Victoria Falls Hotel: Our full report
Oozing Edwardian style, the Victoria Falls Hotel is the most famous address in town – with a name to rival ...... Raffles in Singapore or The Ritz in London. When it was opened in 1904, to house engineers constructing Cecil Rhodes’ railway, the elegant hotel clearly had first choice of locations: next to the vital railway station with a vantage point above the bridge which spans the gorge. Its location is still unsurpassed: the closest Zimbabwean hotel to the waterfall and within a short walk of town .
The hotel is set in lush, well-tended gardens with large areas of lawn and some spectacular individual specimen trees. In the entrance courtyard, along with a lily pond and slender palm trees, is the carriage of an old tram that used to carry visitors from the hotel to the Falls. In another courtyard, in the Stable Wing, a peaceful, fragrant herb garden supplies the hotel's kitchen and its cocktail bar with rosemary, mint and much more.
Throughout the hotel, the walls are adorned with pictures, prints and posters looking back on the building’s history, mixed with British and colonial memorabilia from Africa – and a few slightly moth-eaten-looking hunting trophies. This might look corny or anachronistic in many settings, but here it seems effective.
Since one of our team first visited the Victoria Falls Hotel in 1987, we’ve watched as it has – like the country of Zimbabwe – come through some tough periods of chronic under-investment. However, in more recent years the hotel’s staff and infrastructure have been properly resourced, raising standards of comfort and service to match some of Africa’s best hotels.
The public areas of the hotel have long had a luxurious, Edwardian style; now their décor and furnishings are also well-maintained. Gone is the lackadaisical attitude from the staff which we saw in the first years of this millennium, to be replaced by a more attentive, service-oriented approach, befitting of the well-trained team of a smart, modern hotel. Altogether it’s now very much a class act.
The 161 rooms and suites at Victoria Falls Hotel come in a range of sizes, all with period décor and modern fixtures.
- Standard Rooms, located in the Central Wing, have views onto the gardens and courtyards. Decorated in an Edwardian style, these generally have the same footprint as the original rooms built over a century ago. So while they have been updated with modern amenities – including air conditioning, electronic safes, a telephone and a tea/coffee station – their bathrooms incorporate a shower over the bath, and most are really quite small.
- Deluxe Rooms, also found in the Central Wing, either have views onto the gardens and courtyards or towards the gorge and the famous old bridge. Similar in amenities and size to the Standard Rooms, they have a slightly larger bathroom with separate bath and shower.
- A further group of Deluxe Rooms is set in the Stable Wing, with views either onto the stable courtyard or towards the gorge and bridge. This wing is the newest addition to the Victoria Falls Hotel, with much newer rooms that are nearly twice the size of the older Deluxe Central Wing rooms. They are decorated and furnished in a modern take on the Edwardian style, which looks good and generally works very welll.
- Four Honeymoon Suites, two in the older section of the hotel and two in the newer wing, have king-size beds and four-poster king-size beds respectively. Each has its own lounge area, and includes a minibar, personal safe and air conditioning. Suites in the new wing are slightly larger, with a balcony overlooking the gardens, a separate bath and shower, and his and hers washbasins. The older suites have a shower over the bath and no balcony, but do have a view looking down towards the Falls and the bridge.
- Junior Suites and Executive Suites are very large, with a reception room that is separate from both the bedroom and the bathroom. Having been refurbished in 2015, these suites still look superb. They have retained their traditional style of décor, but now have the same smart standards as the rest of the hotel.
From the breakfast buffet served at the Jungle Junction, to relaxed all-day eats on the terrace, and the smart, formal dining in the Livingstone Room – food standards are high, and it’s reasonably priced. The hotel has several restaurants, offering an assortment of dining experiences:
Breakfast is served in the relaxed, open-sided Jungle Junction, which is a short walk through the hotel gardens.
For drinks and meals throughout the day, including brunch, lunch and high tea in the afternoon, Stanley's Terrace lines the veranda of the main hotel building – with a great view of the Victoria Falls Bridge and the cloud of spray over the lawns.
