This Newly Renovated Icon Is Now One of Cape Town’s Most Coveted Hotels

On the heels of a stunning renovation under Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Cape Grace is back—and it’s better than ever.

Cape Grace, A Fairmont Managed Hotel, sits on Cape Town's charming waterfront and has a red exterior.

Cape Grace, A Fairmont Managed Hotel, sits on Cape Town’s charming waterfront.

Courtesy of Cape Grace, A Fairmont Managed Hotel


The vibe: A newly renovated icon is once again one of Cape Town’s most alluring places to stay

Location: W Quay Rd., Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, South Africa | View on Google Maps

Loyalty program: Accor Live Limitless Book now



The AFAR take

Originally opened in 1996, two years after South Africa transitioned to democracy, Cape Grace became a go-to retreat for well-heeled international travelers. Capetonians like me would head to the hotel’s upscale Bascule Bar when we wanted an excuse to dress up for a night out. But through the second half of the 2010s the years had started to show, and the luster of this harborside retreat had faded. Now, a major rejuvenation under the management of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has breathed new life into a much-loved Cape address, and it’s safe to say that a grande dame of the city is firmly back in vogue.

The new look of the hotel is thanks to design studio 1508 London, which also worked on the Carlton Tower Jumeirah and the OWO Residences by Raffles, both in London, and the Grand InterContinental Seoul. In redesigning the Cape Grace, “we wanted to create an atmosphere that is timeless and elegant, while referencing the glamorous heritage of the hotel,” explains Hamish Brown, partner at 1508 London.

This one-bedroom suite at Cape Grace in Cape Town has dark hardwood floors, geometric carpets, and harbor views.

A one-bedroom suite at Cape Grace in Cape Town

Courtesy of Cape Grace, A Fairmont Managed Hotel

In the public areas, that translates into contemporary Chesterfields and wingback chairs that create cozy nooks, while geometric chandeliers in the restaurant and bars add art deco glamour.

Public spaces have been opened up to let in natural light and views of majestic mountains and the marina, while decor takes its cue from the city’s history as a trading port and its growing role as a hub for culture and creativity on the continent. This is especially evident in the intimate Library Lounge, which overlooks a private yacht marina. Here, amid the shelves filled with natural history objets, you can while away an hour with a glass of chenin blanc—South Africa’s flagship varietal right now—and a tome on endemic fynbos vegetation only found in South Africa’s Western Cape. Art in the lobby and public areas represents talent from Cape Town’s burgeoning gallery scene, while bold new reinventions are underway for the restaurants and bars.

Who’s it for?

Travelers looking to take in all the Mother City has to offer will find Cape Grace to be an ideal base, thanks to its central location on the V&A Waterfront. Head chef Gregory Czarnecki brings fresh energy to the hotel kitchens, while the new design champions Cape Town’s art scene with an impressive in-house collection that includes works by Lulama Wolf and Sylvester Mqeku. The hotel is now a destination for multigenerational groups, thanks to its large number of connecting rooms and suites with configurations ranging up to three bedrooms.

The Library at Cape Grace has a large tufted orange sofa and brown bookshelves.

The Library at Cape Grace

Courtesy of Cape Grace, A Fairmont Managed Hotel

The location

Sitting at the end of its own private quay on the charming V&A Waterfront, Cape Grace feels worlds apart from the city, even though it’s just a few minutes’ walk or drive from many of Cape Town’s key sights. (Note that after dark, it’s generally safer to take an Uber or metered taxi in and around the city.)

Step across the Bascule Bridge and you’re right in front of the new Time Out Market (the first in Africa, dishing up a culinary cross-section of the city’s best chefs). Walk a little farther and you’ll have your choice of some of some of the city’s best restaurants (including the oceanside Pier) and boutiques (try Aafricaa for African design and fashion).

Beyond the waterfront, the city center and Bo-Kaap district—the historic Malay quarter known for its rows of colorful houses—are an easy walk from the hotel. A 10-minute drive delivers you to either the Table Mountain Cableway for panoramic city views or the beaches of the Atlantic Seaboard.

It’s safe to say that a grande dame of the city is firmly back in vogue.

