The recently refurbished President Hotel in Cape Town’s Bantry Bay is the perfect place for both locals and visitors to celebrate the best of the Mother City this summer season.

Twenty years ago president Nelson Mandela reopened the President Hotel after it had undergone a major facelift. Now, once again, the iconic hotel is writing a new chapter in its long history.

A Short History of the President Hotel

The enviable site on which the current 350-roomed President Hotel is situated has been a location for recreation from as early as 1766 when a social club set up by two wealthy burghers built Society House – a country retreat for those seeking respite from the growing township of Cape Town. From 1810 until 1876 the building had several private owners who intended to use it as a country escape for their families. In 1876 the building was converted into the Sea Point Hotel and later in 1880 it became the Wentworth Hotel which was advertised a ‘first-class hotel’ with billiards and pool on offer for guests.

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The arrival of the French generals Jarmin and Collineau at Sea-Point House, Cape of Good Hope, on their way to China Image: Library of Parliament

The late 1880s saw the Wentworth demolished and in 1887 the Queen’s Hotel, named for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, was completed. The hotel became a Sea Point landmark and catered to an elite clientele. In 1967 after South Africa had left he British Commonwealth, the hotel rebranded as the Hotel President and in 1998, four years after the end of Apartheid, the President Hotel had once again reinvented itself as a place for all South Africans and tourists to enjoy the spectacular City of Cape Town.

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Queen’s Hotel dining room in 1897 Image: Library of Parliament

A Celebration of the Fairest Cape

For the latest revamp interior architect Justin Raath took inspiration directly from the hotel guests: I would come in and listen to what visitors were planning for their day here in Cape Town. The range of world class choices on our doorstep was mind blowing – anything from wine tasting in Franschhoek to big game viewing in the Karoo and shark cage diving in Gansbaai. You could be in semi desert one day, snow the next and subtropical forest thereafter – the Western Cape is uniquely spectacular and we wanted to tell its story.”

The result is a visual homage to the natural beauty of the province – each floor of the six-storey hotel has been assigned a theme and local photographer Sasha Specker was recruited to capture images which tell the story of landscapes, ocean, fauna, flora, culture, and Madiba. The once ordinary hotel corridor walls are now a gallery featuring large scale photographic prints of the fairest Cape.

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A Place for Family Memories

In addition the newly renovated one and two-bedroomed suites, the President has added a new Kiddies Play Area next to the pool and with its close proximity to the promenade, Clifton and Camps Bay makes it the perfect option for family vacations.

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president hotel

Not Just for Tourists

The hotel is probably one of the best kept secrets when it comes to sundowner spots. The relatively sheltered area is a prime location for locals to enjoy an evening drink and a bite to eat while watching the sunset over the Atlantic. Among the options are the Deck Bar & Terrace for cocktails and tapas, The Senate Bar, The Island Restaurant for a buffet breakfast and a la carte dinner, The Botany Café for deli fare and The Base for wood-fired pizza.

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A Enduring Landmark

Justin Raath explains that design narrative started with the fact that the President Hotel is a landmark: “my wife used to come here 30 years ago for lunch from Somerset West, my colleague got engaged here 20 years ago – this hotel is an establishment, embedded with decades of memories.”

president hotel

Each material and object has been considered, for its sustainability and how it fits into the the hotel’s history as well as the vision for its future. As such the new reception area beautifully encapsulates a welcoming spirit through the influence of modern African culture – bespoke finishings such as the handblown glass beaded screen in the reception area, kinetic furniture and art all work together to tell the story of this unique place.

president hotel

To book a stay or reservation at the hotel, visit the website here.

Find out more about the recently revamped hotels in the Cape Winelands which includes La Petite Ferme and Lanzerac Hotel.