Back in the 1880s, the Canadian Pacific Railway recognised the opportunity from encouraging tourists to travel on the newly constructed railways by building hotels along the major routes of the developing Canadian railway lines and established a hotel division, known as Canadian Pacific Hotels.
A hundred years later, Canadian Pacific Hotels owned some of the most luxurious and iconic hotel properties across Canada, including the Banff Springs Hotel and the Château Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies and the Palliser Hotel in Calgary. In 1988, it acquired the hotel group of its main rival – Canadian National Hotels, the hotel division of the Canadian National Railway – adding further now legendary properties such as the Château Laurier in Canada’s capital, Ottowa, and Jasper Park Lodge in Alberta’s Jasper National Park. The acquisition saw Canadian Pacific Hotels become Canada’s largest hotel owner.
At the same time as the Canadian Pacific Hotels group was emerging in the late 19th century, across the border in the United States, James Graham Fair had acquired the land where the Fairmont San Francisco now stands, the first hotel to bear the Fairmont name. With construction of Fair’s ambitious hotel nearly complete, the major earthquake of 1906 damaged the structure as fire ravaged the building. The architect Julia Morgan, of Hearst Castle fame, was employed to finish the hotel’s design and it eventually opened in 1907, quickly becoming one of San Francisco’s most glamorous and striking buildings. Over subsequent years, Fairmont would acquire additional hotel properties across America, including the likes of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans.
In 1999, Canadian Pacific Hotels would acquire the majority stake in Fairmont, bringing together a collection of the world’s finest luxury hotels across North America. It was decided that the new collection of hotels would take the Fairmont name across its entire portfolio, creating an exceptional marque within the travel industry.
Today, Fairmont, now a division of the Accor Group, is a brand synonymous with luxury and one that maintains Canada’s most exclusive hotels, as well as an extensive international portfolio. It has a global collection of distinctive and storied hotels, from London’s Savoy to Shanghai’s Fairmont Peace Hotel to the Fairmont Hamilton Princess in Bermuda, the group’s oldest hotel, originally opened in 1885.
Over the years, the Fairmont’s hotels have been frequented by celebrities, royalty and politicians. Their hotels have played host to momentous historic occasions. The UN Charter was signed by the leaders of 50 countries in the garden room of the Fairmont San Francisco in 1945. War time leaders Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt drew up war plans at Fairmont Le Château Frontenac in Québec City in 1943.
Canadian Fairmont hotels have been a frequent favourite of British Royalty. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in 1939. Diana, Princess of Wales, visited the Fairmont Château Laurier in 1983. The Fairmont proudly notes that it hosted the late Queen Elizabeth II in every decade of her extraordinary reign. Their hotel in Montréal, bears her name.
Fairmont’s focus in on delivering unforgettable experiences within its portfolio of properties at the world’s most celebrated addresses.
On a trip to Canada’s provinces of Ontario and Québec, I got to experience the luxury of three of Fairmont’s most iconic Canadian hotels – the Fairmont Tremblant, the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth and the Fairmont Château Laurier. Three distinctive hotels, all in exceptional locations, with stories to tell and all delivering Fairmont’s signature luxury hospitality.
Fairmont Tremblant – mountainside luxury at its best
The Fairmont Tremblant is found in the Mont Tremblant resort, sitting at the foot of the famous Tremblant peak, providing a ski-in ski-out luxury hotel for those hitting these renowned Canadian slopes. Tremblant’s summit is at 875 meters (2871 feet) and offers a breath-taking view of the beautiful Laurentian mountains, an extensive mountain range in Québec.
The ski area covers 305 hectares (755 acres) and includes 102 ski trails on four distinct slopes for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. With over 1,200 snow guns, the ski station is one of the most sophisticated and powerful snowmaking systems in North America. Whilst the area is most commonly thought of as a ski resort, it is a four-season holiday destination and our visit was in the autumn, providing spectacular fall colours in the surrounding mountainside.
The Fairmont Tremblant is the perfect base for a trip to the area and the luxury hotel of choice in Mont Tremblant. The hotel features 314 guest rooms, providing spectacular views of the mountain, pedestrian village of Mont Tremblant or surrounding woodlands. We stayed in a junior suite with kitchenette, perfect for the family. A large sofa bed for our children and a separate bedroom for ourselves. It had a superbly well equipped kitchenette, providing the opportunity to cook for ourselves in the suite.
