Five days in Cape Town was all it took to confirm its place at the top my personal roster of favorite cities, and T+L readers seem to agree with me—you voted it No. 4 in this year’s annual World’s Best Awards, out this month. The scenic city has no shortage of stylish hotel options, from grand resorts to intimate bed-and-breakfasts, and the two properties where I was fortunate enough to lay my head were a chic study in contrasts: one dramatically glam, the other quietly elegant.
The thing that first struck me about the One&Only Cape Town was its unique scent. The sweet, soapy, all-consuming fragrance wafted out to the driveway when we rolled up wearily after a 24-hour flight, and rejuvenated us enough that we were suddenly motivated to scope out the local Capetonian nightlife within an hour of checking in.
When the Adam Tihany–designed 131-room urban resort (voted Top City Hotel in Africa and the Middle East and No. 14 overall in our World’s Best Awards) opened in time for the 2010 World Cup, the city had never seen anything quite like it. From celeb guests (Leonardo DiCaprio; David Beckham; Robert DeNiro) to celeb chefs (the first African outpost of Nobu), this resort boasts serious star power and sex appeal, and its central location at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront makes for easy access to the top restaurants, prime shopping, Robben Island, and more.
Arrive at night if you can—when you fling open your curtains come daylight, the view of majestic Table Mountain framed by your balcony is guaranteed to send you into a rapture. After a few days sampling the various options on the pillow menu, overindulging at the expansive breakfast buffet at Reuben's, and, yes, inhaling that gorgeous smell, I knew I was going to be a feat to get me to check out.
Luckily, it’s not like I was taking a step down. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the lovely Cape Cadogan, a stately early-19th-century Victorian manse and historical monument in an upscale residential neighborhood. Far from the tourist hubbub (and yet a stone’s throw from bustling Long Street, with its trendy shops and bars), the 12-room boutique hotel has a decidedly more intimate feel. The front-desk manager, Daen, will chat with you over breakfast in the courtyard, and you’ll make friends with fellow guests during the nightly wine hour in front of the fireplace in the sumptuous living room. For a longer trip to Cape Town, consider making yourself at home at its sister hotel, More Quarters, on the neighboring lane (the owners seem to be buying up much of the nearby property for a complex of interconnected hotel options), which is composed of suites with kitchenettes perfect for long-term stays. While stepping into Cape Cadogan is akin to traveling back to a more gracious time—grand fireplace; bookcase-lined salons; travertine-tiled bathrooms; private courtyards secreted away in the rooms—More Quarters is a fitting 21st-century complement. The same subdued color scheme of whites, creams and biscuits with accents of silver and teal carries over throughout More Quarters as well, but with a modern sensibility in the form of sharper lines, edgier artwork, and simpler furnishings.
In short: the scene-seekers should check in to One&Only, while history buffs who pine for another era might prefer Cape Cadogan. Or you could just be greedy like me and stay at both.
Sarah Khan is a senior copy editor at Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter @BySarahKhan.
Looking for more on Cape Town Hotels? Read T+L’s Hotel Guide: Cape Town.