Tucked away beside a corner of the terrace, the well-stocked bar and animal-print couches of Stanley's Bar are often overlooked, yet it makes a very convivial spot for pre-dinner drinks, with a particularly extensive cocktail menu.
The imposing Livingstone Room offers a real sense of occasion and very formal dining. Decorated in classic Edwardian style, it is open nightly for dinner, accompanied by a pianist with an eclectic repertoire of classic rock, pop and classical tunes. During dinner, engaged diners can have their own game of “name that tune” – and later those inclined can dance on the sprung wooden dance floor, and make requests!
In recent years, the requirement for gentlemen to wear jackets and ties in the Livingstone Room has been dropped, but there remains a dress code which bans “safari wear” in favour of expecting guests to dress smartly for dinner. For men, this means a collared shirt, trousers and closed shoes; for ladies, smart evening wear. The hotel doesn’t usually allow children under 12 years old to dine here.
The hotel’s stately air never feels energetic, but for those who are so inclined there’s a small air-conditioned gym and a couple of tennis courts. More in keeping with the general pace would be a treatment at the small spa, which offers manicures, facials and a range of body treatments.
The swimming pool is a reasonable size (about 20m x 10m) and, with an adjacent section of lawn, its deckchairs and loungers make an inviting place to relax. There’s a poolside bar and lunchtime barbecue here, and pool-side massages can be arranged. There's even a chapel, which has services every Sunday and is also available for weddings.
For most people, activities at the Victoria Falls Hotel focus on the waterfall and perhaps some shopping for curios. The Victoria Falls themselves, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are about 15 minutes’ walk away, or a five-minute taxi ride. Most visitors look around themselves rather than taking a guide. Although the hotel has a private gate to a convenient path which leads from the gardens directly down to the Falls, this was locked on our most recent visit. (When it’s open, just beware of the occasional elephant or buffalo in this area.)
Opportunities to browse for curios abound, with a good market near the entrance to the waterfall, and an even more extensive series of craft markets about ten minutes’ walk from the hotel in and around Elephant Walk shopping centre. The hotel itself also has a good, small shop crammed with a wide variety of curios and gifts.
Staff on the desk can always organise last-minute activities, from horse-riding, parasailing, golf and canoeing to the more adventurous white-water rafting, abseiling, bungee jumping and gorge swinging.
The Victoria Falls Hotel is the town’s best hotel: it has a great location and has successfully updated its facilities while maintaining a stylish Edwardian air. We found the food consistently very good on our last few visits and the service efficient and often very personal: it’s a class act. Book early, as the hotel can fill quickly. The Standard Rooms are often small, so stay in the Stable Wing or the suites if budget allows: they’re worth it.
- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
- Ideal length of stay
- We'd usually recommend a stay of 2–3 nights at the Victoria Falls Hotel.
- Between the town of Victoria Falls and the eponymous waterfall, and next to the town’s (now very quiet) railway station, the Victoria Falls Hotel has a great location and is easy to find.
- Accessible by
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Bed & Breakfast
- Food quality
- An extensive breakfast buffet is served every day at Jungle Junction, in the hotel’s grounds beside a small sculpture park. This often feels like the busiest part of the hotel, with many visitors eating quickly before heading off somewhere. There are sections for cereals, fruits, cold meats and cheeses – as well as an extensive range of cooked options, and several chefs preparing eggs to order, waffles, pancakes and the like. The staff here function as a well-oiled machine, even when volumes of diners are high. It’s worth noting that most visitors rise fairly early, so they stop serving breakfast at around 9.30am.
Stanley's Terrace has table service throughout the day on its wide, sheltered veranda – which spills out onto tables under umbrellas on its sunny terrace. Here you’ll find drinks, snacks and light meals at almost any time – including brunch, lunch and high tea.
