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Africa, Blog, Guide, South Africa, Travel

A First Timers Guide to The City of Gold – Johannesburg

We had the great opportunity to visit Johannesburg twice during our layovers within Africa. During our days in Johannesburg we were able to do a lot of sightseeing, learn about the city’s history, eat delicious South African cuisine, and stay at two wonderful hotels. We encourage tourists who travel to South Africa to visit game reserves, to also take the opportunity to spend at least a full 24 hours in Johannesburg. Seeing wild animals is amazing, (we know, it’s why we went to South Africa), but seeing the culture and history of Johanessburg is amazing too. Here is our first timers guide to some of the best places to visit, dine and stay within Johannesburg (based on our first hand experience), along with some helpful tips.

 

Related posts: The Best Tips for Flying To and Within South Africa!

 

Safety

Johannesburg, the City of Gold – tends to get a bad reputation as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. We are here to tell you, that is not the case. Just like all major cities, there are growing and influtential areas, suburbs, good school distrcts and more, but there are also areas of poverty and slum. Not once we did encounter any dangerous areas or incidents while in Johannesburg, what we did experience was pure culture and history.

 

Getting Around

We recommend two different ways to sightsee in Johanessburg, the City Sightseeing hop on-hop off bus or Joburg Tourism where they can provide you with a private guide.

Hop On-Hop Off buses are always a popular way to see a new and unfamiliar city. The great thing about a hop on-hop off bus is the opportunity to stop at several destinations you wish to see for an entire day, while paying for a budget friendly price. Along the routes there are also audio guides to use at your disposal, so you can learn about the places you are seeing or visiting. For people who have a lot of time to enjoy sightseeing at their own pace, this is a great fit for you. If you enjoy a more intimate setting that goes based on your tight schedule, we recommend a private driver.

We were invited from Joburg Tourism to enjoy a private driver/tour guide. This was our first experience with a private driver/tour guide and we enjoyed every second of it, in fact, we do not think we can enjoy another group tour ever again. Our guide, Lucille from Cresco Tours, was very knowledgable about the city and was able to show around Johannesburg and educate us more about the city than we have ever imagined. It was also comforting to be able to sightsee and learn about Johannesburg on our own time. To know that we never had to worry about catching our next ride somewhere or continuing to switch tour guides at every site. We were able to make a strong relationship with Lucille and enjoy our time exploring Johannesburg. If you decide to book with Cresco Tours, be sure to ask for Lucille!

 

City Sightseeing Hop On-Hop Off
https://www.citysightseeing.co.za/johannesburg

Joburg Tourism
http://www.joburgtourism.com
http://www.joburgtourism.com/packages/standard

Cresco Tours
http://www.crescotours.co.za/day_tours.php

 

In the Heart of Johannesburg

The heart of Johannesburg is the central business district. There are plenty of things to see, dine and stay in this area. In addition to some fun sightseeing, there is also a lot of culture and history that has defined the city of Johannesburg and South Africa as a whole.

 

Constituional Hill

If you only have time to do one thing in Johanessburg, we encourage you to visit Constitutional Hill. It was one of the most moving tours we have ever experienced. It reperesnts Johanessburg’s past, present and future.

Before the tour, there is a video that gives you a brief history of Constitutional Hill. The brief history is that black, white and colored men and women were prisoned here for speaking their minds of the harsh truth that was occurring in Johannesburg during that time. The treatment they were receiving was unbearable and inhuman. Walking through the prison cells, courtyard, torture chambers and isolation cells was depressing – we could not fathom the history that took place here. To see people be treated so inhuman because they were trying to get their freedom, equality and dignity was heartbreaking.

Some exhibits within the tour had pictures, audio and video of ex-prisoners’ stories of the series of events that happened to them everyday. Constitutional Hill has three prison blocks – Number Four (for black, asian and indian “native men”), Old Fort (for white men) and Women’s Goal (for black and white female prisoners).

The tour has prison cells that showcase the prisoners living arrangements, which were very poor – they would cram in dozens of men in a small prison room. We were told that in the courtyard, the men would have to strip naked and receive brutal beatings.

The isolation cells might have been the most heartbreaking of them all. Visitors can step into the isolation cells to see what it was like for the prisoners. The prisoners were only supposed to stay inside the isolation cells for no more than 30 days, but some stayed there for an entire year. Without even stepping into the isolation cells, we cannot begin to even imagine what it was like to be in their shoes.

A lot of historical men and women of Johanessburg were imprisoned at Constitutional Hill, including two of the most influential leaders of our world, Nelson Mandela and Ghandi. In honor of these men, Constitutional Hill has dedicated one of the prison cells into a small msusuem of their history here and in life.

