Seeing Victoria Falls is on most people’s bucket list. It was definitely on ours! If, like us, you want to see this once-in-a-lifetime spot, then, like us, you will want to stay in a once-in-a-lifetime hotel. That is why we chose to stay at The Victoria Falls Hotel.
A Little History of The Victoria Falls Hotel
Don’t worry, this isn’t a whole lecture.
There is a famous bridge that runs between the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides of the river. If you cross between these two countries during your stay at Victoria Falls, you will cross it. This bridge was built in 1905 as part of a huge railway project. The Victoria Falls Hotel was constructed to house the engineers that were working on the project. As digs go, it was (and still is) rather swanky.
Commanding a spot that overlooks both the river gorge and the bridge, The Victoria Falls Hotel has the best location in town! Well, being the first real accommodation, the town evolved around it, so it makes sense.
A Look around the Victoria Falls Hotel
The Elephant in the Room
OK, so before we get into exploring the hotel, I’d like to say a quick word about the items displayed in and around the hotel. The Victoria Falls hotel was built in an age of empire. British children were taught about the “savages” of other countries and studied world maps covered in pink. It was a different time and the Victoria Falls Hotel takes this history and puts it out there for all to see. We don’t condone colonialism, racism or the subjugation of anyone based on race, colour or creed. However, we enjoy history and so found the artefacts fascinating. Oh, and there are lots of skulls, furs and other hunting trophies. If these upset you, then maybe this isn’t the place for you.
Our double room was situated in the stables wing. This is a new addition to the hotel but you’d never know it. The aesthetic seamlessly continues throughout the hotel and into the stables wing. Pass along this corridor and the courtyard, full of sunlight and bright with plants, opens up in front of you. Our room was up on the second floor.
Heading up our front steps and into the room, the first thing that I noticed was the bed. It was like my very own princess and the pea bed. I needed to pay attention to get in and out, it was so plump with mattress!
Around the room, we had some gorgeous pieces of furniture. The wardrobe was quite imposing, built from dark wood and the size of a big triple wardrobe. They really knew how to make the most of their woodworking skills back in the day! We also had a huge writing desk. Most people probably don’t use them for much more than dumping their stuff on, but I got some writing done and felt awfully posh doing so,
My favourite piece was the mini bar. It looked just like a huge old travel trunk. I can only imagine how horrifically expensive it would be in Camden market. I fell totally in love, and can’t help thinking how great it would look in our front room with our globe bar.
The bathroom was decked out in Edwardian perfection. From the roll top bath to the black and white tiles, it could have come straight from the mansion in Oliver! I fully intended to take a bath but we ran from one activity to another and I only had time to try out the shower. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.
Walking into reception, the clean white walls, simple ceiling and carved wooden counters breeze you back to a bygone era. The mural of the BOAC route down through Africa on the way in instantly evokes a sense of nostalgia, I didn’t even know I had, for a time I wasn’t alive to see. It is the golden age of travel when every journey was an adventure. This was travel in the 1920s/1930s.
The reception staff, in their fantastic safari-esque uniforms, were eternally patient and helpful. We really tested them. From dashing out at the last second to take a train journey, or checking out late, they were smiley, friendly and accommodating.
Check out our evening having dinner whilst Riding the Rails – Victoria Falls Royal Livingstone Express Review
The Communal Spaces
The beautiful symmetry of main building (it’s not perfect, but you might not notice) leads you through a courtyard from the reception to the main Palm Lounge. The Palm Lounge is the relaxed heart of the hotel. Edwardian sofas and wonderful old lamps in delicate pastels colours bring calm to the space. This room is graced by two large portraits, King George V and Queen Mary.
It may seem weird to talk about a hotel’s corridors. Usually, you will find a few nice lighting fixtures and some generic modern art. At the Victoria Falls Hotel, however, every corridor is a little museum.
We spent a huge amount of time slowly meandering the halls looking at their amazing collection of posters, scrapbook pages, cartoons, photos and paintings.
Here are just a few of our favourites:
There is an actual art gallery, The Larry Norton Gallery, in a bright corner of the building. As the name suggests, it displays just Mr Norton’s work. A homegrown Zimbabwean artist, specialising in wildlife.
The Garden and Stanley Terrace
Affording guests a magnificent view of the Batoka Gorge, the bridge, and the mighty Zambezi river, the garden is the Victoria Falls Hotel’s crowning glory. If you aren’t staying at the hotel, come to the hotel for a drink, or an afternoon tea and you can take a table on Stanley’s Terrace. From here, you will have a great view while you munch on some yummy treats.
Make time to laze by the Georgian Pool. Half Mediterranean villa and half English fountain, it has a classical Italianate vibe. Contrasting that is the day room at the end of the pool, decorated like a Moroccan palace. There is a BBQ area to one side of the pool, and a light BBQ lunch is laid on here daily. Just don’t swim until the treat of a stitch is well and truly gone!
