The Africa House Hotel is located by the sea in Zanzibar's Stone Town.
Africa House Hotel: Our full report
The Africa House Hotel is a lively hotel in the heart of Stone Town, with a fantastic spot right by the sea. Though the Africa House is probably better known for its popular bar and restaurant than its hotel rooms, it is a good value place to stay with a lovely location.
The Africa House Hotel is steeped in interesting history, with the original part of the building being 340 years old. It was built by a slave trader, who then married into the Omani Royal Family. Shortly after, his home became a guest house for members of the royal family. The two cannons that sit at the front of Africa House Hotel, and the marble on the staircases actually come from original Omani Palaces!
In 1888 the building, which had by then grown in size, became the English Club and remained so until the end of the colonial era. The Africa House Hotel still houses the original English Club library collection – though unfortunately there is no access to guests.
The central areas of Africa House are full of Zanzibari charm, with huge antique chests, large carved mirrors and brass lamps hanging from the ceilings. A huge staircase winds up through the centre of the building, decorated in original marble from the days of the Omani Arabs.
The main focus of the Africa House Hotel is the balcony bar, which sits on a large open air terrace overlooking the sea, and is a very popular spot for a sundowner. This was extensively refurbished in 2007 which has resulted in a much smarter look. The pool tables have been removed and parts of the lounge have the feel of a luxurious Arab dwelling, with beautiful carpets and dozens of scattered cushions. There are still plenty of lounge chairs and high tables with stools where you can sit and enjoy a drink or a snack. The clientele here is a mix of hotel residents, local people of all hues, and backpackers – it's quite eclectic and buzzy.
Set back slightly from the terrace, through some wide arched doors, is a lounge area, where a few comfortable sofas and chairs sit on wooden floors dotted with Persian rugs and scatter cushions.
Upstairs is the rather quieter ambience of the refurbished fine-dining restaurant, which is more formal than the bar, and is used mostly by hotel residents, and the odd regular Stone Town resident. You can sit inside, or out on the terrace, at small intimate tables, which are set with immaculately clean, ironed tablecloths and candles set in beautiful brass lamps. The result is smart, though still quite atmospheric – it is a good place to grab a bite to eat in the evenings. It, too, has a panoramic view over the sea, and silver service, which we believe is unique in Stone Town.
Back on the ground floor, you'll find a small shop> selling T-shirts, curios and brightly coloured kikois.
Our viewThe rooms at Africa House are of a reasonable size and quality, and clean and comfortable – hence it makes it onto the short-list of Stone Town top ten hotels. However, some of them (the Deluxe Rooms) are quite dated, probably because of their heavy fabrics and chunky furniture, and so if you stay here, then we'd always recommend the lighter and brighter Deluxe Seaview Rooms.
If you like hotels with a bit of tradition and history, but right in the centre of town, this is the place for you.
Ideal length of stay: 1 or 2 nights to explore Stone Town.
Directions: It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it's a further 15 minutes by car to Stone Town and the Africa House.
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: Breakfast at the Africa House is served between 6.00 and 10.00am in the top floor restaurant and usually consists of fruit, tea and coffee and an English breakfast.
Lunch is then an a la carte menu, served in the terrace bar. It is open to all visitors and serves standard international cuisine such as pizzas, sandwiches and salads right into the evening.
Upstairs, the main restaurant starts serving dinner from 7pm, which is a variety of international cuisine from a 3-course a la carte menu.
When we were last here the food in the terrace bar at Africa House was fairly standard bar food. The menu consisted of burgers, pizzas and alike, but it was good value and filling.
The restaurant upstairs is better, with an a la carte menu that has a variety of seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. A 3-course meal in the main restaurant will cost around $15 a head – and if the weather's dry, then you can ask them for one of the tables on the roof, adjacent to the restaurant.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Africa House Hotel
Equipment: Cots are available on request
Generally recommended for children: OK for older children – but it does little to actively cater for younger children.
Notes: The Africa House Hotel is a busy place with a lively bar; there are also lots of steep stairs around the hotel to reach the various rooms. This isn't really the best place for small children.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There are phones in the rooms with outside lines – these have an automated billing system. Internet access is free for all guests and for those with their own laptops, there is WiFi around the hotel.
Health & safety
Malarial area: Yes
Medical care: Africa House can call a nearby doctor in the case of a medical emergency.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: Africa House employs security guards who are outside the hotel around the clock.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers and alarms around the main areas of the hotel.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is an extra charge
Money: Africa House Hotel cannot offer any currency exchange, though there are plenty of bureau de changes in the area – someone from the hotel can give you directions or show you where to go.