This grand railway hotel styled after a Scottish baronial castle evokes a bygone era, contrasting elegant architecture with the rugged Rocky Mountains. The hotel has presided over the postcard-perfect peaks of the Banff National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site, since 1888.
Aboriginal people hunted, fished and trapped here for millennia, and they considered its hot springs a sacred healing place. In 1885, the government protected the area, a designation that grew into Canada’s first and most visited national park. The Fairmont Banff Springs sits among flower-strewn meadows, turquoise lakes and ancient towering peaks, fletched with evergreens, 80 miles west of Calgary.
A National Historic Site, the “Castle in the Rockies” brings urban elegance and efficiency into a relaxed mountain setting. Its turrets and tall red-brick flanks rise over the town of Banff, and the elegance continues inside with arches, chandeliers and stained glass. Don’t miss the mosaics and massive columns in the indoor pool, evoking the grand continental spa tradition.
Also on site is a bowling centre, complete with bar and neon blacklight games on request. In summer, hit the five turf-topped tennis courts or the 27-hole championship golf course, designed by the great Stanley Thompson in 1928. It winds along the Bow River under snow-capped Sulphur Mountain and Mount Rundle.
Come winter, enjoy the toboggan hills and outdoor ice rinks, along with ski packages to champagne-powder terrain nearby (look for “Big Three” passes to Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise, voted Canada’s best resort at the 2017 World Ski Awards). A valet can provide storage for private equipment. Forgot something? Swing by Chateau Mountain Sports to rent or buy outdoor gear.
At every turn, the staff blend grace with genuine warmth and helpfulness. The service rivals the scenic splendour.
Expect luxurious cotton-microfibre sheets and contemporary styling throughout the property’s 764 rooms and suites. The standard rooms are a mix of kings, queens, two doubles or two twins. All have alarm clocks, coffee/tea makers, hairdryers and windows that open for fresh mountain air. The bathrooms are quite tiny but use the space cleverly.
All toiletries have the Fairmont’s signature scent, Le Labo Rose 31, with its notes of cumin, cedar and amber. Those craving the most up-to-date rooms should book in the Gatehouse Wing. Renovations include suites with electric fireplaces.
Banff Springs has 13 spots to refuel, ranging from a gourmet market to the 1888 Chop House, serving wild game, Ocean Wise seafood and prime cuts of Alberta beef. Go light at the Samurai sushi bar or power up for outdoor adventures with fondue and schnitzel at the Waldhaus restaurant.
Start the day strong at Stock Food & Drink, a market with locally-sourced, gourmet foods, including homemade pastries and artisanal meats. Fancy a midday cuppa? Head to the Rocky Mountain Afternoon Tea in the Rundle Lounge, serving 12 loose-leaf blends with scones, sweets and finger sandwiches. Later in the day, this stylish space serves handcrafted cocktails and a happy hour menu from 8 pm till 1 am.
Double rooms from $479 (£278) in low season; and from $699 (£406) in high. The resort charges a daily fee of $20 (£12), which includes internet access, electronic newspapers, gear storage, nature hikes and campfires, plus access to the pools, 24-hour gym, tennis courts, driving range and sports fields. A la carte breakfast starts at $10 (£6) for apple and cinnamon steel-cut oatmeal and moves into more lavish options such as the $32 (£18.50) breakfast buffet.
Wheelchair users can roll smoothly through most areas of the Fairmont Banff Springs. Reserve ahead for accessible rooms and other equipment, such as bed lifts, transfer benches and bathroom equipment.
The Kids @ The Castle programme entertains explorers aged three to 12 with camp-outs, pyjama parties, mountain crafts and science experiments, such as building a model volcano. The hotel also hosts family swims and games nights. Don’t miss all-ages fun such as films, trivia and marshmallow roasting, along with board games in the Stanley Thompson Foyer.