Out of this tradegy comes hope. Johannesburg created their congress room in the center of Constitutional Hill and embraced their history for a better future. The bricks of the building are the same bricks the prisoners would mine. There is a small narrow window across the congress room where the judges can only see people’s legs walking by. This feature is to remind the judges that they sit in the chairs to help create a better world for all those people walking outside. We enjoyed the congress room a lot because of how much thought and meaning went into building the room.

11 Kotze St 
Johannesburg, 2017, South Africa
+27 11 381 3100
Open daily: 9am – 5pm
Prices vary for age and type of tour, so please click here to get an in-depth page of prices.
https://www.constitutionhill.org.za

 

Apartheid Museum

A visit to Apartheid Museum is a museum unlike any other, representing the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa. Guests take an emotional journey through a series of 22 individual exhibition areas, which tells a story of a state-sanctioned system based on racial discrimination and the struggle the majority of people endured to overthrow the tyranny. South Africa does not shy away from their past, but embrace it to make a better future – the Apartheid Museum is South Africa’s beacon of hope to show the world who they really are. It is a museum not to be missed.

Northern Park Way and Gold Reef Rd
Ormond, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 11 309 4700
Open daily: 9am – 5pm

Adults: R85
Students, seniors and children: R70
https://www.apartheidmuseum.org

 

Top of Africa

To experience the best views of Johanessburg, head to the 50th floor of the Carlton building, also known as the Top of Africa. Why is it called the Top of Africa? Because it is THE tallest building in Africa! At the observation deck, guests can see the city and its surrounding landscape with 360 degree unobstructed views. Though we went on a hazy day, it did not deteriorate from the beauty of Johanessburg. We were able to see the business district, suburbs and of course, the mining grounds.

150 Commissioner St
CBD, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 (0)11 308 1331
Monday – Friday: 9am – 6pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Sunday: 9am – 2pm
Tickets can be purchased at the front desk, located behind the store “Studio 88”, one floor below ground level.  If lost, ask a security guard or a store clerk. 
Adults: R15
Children under 10: R10

 

Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City has is a place for tourists of all ages – two hotels, a casino, a theme park and a mine tour! Guests must pay an entrance fee to enter the theme park regardless if they will partake in any rides. Guests wanting to actually go on rides must pay a higher price. To visit the mine tour will also cost an additional fee, but it is well worth it for those interested in learning how Johannesburg became The City of Gold! During the mine tour, guests will feel the cold air as they descend into the depths of the earth and discover the riches of South Africa’s history and gold. They will also have the opportunity to pan for gold in freezing cold water and watch gold being poured into golden bars!

Northern Pkwy & Data Cres
Ormonde 99-Ir, Johannesburg, 2159, South Africa
+27 11 248 5000
Closed Monday-Tuesday

Wednesday-Sunday: 9:30am – 5pm
Thrill Rider above 1.3m: R210 or R320 to include mine tour      
Non-Rider above 1.3m: R120 or R230 to include mine tour      
Guests under 1.3m: R130 or R240 to include mine tour  
Students and seniors 60+: R175 or R285 to include mine tour
Heritage Mine Tour: R340
Children under 3 years are admitted free of charge
https://www.tsogosun.com/gold-reef-city-casino

 

 

Soweto

Soweto is a the largest black town in South Africa and is known for its culture, history and the home of Nelson Mandela. Great local food can be found around town with an entertaining culture and lifestyle.

 

Hector Pieterson Museum and Memorial

The museum was built in honor of Hector Pieterson and is located only two blocks away from where Hector was shot and killed.  For those who do not know the story, students were walking to the stadium to gather for a protest and were met by the police. The children threw stones at the police and the police responded with gunfire. Hector was the first one to be shot by the police. This tragic event started the 1976 uprising in Soweto and throughout the country. The museum is dedicated to all the children, women and men, whose lives were lost during the apartheid tyranny. Outside the museum is a beautiful memorial which represents the event of the students and police officers. The memorial is built with a fountain that flows to the streets – the water flowing symbolizes the blood shed from the children. The iconic picture of Hector dying in the arms of another Soweto resident with his sister next to them, is placed next to the memorial.

Tip: If you are going to the Apartheid Museum, it is suggested not to visit the Hector Pieterson museum on the same day because of the amount of emotion placed upon the visitors. It is also said that a visit to the Apartheid Museum is enough to capture the history of the events, but if you want to learn more of what happened in Soweto then going inside the Hector Pieterson Museum is advised. Otherwise seeing the memorial with a tour guide to explain the symbolism of the event is enough.

