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Fairmont Empress, Victoria

Fairmont Empress, Victoria

The Fairmont Empress in Victoria sits in prime position next to the excellent Royal B.C. Museum and opposite B.C.’s legislative building. The hotel overlooks the picturesque inner harbour where seaplanes land from Vancouver, and pretty little water taxis shuttle visitors to stops around the city including Chinatown, and the shops and restaurants of Fisherman’s Wharf. Don’t be fooled by the bling of the newly renovated lobby which dazzles with a chandelier made from 250,000 glittering crystals; the Empress may have had a face-lift but the old fashioned grandeur of the city’s most famous landmark remains.

Almost large enough to require its own postcode, the Empress’s vast light-flooded lobby with its shops, dining options, bar and spa could feel impersonal, but thanks to the cheery staff and welcoming atmosphere it’s anything but. Beyond the bustle of the ground floor, head upstairs in an authentic wood-panelled lift and you’re transported to a quiet oasis of calm with soft carpets and vintage travel poster art.

The Fairmont’s friendly international staff including Clef d’Or concierge offer polite help at every turn with no request seemingly too big or too small. The fitness centre has all the necessary kit for gym bunnies, along with an indoor pool, children’s wading pool and hot tub.  A well-equipped Willow Stream spa offers locally-inspired treatments such as the Salish Sea Vitality which includes a wild seaweed scrub and massage with sea kelp lotion.

It’s well worth joining the free President’s Club before arriving as membership grants perks such as the loan of workout gear including shoes, cruiser bikes and a daily newspaper. There is a BMW town car available on request to ferry guest’s downtown.

With 464 rooms, the rabbit warren of corridors within the Empress can sometimes be confusing, but once located, rooms are pleasingly spacious and overlook the harbour, gardens or city.

Decorated in warm golden tones with colour pops of pewter blue cushions, all rooms have Keurig coffee makers, soft robes and windows which open. Bathrooms sparkle with marble-topped sink units, good-sized bath tubs and high-pressure showers, and come with the Fairmont’s signature toiletries – if you’re lucky, they’ll even have a custom-printed label with your name on. The 'hotel within a hotel' of the Fairmont Gold Floor brings extra treats such as complimentary breakfast, evening cocktail canapés and midday snacks and the luxury of the newly-opened terrace with its views over the Harbour.

Afternoon Tea at the Empress taken amongst the palm trees of the Lobby Lounge with its tinkling piano, triple-tiered stands and 21 different varieties of loose leaf tea has been a popular tradition for more than 100 years. The Q at the Empress is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner serving treats such as avo toast and egg white frittata with local mushrooms and veggies. Lunch offers up a lavish antipasti buffet of fresh salads, charcuterie, house-baked bread and dips, or go à la carte with funky ahi tuna poke bowls or plump Salt Spring Island mussels. Splurge at dinner with a seafood tower of locally-caught delights or a juicy slow-roasted pork chop. Drink the signature purple-hued Empress gin and snack on ‘whole beast’ charcuterie and oysters at the see-and-be-seen Q Bar under the watchful eyes of 10 funky images of Queen Victoria.

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