Welcome to the Victoria Falls Hotel...
Victoria Falls Hotel: Our full report
The elegant Victoria Falls Hotel is located within walking distance of the Victoria Falls, with views over the famous Victoria Falls Bridge spanning the Batoka Gorge. The hotel, originally built in 1904 to house engineers and associates working on the construction of the railway, is decorated in a style reminiscent of Edwardian times, and is only a five-minute walk from Victoria Falls town.
The hotel is set in lush, well-tended gardens, with its own private path to the Victoria Falls. 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, they are trialing a scheme to grow vegetables and herbs for use in the hotel kitchen, using compost made from kitchen waste. Scented shrubs make this a very pretty and peaceful area.
The Victoria Falls Hotel has 161 rooms and suites. Recent investment, refurbishment and development has gone a fair way to addressing criticism that while the public areas of the hotel have classic, old-world luxury and elegance in abundance, the bedrooms were dated and somewhat trapped in a time warp, which isn’t to everyone’s taste. Now the accommodation options incorporate a range of styles and standards, with plans for further improvements in the coming years.
- Standard Rooms, located in the Central Wing, have views onto the gardens and courtyards. These rooms are well decorated in an Edwardian style, but as they are the original rooms from over a century ago, they are quite small by modern hotel standards. Facilities include air conditioning, an electronic safe, a telephone and a tea/coffee station, and their bathrooms have a bath with a shower incorporated.
- Deluxe Rooms, also found in the Central Wing, either have views onto the gardens and courtyards or towards the gorge and famous old bridge. Similar in amenities and size to the Standard Rooms, they have a slightly larger bathroom with separate bath and shower.
- Deluxe Rooms are 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 and the rooms here are more modern and nearly twice the size of the older Deluxe Central Wing rooms.
- 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 bath/shower combo and no balcony, but do have a view looking down towards the Falls and the bridge.
- Junior Suites and Executive Suites are both very large, with reception rooms separate from the bedroom and bathroom. These are traditional in décor and looked a little dated the last time we visited in June 2014.
Filled with old furniture and antiques, the beautifully decorated Bulawayo Room is a traditional lounge area where guests can enjoy champagne and after-dinner port.
The hotel’s restaurants provide an assortment of dining experiences. Of these, the Livingstone Room is a classic Edwardian dining room which is open nightly for dinner and dancing to a live band. It has an à la carte menu with a varied (international and local) wine list, and a formal style of service which probably hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years. Please note that there is a dress code, and gentlemen should wear a tie.
Breakfast and buffet dinners are served in the much more relaxed Jungle Junction, which is a short walk through the hotel gardens. Tables inside and out have lovely views out towards Victoria Falls Bridge and the spray of the Falls. For light meals and cocktails, there’s Stanley's Terrace and Stanley's Bar, which also hosts high tea every afternoon. High tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel is an institution, attracting guests and non-residents alike to relax and admire the famous old bridge while enjoying a pot of tea and a neatly presented three-storey tower of scones, sandwiches and cakes.
As well as relaxing on the terrace you can pamper yourself in the spa, which offers manicures, facials and a range of body treatments. It is also possible to have a massage beside the Edwardian-style swimming pool, where deckchairs are an inviting place to relax, perhaps with something from the poolside bar and lunchtime barbecue.
The hotel even offers a chapel, which is available for weddings, an activities desk, two all-weather tennis courts (although these weren't in great shape on our last visit) and a curio shop.
The activity centre is particularly useful for organising activities in the area, from horseriding, parasailing, golf and canoeing to the more adventurous white-water rafting, abseiling, bungee jumping and gorge swinging. Flights over the Victoria Falls by microlight and helicopter are very popular too.
Our viewThe Victoria Falls Hotel is a very relaxed and civilised place to stay for two or three nights at the start or end of a safari, with the added bonus of its own entrance to the Falls. There is a variety of accommodation to suit both traditional and more modern tastes, and for a hotel of its size it has a very friendly atmosphere with plenty of things going on.
Ideal length of stay: We'd recommend a stay of about 2-3 nights at the Victoria Falls Hotel.
Directions: Many guests will arrive into Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) or Livingstone (Zambia) by air and then transfer to the hotel by road. Others arrive by road from one of the other tourist destinations in the west of Zimbabwe, such as Hwange or Matobo Hills National Parks.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: 50% owned by Meikles Hotels and 50% owned by African Sun Hotels
Staff: Guilio – GM of Victoria Falls Hotel (June 2014) Roddy – Sales and Marketing Manager (also Front of House)
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: A breakfast buffet is served at Jungle Junction with a vast array of cereals, homemade breads and pastries, and a hot English breakfast cooked to order.
A light à la carte lunch is served on Stanley’s Terrace, where on our last visit to the Victoria Falls Hotel we enjoyed a very nice ostrich stir-fry salad. This is also the venue for the traditional high tea, with sandwiches, cakes and scones.
Dinner is served both in Stanley’s Terrace, or in the more formal Livingstone Room, where the à la carte menu provides for seven courses.
Stanley's Bar, exclusively for residents and diners, is open every evening.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Cost of meal e.g. lunch: £20-25
Drinks included: Drinks are not included. The average cost of a soft drink is U$2–3 with a bottle of wine costing from US$25.
Further dining info: Room service available 24 hours
Attitude towards children: Despite its traditional and upmarket style the Victoria Falls Hotel has an open policy on children.
Property’s age restrictions: The Victoria Falls Hotel accepts children of any age.
Special activities & services: A babysitting service is available – but note that babysitters might not be trained up to UK standards.
Equipment: Cots are available on request.
Generally recommended for children: The Victoria Falls Hotel is good for children thanks to a sizeable swimming pool, a couple of tennis courts and plenty of open space.
Notes: This is an old hotel filled with beautiful furniture and antiques and it is the parent’s responsibility to look after their children.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: There are plug points in all of 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 Victoria Falls Hotel’s back-up generator swung into action very quickly.
Communications: There is a telephone in each room and the lodge has internet facilities for guest use near reception. There is complimentary WiFi throughout the hotel too.
TV & radio: Each room has a television.
Water supply: Mains
Water supply notes: The tap water in Victoria Falls is safe to drink. In addition, filtered and bottled water is provided in the rooms.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
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 too.
Disabled access: On Request
Laundry facilities: A full laundry service is available at extra cost. Items will usually be returned to guests within 24 hours.
Money: Each room has its own safe. The hotel does have a bureau de change, although rates may not be the most favourable in town.
Accepted payment on location: The Victoria Falls Hotel accepts Visa cards but not Master Card at present.