The Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg is a cliffside garden retreat overlooking the city’s prestigious northern suburbs. We originally reviewed this hotel in 2015, just after it had been transformed by UK-based hospitality design agency Black Sheep. The hotel features 117 guest rooms and suites featuring cool, contemporary décor inspired by modern Africa.
The Westcliff is conveniently located just 25 minutes drive from the International airport within Park Town. Park Town is an incredibly leafy area with wide roads, oozing the history of colonial Johannesburg with wonderful houses designed by Herbert Baker and villas designed by the top British architects of the late 19th century.
The hotel is spread over a large piece of hilly land, and therefore it’s not based in just one building. Instead, the rooms are arranged in a number of separate, terracotta-colored buildings, with cobbled streets amongst them and a large variety of plants around. It feels like you are visiting a small Mediterranean town where peace, tranquillity, and a relaxed atmosphere are accompanied by a beautifully designed pool, a sun-bed terrace, Jacaranda Forest, and the Rose Garden.
The area, Parktown, and the beginning of Jan Smuts is where colonial Johannesburg started, at the end of the 19th century. At this time, the British designed this part of Johannesburg, starting in Parktown West, and going all the way to Westcliff.
There are wonderful houses designed by Herbert Baker and villas designed by the top British architects of the time. It’s possible to make contact with the ParktownWestcliff Heritage Trust. They often walk through this area. There are no shopping centers or malls in Parktown.
Yet it is a vibrant area of Johannesburg with good restaurants, clubs, and bars, and not far from RosebankMall, which hosts the Cinema Nouveau and the Sunday Rooftop Mark. It is the hub of most businesses, and with so much development taking place, the area is very congested, so add a further 30-45 minutes to your journey, e.g., to the airport… South Africa isn’t really a place to use public transport, but a great alternative for traveling around the city is Uber Taxi (e.g., £20 GBP from the airport to the hotel). Otherwise, Parktown is clean, and you feel safe.
The hotel overlooks the Johannesburg Zoo, so just a short walk away, you can enjoy the most popular local tourist attraction. The Zoo covers 55 hectares of land and was founded in 1904 as a piece of land donated to the public for recreational use by the firm of the late Hermann Ekstein. The zoo houses over 320 species of animals, totaling about 2000 animals. It is open to the public 364 days a year, including Christmas, New Years, and Easter holidays. The zoo is internationally accredited and highly respected for its husbandry practices, which include maintaining a high standard of animal welfare, nutrition, and ethical conduct, ensuring all its animals’ physical and psychological well-being. Worth recommending is the Evening encounters – the zoo after dark.
Style & Character
The hotel feels exclusive with marble flooring, modern crystal chandeliers, and plush furniture. Subtle touches of Africa within the hotel includes swathes of animal print, including zebra print armchairs, leopard print rugs, and animal print in a variety of colors on feature walls in the bedrooms.
You are welcomed into the dark wood-decorated lobby lounge upon your arrival. Whilst checking in, take a sneak peek into the hotel shop filled with expensive African-inspired products such as decorative ostrich eggs, jacaranda wood sculptures, locally made jewelry, or leather products.
Soon after, you are transported to your suite through highly manicured gardens and cobbled streets in one of many golf carts. Plush carpets and luxurious cultures mesh with sculptures, nature, and birdsong. Certainly, modern and effortless décor of glass, metal, and unusual water features goes well together with old-fashioned touches of marble flooring and dark chunky wood furniture.
Our home for two nights, the Deluxe Suite, consisted of the lounge area with a large, elliptical-shaped balcony overlooking the Johannesburg Zoo. You couldn’t exactly see the animals, but we sure heard them gently waking up at dusk. The East facing balcony proved to be an ideal location for a very early morning breakfast, too. Sunrise offered a 270-degree view of the busy city, subtly masked by the overwhelming greenery of the world’s largest artificial forest.
Our suite’s overall look followed closely in the footsteps of the hotel itself. Minimalistic décor with simple white, cream or dark wood furniture included the sofa, coffee table, chest of drawers, and the dressing table in the lounge. Subtle yet very colorful additions to the décor added vibrance to the room including stripy carpet (green, cream, white and brown). Abstract paintings by Guy Thesenon can be found on the lounge walls, and a zebra-inspired feature wall (green and white) in the bedroom brings the decor alive.
The bedroom was pretty large, too, with a discretely separated wardrobe section (again, dark solid wood), the most comfortable double bed, two bedside cabinets, and a chest of drawers with an LG flat-screen TV. Worth adding that after two days of exploring Johannesburg, the world-famous Four Seasons Bed was a soothing and relaxing experience in itself.
The ensuite bathroom was decorated in a minimalistic fashion, with cream tiles, a large mirror above a single sink, and lots of lighting, accompanied by Etro toiletries. A medium-sized bath and a separate rain shower were discreetly separated from a single WC and a bidet. This area of the bathroom was also decorated with three classic cartoons from the Rand Daily Mail of April 1913.
