The Fairmont Empress Hotel
721 Government Street
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
- Dave Grossman, HotelMagician.com
Victoria is one of those towns that you visit and think you could live there – it’s so idyllic that you can’t help but ponder it.
If you arrive by seaplane, as we did, you start right in the center of town – the Inner Harbour. And right away you will have your eyes fixed up the hill onto the Edwardian-era building that you either are staying in – or should be staying in. That’s the Fairmont Empress.
While known for their Afternoon High Tea, a tradition dating back to 1908, the real reason to stay here is the location and the ambiance. As you can see in the photos, it’s like staying in a wonderfully maintained (actually, resorted) piece of history.
And you literally CAN NOT BE in a more central location from which to enjoy Victoria. You can stroll the 3 minutes back down to the Inner Harbour, relax by the water, wait on line for lunch at the famous “Red Fish Blue Fish” fish and chips stand (it’s as good as the reviews say and the lines are even longer than they say!).
Or you can stroll around any of the nearby streets that make up Victoria’s downtown. If you need a car rental, there’s one right behind the hotel.
And honestly, there’s nobody in town that doesn’t know the Fairmont Empress.
The rooms are on the small side, especially the disappointingly small bathroom (which had virtually nowhere to put anything and had one of those slightly-too-thin bathtub/shower combos), but they are nicely appointed and have an updated flat panel TV as well as WiFi wireless Internet in all rooms.
*TIP* All Fairmont President’s Club members get free WiFi. Anyone can join for free and the WiFi is complimentary regardless of your level in the program. So be sure to join! Everyone else will have to pay up for the WiFi.
On the whole, just walking in and around the hotel adds to your trip and, while the Fairmont did cost a few bucks more than other options in town, it’s well worth it.
What’s NOT worth it? The food. Aside from the Afternoon Tea (if you’re so inclined), please do yourself a favor and skip breakfast unless it’s in your room rate. It was in ours, but if it hadn’t been the breakfasts for two would have clocked in at over $50 for what we both thought was pretty low quality food. We didn’t try dinner but heard it was not worth it either. There are many great options in town. A bit off the beaten path (and a good 20-25 minute walk from the Empress) was Cafe Brio – a wonderful Italian place not to be missed if you love food. All plates are available as whole or half orders, so you can easily try two dishes each.
What also is not worth it? In all likelihood, the spa. While it’s ranked as a top spa in Canada by Conde Nast, I had a tour of it and it didn’t look impressive at all. Aside from a small temptation to have a soak in the mineral bath (shown), the rest seemed worn out. Save that money for a spa day back home….
In short: If you will be in Victoria, B.C., stay at the Fairmont Empress. You’ll be glad you did.