Fairmont Empress Hotel: BC’s Luxury Castle on the Coast

Photo courtesy Fairmont Empress

Contributor Cynthia Graham pays a visit to the most iconic hotel in British Columbia: Victoria’s elegant Fairmont Empress Hotel

Updated July 22, 2023 / Commissions may be earned from Riley’s affiliate partner links


Upon arriving at the Fairmont Empress in Victoria on Canada’s Vancouver Island – whether by ferry, taxi, or floatplane – you’ll fall in love with this historic luxury hotel at first glance.

Rightly regarded as one of the best luxury hotels in BC, this iconic destination captures the grandeur and elegance of times gone by, although enhanced with contemporary elegant touches. The Fairmont Empress, a national historic site, is often referred to as ‘Canada’s Castle on the Coast’.

Built in 1908, the Empress has been a luxury destination since the day it opened. The grand edifice and its recently remodeled lobby are impressive and welcoming. The updated open lobby is home to a sparkling two-ton glass floral-shaped chandelier, created by Lasvit designer Tana Dvorakov and composed of 140,000 hand-cut crystals forming petal-like shapes.


The Fairmont Empress: A Storied Past, a Bright Future


In 1965, the hotel came close to being torn down and replaced with a modern skyscraper, which would have been a tragedy. Fortunately, this was averted, and the hotel was preserved, ensuring its cherry wood ceilings, beautiful staircases, and many other original, elegant touches survive intact.

While at the hotel, be sure to take in everything that’s on offer for guests to enjoy, including outdoor highlights such as the flower gardens, bee apiary, and herb gardens. Inside amenities to check out include the Q Bar and a restaurant, the lobby with its large lounge, the world-renowned afternoon tea, a gift shop (a great place to browse a selection of tea sets and accessories), and a spa.

The location is ideal for shopping, visiting museums, the government house, and numerous seasonal outdoor activities. Don’t forget to take a stroll across the street for beautiful views of Victoria and the harbor.


Fairmont Empress Renovations


Completely renovated in 2017, the expansive lobby was part of a two-year $60 Million restoration that saw many of the Empress’s elegant details restored. Touches of modernization added to its 464 guest rooms.

With a few rare exceptions, no two rooms are identical, with sizes ranging from standard rooms, junior suites, and one- and two-bedroom suites. Each room includes the following amenities: bathrobes, Wi-Fi, in-room safes, ceiling fan, coffeemaker and kettle, and luxurious down-filled duvets.

If available, be sure to ask to stay in Room 330, one of the most popular suites in the hotel. This is where Bob Hope stayed when he was a guest at the Empress, and which he claimed to like as the corridor was perfect to practice one of his loves: golf.

Is your pet going to accompany you? If so, reserve a pet-friendly room in advance, as pets are more than welcome to stay in one of the Empress’s pet-friendly suites.

Going for Fairmont Gold


Nestled within the hotel is the premium Gold Level, a separate ‘hotel within a hotel.’ At the Empress, this includes 65 elite guestrooms that have a separate check-in desk, discerning guest concierge service, private lounges, and exclusive outdoor seating with sweeping views of the Inner Harbor.

Gold members also receive exclusive access to the Gold Lounge, which is open all day for water, tea, coffee, comfortable seating, a library with a fireplace, and much more. Also included are a breakfast buffet, complimentary snacks, evening appetizers, and late-night desserts.

Other Gold Level amenities include:

  • Private check-in
  • Complimentary newspapers and personalized wake-up calls
  • Afternoon canapés and an honor bar
  • Dedicated Fairmont Gold Manager
  • Computer access in the lounge with high-speed Internet
  • Complimentary use of a boardroom
  • In-room high-speed Internet access
  • Selection of DVDs, CDs, books, and games to enjoy at your leisure 


If time permits, be sure to also pay a visit to the Willow Stream Spa, a full-service spa that’s widely considered to be one of the best in Canada. They offer over 85 treatments to energize you and dissipate any stress. While the spa is open seven days a week year-round, check with the hotel for open hours.

Riley Recommends: For the latest reviews, rates, and reservations, be sure to visit our preferred accommodation partner at Fairmont Empress.   




Contributor Cynthia Graham is a freelance travel writer and digital nomad traveling the world. She owns www.BlueBagNomads.com where she shares her travel tips and passion. Also, find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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