8287 Khumalo Rd
Orlando West, Johannesburg, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 536 0611
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sundays: 10am – 4pm
Adults: R30
Students and seniors: R10
Children (ages 6 to 12): R5
https://www.gauteng.net/attractions/hector_pieterson_memorial_and_museum/

 

Orlando Towers

What was once used as a power station for over 50 years, is now South Africa’s largest mural painting in the country and a place to have fun. Soweto has a lot of culture and history, which the Orlando Towers signifies in their colorful painted murals that can be seen from miles away. For those seeking adrenaline, you can bungee jump, base jump or freefall from the top of the towers! After you enjoy your thrill of choice from the Orlando Towers, don’t forget to dine at Chaf Pozi (more info on the restaurant at Places to Dine). Spending a day at Orlando Towers and finishing your evening at Chaf Pozi will be an experience you will never forget in Johannesburg!

Chris Hani Rd, Soweto 1808
Johannesburg, 1809, South Africa
+27 71 674 4343
Thursday: 12pm – 5pm
Friday – Sunday: 10am – 6pm
Prices vary depending on activity
http://www.orlandotowers.co.za

 

Nelson Mandela House

Visiting Nelson Meandela’s House is almost a must when visiting Johannesburg! If you are fans of the legendary man, we highly recommend you visit his house. The house is full of gifts he received from leaders all over the world, in addition to awards he received throughout his life. Outside the house, visitors can see and feel with their fingers the bullet holes from people who shot at his house. Inside the house, visitors can see the last picture ever took of him before he was imprisoned next to the picture of him when he was released.

8115 Vilakazi St & Ngakane St
Orlando West, Johannesburg, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 936 7754
Open Daily: 9am – 5pm
Adults: R60
Students, seniors and children over 6 years: R20
children under 6 years: R5
http://www.mandelahouse.com

 

Playing Soccer with the Children

As we were driving throughout Soweto we kept seeing several children playing soccer in the middle of the streets. When we parked to visit the Nelson Mandela House, there were children playing in the parking lot. As soccer players, we could not resist playing with the children, so we joined them. It was a surreal experience that we will never forget. If you happen to find street vendors selling soccer balls, it would change the children’s world if you buy one for them, otherwise they will love it if you join them in a game or two!

 

 

 

Places to Dine

 

Homestead

Homestead focuses on South African food using the freshest and local ingredients. Their speciality is called “bowl’d food” where guests pick their starch, meat, vegetables, sauce and salad – essentially all of the components are served in bowls and placed on a wooden tray. One of their starch options is pap, also known as mieliepap, which is a traditional South African corn porridge, similar to polenta, but prepared differently. We recommend guests to enjoy it with a meat stew served on top.

58 Anderson St
Marshalltown, Johannesburg, 2107, South Africa
+27 11 689 1000
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 10pm
Sunday: closed
$$ – $$$
http://homestead.co.za

 

Aurelia’s Restaurant

A luxury dining experience at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. The ambience of Aurelia’s Restaurant during the night is romantic with its dim lighting, candles and fresh flowers on the table. Their dinner menu is quite extensive, which showcases the chef’s creative molecular gastronomy appetizers, entrees and desserts. The dishes have a little Mediterranean flare with some South African cuisine that can please any palate. To read our full review of Aurelia’s Restaurant, click here.

64 Jones Rd, O.R. Tambo
Kempton Park, 1627, South Africa
+27 11 928 1727
Lunch served daily: 12:30pm – 4pm
Dinner served daily: 6:30pm – 10pm
$$$$
http://www.emperorspalace.com/things-to-do/restaurants/aurelias-restaurant

 

Chaf Pozi

After you experience the Orlando Towers, dine at Chaf Pozi, an authentic South African Shisa Nyama (barbecue) cuisine restaurant at the base of the towers. At night, Chaf Pozi turns into a shebeen (live music and dancing), which is an integral part of South African urban culture and represents a sense of community, identity, and belonging.

Chaf Pozi
Chris Hani Rd, Soweto 1808
Johannesburg, 1809, South Africa
+27 81 797 5756
Monday – Thursday: 11am – 6pm
Friday – Sunday: 9am – 2am
$$-$$$
http://chafpozi.co.za

 

Sakhumzi Restaurant

Located across the street from the Nelson Mandela House is Sakhumzi, which serves local Soweto, authentic-home cooked cuisine. We have never encountered such a vibrant community during a dining experience. Everyone greeted us with a warm welcome as if we were family. Everything is made fresh from the kitchen and served as either a buffet or a la carte from the menu. The buffet has a great selection of authentic Soweto food, from traditional pap to lamb stew, sausage, tripe, cow tongue and more.

