Victoria's updated iconic landmark
464 Rooms / 48 Suites
Fairmont Empress is impossible to overlook. Not only is it regally situated on the Inner Harbor of Victoria, the picturesque capital of British Columbia, but it is also an imposing National Historic Site that has attracted kings, queens and celebrities since it opened in 1908.
Named for Queen Victoria, the Empress is steeped in delightfully eccentric English character. During Prohibition, Winston Churchill was served brandy in a teapot. Bob Hope chose his room based on the quality of the carpet for putting. Lassie romped on the lawns.
The old grand dame is in the midst of a $50 million plus renovation, of which the first phase is complete. (The second is to be completed by mid 2017 and will include an updated lobby, spa and health club). While elegant and filled with character, Fairmont Empress is being updated so that it conserves the hotel’s heritage while infusing a modern, upscale design.
Heading the list of 464 rooms is the luxurious Royal Suite at 1,600 square feet. Those seeking extra pampering can also book into Fairmont Gold, a special hotel within the hotel with 65 rooms, separate check-in, a private lounge, a concierge, complimentary breakfast and more perks.
Redone guest rooms are awash in contemporary neutral grays, whites and dark browns and manage to maintain a classic, elegant feel despite modern amenities. Views are lovely, ranging from the harbor to the city to the hotel’s courtyard.
Q at the Empress, a bold new restaurant and the centerpiece of the reborn Victoria hotel, serves Pacific Northwest cuisine — the chef is constantly seeking innovative, tasty ways to present octopus, salmon, oysters and halibut, all freshly caught from the surrounding sea. The storied space is clad in cherry wood and maintains its charm of the past, despite its handsome upgrades (modern lighting, plush seating).
At Q Bar, sip creative cocktails like the Northwest Collins featuring local Victoria Gin and sweetened fir sprig while savoring fresh seafood and charcuterie and cheese boards. To top it off, there is live music and one of the best harbor views in the city.
Tea at the Empress is wildly popular — plan on making reservations in advance. Held in the newly redone Lobby Lounge, the experience involves sipping one of 21 loose-leaf teas while your table overflows with housemade scones, pastries, clotted creams and strawberry preserves with fresh lavender.
The 11-treatment room Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Empress offers 85 spa services as well as some seriously luxe amenities, including a Finnish sauna, steam room and mineral pool.
One of the most popular treatments is the Honey Ginger Elixir, a full-body exfoliation and massage featuring honey from the Empress’ own hives.
The front of the luxury hotel overlooks Inner Harbor, filled with kayaks, ferries, whale-watching boats and even a few private yachts. Seaplanes struggle for room to take off and land.
A short stroll leads to the Royal BC Museum, dozens of eateries and shops and the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, particularly attractive at night, outlined by 3,560 lights. The Empress also conveniently connects to the Victoria Conference Centre.
In the hotel’s lush gardens reside four hives of industrious bees. Their honey enhances the afternoon tea, various pastries and the Empress’ own craft-brew honey lager.
You can waltz into dawn in the Crystal Ballroom, the largest ballroom in Victoria, and one of 22 meeting rooms. Those who have overindulged can atone in the comprehensive fitness center and swimming pool.