Breaking Travel News investigates: The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, Johannesburg, South Africa
Sister property to the exclusive Shambala Game Reserve, Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa brings the same elite luxury to an urban setting.
The former home of South African insurance magnate Douw Steyn, the boutique, 53-suite, property is situated in the exclusive Sandhurst suburb of Johannesburg.
And arriving with Jarat Tours, the Saxon certainly maintains the air of a private residence.
Driving up the long, arching driveway, it is as though you are be presented at the home of a wealthy plutocrat, with immaculate staff on hand to escort guests through to the majestic reception.
Walking through the front door and under the sweeping staircase, it is hard not to be impressed.
Though just a short distance from the city’s shopping and business districts, the Saxon exudes an air of refined sophistication.
Discreet staff quietly go about their business, while guests are left to soak up the atmosphere.
Set in ten acres of lush landscaped grounds, The Saxon is untroubled by the world outside.
The imposing lobby at the Saxon Hotel
In the hotel-proper accommodation is divided between the Luxury and Presidential Suites, with the stately Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite reserved for the most discerning of guests.
Set back in the grounds, the three tranquil villas - again composed of Villa Luxury and Villa Presidential Suites - complete the offering.
More than a standard villa, these properties are better thought of as hotels-with-hotels, and afford a high level of privacy for guests.
A Villas Luxury Suite was our home for the night, containing everything you could hope from such a cultured property.
Decorated in an elegant contemporary style with natural textures, stone cladding and woods, the large room has an air of spacious relaxation.
A huge television offers programmes in such high definition they appear realer than real life, while a well-stocked mini-bar buzzes quietly in the corner.
To the rear, doors open out onto the surrounding gardens allowing breezes to pass through, while the king size bed sits in the centre.
A bathroom with bath, dual sink and walk-in stone clad shower are hidden behind central partition in the open-plan layout, while a seating and dining area complete the look.
Our dedicated butler makes takes just a few seconds to check us in, and we are set to explore.
The central point of the Saxon is the impressive infinity pool, with views stretching over the manicured lawns of the property.
It really is something to behold and it would easily have been possible to float there all day.
The surrounding Pool Terrace is also a great place to relax with cocktails as the evening draws in.
Our stay fell during the height of summer – with the South African sun burning down.
Noticing our discomfort in the heat, an attentive member of staff, rather than inviting us to move table, simply moved the retractable roof of the whole terrace to offer us shade.
Nature lovers can also enjoy the well stock koi carp pond which runs through the terrace area, providing a colourful diversion while guests enjoy their drinks.
Also on offer is Luke Dale Roberts X the Saxon, a newly refurbished restaurant on the first floor, offering superb views of the skyline and taking guests on a unique experiential dining journey.
For drinks, the Eighteen05 Whisky Bar is named in honour of Johnnie Walker, the original founding father of the legendary whisky brand.
A modern interpretation of a bygone era, the bar has a natural, earthy tone to the décor, bamboo bowl-shaped chandeliers and a slate-topped bar.
Black suited politicians were earnestly discussing the issues of the day during our visit, giving an insight into the importance of the hotel to the Joburg’ elite.
Qunu – open for both breakfast and dinner and serving a hearty South African menu – completes the line-up, offering a warm welcome with it red tones, woven lampshades and relaxed ambience.
Calculating infinity at the Saxon pool
Upstairs from the lobby, the newly renovated Saxon Spa is another highlight.
At some 700sqm, with eight new treatment rooms, manicure and pedicure areas, hair spa, sleep zone, spa dining area, juice bar, steam room, heated hydro pool, wet treatment zone, and hammam centre, there is certainly no shortage of options.
During my visit I was welcomed for a thirty minute hot stone massage and found a peaceful sanctuary at the heart of the hotel.
My treatment drew heavily from the healing properties of Himalayan salt, with the precious mineral expertly massaged into my ailing body to leave my feeling revitalised for the day ahead.
The Stephen Falcke-designed spa is certainly a highlight of the Saxon and a must for any visitor.
The newly renovated Saxon Spa
While a lot of luxury hotels can appear interchangeable, the Saxon has played a key role in South African history, giving it a unique heritage.
A legacy of its previous role as a private home has bequeathed an impressive art collection, for example, with over 200 original artworks hanging on the walls and bringing the hotel to life.
These artworks sit alongside photographs of some of the esteemed personalities who have called the hotel home during its storied past.
Most famous of all, of course, is former South African President and Nobel Prize-winner Nelson Mandela who completed his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom at The Saxon.
His memory is honoured in the Nelson Mandela Platinum Suite, which includes a master bedroom with a king size four-poster bed, separate bathroom with Jacuzzi bath, walk-in shower and steam room, as well as a guest bathroom, guest suite, separate lounge, dining room and business area with business desk.
The suite must be considered among the best in Africa, if not the world, and took the title of Africa’s Leading Hotel Suite at the World Travel Awards last year.
A final flourish of luxury to an outstanding hotel.
At the heart of the City of Gold, beneath the warm sunshine in the opulent, tree-lined suburb of Sandhurst, lies the enchanting Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa.
Find out more on the official website.