The Silo Hotel opened in March 2017 at Cape Town's V&A Waterfront, a tourist hub with a shopping mall, ferris wheel, several high-end hotels and restaurants, and a marina. With around 24 million visitors every year, The Waterfront is the most visited destination in South Africa.
Prior to this ultra-luxe makeover, the hotel space was the grain-elevator shaft of an abandoned grain silo from 1924 through 2001. The actual silos now house the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa — a completely separate entity from the hotel.
Now, at 11 stories tall — including the rooftop — this shaft encompasses 28 suites, a spa, gym, a private art collection, conference rooms, and three eateries.
Since opening the hotel has made several top hotel lists, and was even a contender for Africa's best new hotel, according to CNN. I decided to try it out on my latest trip to Cape Town to see if it was worth the hype.
This was my third trip to the Mother City — the first time I spent around six months there studying and learning the culture. Because of that, I have a pretty good idea of the little things that make Cape Town special, like its bursting art scene, love for music, and affinity for natural beauty.
Cape Town as a whole — I'm talking really big picture here — is a complicated city with stark divisions of class due to the systemic racism of Apartheid. This has resulted in some mega-luxury neighborhoods, including where all the high-end hotels are located.
My experience with The Silo is that it's the embodiment of almost everything I love about this city. Unlike my experience visiting some of its price-point competitors, that feeling was apparent to me from the moment I walked into the hotel lobby.
I was around half an hour earlier than I anticipated when booking my stay, but somehow the hotel staff knew who I was before I even introduced myself. They greeted me at my Uber and whisked away some of my luggage — I was left carrying only a few bags myself.
The ground floor has an information desk, a seating area decorated with beautiful works of modern art, and an automatic glass sliding door that was so clean I honestly came close to walking into it several times during my stay.
Because of the museum below and next to the hotel, The Silo reception desk is on the sixth floor. This placement makes for a great view and also added a feeling of privacy and exclusivity from knowing anyone can't just walk in off the street and wander around your hotel.
Stepping off the elevator I walked through a mini boutique toward the front desk. I walked up to staff members laughing with each other, smiling wide at me, and welcoming me into their little crew. It immediately took all the boujiness out of the hotel — you know, until I saw all the rooms — and dumped all the charm right in.
I was offered coffee right away — and since it was 9:30 a.m. you better believe I took it — and got checked in. Sensing my need to be fed, they offered breakfast — again, I'm in — and showed me to the main dining area for the Granary Café.
Alex — my lovely waiter — sat me at a table in the corner. Now, "the corner" may sound weird but in this hotel that means you're drowning in sunlight, nestled in the crux of two oversized, pillowing windows. The windows were a key feature for the redesign, they're meant to glisten like gems from the outside — thanks to the geometric shapes made by the crossing of iron beams — and look like they're ever so slightly inflated.
Alex brought over a menu, and then said he'd bring over the continental breakfast. So the continental was supposed to be an appetizer? Okay! I was just going with the flow.
But the joke was on me. This was no appetizer, this was a perfectly fine breakfast for two: a carousel-looking sculpture adorned with two servings of flavored yogurt, muesli, sliced fruit, berries, a cheese plate, and smoked salmon.
There was also a basket of baked goods including a koeksister — the Cape Malay spiced breakfast doughnut — and an assortment of jams.
Alex was surprised when I said I wasn't ordering a main breakfast dish, but I was perfectly satisfied.
Another staff member came over to let me know my room was ready so I finished up, thanked Alex, and was escorted upstairs. Typically a guest will be given a tour of the hotel and its facilities at this point, but since my tour was a little more extensive we waited until a bit later.
The hotel had reserved a family suite for me and my guest — it's one of 10 duplexes in the hotel. I walked in and, honestly, I didn't know what to look at first. There was this modern staircase directly in front of me, an eight-person dining table to my left, and art on the walls.
