“I’m terribly posh” declares a giggling Sugarpuff in her best faux snooty voice as our chauffer-driven car pulls up to a set of imposing gates. It’s a good job she is, as the gates open to reveal an impossibly tranquil garden and our luxurious home for the next few nights, AtholPlace Hotel & Villa.
Tucked away in one of the prettiest and most leafy parts of Johannesburg, the nine-suite AtholPlace Hotel & Villa is located a convenient 40 minutes from the international airport and ten minutes from the tourist hotspots of Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square. The elegant hotel provides us with a stunning, and safe, nest for our Johannesburg adventures.
AtholPlace Hotel & Villa with kids
I can’t help but wonder how long it’s going to take for my “terribly posh” daughter to revert back to her normal, not-so-posh self and disturb the peace. But instead a sense of quiet and stillness overtakes her.
Perhaps it’s the pretty white roses blooming in the garden, the expanse of green, the calming colours of the inviting lounge, or maybe it is the warmth of our welcome by the friendly staff. Whatever it is, anything that can stop my daughter wittering and flitting about in non-stop giddy motion is noting short of miraculous and I’m loving it.
But the beauty of AtholPlace Hotel & Villa with kids is that despite the elegance and tranquillity of the boutique beauty, children, regardless of their energy levels, are made feel very welcome indeed.
Once a private home, AtholPlace Hotel is a light and airy confection of soft pastels punctuated with dramatic artworks and modern African sculptures, all opening out to a gloriously green garden. The effect is so enchanting we decide to stop and soak up the atmosphere over a cool drink in the lounge, overlooking a spectacular sculpture garden, before heading to our room.
Indeed, we’re already so comfortable, there’s almost a sense of coming home (at least it would if our home was a luxurious mansion with sprawling gardens).
We’re staying in adjoining deluxe suites, both decorated in their own unique style. The kids are immediately captivated, not only by the space and style of their suite, but by the inviting slices of chocolate cake that greet us.
Cake quickly inhaled, they’re off to explore the two suites. Both are decorated in muted shades of pastel grey with dramatic monochromatic flourishes and a beautifully curated collection of antiques and modern objet de art.
They bounce joyfully on the extra-large beds in each room (because for my kids that’s one hotel tradition that transcends the number of stars attached). They’re “especially bouncy” I am dutifully informed by my thoroughly impressed children. The bathrooms in both suites are huge, with generous stand-alone tubs, separate showers and double vanities complemented with decadent amenities from Africology, which Sugarpuff slathers herself in happily.
Personally, I’m more enamoured with the lovely selection of tea I find in the complimentary minibar, complete with fresh lime, honey and ginger. So much so, I make myself a cup while the kids’ swimsuit-up and make a beeline for the heated pool, which is right alongside the ground floor suites, so I can safely keep an eye on them while I enjoy my tea on our balcony and book myself an in-room massage for later in the day. Ready to explore a little further, I join the kids by the pool.
There’s a petit fitness suite alongside the pool area and the kids test out their stamina on a few of the machines before spying a basketful of pool toys, which they raid before leaping straight back out into the pool, sparkling gloriously in a stream of afternoon sun.
They happily stay submerged for the best part of the afternoon, their giggles merging with the twittering birdsong coming from the surrounding trees.
AtholPlace Hotel Dining
As evening falls, AtholPlace Hotel has more surprises in store. We make our way to the delightful library and bar area of the main house for canapes and a rousing game of Uno (which we always travel with).
Then it is time for what is, without exaggeration, one of the most outstanding meals of our two food-filled weeks in South Africa.
We’re offered a choice of starters, mains and desserts on the creatively crafted seasonal menu that all sound equally extraordinary. If a sublime entrée of squid – looking for all the world like it should be hanging in an art gallery – and a next-level take on beef tartare aren’t already enough for us to see why this restaurant has been called Johannesburg’s best, the pops of flavour and texture in our mains have our tastebuds singing.
There’s more culinary excitement the following morning over an off-the charts breakfast of fresh fruit, homemade granola, yogurt, pastries and a selection of à la carte delights that has us all swooning. As does our whole AtholPlace Hotel experience.
So, would we recommend a pre or post-safari stay at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa with kids? Or even a longer, more leisurely stay to explore all the great things to do in Johannesburg. That would be a resounding, though not “terribly posh”, hell yeah!
AtholPlace Hotel & Villa
90 Pretoria Avenue
Johannesburg with kids – Need to know before you go
When to visit
Great weather makes Johannesburg a great year-round destination.
While English is widely spoken, especially in the city, there are 11 official languages spoken in South Africa and the most commonly spoken languages are Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans.
The Rand (R)
Voltage is 230V and 50Hz. Power outlets are round three pin sockets.
Visa & Passport Requirements
A South African tourist visa is not required for citizens of Australia for a stay up to 90 days. South Africa requires that all children entering or leaving the country carry an unabridged birth certificate and parental consent affidavits if they are travelling with only one parent. All visitors will require a passport valid for at least six (6) months.
Johannesburg is free from malaria and safe for travellers of all age. However, Mosquito borne diseases including malaria are a risk for those transiting to Kruger National Park. When travelling with children prevention is best so apply child-safe insect repellent (with no more 20% DEET) at regular intervals and make sure they are dressed in long but light clothing at all times. While there are no essential vaccinations for travellers to South Africa at the time of publication, we advise visiting your family GP at least six weeks before travel for up to date advice on the latest recommendations and necessary immunisations.
Crime is an issue throughout South Africa. Criminals are known to target travellers and their bags at O.R. Tambo airport and on public transport. It is advised that UBERs are a safer option than taxis in Johannesburg or better still organise a private airport transfer through your hotel. Avoid high crime areas and keep cash and valuables such as flashy jewellery, cameras and phones out of sight. Ensure you visit townships, including Soweto, during daylight hours and always with an organised tour group.