The Belmond Mount Nelson is a window back to South Africa’s colonial era, but only its finer aspects. A statue of Mahatma Gandhi presides over the entrance. A lavish, quintessentially English high tea spread is served each afternoon. And the oh-so-proper service might inspire guests to curtsy (but please, don’t feel obliged). The imposing pillars at the gate conceal acres of rolling lawns and tennis courts befitting a landmark as fêted as the Pink Lady, as the rose-tinted grande dame is fondly known. Dating back to 1889, the Nellie has been a fixture on the Cape Town hospitality scene ever since, and it continues to be a sought-after setting for society events, from weddings held on its manicured grounds to cocktails at the plush Planet Bar.
Many of the 198 elegant rooms have recently been redone while keeping their character intact: rooms have marble bathrooms, and many are laden with antiques and chintz fabrics.
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A tony residential enclave, Gardens is full of elegant manses and charming colonial homes. It’s also a hub for off-the-tourist-map dining and shopping. The Mount Nelson is walking distance to all the action on Kloof Street: grab breakfast at Manna Epicure, lunch at Café Paradiso, coffee or beers at YoursTruly, or dinner at Black Sheep. To score some unique local souvenirs, browse the minimalist interior furnishings at LIM, and the tailored shirts of designer Alexandra Höjer. Indie film buffs should see what’s playing at the Labia Theatre next door to the hotel.
Need to Know
Rooms: 198 rooms and suites. From $440. Check-in: 2 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: Celebrated chef Rudi Liebenberg oversees the menus at both the stylish Planet restaurant and lounge as well as the more laid-back Oasis bistro. Spa and gym details: The Librisa spa carries Dermalogica and Africology products. There are two pools and a fitness center, and guests can rent a bike through the hotel’s Cycology program, either taking a tour of the city or exploring on their own.
Who it’s best for: An older, sophisticated crowd and travelers who like to step back in time to a bygone era. Our favorite rooms: The eight garden-cottage suites were fully renovated in October 2014, and they're tucked behind rose gardens for added privacy—perfect for a romantic escape. Good to know: Afternoon tea at Nellies is a Cape Town institution. Book ahead and don’t miss a chance to sample the classic “melktert,” a South African dessert specialty.