As I walked farther inward I saw not one but two sitting areas, chairs on the balcony, and a mysterious red chest clad with mirroring.
Irene BoaVentura, Duty Manager for the Royal Portfolio Group, explained everything I was seeing, like how the window shades work. Then she opened the red case and revealed the minibar.
I immediately wrote it off as I usually don't lay a finger on the minibar for fear of setting off a trigger that will charge me $100 for a piece of candy. But then she said the word that made me come out of my dream-like state: free. Everything in the bar with the exception of four bottles of hard liquor is free for all guests.
That included two bottles of wine, several soft drinks and water bottles, coffee, tea, fresh lime and ginger root for said free tea, and more. She also pointed out two little snack boxes with "Open Me" tags on them and called them a little surprise for later.
Then we climbed the steps ...
... and she showed me both bedrooms, pointed out all outlets with US compatible plugs, and showed me how to work the blinds in my bathroom.
Irene left me to settle in, and I did just that. I spent the next couple of hours photographing every aspect of the suite and then working on some other projects — it was nice to have six seating options for that!
At around 1:15 p.m. my travel partner arrived from the US and we went on a proper tour of the hotel. Irene had us start with the sixth floor and work our way up. We began at The Willaston Bar ...
... which is one of three dining areas in the hotel. Guests can come to the jewel-toned lounge for early morning coffee, mid-day drinks, or dinner.
There's also an elevated lounge dubbed The Library that hangs over the bar. There are a few bookshelves, chairs, and tables for anyone to sit and look out the windows at Cape Town's centerpiece: Table Mountain.
We moved on to the guest rooms upstairs. Every room is decorated completely differently with their own color schemes, unique pieces of art, and worldly collectibles. Some of the furniture was the same — like the mirrored chest and desk — but appeared in different colorways throughout.
There are two Royal Suites in the hotel. Each suite features two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a living space, and a large balcony.
This is where I noticed the similarities in decoration across suites. Even though the Royal Suite had a different color scheme than my Family Suite, it featured the same mirrored mini bar in a different colorway.
I also got to take a look around the one-bedroom penthouse. At R151,200 ($10,790), this suite is the most expensive hotel room in the country.
If you've got almost 11 grand to spare, you can spend the night eating a private meal at your 10-seat dining table ...
... watch a movie in your private theater ...
... and enjoy a massage on your in-room spa table.
Every room and space in the hotel was decorated by Liz Biden, co-founder of The Royal Portfolio. She has a specific vision that produces excess in just the right amount.
Moving through the rooms felt like I was walking through the house of an ultra-wealthy collector with an eye for the extraordinary — a whole lot to look at, yet not too much at the same time. It was very my-speed.
The differences and similarities throughout brought me back to the idea that this hotel is Cape Town elevated. It's an explosion of color and wacky quirks in the most sophisticated way.
Moving onto the roof space we parted ways with Irene and explored the limited seating area ...
... rooftop grill ...
... and the Sky Terrace — an elevated portion of the roof offering a 360 degree view of the city.
Back on the main roof deck level there's a glass-rimmed pool stretching out to the edge of the building. The pool itself is pretty small, but it's big enough for people to take a dip and cool off.
Plus, it's got a super modern feel with translucent siding and and an underwater view from one edge.
I spent the rest of the day's sunny hours working from a chaise with this view. It definitely wasn't a bad way to spend the end of a work week.
The bar had a fairly small snack menu. When it got to be around 4 p.m. we ordered a classic South African snack of biltong and droëwors, — two types of dried meat — which came with truffle chips for R160 ($11.34) — we saw them frying the chips on our tour and knew we had to try them. The dried meat is definitely an acquired taste.
While both are fairly salty, biltong tends to be softer and more moist in the center than droëwors, which are pretty dry throughout. You can get biltong at local shops made with one of several meats — the Kudu is my favorite.
There were a few other people enjoying the pool and rooftop, but not many. As the night started to progress, though, more and more non-hotel residents made their way up.