Corporate in Cape Town: A Review of the Hilton Cape Town City Centre

Mar 17, 2019

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To The Point

Central and serviceable, the Hilton Cape Town is a moderately priced choice for visitors to the Mother City. Pros: Good location, midrange room rates. Cons: So-so service, bland décor.

For a city of its size, Cape Town has a surprisingly good selection of points hotels. During a recent overnight stay, I decided to check out one of them: the Hilton Cape Town City Centre.

Booking

On a recent trip to South Africa, I needed to book a single night’s stay in Cape Town after a late arrival by air and a midmorning departure by car. I’ve been to the city a handful of times before but had never stayed the Hilton. Since room rates were relatively low there, I decided to go ahead and book it.

Paid rates for the night of my stay started at $137 including free breakfast. With taxes and fees, the total came to 2,033.25 South African rand ($145).

As you can see, there were several other rates available for different packages, which made things a bit confusing. But seeing as the rate I’d found was lower, I decided just to go ahead with that booking.

The points rate for the night of my stay was 48,000, though they seem to range from 36,000 to 50,000 depending on your dates.

I do not currently have one of the Hilton credit cards, so I paid for my stay with my Chase Ink Business Preferred card since this was a work trip, and earned 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar. If it had been a personal stay, I would have used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to earn the same bonus on top of the 10x Hilton Honors points per dollar I’d earn as a Hilton Honors nonelite.

Location

The hotel was at the corner of Buitengracht and Wale Streets, pretty much smack dab in the city center. I could walk to see the colorful houses of Bo-Kaap. It was a short taxi ride to the Table Mountain Cableway, and the hotel offered a complimentary shuttle to the Victoria & Albert Waterfront that took about 10 minutes.

I flew into Cape Town Airport (CPT) and arrived at around 11:30pm. I headed straight out to the taxi line outside the main terminal and hopped into a car. My ride into the city lasted 20 minutes and cost 280 rand ($20).

It was dark when I arrived, so I went outside the following morning to snap a few photos of the building and its entrance, as well as the lobby.

Check-in

I arrived at the hotel just before midnight, and the lobby was quiet and no one else was checking in. The concierge and bell desk were directly inside the entrance.

Behind it and sectioned off with a large metal screen was a TV room and library where guests were lounging around the following morning while waiting for tour guides to pick them up.

There was also a table with teddy bears inside bell jars. It was a bit odd, but the bears were on display in partnership with the Opulent Living Concept Store and Taunina Bears. Each was unique and hand-sewn and embroidered … and on sale starting at 4,920 rand ($350)!

To the right was an open sitting area, and then beyond that were the three reception desks.

Only one agent was on duty when I got there because it was so late. He quickly pulled up my booking and checked me in, then informed me that breakfast the following morning would be in 126 Cape Kitchen on the other side of the lobby.

Room

The elevators were around the corner from the front desk, and I made my own way up to the fourth floor, where my room was.

There wasn’t anything too remarkable about the hallways.

There weren’t any windows, so they were dark in the morning, too.

My room from the entrance looked large and pretty much like every Hilton room everywhere.

You needed to enter your room key to operate the power, and there were large buttons for “Do Not Disturb” and “Make My Room” that looked like they had come from a retirement-home overstock sale.

Just past this, the minibar consisted of a shelf with coffee- and tea-making supplies.

The refrigerator contained nonalcoholic beverages.

There was a small closet that included a placard with shelves and a safe.

In the main room, the king bed was dressed in white linens and had a tan leather headboard and a gray dust ruffle.

I liked the wooden flooring, which gave the room an elegant look, and the Middle Eastern-inspired carpeting with geometric patterning.

The nightstand on one side held the room phone, with 11 buttons for various services, and the wall behind it had a panel of electrical outlets in various shapes for different countries.

Across from the bed was a fixture that looked like it was supposed to resemble a fireplace, though it just had metal rods and accent lighting.

The 32-inch television was mounted on the wall above it.

Next to that was a wooden work desk with its own phone and the room compendium. It also held a note from the hotel manager suggesting I store all valuables and electronics in the safe at all times and not leave them out in the open or my suitcase “at any time.” I thought the complimentary bottle of water and a box containing two Tomes chocolate truffles were nice touches.