6980 Vilakazi St
Orlando West, Soweto, 1804, South Africa
+27 11 536 1379
Monday – Thursday: 11am – 10pm
Friday – Sunday: 11am – 12am
$$ – $$$
https://sakhumzi.co.za/our-story/

 

 

Places to Stay

Johannesburg is full of several different types of beautiful hotels – boutique, eco-friendly, luxurious and more. We highly recommend two hotels, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace and The Reef Hotel. Both hotels are amazing for different reasons.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is a five star hotel and the perfect hotel for layovers, as well as, a phenomenal hotel for luxurious vacations. It is in between Johannesburg’s central business district and Soweto, so also great for location. Click here to read more about this hotel.

The Reef Hotel is a four star hotel located in the heart of Johannesburg – the central business district. The hotel has some amazing features, such as a jacuzzi on their sun deck and a rooftop bar. Click here to read more about this hotel.

In addition to these two hotels, here are more fabulous hotels to stay at:

  • Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff
  • Hyatt Regency Johannessburg
  • The Peech Hotel
  • Saxon Hill, ranked as one of the Worlds Best Hotels in Travel and Leisure.

Book your hotel in Johannesburg by using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us!

Booking.com

 

 

Based on our experience, we suggest at least two full days in Johannesburg! Spend one day in the heart of Johannesburg and another day in Soweto. There is truly so much to see and experience in Johannesburg. It is not a city to be used as a layover, it is a city to be seen! We hope this guide has been helpful and given you a new and better perspective of Johanessburg.

 

Christina + Adam

 

 

Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

The Reef Hotel – a 4 Star Hotel in the Heart of Johannesburg

With only one night in Johannesburg as a layover to Phinda Game Reserve, we were grateful for the opportunity to stay at The Reef Hotel, a four star. The Reef Hotel is in the heart of Johannesburg – the central business district. It is the perfect location to do some sightseeing and a great hotel to spend one night or a full weekend in Johannesburg.

Full disclaimer: This was a sponsored stay from Joburg Tourism, but our opinions are our own.

The Reef Hotel first opened in 1990, but was remodeled in 2010 to host the World Cup! As soccer players and fans of the game, we thought it was pretty cool to stay in a World Cup hosted hotel. Before it was a hotel, it was an office building – which means that being amongst the skyscrapers in the central business district, the hotel is tall with 15 floors. Each floor has its own purpose:

  • The ground floor has the bell desk/concierge, art gallery and Homestead restaurant
  • The third floor has the front desk, bar and lounge, Grill Room restaurant and the sun deck
  • The fourth floor has conference facilities and meeting rooms
  • The remaining floors have the rooms
  • The top floor, also known as the balcony, has Elevate Rooftop

 

Accommodation

Reef Hotel has 120 suite rooms with two options, a standard or deluxe room. Guests cannot go wrong with either room as they are both fully equipped with a modern design. They both have the option of a double or twin bed, city views, air conditioning, a desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, plasma TV with cable, shower, hairdryer, coffee machine and an electronic safe. In addition to these room amenities, the deluxe room also offers a full sized bath and complimentary breakfast. Check out our video below to see the room in full detail!

 

Each room offers a beautiful floor to ceiling backdrop of a black and white picture that represents Johannesburg’s culture and history. Our standard room had a picture of one of Johannesburg’s mine shafts used to find gold. It was a very fitting room for us as we were excited to learn about Johannesburg’s history.

We found the room to be very spacious and had everything we needed for a comfortable stay, including a fresh bottle of water and toiletries. The bed and pillow (the most important part of a room), felt like we were sleeping on clouds, which was exactly what we needed after a long 18 hour flight.

 

 

Features and Amenities

The Reef Hotel offers plenty of features and amenities that are helpful to their guests.

  • Complimentary transportation within 3 miles of the hotel
  • Airport shuttle for R450 ZAR each way (1 -3passengers), must be booked ahead of time
  • Free indoor parking
  • A relaxing jacuzzi on the sun deck (must reserve two hours before)
  • Conference facilities and meeting rooms for up to 200 people
  • Art gallery
  • Sun deck
  • Disabled access rooms
  • Non-smoking rooms
  • Laundry services, charges apply
  • 24 hour room service
  • On-site restaurants
  • Bar/lounge

 

Food and Beverage

The Reef Hotel offers guests dining options from two different restaurants. Their on-site restaurant on the third floor, the Grill Room and the Homestead restaurant connected to The Reef Hotel on the ground level. Every meal we had during our stay at The Reef Hotel was delicious.

 

Homestead

We dined at Homestead for dinner right after we checked in, therefore it was our very first South african meal and it was delectable. Homestead focuses on South African food using the freshest and local ingredients. Their speciality is called “bowl’d food” where guests pick their starch, meat, vegetables, sauce and salad – essentially all of the components are served in bowls and placed on a wooden tray. One of their starch options is pap, also known as mieliepap, which is a traditional South African corn porridge, similar to polenta, but prepared differently. Being the foodies that we are, we tried the pap and recommend guests to enjoy it with a meat stew served on top. We both also enjoyed their flame-grilled chuck blade steak, which was amazing! It was perfectly seasoned and tender – one of the best steaks we have ever had.