The rooms

The “new” Cape Grace offers 112 rooms and suites, spread across 12 room categories. Some guest rooms have small balconies while others feature larger terraces and range from 484 square feet to a sprawling 3,000. Views are either of the yacht marina and the mountain (idyllic) or the harbor (charming, but with less “wow” factor).

The lighter, brighter decor that has infused the common areas with modernity extends to the rooms and suites upstairs, with contemporary furniture, bold geometric rugs, and sleek headboards clad in white leather. A muted color palette of chalk and gray offers a sense of tranquility, and while the bathrooms retain the same footprint as before, they’ve been subtly updated to reflect the new aesthetic.

This one-bedroom suite has a lounge area with black-and-white–striped carpeting and a nook with shelves.

The lounge of a one-bedroom suite in Cape Grace

Courtesy of Cape Grace, A Fairmont Managed Hotel

I loved my top-floor Rooftop Room, with its Table Mountain views and doors opening onto a small balcony overlooking the marina. Larger Rooftop Terrace Suites, one of three new room categories, offer even more outdoor space.

One-, two- and three-bedroom suites are ideal for multigenerational travelers, and although the hotel has an adult feel (note that there’s no kids’ club), it’s very family-friendly. Young travelers receive a welcome pack of toys and games in the room, plus a Cape Grace lion plush toy to take home. The hotel has special bedding for kids, and parents can request an array of in-room add-ons, from microwave bottle sterilizers to bubble bath for kids.

For a splurge, the new Cape Grace Suite (from $10,000/night) faces dramatic city and Table Mountain views from the top floor of the hotel. The two-bedroom suite has a spacious lounge and dining area that leads out onto a private terrace; a separate butler’s kitchen and bar area allow for an especially comfortable in-room dining experience.

The food and drink

Acclaimed head chef Gregory Czarnecki (previously of the Restaurant at Waterkloof, in the Somerset West Winelands) has been brought on board to reestablish Cape Grace as one of the city’s dining destinations. At his new restaurant, Heirloom, Czarnecki offers an à la carte menu alongside a multicourse degustation that blends local produce and culinary traditions with classical haute cuisine. The hake quenelles in a silky sauce of local Cap Classique sparkling wine was a standout, topped only by his inspired take on celeriac with white anchovy and hazelnut.

“Heirloom is about passing on the heritage, the classical cooking techniques that people tend to forget,” says Czarnecki. “We want to offer dishes that have comfort, but are also elegant. There’s the flavor of fine dining, but also the comfort of being at home.”

Breakfast at the hotel is a generous à la carte affair, while the Library offers an all-day menu of lighter Mediterranean-inspired plates.

The restaurant at Cape Grace has geometric chandeliers and green banquette seating.

The restaurant at Cape Grace

Courtesy of Cape Grace, A Fairmont Managed Hotel

Staff and service

One thing that remains reassuringly unchanged at the revamped Cape Grace is the impeccable service, which blends warm hospitality with unflappable efficiency. Need your day planned to take in all the best sights in the city? The team will happily pull together an itinerary for you. The ever-smiling doormen are a particular delight.


Public areas of the hotel are accessible to guests with limited mobility, and all floors can be reached by elevator. Three Deluxe Mountain View rooms are accessible for guests with mobility concerns, each offering a roll-in shower, a separate tub with grab bars, rail assistance in the bathroom, and ramp access to the balcony.

What’s still to come

June 2024 will see the reopening of Bascule Bar, once one of the city’s most popular cocktail bars, famous for its whiskey collection. The new iteration trades in the former gentlemen’s club aesthetic for a more colorful expression, with inspiration from South Africa’s shebeen (township bar) culture. Expect signature cocktails, an impressive whiskey offering, and a menu of globally inspired small plates by Czarnecki.

A new Fairmont Spa and a new Fairmont Fit gymnasium are also set to open in June 2024 near the hotel’s heated outdoor pool. The new spa will offer three treatment rooms, a Salt Room, and a sauna and steam room. Guests booking a treatment will have complimentary use of the facilities. From $1,050

When Cape Town-based freelance writer Richard Holmes is not jetting off on assignment, he’s usually to unearthing a new foodie find in the Mother City, or running the trails on Table Mountain. Follow him on @on_another_plane.
From Our Partners
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
More From AFAR