I worked from the bed rather than the desk and found the Wi-Fi serviceable but not speedy.

The bathroom was next to the bed but separated from the main room by a sliding, frosted-glass door.

The single sink was set in a marble counter with plenty of space for toiletries.

The bath products provided were verbena-and-lavender-scented from Crabtree & Evelyn.

On the side of the room opposite the sink was a full-size bathtub, though there was also a note asking guests to consider not using it because of the city’s water shortage.

The toilet and shower were in their own semiprivate water closet.

The shower had plain, grayish tiling and both wall-mounted and handheld shower heads.

Because it was so late, I showered and went right to bed. But in the morning, I was rewarded with this view of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.

Food and Beverage

The hotel had three main food and beverage outlets. Down in the lobby, 126 Cape Café was a cute coffee counter serving espresso drinks, tea and various pastries and sandwiches. It was open from 6am to 10pm daily.

The hotel’s main restaurant was 126 Cape Kitchen and Cafe, and basically what you would expect from a midrange hotel’s all-day venue (open from 6:30am to 10:00pm daily).

The space was large and clean-looking, with taupe and brown chairs and parquet wood flooring. But there were no windows, which gave it a dreary ambience.

Full breakfast here, to which I was entitled as part of my room rate, would have cost 245 rand (a little over $15). The price included access to the buffet, with stations for fresh fruit, pastries, cold cuts, hot items (including many Indian and Chinese dishes like congee) and an omelet station.

I got a made-to-order omelet and lamb sausages, which were delicious. The line cook was really friendly, and brought the dish over when he’d finished cooking it. The women serving in the dining room were also very friendly, and proactive about making sure I always had a full cup of coffee and glass of water.

The lunch and dinner menus here had an extensive selection of international dishes including salads, sandwiches and burgers, but also curries, grilled meats and fish, and even a Norwegian-salmon poke bowl. It looked like a nice menu, but when there are restaurants in Cape Town like The Test Kitchen, Short Market Club, La Mouette and Upper Bloem, it would be a shame to stay in rather than eating out.

Finally, up on the mezzanine and adjacent to the pool terrace was a bar called the Signal Hill Bar, Lounge and Terrace, which was part hookah lounge and part bar in partnership with Musgrave Gin. The cocktail menu I looked at ranged from 60 to 85 rand ($5 to $6) including drinks like the Golden Talisman with Musgrave 11 Botanicals, Bellingham chardonnay, star anise, cardamom and soda. Hookahs cost 165 rand (a little over $10) for two people. There was also a menu of small bits and sandwiches, including a Cobb salad, lamb sliders, baskets of chicken wings and a variety of nachos. The lounge was open from 10am to midnight.

Amenities

The hotel’s other main amenities were also up on the mezzanine. There was a very small pool with a sundeck.

Next to that was the little gym, which had some weight machines, free weights and cardio machines.

But not many of any of them.

There was also a co-ed sauna.

Back by the elevators, there were two work stations for guests to use. The hotel had an executive lounge on the ground floor for guests who booked that category of rooms. There they could have a breakfast buffet, drinks and snacks throughout the day, a full bar and canapés in the evening and services including private check-in and checkout plus access to a private boardroom. Gold and Diamond Hilton Honors members got complimentary access to the lounge.

Interestingly enough, I had rented a car from Hertz and was planning to walk the 10 minutes to their nearby location, but the chain had a desk within the Hilton’s lobby, which I didn’t realize.

When I was ready to check out, I stepped over there and presented my reservation details. The agent had the car brought over from the main office, and I could leave directly from the hotel, which was incredibly convenient. Then I had the option of either dropping it off back at the hotel or at the location on Loop Street. There was not an agent on duty at the hotel when I dropped the car back off on a Saturday afternoon, though, so I ended up having to drop it at the Loop Street location anyway.

Overall Impression

I had a short, pleasant, if unmemorable, stay at the Hilton Cape Town City Centre. The décor and amenities were generic, and the service, with the exception of the staff at 126 Cape Kitchen, was competent but not congenial.

However, for a nightly rate of $144 including breakfast, compared to nearly $100 higher at comparable properties like the Westin Cape Town, I thought it was well worth it to book there. I’ll be looking for other options for my next visit to Cape Town, though.

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