Hotel review: Cape Grace (Cape Town, South Africa)

Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.

I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in South Africa. You can read my trip reports here:


Today (March 22, 2014): Review of the 5-star Cape Grace hotel (South Africa).
  • Location: Google Maps
  • Address: V&A Waterfront, W Quay Rd, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, 8002,, South Africa
  • Hotel website: Cape Grace
  • Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso

Cape Grace provides the perfect V&A Waterfront setting for discovering Cape Town’s enviable location, which offers both centrality and privacy combined with unrivaled views of Table Mountain, the yacht marina and a working harbor. The essence of Cape Grace is an intrinsic desire to understand guests’ needs so as to ensure truly memorable visits. Each one of the 121 guest rooms and suites is unique and has its own story to tell. Even the standard rooms are spacious here, with separate sitting areas, desks, complimentary high-speed internet, and cushioned headboards. Reminiscent of a glamorous Mediterranean yacht moored in the bay under the watchful gaze of the iconic Table Mountain, guests can also relax in an elegant and distinguished outdoor area that overlooks Cape Town’s acclaimed yacht basin.

Cape Grace features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in South Africa and the best luxury hotels in Cape Town.

In this review (more info & photos below my slideshow):

  • Pros & things I like
  • Cons & things to know
  • My verdict
  • Tips for future guests & save money
  • Best time to visit
  • How to get there

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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Cape Grace enjoys a wonderful, central location on the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, one of Cape Town’s biggest tourist attractions with more than 24 million visitors each year. The V&A Waterfront is the city’s restored original Victorian harbour, that is a now a vibrant mix of a busy commercial harbor and a lively entertainment district, packed with shopping malls, cinemas, museums, restaurants, pubs and even an aquarium.
  • The hotel sits on its own quay along the V&A Waterfront, with the working harbor on one side and a multi-million yacht basin on the other. The quay is connected via a small pedestrian bridge with the most busy parts of the V&A Waterfront (about a 5 minute stroll), yet it’s far enough from the waterfront tourist madness to preserve an exclusive feel of a prestigious, quiet and serene retreat in the midst of the city.
  • The hotel’s eye-catching, red-brick facade has the appearance of an old and charming Victorian-style warehouse building, although it was newly constructed in the 1990s (the hotel officially opened in 1996 as Cape Town’s most exclusive property). The stylish and classic exterior blends well in the setting of the stunningly renovated Victorian harbor, which is sandwiched between the towering Table Mountain and bustling Table Bay harbor.
  • A nice and original feature is the roving flower trolley near the entrance, where guests can order special flower arrangements or even have flowers delivered to their rooms upstairs.
  • The communal areas of the hotel, including the lobby and its adjacent library, feature an opulent decor, with colonial-style furniture, thick carpets, impressive wall paintings, timber wood flooring, and draped curtains. One of the lobby’s most prominent features is the bountiful and continually refreshed floral displace that decorates the space. Overall, the decor gives the hotel a very warm and homely feel.
  • The hotel has 121 spacious suites & rooms, located over four guest floors. Room on the western site of the property enjoy Table Mountains views, while those on the east side (entrance side) of the hotel look out over the working harbor. During my visit, I stayed in a so-called “rooftop luxury room”, which featured a classic, navy inspired decor with the bed-side wall completely covered in a mirror. A true ‘room with a view’, it felt like a loft-like space with the added luxury of a rooftop breakfast patio from which to appreciate the sights Table Mountain. The room also had a separate dressing room, a marble bathroom (with bathtub, two sinks, a shower, and separate toilet), and an intimate reading area, complete with a selection of books.
  • In 2014, the hotel added an elegant, outdoor pool area to its main building, which resembles a luxurious pool deck of a cruise ship. Complete with a sunken lounge, a rim flow pool, a fashionable bar and a sun deck with comfortable loungers, the space features several nautical elements which heighten the experience of “being at sea”.
  • The hotel has only one restaurant, but it serves mouth-watering food. Led by Executive Chef, Malika van Reenen, Signal Restaurant offers creative Cape cuisine that’s fresh and inventive, drawing on influences from the many nationalities and customs that have shaped this region since being settled in 1652; namely Dutch and British settlers, French Huguenots, Asian traders and African cultures. The menu is seasonal, with the tasting menu changing regularly which is not to be missed! Breakfast is also served at Signal Restaurant, with a lovely buffet spread featuring plenty of choices in addition to an à la carte menu for the hot dishes.
  • The hotel bar, designated ‘Bascule’, is a favorite among locals and guests. Located on the water’s edge, Bascule is the perfect setting to take in the sights and sounds of the busy yacht marina and Waterfront surrounds. There are over 500 whiskies from around the world and an impressive selection of the finest Cape wines on offer. By day Bascule Bar is a lively and vibrant destination, to enjoy a cappuccino or light lunch. By night, the space is transformed into a glamorous whisky, wine and cocktail Bar, where connoisseurs and social butterflies gather in equal measure to enjoy a slice of Cape Town’s social life.
  • Cape Grace has a small but excellent spa, with adjacent, fully equipped gym facility, on site. It offers special Kalahari signature massages, and QMS Medicosmetics anti-ageing treatments. One of the best things about the spa is the wonderful terrace with spectacular Table Mountain views, where one can relax after a treatment.
  • The hotel offers complimentary high-speed internet to all its guests throughout the hotel.
  • There is allocated parking for guests in front of the hotel. In addition, if you don’t have or don’t want to use a car in Cape Town, you can also make use of the hotel’s complimentary chauffeur service within a radius of 10km (6m) from the hotel, which takes you to the city center, the Table Mountain cable car, and Cape Town’s most glorious beach (Camps Bay).
  • The service at the hotel is excellent. All of the staff I met during my two night stay – from the check-in staff to restaurant waiters and managers – were charming, professional and helpful. Of special note the concierge service, reception and guest services are amongst the best I have experienced.
  • The charming hotel is not part of one of the larger hotel chains. It property is individually owned by people who love Cape Town as much as I do.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

