Canada’s spectacular ‘Castles of the North’
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth likely enjoyed a cuppa or two when staying at the Empress in 1939. But they also checked into the Hotel Vancouver in the heart of the city’s downtown neighbourhood during their month-long cross-Canada jaunt. The copper-roofed, gryphon-accented property was actually the third version of the hotel to carry the name. And this latest one had only just opened.
A swinging nightlife hotspot from day one, the Hotel Vancouver’s Panorama Roof Ballroom was soon the city’s coolest place to be seen. In 1940, young bandleader Dal Richards played his first gig here – and he returned to perform for his 95th birthday concert in early 2013.
Alongside forest-framed resorts like Manoir Richelieu in Quebec’s Charlevoix region and the fort-like Chateau Montebello in western Quebec, Quebec province is also home to arguably Canada’s most-photographed grand hotel.
Dramatically overlooking the St Lawrence River, the turreted Chateau Frontenac dominates Quebec City’s cobbled old town. Drawing on Renaissance architecture, the fortress-like 1893 property was named after the Count of Frontenac, who led New France here in the 1700s; look out for his coat of arms above the entry arch.
As the venue for a top secret 1943 wartime strategy conference between then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, US president Franklin D Roosevelt and Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, most latter-day Frontenac rendezvous are a little more romantic – the hotel even offers an “elopements package” if you want to run away and get hitched.
But you might want to save the honeymoon for Ottawa. The Canadian capital has its own elegant sleepover, just along the street from the nation’s Parliament.
Chateau Laurier was a pet project of railway mogul Charles Melville Hays who insisted on the finest Italian marble, Indiana limestone and European crystal. But Hays never saw the realisation of his dream hotel; he went down with the Titanic in 1912, when he was rumoured to be bringing even more treasures to line the Laurier.
Delaying its opening, the hotel launched a few weeks later. Now a popular city centre sleepover, there is a downloadable heritage-themed walking tour app for those visiting the property. Like all Canada’s grand railway hotels, history here is just around the next corner.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly located Chateau Lake Louise as southeast of Banff Springs Hotel. This has been fixed.