Re-invented from its industrial roots as a 1920s grain Silo which towers over the historic V&A Waterfront, this design hotel has been labelled as Cape Town’s most luxurious since its opening. Instagram-worthy interiors, roll-top bathtubs, a roof-top pool and spectacular floor to ceiling geometric diamond windows billow out offering views of The Mother City’s harbour and cloud-clung Table Mountain. But is this Cape Town’s best hotel? We sent our girl Beth to check it out.
When this monolithic structure first opened in 1924, it was the tallest building in Sub-saharan Africa – towering over Table Bay, grain from here was exported throughout Europe. But today, this industrial shell has been re-imagined entirely, its stark silhouette now a work of architectural art, housing some of Africa’s most celebrated creative design.
Thoughtfully brought to life by Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio, London, the historic building’s lower half is now home to the world’s largest collection of contemporary African art, the Zeitz MOCAA. We, however, are ushered into a grand double-height entrance to one side – a chamber of concrete and marble, where a sculptural chandelier by Haldane Martin hangs suspended and walls are brought to life by huge artworks, from Mohau Modisakeng’s Ditaola series to commissioned pieces by Jody Paulsen.
Swept up the elevator to the sixth-floor lobby – The Silo hotel is a hive of activity. We’re served a glass of champagne while we settle in Willaston’s bar to wait for our room. Drop wrought iron chandeliers are countered with comfortable touches like velvet teal sofas, creating an opulent yet lived-in aesthetic. In keeping with the world-class museum downstairs, the space is dotted with African art, from acclaimed Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai to bold photography portraits by one of South Africa’s most influential photographers Pieter Hugo.
The interiors only serve to highlight the building’s astonishing architecture – with double-height diamond windows curving outwards all around the walls. There are 82 pillowed glass windows across the 6 floors of the hotel, each with a total of 56 panels of glass. Inspired by grain kernels, their geometric shape and diagonal steel lines seem to draw the views of Table mountain even closer. The whole result is quite simply, stunning. Intriguing – but not overwhelming, detailed, yet not overdone. As the creative force behind the hotel’s eclectic interiors, it’s easy to spot owner Liz Biden’s fashion background and eye for the unusual – something which runs throughout the property. Each of the 28 boutique rooms is unique but unmistakably decorated in her signature style – a colourful yet carefully orchestrated mix of everything from Asian antiques to French tables, punchy African art and patterned silk upholstery. If it were all in one room together it would look bizarre, but somehow it all just works.
We could have soaked in the scenery here all day, yet are quickly breezed away to our room despite our early arrival, all the way up on the 9th floor, to one of two ‘Royal Suites’. Entering room 905/906 we find two triple aspect bedrooms leading off from the main lounge, with a balcony and bifold doors that run the length of the room offering sweeping views out across the Atlantic ocean and Robben Island. At 132 square metres, it’s more than double the size of our London apartment.
Inside, pink mirrored cabinets, bold floral sofas, pastel rugs and drop chandeliers in every room create a lavish vibe, with a bottle of fizz on ice and cut-glass sweet jars and a coffee table overflowing with books and magazines.
Handpicked artworks chosen by Liz’s careful eye for the suite include Seated woman with a pearl necklace by Carla Kranendonk which complements the bright colour palette, as well as pieces by Zambian artist Sibley Mcadam and Kenyan Cyrus Kabiru.
To the right, the master bedroom is the last word in luxury – with two jewel-like geometric windows billowing out over the harbour below, ant-like tourists going about their business along the waterfront, tiny toy boats tracing in and out. The oversized bathroom is just as big, with early morning light spilling in through another diamond window onto a free-standing tub big enough for two. There are blinds if you’re feeling shy, but as the highest building on the waterfront, there are no neighbours to peek into your window.
The second bedroom offers the same spec with different views, this time of Table Mountain and the slope of Lions Head, which we’d climbed up earlier in the morning, the city snaking below the blanket of clouds creeping over the tabletop.
The suite is so special that we spend most of the day enjoying it. In a region that suffers so badly from drought, we make sure to only fill the bath up a few inches, but enough to enjoy the decanters filled with salts and bath oils.
Snack boxes in the cupboard come filled with goodies and Alice-in-wonderland-Esque ‘Eat me’ labels, while the whole mini-bar is included with your stay, and comes stocked with delicious wine from the hotel’s sister property La Residence in Franschhoek. Just two of the four properties which make up The Royal Portfolio – an ultra-stylish collection owned by the Biden family which also includes a Safari Lodge in Kruger and beachside Birkenhead House in Hermanus down the coast.
While the location on the waterfront is well placed for a wander around the V&A with its tourist-focused restaurants and shops, as well as the ferry out to Robben Island, for dinner we head downtown to Kloof Street for more of a buzzy local scene. Handily, the concierge gives us a lift right away, stopping in to chat with the staff at old Victorian Manor turned restaurant Kloof Street House to snag us the best table in the garden, despite having no reservation.
If the Royal Suite is a show-stopper during the day, the real magic happens when the sun goes down – when the glass-domed windows turn from pink to black and the Mother City’s lights start to twinkle. We fall asleep with the blinds wide open, waking up to the sunrise casting a crimson glow across the horizon.
Breakfast is served in the Granary down on the sixth floor and includes freshly-squeezed juice, and an actual carousel of a continental breakfast wheeled right up to your table to choose from, followed by an a la carte option and one of the tastiest eggs benny’s we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
The pièce de résistance is perhaps glass-sided rooftop pool, which we spend the next day lounging beside. The tallest building on the V&A Waterfront, the vantage point offers unrivalled views of the city, from Table Mountain right across to the Atlantic. It’s the ideal spot for some people watching with a glass of local Sauvignon or some snacks.
The Silo is so much more than somewhere to sleep, it’s an experience in art and architecture. Thanks to both its bold design and Liz Biden’s eye for quirky interiors, its rooms have the feeling of a carefully curated home, a treasure trove of worldly collectables designed to take you on a journey through contemporary African art. It’s a place of old meets new, where stark modernity meets plush opulence. The history of the old grain tower may have been one of oppression, but the reimagining of this building is now one of celebration, championing African art and home to what is in our opinion, Cape Town’s most iconic hotel.
For more information or to book The Silo Hotel visit www.theroyalportfolio.com/the-silo; Rooms start from R13,500 / ca. £680 incl. breakfast