Service & Facilities
Our suite was located just by the Jacaranda Gardens, an intimate outdoor venue with space for up to 250 guests. Downhill from our suite was the Rose Garden, an outdoor venue twice the size of the Jacaranda but also hosting up to 250 guests.
Both venues were immaculately manicured with a variety of plants and flowers. Ancient Rome-themed statues in the Rose Garden are perfect for weddings, birthday celebrations, anniversaries, or corporate events. Up the hill from the main Reception was the Arcadia – a beautiful indoor venue hosting up to 200 guests, decorated with marble flooring, animal-inspired plush and leather furniture, and a pool bar at the end of the hallway.
Just a short walk down from the Arcadia was the 716 ft² outdoor pool. Opened from 6:00 am – 8:00 pm, it actually became a place to form a new friendship on one night of our stay. It seemed that on one of the hotter nights during our stay (26 degrees), only we and one other couple decided to cool off in the pool overlooking the city and the bright stars above us. Whilst on their honeymoon, the couple from Los Angeles told us about the great white shark cage diving, elephant riding, and sky-diving they had planned for the next few days of their trip. We shared the magic of our experience in South Africa. The hotel staff had no problem serving us wine by the pool that night and keeping the bar open after hours so that we could discuss our amazing holidays (and one of the hotel staff even joined us after his shift!).
The Spa at Four Seasons The Westcliff, Johannesburg, captures the serenity of the region with its nature-inspired massage, skincare, and beauty treatments. Pure color and washed timbers accented with modern finishes such as petrified wood create a soothing and calm space. Bronze metals wash the rooms with warm light. Accent walls painted in contrasting colors accented with bold and dramatic art all aim to create a space where time ceases to exist, exuding calmness and relaxation. Simple spaces and vast windows, highlighted with laser-cut screen details of water lilies, allow privacy whilst enjoying the surrounding views.
Food & Drink
At the time of our superb visit to Four Seasons The Westcliff, Johannesburg, we ate in Flames. With its earthy, natural palette of colors and textures, it was all about the easiness and fun of informal dining. The crowd-pleasing menu is influenced by the enviable outdoor lifestyle and local barbecue (or braai), a cross-cultural culinary tradition that is inherently South African. As the hotel’s only all-day dining destination, it is centrally situated and leads outdoors onto a wide terrace for al fresco dining with a decorative small infinity pool, sun-lounger terrace, and a breathtaking panoramic view of Johannesburg.
Interactive and engaging from the get-go, the design concept highlights rather than conceals the dominant cooking process with a large, open grill. Here, fire is presented as theatre, providing not only a stage for the best quality local produce but guest interaction opportunities with the chefs.
For less pleasurable weather, Flames restaurant offers indoor seating and a white and cream interior, complemented by the simple design of wood and glass. It also offers a private dining room in the back with a view back to what seemed like a cheese and wine cellar.
We enjoyed beautifully presented food, served by the most smiley and chatty staff I have ever had the pleasure to deal with.
- Surf and turf Ceasar salad with braaied chicken and Mozambique prawns
- Lemongrass crab cakes with citrus salad and coriander pesto
- Grilled fillet of sea bass with braised fennel, lime sauce and curry basmati rice
- Ostrich tournedos “Rossini style” with sautéed broccoli and toasted almonds
- Strawberry cheesecake
- Pistachio crème brulee
Accompanied by Negroni – one part gin, one part Rosso (red, semi-sweet), and one part Campari garnished with orange peel.
Cellar Door celebrates the marriage of food and wine This intimate dining venue will spotlight South Africa’s best regional wines, enhanced by shared plates of local cheeses, grilled meats, and seafood. Ideal in the late afternoon or evening, this hidden habitat can also serve as a private dining room for up to 20 guests.
Westcliff Deli is an easy drop-in spot for local residents and hotel guests. This streetside venue features a few indoor and outdoor seats. It’s a great place to pick up morning coffee, treats, and gourmet sandwiches and salads. There are also takeaway foods to enjoy on Johannesburg day trips.
Apres-Spa is an outdoor Johannesburg bar and lounge. This casual garden setting serves wines, juices, and light cuisine: ideal before and after spa treatments. Read and relax, or chat with friends on comfortable sofas and daybeds, enjoying the lazy pace of a Johannesburg spa day.
Other close-by attractions include:
- Johannesburg Planetarium, with a range of shows such as “Sky Tonight”, “Space Travel” and a variety of children’s shows and birthday party arrangements (cost £1.50 GBP per person)
- Constitution Hill, holding a very complex history going back to 1892, today hosts gripping exhibitions with themes that reveal South Africa’s rich heritage and advocate human rights; a platform for Heritage, Education and Tourism related programs
- Mandela House, striving to be a world-class visitor attraction and a leading center for the preservation, presentation, and research of the history, heritage, and legacy of the Mandela Family
The Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg, is the perfect location for a romantic weekend away, a wedding, or a honeymoon. A midnight swim in the pool overlooking the clear skies of Johannesburg, watching the sunrise from your balcony, or a nightcap at the rooftop bar watching a thunderstorm pass by in the distance.
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