The luxurious and iconic Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia is the grand dame of the city, welcoming you into her inner walls of comfort and service. This beautiful landmark, which has been a symbol for the city since 1908, stands proudly in front of Victoria’s harbor, its bricks and slate covered in green ivy and its gardens overgrowing with colorful flowers that perfume the air. Pulling-up from the airport, just a mere 30 minute away, the hotel welcomes you with a smile and open door into its grand lobby.
The Empress was designed by Francis Rattenbury in the chateau style for Canadian Pacific Hotels. The structure, always a point of luxury, was originally conceived for the business passengers coming through Victoria – offering them a home-away-from-home environment in which to relax, unwind and recharge. Over the years, the hotel had many owners and even faced demolition due to the expenses incurred in keeping the property functioning properly. But, with the citizens’ of Victoria support and protest, The Empress was saved and protected forever as a “National Historic Site of Canada”.
Today, The Empress is a member of the wonderful Fairmont Hotel brand and is run like a well-oiled machine. From the moment of check-in and throughout your stay, you understand why guests return, year after year, to the hotel. The service desks in the lobby are well-staffed as are the four dining options: The Bengal Lounge, The Empress Room, The Veranda and the Afternoon Tea Experience. One of the most incredible ways to witness the service at the hotel and experience a bit of its history is to indulge in the Afternoon Tea experience where you can sip exotic blends of tea from around the globe and munch on finger sandwiches and freshly baked scones – delightful.
Rooms at the hotel are large and comfortable – some with city views and some with harbor views. The hotel offers a large amount, 477 to be exact, of rooms and suites. Each one is done in a traditional English-country style with soft and muted colors, as well as floral patterns. Beginning in October of 2015, the rooms will be renovated to help bring them to a place closer to the expectations of luxury travelers. They will be modern and clean in design, while still retaining the DNA of the hotel. But, until then, they are very well-equipped and comfortable with wonderfully cozy beds, large bathrooms and coffee and tea for guests’ consumption at no charge.
The Empress offers a spa with indoor pool and treatment rooms for guests to use and partake in a day of relaxation. This is the perfect respite for the morning after arrival. If your sights are on adventure, the concierge will help you arrange an afternoon out in the nearby Gulf Islands, exploring the city or whale watching on the open sea. The Empress makes it their mission to aid in creating the most memorable stay.
My favorite part of the stay was the morning breakfast. The large spread is served a-la-carte or buffet style with everything under the sun to enjoy. The breakfast here gives you energy to take-on exploring the city or nearby area. I fell in-love with the sticky buns as well as the oatmeal served with honey that comes from the hotel’s own bee hives. Overall, staying at The Empress is a fantastic experience and one that is a “must” for any first-time, or returning luxury traveler to Victoria.