 

The Grill Room

The Grill Room was not open when we stayed at The Reef Hotel, but rest assured it is opening near the end of this month! Guests should be excited to dine at their new restaurant as their menu offers an array of beautiful cuts of meats that pair perfectly with any of their seven sauces. From the classic T-bone and ribeye steak to the beautiful tomahawk steak, the Grill Room has it all for any meat lover. In addition to their steaks, the Grill Room also has composed entrees of oxtail, osso bucco, kingklip fillet and chicken breast. The best part, quality food for a great price! The highest priced steak is listed at R210 ZAR, converted to U.S. dollars that is $16 (Oct 2017), that is a steal! We wish we could have dined here because we have no doubt the Grill Room serves fantastic food.

 

Breakfast

Breakfast is complimentary for guests staying in a deluxe room and R171 ZAR ($12 Oct 2017) for guests staying in a standard room. The Reef Hotel does a wonderful job with their breakfast. Guests have plenty of options to choose from including, fresh eggs cooked any way you want it, bacon, sausage, beans, braised vegetables, hash browns, cold meats, cheese, fresh fruit, yogurt, danishes and more.  After a great breakfast like this one, we were ready to tackle our day in Johannesburg!

 

Bar/Lounge

The bar/lounge is located behind the front desk on the third floor. The 360° bar is centered and serves the best South African wines and beers, as well as spirits and house-made cocktails. Not only does the bar serve alcohol, but they also serve coffee and make a great cup of latte.

 

Elevate Rooftop

The Elevate Rooftop is a luxury venue opened to both in-house and outside guests. It is only open on Fridays and Saturdays from 3pm to 10pm, so unfortunately we did not get to experience the fun ourselves, but the staff did let us check it out and it seems like the place everyone wants to be. Elevate Rooftop is an indoor and outdoor venue with 360° views of the City of Gold. These views can be accessed by the rooftop surrounding the inside glassed-in venue which features beautiful lounge spaces, a DJ booth and a bar presented by Skyy Vodka. Check out their website here to get all the details on upcoming events hosted at Elevate Rooftop.

 

Service

We received a warm welcome when we arrived at The Reef Hotel. The bellman immediately helped us with our bags and the front desk agents were very friendly. In the evening, the front desk serve complimentary apple juice, which was refreshing after our long flight. In the morning, they serve fresh orange juice. The front desk agents were always helpful in providing us with information to make our stay relaxing. Everyone we encountered at The Reef Hotel always greeted us with a friendly smile and excellent customer service. From the bellman, to the front desk and servers – we enjoyed every interaction with the staff.

In our rooms we received a welcome card from our housekeeper, Irene, and a welcome letter from the general manager with details of our visit and information to help with any questions we may have had. We appreciated both these small touches of customer service.

 

Three Notable Highlights

We enjoyed everything about The Reef Hotel, from our comfortable room, to the customer service and food – we loved it all, but there were three things we truly loved that really made The Reef Hotel stand out to us.

 

Hospitality/Culinary Program

Being in both the hospitality and culinary industry ourselves, we really appreciated The Reef Hotel’s initiative to hire students from a hospitality or culinary school. The students are not full time employees, but in-training to gain first hand experience. We know that is an important role to grow in this career and it was refreshing to see so many students working here. Bravo to the students and The Reef Hotel.

 

Eco-Friendly

Another huge initiative on The Reef Hotel’s part is their eco-friendliness. Not only are they supporting their community, but they are also supporting the Earth. We found The Reef Hotel to be very eco-friendly with their electricity. The lights in the hallways were motioned censored, it was almost pitch dark when we exited the elevator to our room floor and as we walked down the hallway closer to our room, a light would turn on. This continued until we were at our door. Inside our room the electricity was controlled with our room key – we had to place our room key in a key holder (the power saver) and then all the electricity would turn on including air conditioning, lights and power outlets. When we took the key card out of the power saver, everything would turn off 30-45 seconds later to allow us time to exit. This is also a great way for guests to not lose their key card!

 

 

Humor to Make You Smile

One thing that is hard to find in hotels is humor and character. Hotels are always trying to provide excellent customer service, state of the art technology, delicious food and luxurious rooms, but rarely do we ever stay in a hotel where there is character that really makes us laugh and feel more at home. Every hotel room has their own “do not disturb” sign and notepad and they are usually a simple, cookie cutter design. The Reef Hotel takes this basic feature and owns it with humor to connect with their guests by bringing a smile to their faces. We always enjoy staying in a hotel where they go above and beyond or think outside the box and The Reef Hotel does exactly that! Just take a look at the pictures and we guarantee you will smile too.

