cape Town CBD lies a little piece of history – The Cape Heritage Hotel – which was built in the 1780’s. The hotel is part of Heritage Square which is also home to the country’s oldest grapevine. The vine was planted in 1781 and still bears fruit today without being watered or fed. In the 1960’s there were plans to demolish Heritage Square and put up a parking lot but finances were bleak and the project was suspended. In 1980 the square was renovated and the hotel restored. Many of the original walls are visible in the hotel today.
Address: 90 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre
Contact: 021 424 4646