< SOUTH AFRICA | CAPE TOWN: Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
Mount Nelson Hotel opened its doors for the first time on Monday, 6th of March, 1899. The first hotel in South Africa to offer hot and cold running water, it
received rave reviews and was applauded for being ‘even better than its London counterparts’. Quotation from the hotel’s first advertisement in the Cape Times newspaper, 3 March
1899: “This large and splendid hotel, beautifully situated in the Gardens at the Top of Government Avenue, in the most Airy and Healthy part of Cape Town, offers to Visitors all
the comforts of a First-class Hotel at Reasonable Charges”.
October 12 1899: The South African War begins. The British used Mount Nelson Hotel as a headquarters from which to plan their military campaign. Lords Roberts, Kitchener and Buller were familiar figures in the hotel corridors, and a young war correspondent based at the hotel – Winston Churchill - described the hotel as: “…a most excellent and well appointed establishment which may be thoroughly appreciated after a sea voyage”.
Mount Nelson Hotel’s second manager (an Italian by the name of Aldo Renato) celebrated the end of the First World War by decorating the hotel with a cheerful coat of pink paint. The trend towards pink hotels was popular throughout Europe for the next few decades, and so it was that Mount Nelson Hotel retained her pink blush, and is still known as ‘Cape Town’s famous pink hotel’. A definitive ‘Mount Nelson Pink’ has now been developed by paint experts who have formulated a shade calculated to fade to a specific colour between coats.
In 1919 Cape Town was ravaged by a deadly influenza virus. The city’s medical doctors designated Mount Nelson Hotel a ‘plague-free zone’.
The Prince of Wales visited the hotel in 1925. In honour of this visit, the imposing ‘Prince of Wales Gate’ and palm-lined driveway was built the year before.
The Oasis accommodation wing was added to Mount Nelson Hotel’s main house in 1973.
A few months before his untimely death John Lennon stayed at Mount Nelson Hotel under the pseudonym ‘Mr Greenwood’. He is said to have been exceptionally tidy (he even made his own bed), he meditated on Table Mountain, spoke to his wife Yoko Ono regularly, and planned to bring her to stay at the hotel the following year.
Mount Nelson Hotel was purchased by Orient-Express Hotels in 1988. Two years later, a row of eight perfectly restored historic cottages on the hotel grounds were converted into the elegantly appointed Garden Cottage Suites.
In 1996, Mount Nelson Hotel acquired three historic buildings adjacent to Palm Avenue, and Helmsley Hotel, and all four buildings were fully restored and converted into guest accommodation, increasing the total number of bedrooms and suites to 201. Taunton House Cottage was originally built as a guest house, Green Park was originally a hostel for nursing staff, and Hof Villa was built as a private residence for the hotel manager. Helmsley was originally the site of the first Jewish service in Cape Town (held in 1841) and thereafter it became the first Hebrew Congregation in South Africa.
Orient-Express Hotels Ltd was renamed Belmond in 2014 and at that time the hotel was renamed Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel.
Mount Nelson Hotel has always been a favourite with high profile politicians, authors and entertainers the world over. Famous faces spotted at the hotel over the years include: HRH Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, Agatha Christie, Marlene Dietrich, Robert Wagner, Shirley Bassey, Henry Kissinger, Simon and Yasmin le Bon, Donald Sutherland, Al Gore, Liberace, Joanna Lumley, Nicholas Cage, Hilary Swank, Lenny Krawitz, Phil Collins, Ethan Hawke, David Bowie and Iman, Janet Jackson, Sir Bob Geldof, Margaret Thatcher, George Bush Senior, HRH Prince Andrew, Jane Seymour, U2 and Bono, M Night Shayamalan, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Alexander McCall Smith, John Malkovich, Paris Hilton, Maira Nair, Nelson Mandela, Charlize Theron, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Farrell, the Dalai Lama, Leonardo di Caprio, Richard Gere, Michael Buble, Robbie Williams and Morgan Freeman.
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