Advertisement

This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

Too often, travelers think of Africa and safaris as so inextricably linked that the promise of wide savannahs and wildlife spotting overshadows everything else the continent has to offer. Yes, the vastness of Africa holds plenty of opportunities for gorilla trekking and glimpsing big cats, but to focus only on that would be to eclipse the diversity and richness of Africa's cities: the cosmopolitan energy of Cape Town, the creative spirit and tech scene of Nairobi, the old and new craft traditions of Marrakesh, and the vibrant artistry on display in Johannesburg.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

Cape Grace Exterior
Credit: Belinda Amoedo/Courtesy of Cape Grace

This year, readers strongly favored South Africa — the top five city hotels are all in Cape Town and Jo'burg. Still, while the winners on this list share a national flag, the experiences at each couldn't be more different. At No. 2 the Silo Hotel, last year's first-place finisher, bold design and an art-forward approach keep the vibe fresh and edgy. One reader called the property "a feat of architectural imagination and style." On the building's ground floor is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, home to more works by contemporary African artists than any other collection on the globe. This year's fifth-place winner, One&Only Cape Town, oozes refinement and sophistication, with rooms that gaze out on Table Mountain or the city's marina. The property's experiences have something for everyone, whether you're after a romantic tasting à deux in the Cape Winelands or a whale-watching adventure with the whole family in tow.

At No. 3, Ellerman House has just 13 rooms and two villas, and with expansive terraces and views of the sea, guests are ensured privacy and relaxation. One T+L reader called it "a legendary hotel with an overwhelming atmosphere due to its team and location," while another praised the property's "white-glove, incredible service." A third put it sweetly: "They have won over my heart, and I will always stay at Ellerman House when I'm in town." Over in Sandhurst, a suburb of  Johannesburg, No. 4 Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa sits on 10 lush acres that capture a country-estate feel just minutes away from the city. And since the Saxon team can tailor itineraries with visits to artists' studios and museums, designers' ateliers and jewelers' studios, you don't have to worry about missing out on all the action of Jo'burg. 

Read on for more on readers' pick for first place, Cape Town's alluring Cape Grace.

1. Cape Grace, Cape Town

Table Mountain Luxury Room at Cape Grace
Credit: Courtesy of Cape Grace

Just steps from all the action of the V&A Waterfront, Cape Grace is that platonic ideal of a city stay: all the tranquility and indulgence you need to unwind, with a location that lets you go from away-from-it-all to heart-of-the-action in mere minutes. And though it has made the top city hotels in Africa list for an impressive 20 years, the property has only just reclaimed the top spot, an honor it last held in 2016. Its 120 guest rooms and suites are individually designed, with an aesthetic that feels charmingly old-world but never dated or stuffy. The hospitality, as expected, is impeccable, and amenities go beyond the basics with services like a complimentary car and driver to take you anywhere within a six-mile radius. "Loved everything about this hotel," said one reader. Another praised the "personalized service and discreet charm." A third voter sums it up: "The room was beautiful, the location was perfect, the staff was friendly and helpful, the food was terrific. I will always stay at this hotel when I return."

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 95.88
More information: capegrace.com

2. The Silo Hotel, Cape Town

The Silo luxury room bathroom
Credit: Courtesy of The Silo

Score: 95.25
More information: theroyalportfolio.com

3. Ellerman House, Cape Town

Exterior of Ellerman House
Credit: Etched Space/Courtesy of Ellerman House

Score: 94.35
More information: ellerman.co.za

4. Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, Johannesburg

Saxon Terrace View at Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa
Credit: Courtesy of Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 93.88
More information: saxon.co.za

5. One&Only Cape Town

One&Only Cape Town Table Mountain View
Credit: Courtesy of One&Only Cape Town

Score: 93.45
More information: oneandonlyresorts.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.