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Ampersand's Little Black Book: A Design Tour of South Africa

Ampersand's Little Black Book: A Design Tour of South Africa

South Africa is a country in the midst of one of the most exciting design evolutions on earth. Having languished for many years as a cultural backwater due to the political and socio-economic climates, the vast nation is heading into the 2020’s at the forefront of global creative and design innovations. With Cape Town being named as a UNESCO City of Design and championing emerging talents from diverse backgrounds, South Africa has much to offer any design-savvy traveller.

The Design Indaba Festival (27 February-1 March) takes over Cape Town every year and is an essential experience for anyone interested in creative events. From art galleries to contemporary hotels, festivals and groundbreaking exhibitions, travel with us from Jo’Burg  to Cape Town and discover an enthralling kaleidoscope of happenings, launches and buzz to inspire your next trip to the bottom of the world.

BEST FOR: Urban Art Hotel

The latest offering from Design Hotels is Gorgeous George, a seamless blend of Art Deco and contemporary style. Fashioned from two heritage townhouses a stone's throw from the striking St George's Cathedral (visit the Mandela tribute Arch for Arch), Gorgeous George taps into Cape Town’s creative zeitgeist, with its thoroughly modern aesthetic woven into a sensitively preserved interior complete with grand original details. Celebrating South African design is at the heart of designer Tristan Du Plessis’ vision, and every room contains a talking point from the 1,800 painstakingly hand-drawn Delft tiles forming a map of the city, to the ‘sublimely eccentric’ crocodile swing chair by Porky Hefer. Each of the 20 rooms and 12 suites sport an inner-city inspired mural by local artist David Brits. The crowning glory is the all-day jungle-themed ‘social happening’, Gigi Rooftop, offering a sun-drenched sanctuary by day and a zingy bar under the stars by night. Set to be the hottest place in Cape Town.

BEST FOR: Rural Bolthole with Style

7 Koppies may have recently opened but it is already drawing an international crowd of admirers beating their way through the Fynbos to soak up this boutique retreat’s laid-back charm and stunning views. Owned by Ampersand's founder James Jayasundera and Marc-Ludolf Von Schmarsow, 7 Koppies is exquisitely designed with the owners innately understanding how to create a property that settles into such an astonishing landscape with a simple purity of line and frame. Come here to find peace in abundance alongside eclectic art, textiles and other finds from the owners' travels. Sophisticated yet rustic - 7 Koppies is awaiting discovery.

BEST FOR: Cape Town Contemporary Art

Already a global icon after a year and a half since opening, Cape Town’s The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) is leading the way for South Africa’s reincarnation. Designed by the acclaimed Thomas Heatherwick, the unique creation, set on the V&A Waterfront, has 6,000 square metres of exhibition space in 80 gallery spaces, a rooftop sculpture garden and soaring atriums featuring surreal concrete tubes. Collections, both permanent and temporary, are empowering and transporting, based around “telling the artist’s story” and a love song to the continent whose story has so much yet to come.

BEST FOR: A Vineyard of Dreams

South Africa is the world’s 9th largest wine making nation, supported by producers in both Stellenbosch and Franschhoek heartlands, and emerging frontiers such as the Dragon Mountains. Taking a wine tour through the country allows for time at some of the most enchanting properties South Africa has to offer. For a once in a lifetime experience , lose yourself in the stellar luxury of the Delaire Graff Estate. The Owner’s Villa is one of the finest in the country, decorated by design maestro David Collins and filled with artworks from the private collection of owner Laurence Graff of diamond fame.

BEST FOR: Instagram-Worthy Colours

Cape Town is a city of many faces and one of its rainbow prisms is the multi-hued Bo-Kaap district. Once called the Malay Quarter, the area is the finest example of pre-1850 architecture in South Africa and the oldest surviving neighbourhood in the city. The roots here stretch back to the diverse slavery trade with African, Indian, Malaysian and Sri Lankan influences still to be found. Visit the first mosque built in the country in 1794 as well as the funky Marco’s African Place restaurant and boutique Monkeybiz whose bead designs have been exhibited at Sotheby’s.

BEST FOR: Dining in the Winelands

Franschhoek is one of those pitch-perfect towns where each corner harbours a new find. One of its latest openings is Protégé, a casual fine-dining hotspot under La Colombe's Scot Kirton. The interior is elegantly spare with clean lines and nothing stealing the limelight from the imaginative dishes with highlights including Saldanha Bay Oysters, Korean Fired Chicken and Cured Trout - a journey around the world surrounded by the peerless art collection of Leeu Estates

BEST FOR: Artisan Studios

Woodstock Design District in Cape Town has the highest concentration of design studios and art galleries in the country. Cheap rents, industrial and period spaces and a community vibe has drawn creative talents from all over and this is a place to delve into South Africa’s artistic identity. Discover galleries such as Stevenson, Blank Projects, SMAC and Goodman Gallery as well as the acclaimed Southern Guild. Look out for the designs of Atang Tshikare who has collaborated with the likes of Puma and Adidas as well as the socially-aware lighting creations of Nash Heath and the beguiling furniture of Sibusiso Mthembu, one of South Africa’s rising design stars.

BEST FOR: Design Innovation

Circa on Jellicoe is a dazzling contemporary gallery in Johannesburg. Described as ‘curving the boundaries’, the multi-media gallery is an elliptical dream fashioned from concrete and aluminium with a striking deck overlooking Jo’burg's urban forest. Renowned gallery Everard Read holds notable shows here showcasing emerging artists, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, and giving them an invaluable platform. Look out for the Darwin Room on the top floor with its canopy of hanging green and Speke, named after John Speke who sought the source of the Nile, which shows disparate and often quirky cultural objects from throughout the world.

To start planning your own tailor-made holiday to South Africa please contact us: // +44 (0) 207 819 9770 

Client Testimonials

Ampersand’s preparation, attention to detail and interaction before and during our trip show exactly why good travel agents have a role in today’s internet booking age. They were a delight to deal with!
- Mr David Wallace, North India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
- Leslie Siben, India
Everything you did for us whilst we were away was hugely appreciated, and Ampersand has been exemplary in every way. I'll always recommend you!
- Mr Richard Stoughton, Sri Lanka
Difficult to articulate just how good the service from you and your team really was. We know you will continue to do well and hope we have the chance to seek your assistance again before long.
- Mr & Mrs Manson, North India
I thought the Ampersand team was outstanding. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more.
- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
- Jaime Benitez, South India
I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
- Krista Weir, Sri Lanka
Ampersand provided a bespoke and flexible holiday, tailored to my every whim. Their highly professional staff had only one goal which was to arrange an exceptional holiday and some unforgettable experiences in India. I have no hesitation in fully recommending them and they will be the first company I approach in the future - 10/10
- Anonymous, India

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