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SmarterTravel Spotlight: Fairmont Empress, Victoria B.C.

The Fairmont Empress is a recently revamped icon in Victoria, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. Its central location within this highly walkable city, destination dining, and noteworthy amenities make the hotel a true destination within a destination.

The Location

Victoria has a walk score of 99, and the Fairmont Empress’ harbor-side location puts it squarely in the middle of the action. From here, it’s easy to walk to the Royal BC Museum, the Parliament Buildings, Thunderbird Park with its totem poles, Chinatown, and shopping along Government Street. Water-based activities, including whale watching tours and kayaking, are available right across the street in the busy-yet-quaint harbor.

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The Rooms

Moderate room at the fairmont empress in victoria

The Fairmont Empress has 464 rooms, including suites, family rooms, and Fairmont Gold rooms. Rooms feel modern and sophisticated but not generic; each room has been updated in a way that allows its historic elegance to shine through. Guests can request hypo-allergenic rooms, and pet-friendly rooms are also available in advance for a fee.

fairmont gold room at the fairmont empress in victoria

The hotel’s 65 Fairmont Gold rooms offer a premium hotel-within-a-hotel experience. Guests are treated to private check-in, dedicated concierge, and an exclusive waterfront lounge and terrace. And Fairmont Gold’s luxury rooms and suites offer some of the hotel’s best views.

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Dining

Three recently renovated spaces house the mainstays of drinking and dining at the Fairmont Empress.

Lobby lounge at the fairmont empress in victoria

The Lobby Lounge is home to the famous Tea at the Empress. This legendary afternoon tea service draws guests from around the world, and features the hotel’s signature Empress scones (warm from the oven, using the same recipe since the hotel’s opening more than a century ago), clotted cream, homemade strawberry preserves with lavender, and 21 ethically sourced loose-leaf teas representing the world’s best. Tea is served daily between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

View of the q bar with harbor in background at fairmont empress

If you’re looking for something a little swankier, opt for the luxe lounge vibe next door in the Q Bar. This destination bar offers harbor views, live music, and signature cocktails. Find martinis both classic and inventive, or embrace something a little more playful with a gin and tonic featuring Empress 1908 Gin, which features a surprising hue thanks to its particular blend of botanicals.

Q at the empress restaurant, victoria, b.c.

Take a seat at the hotel’s restaurant, Q at the Empress, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a cheeky sophistication that pays modern homage to the city’s namesake, Queen Victoria. The menu celebrates Vancouver Island’s local bounty, with sustainably-sourced seafood, locally-raised meats, and seasonal products taking center stage.

Amenities

Pool at the fairmont empress

The Fairmont Empress upholds a long tradition of hospitality and luxury, and nowhere is that more apparent than in its services and amenities. The Willow Stream Spa, named one of Canada’s best, offers peaceful spa spaces in which to indulge in the spa ritual, a series of relaxing, warming, and detoxifying spaces including a Finnish style sauna and a mineral pool. Spa services include both standard offerings and deeply place-based experiences like the Salish Sea Vitality Body, which features locally-harvested ingredients.

The Health Club offers an indoor heated swimming pool in a light-filled atrium, a children’s wading pool, a whirlpool, saunas, and exercise equipment. Fairmont loyalty club members have additional fitness options at the ready, including the Fairmont Fit program, which provides workout apparel and footwear; and BMW Cruise bicycles for exploring bike-friendly Victoria.

Price and How to Book

Rooms start around $339 (CAD) a night and can be booked on the Fairmont website or on TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent site). The hotel is part of the Le Club AccorHotels portfolio, so you can earn award points for your stay.

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Christine Sarkis was hosted by Fairmont during her stay in Victoria. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

By Christine Sarkis

There's a 95 percent chance Senior Editor Christine Sarkis is thinking about travel right now. Follow her on Instagram @postcartography and Twitter @ChristineSarkis.

Christine Sarkis is an SATW-award-winning journalist and executive editor at SmarterTravel. Her stories have also appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her advice has been featured in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her work has been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008. She is currently working on a travel memoir.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: The Trtl Pillow. It's easy to pack and comfortable, and makes it so I can actually sleep on flights.

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: Seeing the Aurora Borealis from the comfort of somewhere warm, like a glass igloo or hot spring.

Travel Motto: Curiosity is an amazing compass.

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: Aisle all the way.

Email Christine Sarkis at editor@smartertravel.com.

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