by Alan Maguire July 21, 2021
The History of the Mount Nelson Hotel is intertwined with the early History of the Cape. The estate on which the Hotel is built was named; the Garden of van Oudtshoorn. In 1890 a part of the Van Oudtshoorn garden was purchased with the purpose of building a Hotel on it. Sir Donald Currie the chairman of the Union Castle Shipping Line whose ships brought wealthy British visitors to the Cape had nowhere for his passengers to stay and at Sir Donald's insistence the hotel was designed to emulate the finest Hotels in London.
On the 6th of March 1899 the Hotel opened its doors to rave reviews from the press and wealthy patrons from abroad.
Round about the time of the opening of the Hotel; gold and diamonds had been discovered in South Africa and this made Cape Town an exciting destination as there were distinct business opportunities for those willing to take them. at the same time, the hostilities of the Anglo-Boer War, which began towards the end of 1899 and continued until 1902, had the Hotel play host to many officers and soldiers visiting South Africa to plan the War effort.
The Mount Nelson Hotel once again played host to British army officers and soldiers for the duration of the 1st World War. When the war ended in 1918 the Hotel reverted to its peace time role of entertaining wealthy visitors to Cape Town. To join in the spirit of renewal after the debilitating war the Hotel decided to change its colour scheme to Pink. Ever since, the hotel has been referred to as "the pink lady".
Today the "Pink Lady" has in excess of 400 rooms which are divided into different categories to cater for different budget requirements. Included are 10 large luxury suites and a two bedroom penthouse suite!
The Hotel also boasts two heated swimming pools, a body care centre, hair salon, gymnasium, golf practice net, floodlit tennis courts, gift shops, a travel desk, a fully equipped business centre, two restaurants and a bar. Although the Mount Nelson is over a 100 years old, it has managed to keep itself up to date with modern trends and is still the first choice hotel of many overseas visitors to Cape Town.
The hotel is also renowned for its lush garden setting. Driving up to the porticoed entrance, the sound of city traffic fades and is replaced by an old-world charm that recalls the days of great ocean liners and afternoon teas. The pink grande-dame of Cape Town is still the stopover of choice for both out-of-towners and well-heeled locals for a high tea experience that unfolds to old African fables - think waiters in gloves, sweet treats reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland and the elegance of a bygone age. More old-school glamour awaits in the rooms, high on romance, with their toile wallpaper, Venetian mirrors and furnishings upholstered in lavish fabrics.
The olde-worlde charm of the Mount Nelson gives guests a peek into the grace and elegance of the rich and famous of 100 years ago. Somewhat over the top but fun to experience – particularly the afternoon tea! The garden is beautiful and it is an easy walk down Government Avenue into the centre of the city
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