South Africa as a destination carries an air of mystique. A mille-feuille of culture, history, art and jaw-dropping natural landscapes, the country stands to be discovered layer by layer, and the city of Johannesburg is often the first stop on a South African itinerary.
Johannesburg is easily accessible via direct flights from New York on United Airlines and South African Airways or via Europe on Lufthansa, Swiss Airlines, Air France and KLM. It is a large city that breaks down into various neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive flair. Whether your clients are visiting the city itself, or simply passing through on their way to safari at Kruger National Park, the timeless Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff Johannesburg is a an absolute must. This colonial-style grand dame of a property is situated on the rocky hillside known as Witwatersrand in the center of Johannesburg, a mere 35 minutes from O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB). The Westcliff area is one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the city and also one with some distinct history, home to Johannesburg’s rich and famous as far back as the 1800’s.
A Chic Village-style Retreat
Laid out as individual villas with courtyards, fountains and gardens, the FS Johannesburg feels more like a chic village than a traditional hotel property. After an 18-month renovation, the resort began welcoming guests in 2014, with 105 guestrooms and 12 suites that provide modern comforts while staying true to the original classic style of the property. Spread out over nine hillside villas, all accommodations feature large furnished balconies or terraces, where guests can enjoy a drink or even breakfast with breathtaking views of the city. Spring is extra special at the FS Johannesburg, when the aforementioned balconies will afford guests a purple panorama as far as the eye can see, courtesy of the blooming jacarandas that populate the Westcliff area. It’s quite a spectacular site.
Each room holds carefully appointed details, such as embroidered accent pillows made by South African artisans, contemporary furnishings and unique local art. Guests traveling with children will be pleasantly surprised by the incredible 2-bedroom family rooms. At approximately 850 sq. ft., these rooms include a king-size bed, two twin beds, two large marble bathrooms with dressing areas and two private balconies—more than enough space for the entire family. What’s more, children are greeted with an array of welcome amenities: locally hand-made stuffed animals, board games, even a PlayStation 4 console. Although the property does not have a kids’ club, children are easily entertained with the many offerings on site.
Amenities & Activities with a South African Flare
The FS Johannesburg offers a lovely array of amenities that make for a truly comfortable stay. The state-of-the-art fitness center is open 24 hours, and along with the wellness sanctuary spa, makes it easy for guests to stay active, sooth tense muscles, and fight off jet lag. My husband and I booked an Afrique released deep tissue massage for the evening we arrived after a long journey from the U.S. to South Africa, and it proved to be an ideal way to start our African adventures. The unique oils used for this treatment, which are extracted from African plants such as katrafay, ravintsara and ravensara, possess powerful anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing properties. I highly recommend it. There are also two pools on property for guests to enjoy, a 25-meter adults-only lap pool with a luxe chic vibe and cafe, and a family pool that includes complementary beverages for the whole family.
My absolute favorite activity I experienced during our stay was actually one of their newest offerings—a flower art class with their in-house florist. What a privilege to have a one-on-one session with the lovely woman entrusted to decorate the FS Johannesburg. My daughters and I enjoyed some mommy and me time as we learned about the indigenous flora of South Africa, flowers like the majestic great protea and agapanthus, and about ways of making more eco-friendly and longer lasting bouquets. We then used these gorgeous stems to make our own flower arrangements, which turned out so stunning that we were saddened to leave them behind. Yet to our surprise the kind staff surprised us and used our own creations to decorate our dinner table that night.
Flames Restaurant is the main eatery at the FS Johannesburg. A modern take on a South African braii, it is ideally situated on a large terrace overlooking the city and the Johannesburg Zoo. A braii, meaning “to grill,” can best be described as a BBQ of sorts, where meats are grilled over coals. Given its name, it should come as no surprise that their signature dish is a gorgeous Tomahawk ribeye grilled with herb butter and homemade seasonings. It’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The Wagyu beef burger is another must-try if guests are looking for a smaller dish.
While Flames is especially known for its meats, Brunch at Flames on the terrace is truly special. Your clients will start off with a glass of champagne and oysters from Mandela Bay. They will then be served a beautiful spread of cold salads, sushi rolls, scones, quiches and pastries. Lastly, your clients will have a choice of hot dish and a dessert. The hot dishes from the kitchen include items such as crêpes Florentine and croque madame. It was by far one of the most unique brunches we have ever experienced.
For more information, visit fourseasons.com.
This story originally appeared in worldstompers.com, a family travel website created to inspire families with kids to expand their idea of adventures. You can follow the adventures of the Bazavilvazo family @worldstompers on Instagram and The Worldstompers on Facebook.
For Mayra’s experience at Hawaii’s Four Seasons Resort Oahu, click here.