Although the hotel is 20 years old and experiences stiff competition from newer luxury properties at the V&A Waterfront – such as the nearby One&Only Cape Town and the newly opened The Silo –  Cape Grace still prides itself on being one of the best hotels in Cape Town (and it is). The location is hard to beat, and the food, facilities and service are top-notch. Yet, you may want to know the following when considering a stay here:

  • The enclosed pool area is quite small and undersized for such a large hotel. When the hotel is fully occupied, I can imagine it gets very crowded here, with little place to sit. The pool itself is also rather small, hence why I was it cleverly designed to resemble a cruise ship pool (where pools are always on the tiny side).
  • The old English Georgian traditional feel will not fit the taste of those that prefer a modern, light and minimalist decor. However, if you like grand, old-world style hotels, then stop looking further as the Cape Grace is your best bet for a stay in Cape Town.
  • The views from the guest rooms are mixed. If you are located on the eastern side of the hotel, you will face the working dock area of the harbor with the main entrance below, which can be quite loud from time to time. On the other side the rooms have lovely views of the yacht harbor with an enticing backdrop view of Table Mountain.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Pool: 8/10
  • Resort grounds: 8/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 9/10
  • Breakfast: 9/10
  • Spa: 9/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good: 8,6/10

TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
  • Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Ellerman House (and/or receive many free perks).
  • Save money: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, free daily breakfast, a 50 minute spa treatment, early check-in and late check-out, a bottle of wine, and a complimentary minibar consisting of a selection of local wines, beer and soft drinks).
  • I recommend to book or request one of the (more expensive) rooms on the hotel’s west side, since these rooms are quieter and come with lovely views of Table Mountain.
  • Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Cape Town’s hot, dry summer months run from late October to early April. Temperatures reach their peak between December and February, and this is generally seen as when to go to Cape Town for the best beach weather. Winter months (May to September) can be a wet, cold and rather disappointing affair.


HOW TO GET THERE

Cape Grace is located a 20 minute drive from Cape Town International Airport. The latter is served by the major African full-service and low-cost airlines, as well as by most major European and Middle East Carriers (click here for a direct link to their websites). Currently, Singapore Airlines is the only Asian carrier to serve this marvelous destination. Check the Wikipedia page of Cape Town International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Cape Town.


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HOTEL ENTRANCE: FLOWER TROLLEY
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LIBRARY
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GUEST-ROOM FLOOR
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ROOFTOP LUXURY ROOM: ENTRANCE
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ROOFTOP LUXURY ROOM: BATHROOM
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ROOFTOP LUXURY ROOM: WELCOME AMENITIES
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ROOFTOP LUXURY ROOM: TERRACE
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BASCULE WHISKY & WINE BAR
BASCULE WHISKY & WINE BAR
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BASCULE WHISKY & WINE BAR
BASCULE WHISKY & WINE BAR
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BASCULE WHISKY & WINE BAR: VIEW FROM TERRACE
V&A WATERFONT
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CAPE TOWN: BLOUBERG BEACH
CAPE TOWN: BLOUBERG BEACH

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