Babylonstoren Farm Hotel, Cape Winelands
Babylonstoren Farm Hotel, Cape Winelands
A stay at the ethereal vineyard is the ultimate indulgence in food, wine and thoughtful design
Babylonstoren is so idyllic, it’s almost unfathomable. A working farm that dates back to 1692, the beauty of this vineyard is two-fold: nature and natural talent. The former is thanks to its location in the Cape Winelands, where bucolic landscapes are met by stunning mountain vistas and all is illuminated by rays of gold South Africa sun. The latter is due to Babylonstoren's owner, Karen Roos, a former magazine editor with a serious knack for highly detailed yet wonderfully understated design.
Roos’ vision is palpable upon first blush; from the carefully restored Cape Dutch buildings to the eight-acre formal garden conceived by French architect Patrice Taravella to the elegant logo on their wine bottles, there’s no missing her dedication to design. We saw this during our first lunch there in 2012, and have enjoyed seeing the farm further develop every time we’ve visited since. With that in mind, this year we decided to indulge in a stay at Babylonstoren’s Farm Hotel.
We stayed in one of the nine farmhouse suites, which are a group of spacious one-bedrooms surrounding a private pool, spa and library brimming with books, a rare birdwing butterfly collection and complimentary bar. Inside the suite, a soothing color palette plays to the rustic ambiance while inviting you to imbibe in the intended purpose of utter relaxation. Each is stocked with a colorful basket of fruit plucked fresh from the farm, as well as a pantry filled with their own wine, tea, olive oil and snacks. And with a beautifully tiled bathroom bigger than most New York apartments, you would hardly want to leave the room except for the enticing scenery outside.
"Above all, we’d like visitors to ground themselves again,” notes Roos. "To enjoy the mountains all around as much as we do, pick their own healthy fruit and veg, play pétanque, swim in the farm dam, enjoy an hour in the spa, eat a simple fresh dish at one of the restaurants, walk up the conical Babylonstoren Hill, await sunset with a glass of wine in hand, and then slip in between sheets of crisp linen and drift away."
Rarely does a hotel’s intent actually match how guests use the facilities, but without a plan in mind we essentially ended up spending our time there as unknowingly directed. We whiled away our first afternoon with a book in hand by the pool, and after an aperitif of smoked fish and rosé we headed to the lawn for a game of croquet while watching the sun set over the Drakenstein Mountains. We then made our way past the donkeys, the free-roaming guinea fowl and even a giant turkey, to dine at Babel, their signature restaurant that adheres to a farm-to-fork philosophy. While our dinner—which included a plum soup and a risotto with tulbaghia and hyssop flowers—was made of ingredients found at Babylonstoren, we appreciated that the wine list consisted of both their own delicious bottles and those from select neighbors. (We reveled in a 2010 limited release of petit verdot from Anura Vineyards.)
It’s worth the effort to wake up early the next morning for the guided hike up Babylonstoren Hill, which offers a sweeping 360-degree view of the Cape Winelands. We then descended upon the cornucopia of fresh foods at breakfast before setting out on a bike ride around the entirety of Babylonstoren's 500-acre farm. Grab a packed lunch from the Greenhouse Restaurant for a picnic at the farm dam just outside the confines of the garden, or simply get some exercise while taking in one impressive view after another. Those seeking total tranquility should book a hammam treatment at the spa, an experience that closely matches traditional Turkish baths but is taken down a notch to be more soothing than invigorating.
With so many activities and endless places to retreat (we recommend curling up in designer Porky Hefer’s human-sized bird nest in the garden), a stay at Babylonstoren is ultimately fulfilling for both body and soul. The 22 guest units vary in size but each is as thoughtfully designed as the next, the only thing to consider when booking is that you’ll never want to leave.
Rooms at Babylonstoren start around $600 per night.
Studio and restaurant interior images courtesy of Babylonstoren, all others by Karen Day