Opening onto snow-capped peaks and hidden behind forests of pine, the image in your head of a Canadian historic hotel may not be that far off from reality. These charming Canadian castle hotels have never played host to anyone other than visiting royalty–but perhaps it’s time to make your castle dreams come true by staying at one.
Most were built around the turn of the century and served as hotels close to city transportation hubs or to bring visitors to undiscovered corners coast-to-coast to enjoy its stunning scenery. Meticulously maintained or restored over the years, these stunning Canadian castle hotels are still finding their way into the hearts of Canadian visitors.
Fairmont Château Lake Louise
Lake Louise, Alberta
The Fairmont Château Lake Louise could easily pass for a Canadian castle. Nestled into the Victoria Glacier and overlooking the icy crystal waters of Lake Louise, the hotel was built towards the end of the 19th century by the Canadian Pacific Railway. Hiking, camping and skiing have long been popular with guests at the Château Lake Louise, the birthplace of Canadian Mountaineering and have been joined by a myriad of other options including snowboarding, fishing and river rafting. The interior is as palatial and lavish as the exterior architecture and surrounding landscape. A trip to the Château Lake Louise will make you feel like members of Canadian royalty.
Royal Guests: King Edward VIII, Prince Rainier of Monaco, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan.
Fairmont Château Frontenac
Quebec City, Quebec
Swung inside the fortified walls of Old Quebec City, Château Frontenac is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a landmark site of this city and the country. Another outpost of the Canadian Pacific Railway, this Canadian castle hotel was intended to woo travelers for a stopover in Quebec City. How could they resist? This charming hotel is every part a castle and you’ll likely wake up thinking you’ve arrived in Europe with sweeping views of the surrounding city and the St. Lawrence River. Romantic cobblestone alleys, winding stairwells and the sound of music spilling out of shuttered windows welcome visitors to a slice of France in Canada!
Royal Guests: King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Princess Grace of Monaco, Chiang-Kai-Shek, Charles de Gaulle, Ronald Reagan, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson.
Fairmont Château Laurier
With all the magnificence of a French Château, it’s no wonder that the Fairmont Château Laurier is frequently mistaken for the “third chamber of Parliament” due to its status as next door neighbor to the Canadian Parliament buildings. The building is made up of limestone, granite, and Italian marble masonry complete with turret rooms and a beautiful copper roof. Outside the door of this early 20th century masterpiece, you’ll find the Rideau Canal, the world’s longest ice skating rink in the winter as well as miles of paths for biking and running during the warmer months.
Royal Guests: Pierre Trudeau, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, The King and Queen of Siam, U.S. President Hoover.
Fairmont Château Montebello
The Fairmont Château Montebello has always attracted a lot attention: this is a giant wooden castle was built out of over 10,000 Canadian red cedar logs. Its design was inspired by similar castles in the Swiss Alps and has turned Montebello into a veritable “Lucerne-in-Québec”. These accommodations might have a rustic touch, but the Château could hardly be called “roughing it”. You can swim laps in the swimming pool or try the 18-hole golf course, or, come winter, indulge in the ultimate Canadian royal activity: dogsledding.
Royal guests: Hosts of the G-7 International Economic Summit (Ronald Reagan, François Mitterand, Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Thatcher) as well as President Bush, President Calderon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
The Bess, as the Bessborough Hotel is affectionately called by locals, has been around since the early decades of the 20th century, build and designed in the same famous Canadian castle hotel style of the other Canadian Pacific Railway hotels. Like the others, Bess is a landmark in this city, set on the banks of the river and surrounded by five acres of Elizabethan gardens where one can still play a game of croquet or catch one of their numerous community events. Once inside, you can catch a dance in the Adam Ballroom, restored to all its swinging 20s glory. The hotel has been tastefully redecorated while maintaining that unique exterior which brought this humble city onto the map in the heyday of railroad travel.
Royal Guests: The Bess is keeping her guest list a bit of a secret, but we’re guessing anyone who is anyone in Saskatoon is staying here.
Fairmont Royal York
The Fairmont Royal York was built to be the most opulent hotel of its day in Canada. It was once the tallest building in the British Commonwealth with 28 floors reached by a highly ornamented ten passenger elevator. The hand painted ceilings are still here, looming above crystal chandeliers, ornate furnishings and dazzling gold details. Located on the rooftop are the Honey Moon Suite, the Royal Sweet and the V.I. Bee Suite, housing the Royal York honeybees as they pollinate the in-house garden which provides herbs, veggies and honey to the nine onsite restaurants. Looking for a different kind of Queen? Ride up elevator number 9 to follow in the footsteps of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II up to the Royal Suite on the 16th floor, her home-away-from-home in Canada.
Royal Guests: Ronald Reagan, James Brown and Tony Bennett, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel
The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is easily one the most recognizable Canadian castle hotel and a National Historic Site. It is nestled into the Rocky Mountains in Banff National Park, just a stones throw from Bow Falls and the thermal springs that initially brought visitors to this once remote area. The hotel is lined with turrets and dormers, giving it that distinctive “castle” feel, echoed in the plush rooms. The hotel is reputed to be haunted by a bride who lost her life falling down one of the hotel’s sumptuous staircases, so beware the ballrooms at night, where she is said to perform her sad dance.
Royal Guests: Marilyn Monroe, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, Benny Goodman, Winston Churchill, Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer, Alec Baldwin, Pierce Brosnan, Woody Harrelson, Robin Williams.
Fairmont Empress Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia
The Fairmont Empress is about as “Royal” as it gets. This elegant hotel has been meticulous restored so it glimmers brightly alongside the beauty of Victoria. During a 1989 restoration, a Tiffany-style stained glass roof was discovered behind some wood and today it shines its multicolored sunlit beams into the marble foyer. Visitors have included a 1919 visit from Edward the Prince of Wales who waltzed until dawn with some lucky ladies of the local population. Later in 1939, a dashingly young King George VI and Queen Elizabeth graced these hallowed hotel halls when they embarked on their Canadian Royal Tour, marking the first visit by a reigning monarch to Victoria. English royalty are not the Empress’ only fans however–Hollywood royal visitors can also be counted as the Empress’ fans.
Royal Visitors: Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and Camilla, the current Emperor and Empress of Japan, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Roger Moore, Harrison Ford , and Shirley Temple.
*Cover Photo by Wilson Hui CC BY