 

Location

For travelers coming from outside South Africa, a lot of times we have heard that they never want to travel within Johannesburg because of safety reasons. We can confidently say that we never felt unsafe and really enjoyed The Reef Hotel’s location. Located within the central business district, The Reef Hotel is truly in the heart of Johannesburg, providing easy access to explore the City Centre or travel to surrounding suburbs of Johannesburg for some sightseeing. The City Centre district, which has several bars, restaurants, a stadium and a casino to enjoy, is only a ten minute walk away. The historical Constitutional Hill (a must visit) is only 8 minutes away by car and from there travelers can use a hop on-hop off bus to travel to more sights within the city. Soweto, another location we recommend travelers to visit, is only around 20-25 minutes away by car. Lastly, it is an easy 20 minute drive away from the airport.

 

Overall

We really enjoyed our stay with The Reef Hotel. The staff was friendly and helpful, the food was delicious, the rooms were spacious and comfortable and we enjoyed the location. If you are visiting Johannesburg for more than one day to explore the city, then we highly recommend you stay at The Reef Hotel – it has everything you need to make your visit to Johannesburg enjoyable!

 

Book Your Stay at The Reef Hotel

For the standard room rate the prices vary around $70 for two people and around $100 for a deluxe room, which includes breakfast for two people. Again, if you are visiting Johannesburg for more than one day to explore its rich culture and history, we recommend The Reef Hotel.

If you think this hotel is a good fit for you, please book it using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us!

 

Booking.com

 

The Reef Hotel
58 Anderson St, Marshalltown
Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
+27 11 689 1000
http://reefhotel.co.za

 

Christina + Adam

 

Africa, Blog, Food, South Africa, Travel

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace – The Best Luxury Layover

Like us, most international travelers flying into Johannesburg’s O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB), are there for a quick layover to continue onto their final destination – a game reserve for safaris. Though we highly recommend travelers to explore Johannesburg, sometimes there is not enough time to sightsee or jet lag travelers just want to relax before they continue onto another flight the next day. This leaves travelers with a few hotel options that are close to the airport, but none compare to the award winning, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is a five star luxury hotel just five minutes away from O. R. Tambo International Airport. You might be thinking that you will hear planes fly over often and it will be loud, we only heard one plane and it was early in the evening – no planes ever disrupted our sleep.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is one of four hotels in Peermont’s Emperor’s Palace complex. The complex or Emperor’s Palace is Johannesburg’s Las Vegas – it has a lot of hotels in a small space with plenty of dining options, live entertainment and fun chances of winning big at the casino. Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace has also been awarded by International Hotel Awards in 2014 for Convention Hotel South Africa, Airport Hotel South Africa, Best Airport Hotel Africa and Best International Airport Hotel. So, as you can already gather, this truly is the best hotel near O. R. Tambo International Airport to relax, eat and play.

 

Lovely Aesthetics

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace blew us away with their luxury touches throughout the resort. From the moment we entered the lobby till we walked into our room, it truly was an Emperor’s Palace. Even the exterior of the hotel is beautiful with its palace-esque architecture and green roof – it is even more beautiful lit up at night. Any woman staying at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace overnight will feel like a princess or a queen.

As soon as guests walk through the revolving doors, an open lobby with high painted ceilings welcomes everyone. Guests are immediately transported from the outside world of Johannesburg, to an entirely different world inside Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. The theme throughout the resort has an Ancient Roman and Italian Renaissance era ambience.

The front desk compliments the lobby with a simple wooden desk and marble table top, two beautiful picture frames and a welcoming Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace sign. The lobby and front desk are the first things the guests see and sets the tone of the positive experiences guests will receive during their stay.

Through the lobby is a grand piano in the middle of the foyer or cocktail lounge, right before Aurelia’s Restaurant continuing with the luxurious atmosphere of the resort. Aurelia’s Cocktail Bar is positioned at the corner of the lounge with a wonderful glass display of spirits.

In addition to the front desk and reception area, there is also a guest relations and concierge desk for guests to use at their disposal. There are only five floors, but they have long and extravagant hallways. The vibrant gold, maroon and blue floral carpet play well with the lightly gold tinted wallpaper. It is a very inviting hallway to your room, which is even more spectacular.

Luxurious Rooms

There are 182 luxurious rooms at the Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. Within the 182 rooms are 16 different types of rooms and suites. Regardless if guests are staying in the Classic or Deluxe Room or if they are staying in a Suite, every room is spacious and magnificent. Every guest staying in a room at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace also receives complimentary breakfast at Aurelia’s Restaurant.