The hotel itself features all the amenities you would expect from a hotel of this nature with a spa, gym, indoor and outdoor pools. The outdoor pools are undergoing an extensive refurbishment, soon to be re-opened with the revitalized outdoor pool terrace emerging as a modern wellness oasis exclusively for hotel guests to enjoy. Seamlessly integrated with its natural surroundings at the foothill of the Laurentian peaks, the reimagined slope-side haven will boast a rejuvenating thermal circuit component, featuring a seasonal waterfall, a hot whirlpool overlooking the mountains, and a refreshing cool plunge pool.
In winter, guests are here for the skiing, in the summer months, there is hill walking, mountain biking, two magnificent nearby golf courses and Lake Tremblant for water based activities, to name just a few of the activities that will keep you occupied during a stay at the Fairmont Tremblant.
Located on the Terrace level, the Ricochet Café and Terrasse provides an informal setting for breakfast, lunch, coffee, bakery items and snacks. We ate our first evening at Le Comptoir, a casual family restaurant, open for breakfast and dinner. Delightful Italian food, accompanied by an extensive cocktail and wine list. The second evening we experienced Choux Gras, the hotel’s beautiful brasserie, overlooking the mountain village and slopes. Chouz Gras serves an eclectic mix of fabulous dishes from the likes of classic oysters or grilled octopus to start, to beef tenderloin or farm trout as a main, with an array of moreish desserts to follow, all of which can be accompanied by fines wines.
For pre or post dinner drinks, relax in the Axe Lounge Bar, sipping on a cocktail. In the winter months, the hotel has a fabulous drinks terrace on the edge of the lower Nanson trail, where you can enjoy a great apres-ski moment.
Double rooms at the Fairmont Tremblant start from CAD$327 per night.
Address: 3045 Chemin de la Chapelle, Mont Tremblant, Quebec, Canada, J8E1E1
Phone: (+1) 819 681 7000
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth – Montréal’s legendary luxury hotel
Opened in 1958 and designed by the Canadian National Railway Company, the hotel was at the forefront of modern luxury at the time, one of the first in North America to include escalators, air conditioning and direct-dial telephones. The hotel, above Central Station, was designed to attract guests from around the world as a luxury convention hotel.
The hotel is named after the late Queen Elizabeth II, who visited the hotel on four occasions. The hotel has played host to numerous world leaders such as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, France’s Jacques Chirac and US Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W Bush.
The hotel is also famed for its association to Beatles legend John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In 1969, the couple staged their ‘bed-in for peace’ at the hotel, protesting against the Vietnam War, and Lennon would compose the song ‘Give Peace a Chance’ whilst at the hotel. Today, guests can stay in the John Lennon and Yoko Ono Suite, of which the living area which recreates the famous bed-in and displays bed-in memorabilia and history.
The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth is in the heart of downtown Montréal in the province of Québec. The 1950s styled rectangular building looms large, with ‘The Queen Elizabeth’ emblazoned in lights across each side at the top of the building.
The hotel has 950 recently renovated rooms and suites, each with a bold, contemporary colour scheme and furnishings that evoke the hotel’s vintage late 1950s origins. The Fairmont Queen Elizabeth prides itself on being one of the best family and pet-friendly hotels in the city with spacious one and two bedroom suites, some of which offer kitchen facilities and separate living and dining areas.
The hotel features its own mini food hall, a relaxed coffee shop known as Kréma and its main restaurant Rosélys, which combines French and English inspired food in a vibrant setting around a central large cocktail bar.
The Queen Elizabeth has an indoor pool, as well as an extremely well equipped and large wellness centre with gym and spa. Step out of the hotel and it is the perfect location to explore one of Canada’s most vibrant cities.
Montréal has some fantastic museums. The Montréal Museum of Fine Arts is one of the top 15 most visited museums in North America. Located in the historic Golden Square Mile downtown, the museum’s collection contains some 43,000 works – from European Masters to the MMFA’s dazzling Napoleon collection – much of it on display in the museum’s five connected pavilions.
