Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria B.C.


When considering the great classic hotels one can visit on a Canada vacation, one can start in the far west with The Empress, on Vancouver Island. The Empress is in a terrific location - central in the downtown harbor of Victoria. The hotel is comprised of 2 wings, the original and the Humboldt wing (they call this the new wing; it was added to the hotel in 1928). We toured the rooms in the Humboldt wing first, and while they are very spacious, they are tired; bathrooms tiny with fixtures looking to be from the 60's, furniture dinged, carpets tattered. We then toured rooms in the original wing - and found more whimsical detail in the rooms, but also a need for renovation - which I am happy to say, they have started. They are going to redo all the rooms in the hotel - 100 each year - so the entire renovation will take 4 years. We also toured a renovated room - and they are beautiful. They have updated the rooms with wide flat screen TV's, Internet connection, large bathrooms - really beautiful colors, fabrics and furniture. They are going to renovate the GOLD rooms first - so if you are staying here in the very near future, make sure you spend the extra to be in a GOLD room.

The Gold Lounge is in the original building, and is very nice, complete with period furnishings, fine china, silver tea service, plenty of space for lounging, and a smaller room with a view of the gardens, more suitable for working guests. They do not have a dedicated GOLD floor - the Gold rooms are throughout the hotel. The biggest attraction of the Empress is still 'High Tea' held in the Palm Court- which was sold out when we were there. In addition to the traditional tea service, they also offer trays of goodies with children in mind...really fun.

The Bengal Lounge is a great room - high ceilings, huge windows overlooking the gardens or the harbor - decor is India fans, fabrics, Bengal tiger themed - breakfast is served here, as well as curries for lunch, and a Sunday Brunch.

The more formal dining is in the Empress Room - which is actually two dining rooms - across the walkway from each other - one room is more light and airy, and overlooks the harbor side of the hotel, and the other room is fabulous - dark, period paintings, floor to ceiling wood paneling, with dark tables and highback chairs - huge fireplace - a great room to have dinner in.

Willow Springs Spa is on property - a beautiful spa - and also opens to the public. There is a street entrance for those who are not guests of the hotel. There is a lap pool in a glass enclosed pavilion, whirlpool and exercise room as well.

In what was the original lobby area of the hotel, are some beautiful gift shops - and a walkway to the Convention Center - the public areas of the hotel are very busy, with tourists walking through taking in the history. The renovated rooms will be a must for your clients, and in addition to that, GOLD rooms are definitely worth the bump up as well.