Joburg’s Coolest Luxury Hotel (and it’s not in Sandton)

Last week, in another stroke of blogging magic, I spent a night at the Four Seasons Westcliff.

(The hotel’s official name is Four Seasons Hotel the Westcliff Johannesburg. That name is a bit verbose, in my opinion, so I’ll call it the Four Seasons Westcliff. No offense, Four Seasons peeps — I just like to be concise.)

The Four Seasons Westcliff, formerly called the Westcliff Hotel, is less than two miles from my house in Melville. The old Westcliff Hotel was known for its afternoon tea, and I’d always meant to go but somehow never did — I was always short of cash or couldn’t get a reservation.

Then the hotel was purchased by Four Seasons in 2013, and closed for a yearlong-plus revamp. I had missed my chance, or so I thought.

Four Seasons and Merc

The new Four Seasons Westcliff. You might remember that the old hotel was pink. The new hotel has been repainted a dignified beige.

Two years later I got my chance after all, in the form of an invite to a blogger evening at the Four Seasons Westcliff — drinks, dinner, a spa treatment, and a night at the hotel. (In case you’re wondering: Four Seasons Westcliff has not yet resumed the tradition of afternoon tea. Hopefully it will soon, once the hotel’s new restaurants have become more established. In the meantime, read my post on the best high tea in Joburg.)

I don’t have any before-and-after pictures or impressions, as I never visited the old Westcliff. But I can tell you what I think about the new Four Seasons. In short, it’s awesome.

Let me preface this by saying that the Four Seasons Westcliff — the first Four Seasons hotel in South Africa — is a five-star resort and has prices to match. This is not a cheap hotel and I couldn’t afford to stay there on my own dime. I wish I could though, because it’s freaking nice. I would love to take a nice little staycation there every month or two.

Four Seasons room

My room at the Four Seasons. Freaking nice, right? One of the best things about it was the central heating. It was lovely to escape my freezing-cold Melville house for a night.

Four Seasons macarons

There was a plate of French macarons in my room. I don’t know if this was a special thing for me or if every guest gets them. But please, if you go to the Four Seasons Westcliff, do not leave without eating a macaron. They taste like Paris. I ate all five of mine within seven minutes of arrival.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what I loved about this hotel.

First and foremost, the room was fantastic: spacious, tastefully decorated, insanely comfortable bed, massive marble bathroom, large balcony with a view of both downtown Joburg and the leafy suburbs. The hotel overlooks the Joburg Zoo and apparently you can sometimes see elephants and hear lions. I couldn’t stand outside long enough though — too cold.

I loved the general layout of the hotel: a cluster of buildings perched on the side of a hill. The Four Seasons Westcliff feels more like a small village than a hotel, with a curvy cobble-stoned street meandering through the rooms, restaurants, and spa.

Four Seasons hadeda

There are hadedas, of course.

Four Seasons spa

The beautiful pool outside the spa, obviously too cold to swim in.

Four Seasons Melville sign

Each of the hotel buildings is named for a different part of Joburg. 

I loved the food, which was sumptuous, ornate, and delicious.

Four Seasons starter

We had dinner at View, the Four Seasons’ flagship a la carte restaurant. This was my starter: “Carrots in different textures with roasted Mozambique prawns and coriander pesto.” My dessert, “Dark chocolate pastilla with caramelized hazelnuts and Tahitian vanilla ice cream”, was out of this world.

Four Seasons bagel

We had the breakfast buffet at Flames, the more casual of the Four Seasons’ two main restaurants. I was thrilled to find bagels, which are hard to come by in South Africa. I topped mine with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

Four Seasons deli pastries

Pastries on display at the Westcliff Deli, which is at street level and easily accessible to passersby who want to pop in for a bite. I didn’t try these pastries, but if they are anything like those macarons in my room… 

The service was impeccable at the Four Seasons, as it is at most five-star hotels. Every need was taken care of before I could even ask.

I really enjoyed the spa, where I had a “VIP 02 Oxygenating Treatment by Biologique Recherche” — otherwise known as a fancy facial. I’ve never had so many different creams, milks, masks, and serums massaged onto my face in such a short spam of time, which was great because my skin gets really dry during winter.

I also has my skin’s health (hydration, elasticity, pigmentation, etc.) evaluated using a process called “Skin Instant Lab”. It was fun and I learned that I must exfoliate. I did receive a bit of a hard sell on the pricey Biologique Recherche skin products though — I left feeling like a I might become a wrinkly hag if I don’t buy R5000-worth of creams and serums. I’ll have to take my chances.