Lunch here gets busy, so book a table on the veranda when you return from breakfast. You’ll find a good menu with a range of dishes and some interesting choices – a few salads, various wraps and sandwiches, burgers, pasta, and a couple of dessert options. A much smaller children’s menu is great value. In April 2019 eight of us had different options for lunch here – from salmon fillet on a Caesar salad, to a child’s burger and chips – and all were fresh and very good.
High tea on Stanley's Terrace is something of an institution, attracting guests and non-residents alike to soak up the ambience and view while enjoying a pot of tea and a neatly presented three-storey tower of scones, sandwiches and cakes.
Dinner is served both on Stanley's Terrace, or in the very smart Livingstone Room, where the à la carte menu provides five or six options per course, or a menu dégustation. Expect an extensive wine list and knowledgeable, if very formal service.
We’ve eaten there most recently in 2015 and in 2019 – on both occasions in relatively large groups. It’s an unusually formal atmosphere by modern standards, with guests expected to “dress for dinner” – but that makes it all the more fun if you enjoy the formality. The food has been excellent on both occasions, particularly notable for a liberal sprinkling of game-meat dishes throughout the à la carte menu and a very theatrical crêpe suzette.
For after-dinner nightcaps, the extensive cocktail menu of the nearby Stanley's Bar is exclusively for residents and diners; it’s a bar that looks the part for serious, late-night deliberations over exotic variants of hard liquor
- An outpost dating from the turn of the 19th century, the Victoria Falls Hotel has a gracious air and period-style furnishings, but also modern facilities and attentive service. Take a suite here for a very romantic few days as part of a honeymoon in Zimbabwe or the surrounding area.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- Victoria Falls may be the adrenalin capital of Zimbabwe, but you can take things a little slower at the Victoria Falls Hotel. Keep yourself fit with a large swimming pool, tennis courts and a gym, or try out the small spa, perfect for a little overindulgence.
- See ideas for Wellbeing
- The furnishings and décor of the Victoria Falls Hotel evoke an era of Edwardian gentility, whilst functioning well with efficient modern amenities. For true indulgence, stay under the high ceilings of The Stable Wing, or in one of the hotel’s large and luxurious suites.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- The Victoria Falls Hotel happily accepts children of any age, and we’ve found them to be welcoming to our own children.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Only the formal dining in the Livingstone Room has any age restrictions associated with it (no under 12s).
- Special activities & services
- A babysitting service is available – but note that babysitters are unlikely to be trained up to UK standards. Stanley’s Terrace has a small but good children’s menu for lunch.
- Cots are available on request.
- Generally recommended for children
- The Falls Hotel is generally great for children, with large public spaces inside and even more extensive lawned areas outside. A sizeable swimming pool is a firm favourite – albeit the shallow end is minimal, so children who can’t swim will need very close supervision,
- This is an old hotel filled with beautiful furniture and antiques and it is the responsibility of parents or guardians to look after their children.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Victoria Falls Hotel
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Victoria Falls Hotel have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There are plug points in all the rooms so charging camera equipment isn't a problem, though guests may wish to bring their own travel adaptors for their appliances. The power in Victoria Falls on our last visit was generally very reliable, and when it wasn't the hotel's back-up generator swung into action very quickly.
- There is a telephone in each room and complimentary WiFi throughout the hotel.The hotel also has internet facilities near reception for guest use
- TV & radio
- Each room has a television with local and international cable channels.
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- Bathrooms are fully plumbed.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- There is a doctor on call 24 hours a day.
- Dangerous animals
- Low Risk
- Security measures
- 24-hour security personnel patrol the premises and there is a boom gate at the entrance which is constantly manned.
- Fire safety
- Fire extinguishers are dotted around the hotel and there are well-demarcated fire assembly points in the main area.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is available at extra cost. Items are usually returned to guests within 24 hours.
- Each room has its own electronic safe. The hotel reception will exchange money – although rates may not be the most favourable in town.
- Accepted payment on location
- The Victoria Falls Hotel accepts Visa cards but not Mastercard, American Express or Diners’ Card at present.
Other lodges in Victoria Falls
Alternative places to stay in this same area.