(Photos provided by Sandton Sun)
Imagine the biggest, longest and most sparkling chandelier you have ever seen. Such a vision greets one upon entering the lobby of the stylish, elegant five-star Sandton Sun hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is the stuff of involuntary gaping in wonder. This four-ton marvel runs the gamut from ceiling to floor, from across ten floors and grandly occupies the center of the hotel around which the stories are built.
We are met with a wide smile by the lovely Simone at reception and shown our room. This award-winning five-star hotel offers visitors to Johannesburg a choice of 326 spacious and superbly appointed en-suiters. The rooms are truly refined with a fine palette of silver, gold and greys as colors and there is subtle pattern sown into the crisp percale linen. There is a beautiful oval desk as the center piece of the room with great views of the surrounding leafy suburbs of Johannesburg. As this is mostly a business hotel, you get 750 MB internet free per day. Large windows that optimize natural lighting, opulent fittings and furnishing, and a range of in-room amenities combine to ensure the highest level of comfort.
Each guest room also offers a range of amenities which includes in-room tea and coffee facilities and a mini bar with lovely en-suite bathroom. Guests can also make use of services such as in-room dining with 24-hour room service, a porter service, and wake-up call facility.
We decide to go and explore. The hotel is connected to the Sandton City mall, one of South Africa's oldest and most famous shopping malls, via the Diamond Walk, and it is a shopper's delight. Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Cabaña, Prada et al all have a home here in the "Diamond Walk."
The heart of Johannesburg
The center opened its doors to the public on September 12, 1973 and together with the adjacent Nelson Mandela Square form the second largest retail complex in Africa. A pyramid-shaped roof was added in the 1990s and provides the distinguishing architectural feature of Sandton City. Sandton City includes the offices of major international and South African banks, many hotels, law firms, accounting firms and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. It has effectively replaced the financial district of Central Johannesburg City several miles to the south, which once fulfilled this role. Central Johannesburg fell into decline by contrast, though this has now been alleviated to some extent. In 2013, the Twin Towers office section of Sandton City was completely redone with a contemporary glass shell. In 2014, the office tower received a complete external revamp, with new cladding applied over the original concrete structure.
After some retail therapy, we venture into the Nelson Mandela Square for a beer at the world-famous Hard Rock Café. From the four corners of the globe, people arrive to the four corners of this square, surrounded by world-class restaurants, hotels and bars and home to the iconic 20-foot high bronze statue of Nelson Mandela. The statue was erected in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of South Africa's first democratic elections. It was the first-ever public statue of Mandela and was unveiled by his eldest granddaughter, Ndileka Mandela in 2004.
We toy with the idea of having dinner at one of the many splendid restaurants but eventually decide to eat at the Sandton Sun's San Restaurant. I choose the Angus beef burger with all the trimmings and my friend has the cob fish cakes. The food is simply superb with service to match and surprisingly affordable for a five-star hotel. Even though its winter, the outside deck has been transformed with fairy lights and fire pits to keep us warm, consisting of volcanic rock and gas.
The following morning we tuck into one of the best breakfasts I have ever had in my blessed career. Together with continental buffet choices consisting of (among many other rare and wonderful morsels), the best cold cuts and cheeses in the world, a set menu is also on offer.
Simone takes me on a tour of the beautiful hotel after breakfast. She says that the chandelier contains more than 400 sparkling pieces, which were strung from the ceiling one bead at a time and took three months to complete. The hotel underwent a complete refurbishment in 2015 - the result is superlative.
The presidential suites have a little panel at the door which controls absolutely everything – the lighting, curtains, TV, room temperature… The only thing it doesn't do is giving you a Swedish massage!
But for that you can visit the luxurious Sandton Sun Spa. The award-winning Spa is a veritable pocket of peace, relaxation, rejuvenation, and indulgence amidst the pace of Johannesburg.
The spa's signature treatment, the "Sea Whisperer," is an enchanting fusion of massage styles from around the world, the ultimate offering from a menu which has been designed to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul.
It is with a heavy heart that we have to leave this most splendid grand hotel. The rooms, cuisine, service and amenities are all but unsurpassable in Johannesburg - so go there!
Air China flies directly to Johannesburg from China several times a week. From there Sandton Sun is an easy 20-minute commute via the Gautrain.