Telegraph | Lisa Grainger:
Cape Town, this year’s world design capital, is a chic hub for the arts – and has no shortage of stylish places to stay, says Lisa Grainger.
The Clarendon is a house-turned-hotel in the pretty coastal suburb of Bantry Bay
Design-lovers visiting Cape Town this year, when it is World Design Capital (wdccapetown2014.com), should not be worrying about how to juggle so many gallery spaces into their itinerary so much as how to juggle so many art purchases into their luggage. This is a city jammed with creativity – and tempting souvenirs.
With the well-known Michaelis School of Fine Art at its heart, and thriving artistic communities in most areas, from Hout Bay to the township of Gugulethu, South Africa’s southernmost city is one in which the arts thrive. In the region there are 11 national museums, including the National Gallery (iziko.org.za), the Michaelis Collection of 17th‑century Dutch art and the Gold of Africa Museum(goldofafrica.com). In alternative areas such as Woodstock, food and craft markets bustle with creative stallholders at weekends, and on formerly run-down city-centre roads such as Bree Street and Long Street, outlets sell paintings, sculpture and crafts, as well as illustrated handbags (missibaba.com) and handcrafted jewellery (kirstengoss.com).
The best way to find your way about – and to narrow the number of galleries into a manageable itinerary – is to log on to mapmyway.co.zaand download the Arts & Crafts guide, with its easy-to-read map. Alternatively, book a private shopper such as Natalie Bulwer (email@example.com, from £27 an hour), who can whisk you off on a bespoke tour, taking in artists’ homes, craft emporiums and furniture shops.
For a breather, en route, try Hemelhuijs (a contemporary café whose owner makes chandeliers from broken plates; hemelhuijs.co.za) or, in Woodstock, go up to the rooftop Pot Luck Club (thepotluckclub.co.za), overlooking warehouses containing art studios and craft stores.
Where to stay and stash your goods? If you’ve an eye for design, not any old bland hotel will do. Here are five that are all pretty on the eye, from a city grande dame to a seaside bolt-hole.
Cape Town’s oldest, grandest hotel, bought as a house in 1806 and named in honour of the British admiral killed the year before. Not much has changed since 1899, when it opened formally as a hotel to service the Union-Castle ships that brought such passengers as Churchill as guests. High tea is served on silver platters in pastel-coloured living rooms. Grandfather clocks tick in passageways. Roses bloom beside the pool in the nine-acre garden.
Thankfully, the hotel has embarked on refurbishing its rooms (some of which, particularly at the back of the hotel, are still rather Victorian). The new suites, in particular those in the Oasis Wing and the eight Garden Cottage Suites, are bright and fresh: antiques replaced with modern-classic furnishings and walls adorned with contemporary paintings from the Michaelis School of Fine Art. Ask the concierge for a walking guide to the area, which takes in galleries and craft shops nearby.
0027 21 483 1000; mountnelson.co.za; from £156 double b & b
The One & Only
There are several advantages to being at the heart of the buzzing Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in one of the city’s largest luxury hotels – one of them being the size of the rooms. The Island rooms – with doors that open on an exotically landscaped island in a lagoon – are extremely spacious, with details in rich African reds, oranges and dark woods, local art on the walls, and huge showers and oval Corian baths.
The hotel has an efficient concierge, a restaurant run by one of South Africa’s best-loved chefs, Reuben Riffel (as well as a Nobu and an Isola) and a cavernous Espa spa. Best of all for art-lovers are full or half-day tours run by the former gallerist, João Ferreira, meeting creators and exploring galleries; and organised art walks around the city centre, enjoying attractions from the Cape Gallery (capegallery.co.za) to Streetwires (streetwires.co.za), which sells bead-and-wire crafts made by formerly unemployed locals.
431 5888; oneandonlyresorts.com; from R5,500/£314 double, room only
The Clarendon Bantry Bay
This house-turned-hotel, in the pretty coastal suburb of Bantry Bay, has both the warmth of a private residence and the slick service of a hotel. Set over three floors, its rooms range from pretty doubles overlooking the garden to a mammoth penthouse with a 220sq m terrace lined with loungers to take in the dazzling Cape sunsets. Cream furnishings are contemporary and clean-lined, staff are extremely friendly, and breakfasts are delicious, from home-made muesli to orange-yolked eggs benedict. The hotel doesn’t serve dinner – but dozens of good restaurants are within a 10-minute drive. Hiring a car is recommended if you want to explore local galleries, from Montebello Design Centre(montebello.co.za) in Newlands to Kalk Bay Modern(kalkbaymodern.co.za) in the arty seaside suburb
434 6853; clarendon.co.za; from £114 b & b
Cape View Clifton
If you’re not inspired to paint here, then you won’t be inspired anywhere. This ultra-modern b & b is built on a cliff edge, with 180-degree views over the trendy Clifton beaches and Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles mountain range (and the often-spectacular sunset).
Each of the rooms – there are five suites and two apartments – has a view; some also extend on to private balconies that seem to hang over the sea. Décor is contemporary, with a beach-chic look (lots of stone, rattan, plants and natural fibres) and mostly monochrome art adorning white walls, from Ardmore ceramics and oversized black-and-white photography to covetable works from the Everard Read Gallery (one of the leading dealers in the country; everard-read-capetown.co.za).
There are several exhilarating walking trails from the back door, some leading straight to Table Mountain (about two hours’ walk to the top). The contemporary galleries of Hout Bay are a 10-minute drive away along an impressively windy, and pretty, coastal road
438 8748; capeviewclifton.com; from £154 double b & b
With its pristine lawns and elegant interiors, the former Bantry Bay home of Sir John and Lady Ellerman is one of the most glamorous boutique retreats in the city.
If it weren’t for its private art collection, most guests might spend their days on loungers in the garden or by the pool, overlooking the sea and Robben Island. But the art collection is one of the finest in the country. Works hang on every hotel wall and range from early 19th-century seascapes to modern pieces by such African luminaries as Vusi Khumalo and Paul du Toit, housed in a new modern-art wing. The concierge can arrange full art tours in the city and wine-tastings (there is a cellar of more than 7,500 bottles and in September the hotel opens the first Dom Pérignon cellar outside France). There is also a glossy book about the art collection, with informative biographical information on the country’s leading artists.