Our favourite poolside indulgence was to spread out on the lovely day beds. Although there was enough room for two, I took this one all to myself!
Throughout the garden, you will see wonderfully old fashioned striped sun beds. These match the day beds and are equally inviting.
Keep your eyes peeled as you explore the garden and you may meet some new friends. Just around one hedge, we discovered a family of warthogs keeping the grass mowed in their own special way.
Elsewhere we met some monkeys, including a mum with her little one. They were very cute, but it is worth remembering that they are wild animals and shouldn’t be touched or fed.
Speaking of food….
Jungle Junction – Breakfast
Away from the main building, past the pool, you will find Jungle Junction. In the evening, you will find an all-singing, all-dancing dinner spectacular. However, in the morning, it is the setting for the breakfast buffet. Now, we have had breakfast in some nice spots, beachside, lovely bright rooms etc, but the view from Jungle Junction was something special! It looked down over the edge of the gorge.
So let’s have a look at the buffet options. I am pretty sure there is someone here for everyone. From the cereal selection, augmented with dry fruits and fruit compotes, to the full cooked breakfast.
It was so nice to have excellent boerewors as part of offering. The sausages were plump, meaty and spicy. The other stand out bit for me was the waffle station. The staff behind the counter would whip you up a nice, warm waffle and then you could choose the toppings. It was fun and delicious.
This may make me sound like a bit of a lush, but I really did enjoy the sparkling wine with breakfast. It felt so incredibly indulgent. I mixed my bubbles with mango juice as we had a full-on day ahead of us. If I was just chilling by the pool, I may have had a couple more.
Dinner in the Livingstone Room
If you are celebrating, or just appreciate good food, you should make a reservation at the Livingstone Room. This restaurant has won seventh place in the world’s best restaurants, so you know you are getting something a little bit special.
After a lovely, lavish afternoon tea on the Stanley Terrace, we arrived for dinner peckish but not super hungry.
We were seated by waiters in tuxedos. They were very smart and very friendly. We had a quick look down the drinks menu and decided that it was Pimms O’Clock! For just $24, we could get a jug to share. We thought it was the best value for money and we both enjoy a Pimms. It was actually prepared slightly stronger than we would both have it, and we topped it up with another glass of lemonade.
After lingering over the menu for a little too long, we realised that we wanted pretty much everything on it. I opted for two starters, while Mr Fluskey had one main. The food all arrived at the same time, as we requested, and we both tucked in with gusto.
My pumpkin veloute was so creamy and smooth. It was unexpectedly spicy so I was grateful for our large jug of drink. Next, I had scallop and pork belly with apple and parsnip. It was pitch perfect, sweet, salty and I could have eaten three plates of it!
Mr Fluskey’s fish was cooked just as we like, flaky and well-seasoned. The tapenade gave it a nice punch but I wasn’t convinced that the sweet potato went with. We both love sweet potato however, so we let them off.
To finish, we spent a while debating what to do about dessert. We were both stuffed but we both wanted something sweet to finish the meal off. We settled on sharing a creme brulee. I am glad we decided to share as it was quite big. It was sweet, smooth and bursting with vanilla…top notch!
Elsewhere Around the Property
Other facilities you may need or want to use include:
- E-Lounge – This is a basic business centre. With WiFi available throughout the hotel, you probably won’t need to use this but you never know!
- The fitness room – A Bijou gym space ready for those who want a proper workout. If, like us, you haven’t exercised in a couple of years, it is just a handy place to snatch a few seconds of air-conditioning.
- Spa – Need to work out your post-flight muscles? Pop in and see the therapists here and let them sort you out from top to toe.
- Beauty Services – Want to spruce yourself up for your dinner in the Livingstone Room, or just have a chipped nail polish situation? You can book into this salon to look your best.
- Excursion Desk – If you want help booking tours or experiences, the helpful staff here will help. They were great when we were madly organising a train trip. Check out the activities on offer here.
If you are thinking of visiting The Victoria Falls Hotel, here are some things you might like to know:
- To make booking and find the best deals, check out The Victoria Falls Hotel website.
- Victoria Falls is the town located on the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls themselves.
- Victoria Falls has an airport, located 13 miles from The Victoria Falls Hotel. It takes about 20 minutes to get there in a taxi.
- Victoria Falls Airport is served by daily flights from South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia, Kenya and other locations within Zimbabwe.
- Zimbabwe uses the United States Dollar.
- Zimbabwe uses British three flat prong plugs.
Our stay at The Victoria Falls Hotel was a real treat. I think that being British, we felt a real connection with the history and found the Edwardian style charmingly familiar. I really believe that the hotel’s iconic status matches the iconic falls beautifully. Victoria Falls is essentially a town that was created by tourism and this hotel was right at the forefront of its founding. Why would you stay anywhere else? See something special, stay somewhere special.