Over and above everything else, the best thing about the Four Seasons Westcliff is its location and the hotel’s approach to tourism in the city. Most of Joburg’s five-star hotels are clustered around Sandton or hidden deep in the northern suburbs, making downtown inaccessible for guests. The Four Seasons, on the other hand, is right on the edge of the Joburg CBD. The hotel’s marketing department uses this as a selling point, encouraging guests to visit Braamfontein, Maboneng, and other downtown hotspots. The Four Seasons also offers guided walking tours through downtown Joburg.

I love the fact that Four Seasons chose Joburg as the location for its first South African hotel and that it recognizes Joburg’s potential as a luxury tourist destination, not just as a business hub or a place to pass through on the way to Cape Town or the Kruger.

Skyline from Four Seasons

I did manage a couple of moody Joburg skyline shots, despite the cold. The building on the left is Johannesburg General Hospital. Look closely and you can catch a glimpse of the top of Ponte City on the other side of the ridge.

Thanks for the visit, Four Seasons. I love you and I hope to be back very soon. (Hint.)

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15 Comments

  • Reply Lani June 9, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Lucky you! Yes, please! Me, too Four Seasons 😀

    • Reply 2summers June 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm

      Haha, you’ll have to come visit Joburg and I’ll see what I can do! 🙂

      • Reply Lani June 9, 2015 at 1:46 pm

        I’d love to. I’ve met a few saffas since living in Thailand and they are the BEST. I have a totally new outlook on South Africa, too, with bloggers like you, too. The first I heard of it was when a friend of mine said the beaches were the bluest water she had ever seen.

  • Reply K for Kate (@Kate_Els) June 9, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Can we go back now please? We should’ve just refused to leave! Also put up my review today, thanks for all the low light photo tips! http://indikate.net/2015/06/i-heart-joburg-and-now-i-heart-the-four-seasons-johannesburg-too/?preview=true&preview_id=4599&preview_nonce=e0b677f9ef

    • Reply 2summers June 9, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      Yes, I agree. If I hadn’t been on my way to Cape Town I might have done just that. Hey, just tried to click your link but looks like you’ve posted the preview link 🙂

  • Reply Tumtum June 9, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    I so miss the pink hotel….that’s what made it Westcliff for me. I loved driving along the M1 looking at the sea of pink, wishing I too could one day stay overnight.
    I’ve been for dinner at Flames since it reopened and loved it!!!! Looking forward to summer to enjoy sundowners.

    • Reply 2summers June 9, 2015 at 6:11 pm

      I also really liked the looking at the pink from the M1 🙂

  • Reply all-TIM-ate June 9, 2015 at 6:11 pm

    had high-tea at the westcliff a few times and am really looking forward to seeing what the four seasons offers (but in the summer time 🙂 )

    • Reply 2summers June 9, 2015 at 6:12 pm

      Yes, it will be a fantastic place to eat in warm weather.

  • Reply Sine June 9, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    I so love this. I had no idea it was purchased by the Four SEasons! Believe it or not, I DO have the before pictures, at least of the pool deck where my husband and I sipped a mojito once, wish I could post one for you here. Maybe on your FB page. I am slightly jealous about all the great blogger perks you are getting Joburg these days:-)

    • Reply 2summers June 10, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      Thanks Sine. Yes, I’m getting very lucky these days. You should come back 🙂

      PS: Would love to see your old Westcliff pic!

      • Reply Sine June 11, 2015 at 4:39 am

        I’ll dig them up for you. Got sidetracked by my own travel for a change. Key West. But not sponsored. I may blog about it anyway:-)

        • Reply 2summers June 11, 2015 at 6:07 am

          Non-sponsored travel makes the best blogs.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish June 10, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Beautiful picture of the skyline. And I was foolishly pleased with myself because I recognized the top of Ponte City! Solely because of your blog and pictures. I feel I’m beginning to know this city, and I’ve never been there. What is below the lit-up buildings below the hospital? It looks like it might be some sort of viaduct or just a wall, but I can’t make it out.

    • Reply 2summers June 10, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks Genie, I’m also pleased that you could recognize Ponte City. I believe what you’re seeing there is a highway bridge, where the M1 Highway crosses over Joe Slovo Drive.

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