We had the luxury of being upgraded to an Deluxe Suite Room and it was spectacular! When we entered our suite we felt like we had just won the jackpot. Every piece of furniture looked like it belonged in a real queen or king’s palace. The Deluxe Suite Room comes with a half bath, a grand living room, a bedroom with a full desk, a king sized bed and a huge bathroom with double sinks, a bathtub, fancy toilet and an overhead shower. Though the suite was impressive, we were surprised to find a bottle of chilled champagne with two champagne glasses waiting for us, as well as a romantic gesture of rose petals laid across our bed and bathtub, (we were celebrating our two year wedding anniversary). We could have lived like royalty in this suite forever – we absolutely loved this suite and is by far one of our favorite hotel rooms we have ever stayed in.

The living room area had the most beautiful furniture! It consisted of a seating area and dining area. There was a sofa, two chairs, a love seat, and dining room chairs, all with a tone of a luscious red. Every seat felt as comfortable as it looked and the chandelier was the final touch of luxury. In the dining area there was an espresso machine with my favorite espresso brand, Lavazza.

The bedroom was gorgeous with the silver plush backboard and royal-esuqe golden wallpaper. There were also more chairs in the bedroom with a silver touch of color and a desk that had a business panel equipped with a HDMI, USB, audio, PC, video and universal outlet. It had everything you could need for your computer and/or technology equipment.

The bathroom was one of the key elements of making this suite amazing. It was fully decorated in a beautiful gray marble and had a golden framed mirror and beautiful black and white pictures. It is not often when a hotel rooms has a double marble sink and it made getting ready for the day and night much easier. Of course the bathtub was wonderful, but the overhead shower was even better. We mentioned that this suite had a fancy toilet, it is true, this toilet was warm every time you sat on it! In addition to the warm seat, it also served as a bidet – a little too fancy for our taste, but a nice feature for those who want it.

Enjoy a full tour of our suite in this video!

 

Wonderful Service

Every staff member we encountered was friendly and happy to assist us. This included the front desk agent, hostess at Aurelia’s Restaurant, our server for dinner at Aurelia’s Restaurant and the concierge team.

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace offers complimentary airport shuttles to and from the hotel. They have a set schedule in the lobby that is presented to guests, so they know when to be ready. We arrived two minutes before departure time, but found that the shuttle left early. Though we were disappointed the shuttle left early, the concierge team were very quick to react and solve our situation. Within minutes we were escorted to a car that took us to the shuttle and we made it safely to the airport. Sometimes mistakes happen at the best of places, but it is how people react to them that make the difference. We were very pleased with the way the concierge team handled our situation.

As we mentioned, we were celebrating our two year wedding anniversary for this entire trip to Africa. We booked this hotel through our travel agent, so we were blown away by our surprises waiting for us in our suite. These little touches ended up being a grand gesture and it meant a lot to us.

An Elegant Dining Experience at Aurelia’s Restaurant

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner and breakfast at Aurelia’s Restaurant. Aurelia’s Restaurant has a contemporary design that is beautiful both day and night. The dining room is shaped in a semi-circle with an island in the front of the room and glass windows on the facade of the restaurant, which gives guests an open view of the outdoor pool and gardens. The island is used as a dessert station at night and an array of breakfast selections in the morning.

Dinner

The ambience of Aurelia’s Restaurant during the night is romantic with its dim lighting, candles and fresh flowers on the table. Their dinner menu is quite extensive, it was literally a book full of pages that showcases the chef’s creative molecular gastronomy appetizers, entrees and desserts. The dishes had a little Mediterranean flare with their South African cuisine that can please any palate.

Our evening started with some freshly baked rolls and soft butter. For appetizers we had their Escargot au Riesling and Ostrich Bobotie Ravioli – both were outstanding. The escargot were delicious in their garlic butter, cheese, riesling sauce – it was so good we cleaned the dish with the bread to get every drop of the sauce. The ostrich ravioli was outstanding – the ravioli was the biggest one we have ever had and it tasted perfect!

The entrees are created to be enjoyed as they are described on the menu. Each entree is well thought out and designed with the perfect flavor and texture combinations. The main entrees have two pages with plenty of options to choose from, one page is full of seasonal entrees, while the second page has table side and signature entrees.  We went for two seasonal entrees, the Corn Fed Chicken Cordon Bleu and Red Wine Braised Karoo Lamb Shank. Oh my, the entrees were heavenly! The chicken cordon bleu had a more molecular gastronomy flare than the lamb shank, but both plates were beautifully plated. The chicken cordon bleu was vibrant in color and tasted amazing. The lamb shank was so tender and juicy it basically fell off the bone. The vegetables were the best we have ever had and we are not ones who typically eat their veggies, but we would eat those for every meal.

