Sanctuary Mandela

  4 13th Ave, Houghton      +27 10 035 0368     22 Mar 2024
Sanctuary Mandela is possibly the only boutique hotel in the world where you can spend the night in an authentic Presidential Suite. It's the real deal – the former home of a president, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and global icon.

Opened in September 2021, Sanctuary Mandela has transformed the grand Houghton home where Nelson Mandela lived from 1994 to 1999, into a tranquil and understated luxury boutique hotel that pays tribute to the icon's incredible life story. The hotel is a partnership between the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Motsamayi Tourism Group.

The building itself is owned by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and became the foundation's headquarters when Mandela and his wife Graca Machel moved to a new home on nearby 12th Street in Houghton in 1999. Eventually, the foundation outgrew this space and established itself at a new building nearby, on Central Street.
An iconic image of a young Mandela hangs at the centre of the hotel's inner atrium. Photo: Supplied.

Remarkably, considering its unique heritage, in the 2010s the house fell into grave disrepair (it had been sold to new owners), and many of its beautiful features were damaged by squatters who occupied the property. It was rescued in 2018 and work began to transform it into a hotel. In the earliest days of construction the designers salvaged as many of the original features of the dilapidated property that they could – from heritage Coronation bricks to pressed ceilings. 

The brief was to create a space that would tell Mandela's story without feeling like a museum, while also functioning as a hotel that conveys homeliness.

The door and window frames were preserved, pieces of the original brickwork and what remained of the parquet flooring were also salvaged and reused, and the pond at the front of the house where the then President would sit and reflect in the mornings, was revamped and lined with a bed of Madiba roses, a varietal specially created in 1996.
The elegant reception area. Photo: Supplied.

Efforts were also made to research Mandela's life and habits in the property and reflect these through unique spaces. His former meeting room, where crucial decisions were made during the early days of South Africa's nascent democracy, is now one of two formal meeting rooms. Meanwhile at the entrance stands a bronze depiction by Andre Prinsloo of Mandela reading his morning newspapers. It is said that every morning he would scan the news about the JSE to scout for successful CEOs, who he would then invite to the house to talk investment in education over breakfast.
Throughout the property a collection of paintings by John Meyer highlight key moments from Mandela's famous life story, such as his capture in the Midlands, his imprisonment on Robben Island, his life as President, his childhood in the rural Eastern Cape, and his time working as a lawyer and activist in Joburg in the 1950s. Tata, Rolihlahla, Accused Number 1, 46664, President .. each of the hotel's nine rooms bears one of the many different names and labels that Mandela held through his long life, reflecting a remarkable life story that runs to countless pages. 
Inside 'Nel', a King suite. Photo: Supplied.

There are four different categories of room, the Deluxe Studio, Deluxe King Suite, King Suite, and of course the Presidential Suite – where the President slept for several years. Of course, the furnishings are all new (fitted with elegant South African contemporary design). A perk of the Presidential suite includes a personal guided tour of the Foundation's extensive private archives, and fine malt whiskies and sherry waiting neatly decanted on arrival. 
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at the hotel's understated Insights restaurant, named for an intimate painting by John Meyer of Mandela and Bill Clinton deep in discussion, that hangs in the room. The menu is described as "a historical food-print of the modest tastes of Nelson Mandela", refined and modernised with the help of Mandela's personal cook of more than 20 years, Xolisa Ndoyiya.
The good news is that you do not have to book a night to experience this space for yourself. Every Sunday Sanctuary Mandela hosts Jazz Sundays: a lovely way to end the week with some good foot tapping. Be sure to go on the optional tour of the hotel to see the beautiful way in which the house has been transformed and to fully appreciate the curated art on the walls.


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Credit Cards
Facilities for disabled
Outside seating
Live Music
Guarded parking
Conference facilities
Swimming pool


Events at this venue

Every Sunday 12:00–15:00
Jazz Sundays at Sanctuary Mandela


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