The Je ne sais quoi of Johannesburg


The question has often been asked. Do people make places?

Forbes once addressed it in their blog, noting, “Some cities have been smoking hot for a while now; others are just recently catching fire. They share a lot of DNA, generally having universities, an investment-friendly culture and political will to support innovation. But perhaps most important is the humapn factor.”

In my experience, it’s quite simple. Yes. Yes, they do. People make places. Even for non-people-people, there are many special places in the world that manage to bring out your gregarious, telephone-number-swapping side. Places where the hidden social butterfly patters its wings a little harder, a little less incognito, in answer to the like-minds whose paths you cross.

It is this phenomenon that draws me to AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg.


above: Clive Sibanda (Waiter)

People say that, as a city, Johannesburg is notably friendly. In a going-out-of-their-way-to-help-you kind of way that always ends with the words, “We’re having a braai on Friday. Why don’t you join us?” This is unusual in big cities, but it’s a theory that rings true for AtholPlace as well.

Since AtholPlace opened its doors in Sandton in Johannesburg, people continue to return to the hotel for this very quality. Even when the team changes, moves on to spread their friendliness elsewhere, the hotel holds onto this inherent nature. It is in every face you encounter – whether driver, Tau, Head of Housekeeping, Melinda, and her team of housekeepers, Head Waiter, Enoch, and his team of waiters, or the other hosts, the guests, the owners… They make non people-people, at once, people-people.

Is this what gives Johannesburg its va-va-va-voom? Its je ne sais quoi… What do you think? Do people make the place?

Meet the team at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa below, with these images from our latest visit, and look out for interviews and new foodie photographs coming soon.



Above: Jabs Koba and Esselina Khunalo (Housekeeping) | Below: Gloria Ladlokoba (Housekeeping) and Blessing Nyathi (Waiter)



Above: Tau Hlomai and Melinda Warikandwa| Below: Enoch Banda


Of course the hotel’s other faces are just as integral to the allure – the suites in both the hotel and villa, their decor, the breakfast spread, the lunches and fireside dinners; the bubble bath foam castles (just me?); the oak trees and jacarandas lit up with purple petals and shading the pools from the outside world, the boma sundowners… And, of course, the people you share it all with.










“A place is only as good as the people you know in it. It’s the people that make the place.”

– Pittacus Lore, I Am Number Four