Open seven days a week, the Montréal Science Centre in the Old Port is a family-oriented museum that, via temporary and permanent interactive exhibitions, explores how science and technology shape our lives.
Double rooms at the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth start at CAD$449 per night.
Address: 900 Rene Levesque Blvd, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3B 4A5
Phone: (+1) 613 241 1414
Fairmont Château Laurier – Ottawa’s striking and iconic historic luxury property
The Fairmont Château Laurier, in the heart of Ottawa, is one of Canada’s most luxurious, historic and architecturally impressive hotels. This is one of Canada’s most famous and striking hotels, built over a hundred years ago, and commissioned by Charles Melville Hays, the renowned railroad magnate and president of the Grand Trunk Railway, the early Canadian railway line which linked key Canadian cities to the United States.
The towering hotel is part French Renaissance, part Gothic Revival, creating one of the most imposing buildings in this magnificent city. No expense was spared by Hays in creating the hotel, the likes of the finest Italian marble and Indiana limestone used in its construction. The hotel’s opening would be delayed following the death of Hays aboard the Titanic. When it did open, it received high praise and fast became one of the most sought-after luxury hotels in Canada and one of the most exquisite hotels in the world.
The Fairmont Château Laurier is situated in the heart of downtown Ottawa, between Byward Market, Ottawa’s premier destination for shopping, dining, arts and entertainment, and the Rideau Canal locks. It looks across to the capital’s equally striking Parliament Hill. It is the perfect location to experience the magnificent city of Ottawa.
In recent years, the hotel has undergone a multi-million dollar refurbishment, ensuring that the hotel remains at the forefront of luxury. The rooms and suites at the hotel are classically styled and elegant and many provide stunning views of Parliament Hill.
The Fairmont Château Laurier has a range of dining options. Wilfrid’s Restaurant, named after Sir Wilfred Laurier (Canada’s seventh Prime Minister) from which the hotel takes its name, boasts an outlook over Parliament Hill and the Rideau Locks is an award winning establishment, which provides breakfast and weekend brunch.
The Reading Lounge provides the perfect location to meet for cocktails, an extensive wine list and local charcuterie and cheese.
The Zoe, named after Sir Wilfred’s wife, Lady Zoe, provides for superb, relaxed dinners, with sumptuous food served alongside magnificent cocktails and a superb wine list. Try a ‘Jungle Fire’ cocktail for an impressive and delicious start to your evening, a rum, Aperol, grapefruit and pineapple based drink which arrives flaming at your table.
Within the Château Laurier itself, guests can relax in the spa which specialises in massage therapy and hot stone massage therapy treatments. There is an indoor Art Deco swimming pool and fitness suite, enabling guests to work out during their stay.
Step out of the hotel and it is the perfect location to explore Canada’s vibrant and intriguing capital.
The city is awash with museums, all worthy of a visit and great locations to immerse yourself for many hours. To mention just a few – the National Gallery of Canada contains the most comprehensive collection of Canadian art. The Canadian Museum of History showcases Canadian history, as well as having the largest collection of totem poles anywhere in the world. The Canada Aviation and Space Museum takes visitors on a journey from the humble origins of flight to the modern day aerospace industry. Canada’s war history is represented in the Canadian War Museum.
Ottawa, however, isn’t just about museums. Explore Parliament Hill and its buildings, which have a clear similarity to the UK Houses of Parliament, especially with the clock tower, which is very close in style to Big Ben. Tours of the Parliament are available.
Depending on the time of year, the Rideau Canal is delightful to explore, or, in the winter months, you can don your ice skates – when it freezes over and becomes the world’s largest ice skating rink – and glide an amazing near eight kilometres through downtown Ottawa. The canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Byward Market is one of the oldest and largest farmers’ markets in Canada and you can visit the indoor and outdoor vendors selling everything from Canada’s famed maple syrup to crafts, souvenirs and gifts. Ottawa also has a renowned restaurant and bar scene. It is a great city to explore.
Queen rooms at the Fairmont Château Laurier start from CAD$399 per night.
Address: 1 Rideau Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 8S7
Phone: (+1) 613 241 1414
Photography courtesy of Fairmont Hotels.