No meal is complete without dessert. Though we wanted to try every dessert, we only had room for one and went with the Chocolate Tore. A 70% Valrhona dark chocolate cake with pistachio mousse, fresh berries and raspberry ice cream. The dessert tasted as good as it looked! We loved the colors and playfulness of the dessert. The cake was rich, but paired well with the smooth pistachio mousse, fresh berries and tart raspberry ice cream.

The presentation of every plate from start to finish was a work of art and we were very pleased with our dinner.

Breakfast

As if dinner was not already fantastic, Aurelia’s Restaurant blew us away with their breakfast buffet! As we said before, every guest receives a complimentary breakfast at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. Though everything about Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace was outstanding, we would stay here again just for the breakfast buffet.

The buffet had everything a guest could ever imagine and more!  There were at least ten different stations offering different International cuisines, located throughout the restaurant! The island in the front of the restaurant offered a variety of breakfast selections. It had a large selection of danish, muffins and bread, 15 jars of fresh fruit, cold cuts of meat, sushi (yes, sushi), three yogurts, nine different types of cereals and grains, a mezze platter, fresh honey (guests literally took honey from a honeycomb) and much more. This is just the food on the island.

On the hot side were three types of bacon, five types of sausage, roasted potatoes and tomatoes, beans, vegetables, lamb, fish, chicken and an Aisan-stir fry station. There was also an egg station where a chef would prepare the eggs anyway you wanted it, scrambled, fried, omelet, etc. Lastly, they had a crepe and waffle station with a variety of toppings to choose from.

So now we have explained what food options were offered, now let us tell you what was offered to drink. They had six different juices to choose from a dispenser and if those juices were not fresh enough for you, a cook would use a machine to squeeze oranges right in front of you. We both had at least two glasses of this freshly squeezed orange juice – no orange juice has ever tasted so fresh! If juice is not your thing, they also had seven pitchers of flavored water and fresh fruit smoothies.

As you can see, a guests options at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace are endless! We really liked how they offered something for everyone with their different international cuisines.

 

Amazing Amenities

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace offers a variety of amenities to their guests. For guests who want to relax during their entire layover night or weekend holiday, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace has everything you need – we wish our layover was longer so we could have enjoyed them all.

  • Free WiFi
  • Octavia’s Day Spa
    • The perfect place to relax from your long flight with a massage, facial, mud bath, sauna, steam room and more.
  • Outdoor Pool
  • 24 Hour Gym
  • Secure Parking
  • Complimentary Airport Shuttle
  • Business Center
  • Executive Club Floor
  • Art Gallery

In addition to these amenities, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is connected to the casino, Theatre of Marcellus and their own shopping district called, The Emporium. The Emporium has a movie theatre, arcade room, dining options and more for guest to enjoy at their leisure. If you have been to Las Vegas, it resembles most casino resorts, especially the Venetian, Palazzo and Caesars Palace.

 

 

Casino – What Happens in Joburg, Stays in Joburg

Coming from two people who lived in Las Vegas and worked on the Strip for two years, we were excited to see Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace casino floor and found it to be Johannesburg’s little Vegas paradise.

The casino floor was front and center with a walkway surrounding it, which would lead to the Emporium, Theatre of Marcellus and more. Something that struck our curiosity was a glassed in-room in the center of the casino. It was a very tall and wide glassed room with table games inside. We learned that it was a smoking table game floor only – we found this feature to be a brilliant idea!

On a funny side note, we never gambled once for pleasure in Las Vegas the full two years we were there, yet at the casino at Emperor’s Palace we played Blackjack! Though we lost, we had a lot of fun playing alongside some locals. As we have said, Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace is the perfect place to relax and have fun in Johannesburg (and maybe lose some money along the way)!

 

Overall

We really enjoyed our night at Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace. We were blown away by the room aesthetics. We were pleased with the service of the staff. We ate some fantastic meals at Aurelia’s Restaurant. Lastly, we relaxed and had a great time! We cannot say enough good things about Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace and highly recommend you book your layover night in Johannesburg or your entire stay right here!

 

Book This Hotel!

For the lowest room rate the prices vary around $350, but we booked almost a year in advance and found much cheaper rates. Lower rates can be found at the other Peermont hotels at Emperor’s Palace, which are all fantastic and include breakfast too. Again, we cannot express how convenient this hotel is for a layover in Johannesburg. You get to have fun, eat well and relax.

If you think this hotel is a good fit for you, please book it using our Booking affiliate search box! It does not cost you more, but we would receive a small commission for your booking. We would be very appreciative if you do book with us! 

Booking.com

Peermont D’Oreale Grande at Emperor’s Palace
64 Jones Rd, O.R. Tambo
Johannesburg, 1620, South Africa
+27 11 928 1770
http://www.emperorspalace.com/hotels/peermont-doreale-grande

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