Canada’s 10 Greatest Hotels
Some hotels simply provide a place to lay your head, while others are a destination in and of themselves. These 10 Canadian hotels belong to the latter category: properties that, whether by their history, cultural significance, or over-the-top amenities, are worth the trip on their own.
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta
Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies” opened its doors to the public 129 years ago, and since then the palatial hotel has hosted everyone from Marilyn Monroe to King Edward VIII. Built, in the words of former Canadian Pacific Railways chief William Van Horne, as “a haven of peace in the midst of the wilderness,” many rooms take in the broad, breathtaking sweep of the Bow Valley, and amenities include a series of spa baths fed by Banff’s legendary hot springs.
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Fort Garry Hotel, Winnipeg
Designated a National Historic Site in 1981, this Francois I-style hotel shares a number of architectural touches with The Plaza in New York. Built back in 1913, the Fort Garry Hotel is now home to Ten Spa, one of the nation’s finest, which features, in addition to traditional spa treatments, Canada’s only co-ed Turkish Bath. Fun fact: The hotel is located on the site of a 19th-century Hudson’s Bay trading post named (you guessed it!) Fort Garry.
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The Algonquin Resort, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick
This recently renovated Tudor Revival resort, complete with half-timbered façade, also boasts a storied history. It rose to pre-eminence in the late 19th-century with America’s wealthiest families, who travelled from New York and Boston seeking refuge from the summer heat. Nearly every Canadian prime minister has spent at least one night here, as well as luminaries from Theodore Roosevelt to Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
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Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Lake Louise, Alberta
Few hotels can boast a location as stunning as the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Set in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic, 127-year-old hotel puts you right in the heart of the Rocky Mountain wilderness. Venture down to the boathouse and launch into the luminous aquamarine waters of Lake Louise in a 26-foot cedar-strip birch bark Voyageur canoe. Afterwards, treat yourself to tea at the nearby Lake Agnes Tea House—a tasty reward at the end of a 3.6-kilometre trail that you can either hike or ride on horseback from the hotel’s on-site stables.
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The James Hotel, Saskatoon
Set on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, this independent boutique hotel is the legacy of James Peter Leier—a Russian immigrant who hosted his first guests in 1935. Nowadays, The James offers sweeping views of Saskatoon and a surprising measure of luxury, from Carrera marble bathrooms with deep-soaker tubs and L’Occitane amenities to twice-daily housekeeping. If you’re feeling flush, opt for the sprawling penthouse, which boasts two balconies, a fireplace, sunroom, and full kitchen over a whopping 1,600 square feet.
Fogo Island Inn, Joe Batt’s Arm, Newfoundland
There’s nothing quite like Fogo Island Inn anywhere else in Canada—or the world, for that matter. The brainchild of local tech entrepreneur Zita Cobb, the hotel won accolades from design enthusiasts and travellers alike on its 2013 debut. Set on stilts over a broad span of Newfoundland granite, the Inn embraces its remote location, integrating furniture, rugs, quilts, and other items made in the regional style by local artisans. During the day, you’ll learn how to forage for fresh ingredients or build a boat. Settle in at night to enjoy a fine gourmet dinner, then keep watch for icebergs through your floor-to-ceiling windows.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City
Sat high on a promontory overlooking the St. Lawrence River, the Chateau Frontenac is a true Canadian icon. In fact, thanks to its dramatic location and fairy tale castle towers and turrets, some have suggested it’s the most photographed hotel in the world. History has been made here—the Quebec Conference, a summit of Allied world leaders, was held in this National Historic Landmark’s hallowed halls—and its famous façade has even been featured on a Canada Post stamp.
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Arguably Toronto’s most luxurious hotel (and the only one to enjoy CAA five-diamond status), the Ritz-Carlton Toronto was designed to reflect the very best of its host city. Built as a huge cube of glass, the hotel’s floor-to-ceiling windows afford amazing views of CN Tower, Lake Ontario and other Toronto landmarks, and the on-site spa embraces Toronto’s multicultural nature by offering specialty massages from around the world. Got time to explore the Big Smoke? Take one of the hotel’s curated culinary tours of the city, which will have you foraging for fresh mushrooms in the Don Valley or paddling to a picnic lunch on the Toronto Islands.
Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver
Want a room with a view? You can’t go wrong at Vancouver’s Fairmont Pacific Rim, where 70 per cent of rooms and suites face the grand sweep of the city’s famous harbour and mountains. For a truly decadent experience, request a suite in which you can watch float planes take off and land from the comfort of your bathtub (filled with bubble bath, of course). If you find you need more room to splash around, take a dip in the hotel’s luxurious pool, situated on a stunning palm tree-lined terrace (yes, in Canada!), complete with private cabanas and a fire pit.
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The Fairmont Empress, Victoria
Perhaps the most quintessentially “English” hotel located outside of the United Kingdom, this Edwardian masterpiece looms large on Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Canadian Pacific Railway opened The Empress in 1908 to house wealthy guests of its steamship line, and since then, it has played host to several generations of royals. Daily afternoon high tea—served with scones and tiny finger sandwiches, of course—is a time-honoured tradition. A worthy attraction in itself, you should make reservations weeks in advance to avoid disappointment.