By Lila Battis
July 08, 2020
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Courtesy of The Silo Hotel

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Africa has such unfathomable diversity that trying to sing the myriad praises of the entire continent, all its people, and all the types of experiences that are possible can feel like an exercise in futility. An estimated 2,000 languages are spoken (South Africa’s constitution recognizes a whopping 11), and the number of distinct ethnic groups is well into the thousands. (Kenya alone has 70). There's no better way to glimpse Sub-Saharan Africa's rich cultural mélange than to visit some of the region's cities — and luckily, T+L readers have shared their thoughts on the best city hotels in Africa for your next urban adventure.

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.

Johannesburg has come into its own as a compelling destination, particularly in the decade since it held the World Cup. The influx of travelers has also ushered in the arrival of chic stays like No. 2, the Saxon, a 10-acre escape in the heart of Sandhurst. “The hotel was pure serenity,” wrote one reader. “[They] treated us like royalty.” The look is one of modern South African grandeur, with none of the colonial-inspired trappings so many luxury hotels in the region fall back on. Instead, you’ll find design nods to cultures and craft traditions from across the continent: mud-cloth pillows, woven baskets, Ashanti fertility dolls, and contemporary works from African artists both emerging and established.

Then there’s No. 3, Giraffe Manor — a Nairobi, Kenya hotel that launched a thousand Instagram posts. Picture an estate straight out of a Brontë novel, all dove-colored stone and creeping ivy. But whereas the Brontës would have included tortured love interests, attic wives, and moody moor scenes, the Manor instead features giraffes on the lawn, giraffes ducking in through the windows, and giraffes gazing on impassively as guests try out the garden rope swing.

The One&Only Cape Town (No. 5) has perfected the best-of-both-worlds approach: the property is a stone’s throw from the buzzing V&A Waterfront and thrums with the energy of a sparkling urban center, yet parts of the grounds — most notably the pool, with its lagoon-like feel and verdant landscaping, and the spa, which sits on a small island wreathed by glassy private waterways — feel like a remote retreat.

Read on for the full list of the best city hotels in Africa, including the Silo, a stunning example of sustainable design.

1. The Silo, Cape Town

Courtesy of The Silo Hotel

Score: 96.00

More information: theroyalportfolio.com

No Cape Town hotel in recent memory has been as hotly anticipated as the Silo, Thomas Heatherwick’s gleaming rebuild of a converted grain silo on the V&A Waterfront. When it opened in 2017 — followed soon after by the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which occupies the bottom six floors of the building — it was an instant hit. And three years in, it hasn’t lost its shine. Liz Biden’s eclectic design sets the Silo apart from the crowd, and its killer rotating collection of contemporary art — plus unbeatable panoramas from those signature convex windows — make this place a visual feast. “This hotel may rate as our favorite of all time,” one T+L reader raved. “Our room was spectacular, the view beyond words, the service and people the best. Words really can't quite do this property justice.” This is a place where every detail has been fussed over and perfected, right down to the bathrobes and the mini-bar snacks. The rooftop pool is the most stylish corner of the property, with views of the bay and the city splayed out beneath Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, but no one would blame you if you chose instead to hole up in that palatial bathroom for hours, luxuriating in one of the most enviable hotel bathtub setups in the southern hemisphere.

2. Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, Johannesburg, South Africa

Courtesy of Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 94.88

More information: saxon.co.za

3. Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Kenya

Courtesy of The Safari Collection

Score: 94.40

More information: thesafaricollection.com

4. Cape Grace, Cape Town

Courtesy of Cape Grace Hotel

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 93.42

More information: capegrace.com

5. One&Only Cape Town

Courtesy of One & Only Resorts

Score: 92.28

More information: oneandonlyresorts.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.