The Victoria Falls Hotel is affectionately referred to as “The Grand Old Lady”, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate term. Being the first hotel to establish itself in Victoria Falls, she has the prime location from which to watch over her beloved Falls, enjoying a view that is surely impossible to beat. She boasts verdant green lawns with colossal mahogany and msasa trees to frame such a spectacular sight.
Originally built as accommodation for the workers on the Cape-to-Cairo railway in 1904, this lady has seen some real history. If you have an hour or two, a meander through her cool corridors will take you on a journey through time. From the development of the railway, to hosting allied soldiers and airmen receiving their basic training in World War II, visiting dignitaries and royalty, this lady has sat quiet and steadfast. Like any strong woman, she has changed over time but retained her dignity, been knocked back, adapted, and reinvented herself to become the grand establishment she is today.
During refurbishment, great care was taken to retain the Edwardian features, from proud high ceilings and fans to deep verandahs and stately columns, and one of my personal favourites, red polished floors. In fact, taking a stroll through the beautiful rooms, it’s easy to believe that you have stepped into a bygone era. It must be said that our lady also knows how to keep up with the times, having beautifully appointed rooms and bathrooms, complete with welcome air conditioning, Wi-Fi, and access to online magazines.
Having three restaurants with very different menus and surroundings means one does not need to leave the hotel for an evening’s entertainment. While the Livingstone Room gives you the opportunity to don heels and pearls, the Terrace offers a more casual dining on the cool verandah. Jungle Junction, on the other hand, is an amazing experience, complete with insight into rich cultural dances of the ‘Tribes found along the Zambezi River’. It is a happy evening spent watching the dancers act out stories which we little understand but can appreciate nevertheless. Fresh buffet breakfasts are also served from Jungle junction with an impressive array of choices.
Feeling a little more energetic? Visit the charming Larry Norton Gallery, have high tea on the Terrace, take a stroll down to the Falls and experience the Falls in all of their wonder. Book helicopter rides, safaris, tours, adventure activities or a steam train trip over the Falls.
Even though there is much to do in Victoria Falls, sometimes we all need to spend a lazy day or two next to the pool. The hotel’s private, secluded pool is surrounded by lush, tropical gardens, and has wonderful shady cabanas, drinks service and even a lunch-time barbeque, should you feel so inclined. If all of this relaxing is taking a toll on your looks, there is also fitness facility, a beauty spa and a hair salon.
No article on The Victoria Falls Hotel would be complete without mentioning her greatest asset – the staff. Wearing uniforms which reflect an old world charm, they are unobtrusive yet attentive, superbly trained, seeming to anticipate your every need. Guests enjoy impeccable service that can only come from over a century of experience, and which truly reminds us just what five-star means.
Even if you stay at The Old Lady just once in your life, you need to do it. Like trying to taking a photo of the sunset, one can’t convey the experience of staying at this special landmark. It has to be experienced in real life. So what are you waiting for? This Old Lady has her pearls on, her hair smoothed and is looking to the future.
1998: voted by Travel & Leisure magazine, 93rd position in Top 100 Hotels in Africa & The Middle East.
1998: voted by UK Telegraph Travel Awards, 9th position in Africa & The Middle East.
1998: voted by UK Telegraph World’s Best Travel Awards, 3rd position in Top 10 Foreign Hotels.
2001: accepted as a member of Virtuoso Luxury Travel, the world’s top travel advisors.
2003: voted one of the Top 15 hotels in Africa & The Middle East by Conde Nast magazine.
2009: The Livingstone Room voted Best Resort Restaurant (1st runner-up) in Zimbabwe Tourism Authority annual awards.
2010 to 2013 Zimbabwe On-a-Plate annual awards: all three restaurants (The Livingstone Room, Jungle Junction, Stanley’s Terrace have been finalists in the deluxe, deluxe family and deluxe coffee shop respectively.
2013: the newly-revitalized Livingstone Room was voted 7th Best Hotel Restaurant in the World by The Daily Meal, a highly respected international organization specializing in global culinary excellence.