The Rich History Of Westcliff

Once the stomping ground of the infamous Randlords who controlled the diamond and gold mining industry in Southern Africa, Westcliff now prompts great views, historic buildings (closely guarded by the Parktown Westcliff Association) and some of the finest hotels and cafes around Johannesburg.

Out of all the Johannesburg suburbs, Westcliff has one of the most storied histories. Along with Parktown it provided the location for the homes of early Johannesburg’s rich and famous and still today is one of the city’s most prestigious suburbs.

In The Beginning

In 1890, dynamite manufacturer Edouard Lippert bought a portion of the farm Braamfontein, establishing the suburb of Parktown. As one of the oldest suburbs in Johannesburg, Westcliff was the playground of statesmen, the Randlords, and other prominent businessmen dating back to the 1890s. The first of these mansions, Hohenheim was designed by Frank Emley and was built for Sir Lionel Philips. Hohenheim was demolished in 1972 to make way for the Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

To establish a more refined and South African style of architecture, Sir Herbert Baker was instilled to design and build houses along the koppie that links Westcliff to Parktown. One such example was the erection of 5 Rockridge Road, which also became Baker’s home. This abode and many others were built from rocks cut and blasted from the same koppie on which they were built.

Westcliff soon grew into the affluent neighbourhood it is today, aided by an influx of Randlords and other wealthy businessmen.

Westcliff Today

With views out over the north of the city and the ability, in certain areas, to hear the lions roaring in the zoo at night. This is not a suburb for those starting out on the property ladder, when you move to Westcliff you have arrived. With an average selling price of just over R7 million in 2011 and over R10 million in 2010, purchasers are not going to be short on cash when they buy in this suburb.

Eat & Sleep

Probably the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word Westcliff, would be the Four Seasons Hotel, The Westcliff. It is known for its iconic view of the northern suburbs, brilliant eateries and luxury. At the hotel you can find Flames restaurant which provides a fine dining experience like no other. Flames has upped the ante on the South African braai culture and has elevated it to fine dining quality. Here you can also find the Westcliff Deli which serves deli style eats on the go.


While Westcliff does not hold much in the way of entertainment, it is surrounded by cool burbs such as Parktown, Melville and even Zoo Lake. These areas are packed with cool stuff to do.

Points Of Interest

The infamous Westcliff Steps is the spot to check out if you’re into fitness. It is a decent exchange for a treadmill where all the buttons are covered in sweat from overuse. Challenge your body and take on the 210 steps that run almost vertically up to Crescent Drive. Fun fact, the stairs were built by unemployed miners in 1922.

Spread the love

Did you like this article? Then get more of the same from our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox for FREE!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More from Explore Joburg: