Arguably South Africa's most exciting city, Johannesburg is often bypassed by visitors heading straight out on safari in one of the country's northern game parks. We say they're missing out.
Just like many other big cities, Johannesburg has its issues, but to skip it is to miss an opportunity to base yourself at one of these great hotels and immerse yourself in the City of Gold's ever-increasing cultural buzz...
Melrose Arch Hotel
Melrose Arch proclaims itself to be "Africa's first truly HIP 5-star hotel". That's a very bold claim to make, but it's fair to say that the innovative architecture and attention to design detail place it in a category without too many competitors in this city.
Every one of the 118 guest rooms is decked out with sleek designer furniture, enhanced by mood lighting. Enormous rain showers, huge bathtubs with scented candles and an in-room entertainment system with surround sound completes the hi-tech feel. On top of all that, you can even dine in the pool, right in the middle of an avenue of trees planted in giant metal buckets.
Melrose Arch Hotel, 1 Melrose Square, Melrose Arch, Johannesburg 2076
The Peech is Johannesburg's best known eco-boutique hotel. Located in the suburb of Melrose, the hotel has sixteen rooms and suites spread across a lush one-acre garden, along with a sophisticated bistro restaurant, wine cellar, swimming pool, gardens and a boardroom.
The hotel blends chic design with a sustainability policy that includes eco-friendly solutions like solar water heating and grey water recycling. Recently awarded a Fair Trade in Tourism certification, the hotel has been described as "contemporary, edgy and Afrocentric" by Condé Nast Traveller and nominated as South Africa's leading boutique hotel at the World Travel Awards for the last four consecutive years. The suburbs of Sandton, Rosebank and Melrose Arch are all within ten minutes of the hotel.
The Peech Hotel, 61 North Street, Melrose, Johannesburg
The Winston Hotel
The intimate and individualistic Winston Hotel's 30 rooms are decorated in one of three distinct styles; French Boudoir, English Country or Royal Safari. The high-ceilinged rooms are large and striking, full of interesting juxtapositions of colour, texture and style, and some have their own private courtyard and outdoor seating area.
Although the shopping, dining and entertainment hubs of Rosebank, Sandton and Melrose are just minutes away, spare a night to stay put - the hotel comes into its own at night when the pool deck, snug bar and al fresco dining area of the Commissioner restaurant are at their most atmospheric. Mellow colonial-chic indoor and outdoor lounges complete the picture for a pre- or post-dinner tête-à-tête.
The Winston Hotel, 6 Tottenham Avenue, Melrose Estate, Johannesburg
In its first incarnation, Ten Bompas was a private home. When it was converted into a stylish design hotel, a number of extra buildings were added to the main villa to house the ten suites - all decorated by different interior designers - along with a spectacular double-height glass-fronted wine cellar; an impressive visual backdrop to dinner on the terrace at the well-regarded 'Sides' restaurant.
The ten designers were given a specific brief for the rooms - to imagine this was their home away from home. All the suites have a separate lounge and bedroom, a fireplace, steam bath, patio or balcony and are flooded with natural light, and despite the differences in style, there's an overall cohesiveness and ambience that oozes contemporary cool.
Ten Bompas, 10, Bompas Road, Johannesburg 2146
Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa
The very upmarket Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa is a luxurious all-suite property with a grand colonial manor house-style exterior, extensive manicured gardens and some of the most spacious and opulent accommodations in Johannesburg. Suites at this former horse farm all have huge windows overlooking the lawns, and all are individually named and styled; Courtyard suites in a Eurocentric fashion and Villa suites with a nod to South Africa's rich history.
The multi-award winning Fairlawns Spa takes a holistic approach to wellness, and offers a selection of traditional South East Asian-inspired treatments using oils, clays and natural spices. The Balinese Spa Gardens were built entirely from materials imported from Bali, and a separate Balinese Spa Villa was designed specifically for couples to enjoy a totally private spa retreat - popular with honeymooners.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.