What to expect from a stay at the Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg, where the Mandela Suite costs R90,000 a night
- The five-star Saxon in Johannesburg is probably the city’s most lavish hotel for business and leisure travelers.
- It is set on a ten-acre estate in the affluent suburb of Sandhurst, with native gardens, koi ponds and a pillared terrace leading to a heated infinity pool.
- The main hotel is the former private residence of South African billionaire insurance magnate Douw Steyn, who still owns it.
- It was also a temporary home for Nelson Mandela shortly after his release from prison, where he is said to have written some of ‘long walk to freedom‘.
- Guests can now book a stay in Mandela’s former suite — for R90,000 a night.
- But there are other slightly cheaper and almost equally luxurious options on the property, plus an on-site restaurant and spa open to day visitors.
- Here’s what to expect from a stay in the Saxon — and what to expect in the Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
From the moment you arrive at the Saxon Hotel Johannesburg on Saxon Road in Parkhurst, it’s clear that this is no ordinary hotel, and anything is likely to be bigger and grander than most. alternative accommodation options in South Africa.
A bespoke welcome party is on hand to greet you at the grand gates of the property on a driveway wedged between some of South Africa’s most valuable properties. The team are there to make sure you come to The Saxon, rather than mistake it for the home of your wealthy best friend, then guide you down the winding driveway to a remote corner of the ten-acre estate.
Stepping into the hotel’s grand lobby also sticks to The Saxon’s opening theme. Two majestic staircases lead dramatically to a mezzanine on either side, and the room, once the heart of a private home, is lit by a giant skylight and dramatic chandelier. Large works of art, many of which pay homage to the late President Nelson Mandela, hang on the walls.
The Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa is partly located in the former home of billionaire South African insurance magnate Douw Steyn, with newer villa extensions taking over neighboring properties. It is open to day and evening visitors who wish to eat at one of its two restaurants or seek treatment at the Saxon Spa. And it’s usually through one of these attractions that most South Africans first experience this shamelessly opulent destination.
But the Saxon has made a name for itself among the world’s most discerning business and leisure travelers as the ultimate stopover point in Johannesburg. If guests aren’t doing business in the city, they often freshen up at the hotel and receive signature spa treatments after a long-haul flight, before heading north for a private game drive or south to in Cape Town.
And a stay in one of the Deluxe, Presidential, or Platinum Suites is a remarkable experience in itself, and a bucket list item for many luxury hotel hoppers around the world.
Overnight options at the Saxon range in size from 80 to 400 square meters. There are 24 rooms in the main hotel and 27 in the villas on the property, and the most affordable of these are the luxury suites available in each location.
These suites are equipped with a king-size bed, high-speed Wi-Fi, flat-screen HD TV with remote-controlled surround sound, fully stocked complimentary minibar, terrace or balconies overlooking lush gardens, work desks, dining areas, and an array of amenities and facilities you’d expect from a hotel in this price range.
In the unlikely event that you need something not already in your suite – say an extra bottle of chilled MCC, some extra bar snacks, or a reservation for a city tour – a butler is at your service. 24 hour availability.
While it’s possible to stay in suites located in Steyn’s former home, the more recently built villas are just steps away — along a walkway in the trees — and offer a secluded feel.
Inside the Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite
The Saxon’s flagship accommodation is the 400-square-meter Former Grand Suite on the second floor of Nelson Mandela. It sleeps six, with a separate bedroom, entrance and living room, and costs over R90,000 per night.
This is where Nelson Mandela stayed shortly after his release from prison and where he is said to have written part of his autobiography, ‘Long Walk to Freedom‘.
Business Insider South Africa was given a tour of the suite, which includes a marble bathroom with a jacuzzi tub, walk-in shower and steam room. There’s also a large dining or conference table, a desk with Mandela’s favorite zebra-covered chair, and original artwork that features or pays homage to the late president.
The suite also has a fully equipped butler’s kitchen with a separate entrance and 24-hour butler service.
Dine in style
The on-site restaurant, called Qunu after Mandela’s native village, is equally upscale. It is located in the former indoor pool room of Steyn’s former home and underwent a complete renovation in 2020.
Qunu is open to outside bookings, and it has earned a reputation as one of Johannesburg’s go-to restaurants for local celebrities and its wealthiest businessmen to see and see. It has also received notable global restaurant accolades, including several from the World Culinary Awards, and is now under the direction of Executive Chef Matthew Fox.
Despite a strong influence of local flavors (many ingredients are grown seasonally on the property), dishes like foie gras, Wagyu beef carpaccio and French Chardonnay (available by the glass) stand out on a menu that suits your tastes. most palates, if not budgets.
A team of servers, performing a sort of silent waltz on the main restaurant floor, deliver food and drinks to well-spaced tables with minimal fuss and plenty of charm.
Chefs prepare dishes like the popular Steak Diane right on the tables, there’s a full vegan offering, and those who can’t choose between the myriad wine and food options can select from the five-course tasting menu, available with an additional wine pairing.
While there is no shortage of equally impressive restaurants dotted around Johannesburg – where the concierge is happy to arrange reservations and transfers – dining at Qunu is an experience in itself, but one that fully complements all other facets of the Saxon.
There is also the option of dining on the terrace, which has a different menu from Qunu and offers a more subdued affair.
Meals or aperitifs are served to the sound of the soft chirping of birds from the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, perched in the towering trees of the estate. Plan your visit to the terrace on a weekday morning or afternoon, and it’s a reward in itself to consider that you’re only a few hundred yards from Sandton’s increasing rush-hour traffic – but tucked away in the definition of luxurious tranquility.
Andrew Thompson was a guest at the Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa in Johannesburg.