When it comes to hotels in Banff, you really can’t beat the majestic Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel for a luxury stay in the Canadian Rockies. After all, the place is literally modelled after a castle.
The regal look and feel greet you at every twist and turn of the hotel’s infinite corridors. Sophistication oozes from every stone in this hundred-year-old building whose famous guests include dignitaries, movie stars, and royalty.
Living in western Canada and frequently visiting Banff, I have stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs many times. The word iconic doesn’t even begin to cover this hotel, with its glamorous ballrooms, spooky ghost stories and unparalleled views of the Bow Valley.
Here’s the best of what you’ll experience from a splurge at this world-renowned property.
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Inside the Banff Springs Hotel
Banff Springs Hotel History
When it comes to Banff National Park no hotel is more historically significant than the Fairmont Banff Springs. The construction of the railway made the Canadian Rockies more accessible. That, in turn, solidified Banff as a premier tourist destination in the late 19th Century so Canadian Pacific opened the original Banff Springs in 1888.
The original building was made of wood and destroyed in a fire, with the current building being built in 1928. For more on the history of the hotel you can see photos and information in the Heritage Hall above the hotel lobby. Keep an eye out for a photo of one of the world’s most famous movie stars, Marilyn Monroe, enjoying her stay at the hotel.
Location of the Banff Springs Hotel
Unlike the majority of Banff’s hotels, the Fairmont Banff Springs is not in the town. But what you lack in convenience you make up for in quiet solitude from the busy tourist center. Still only a 15-minute walk (or a short bus/taxi ride) from the main Banff Avenue downtown core, the expansive vistas in every direction will remind you that this is the right choice.
In the ever-popular Banff National Park, location is everything. And the Banff Springs with rivers and mountains visible from almost every angle is in prime position. The property reaches all the way to the Bow River and is home to one of the world’s top golf courses flanked by the impressive Mount Rundle.
Rooms at the Banff Springs Hotel
With almost 20 different room and suite types in the property, the Fairmont Banff has a lot of options. Given the price point of the hotel, most guests who just want to say they’ve stayed at the famous hotel will opt for the lead in room category, the Fairmont Room. The views are more limited, and the rooms are smaller, but the service will be just as impeccable.
In fact, since this is a historic property, many of the rooms are smaller than more modern hotels. This is one of the only cons to the hotel. The standard rooms may only be able to accommodate a Queen bed or two Doubles. For that reason, I would encourage you to explore other room options too.
The Deluxe rooms and Gatehouse rooms are slightly bigger, although the Gatehouse is in a separate wing to the main building. There are also suites with more space including One Bedroom suites which have a separate bedroom and sitting area with sofa bed.
Personally, I love the Studio rooms in the main building. Take in the mountain views of Mount Rundle and Tunnel Mountain, relax on your sofa and enjoy the chateau feel of the rooms complete with an ornate fireplace.
Insider tip: Sign up for a free Accor ALL membership to collect points, get access to upgrades and receive welcome amenities. The Fairmont Hotels have some wonderful Canadian themed and local treats they use for their welcome gifts.
The Fairmont Banff Springs, as with the other Canadian Rockies Fairmont properties in Jasper and Lake Louise, has instated a resort fee in the last few years. The fee is $30 CAD per day and covers tours and rentals (see activities), health club access, bell staff gratuities, and more.
Parking at the Banff Springs Hotel
Parking might be a bit more expensive than your average hotel, but as well as valet parking there’s the slightly cheaper option to self-park. Either way your car will end up in a multi-level parking lot a couple minutes’ walk from the hotel entrance. You’ll have in and out privileges and the cost will be added to your bill.
Whichever option you choose, pull into the hotel driveway and check in with the attendants outside when you first arrive. For valet parking you will check in at the front desk while they park your car. If you choose to self-park, they will typically retrieve your key from check-in then you can go park the car. In either case the bell staff will happily take your luggage to your room if you wish.
Note that parking is an issue throughout Downtown Banff and there aren’t many ways to get around the paid parking, especially in the summer. There are a few free lots in Downtown Banff but most operate on a three hour time period.
Banff Springs Hotel Activities
The Fairmont Banff Springs is not just a hotel, it’s a resort. You can stay here for a couple of days and have everything you need not to leave the property. Not that you wouldn’t want to explore the surrounding area of course. But if you don’t feel like going far for dinner, shopping or even a round of golf, you don’t have to. The hotel has all these options and more. Here are some of the best activities to engage in at the Banff Springs Hotel.
Pool and Spa
Massages, facials and salon services are all offered for additional costs, allowing you to completely relax and unwind during your stay. But even if you choose not to pay for these services, guests can still use the fitness center and pools, both indoor and outdoor. With mountain views, while you swim, this is one activity you can’t miss.
Maybe not what most people want to think about in their accommodation choice, but the Banff Springs has long been linked to many a ghost story. From the ever-so-helpful bellman, Sam, who helps people find their room, or the mysterious room 873 that was supposedly walled up due to everyone being terrified of staying there.
The most famous of the stories though is of the ghost bride who fell to her death down a marble staircase at the Cascade Ballroom on her wedding night. Whatever you believe, it’s fun to take a walk around the castle’s spooky corridors while you keep an eye out for apparitions.
Sign up for guided walks, hikes or bike rides around Banff. All leave daily from the hotel in small groups, often included as part of your resort fees (so you might as well take advantage). There are also bike rentals, croquet or tennis and conservation talks. Equipment rentals such as snowshoes or hiking poles are also available by contacting the concierge. If you want a quick local hike, try Tunnel Mountain with views over the Banff Springs golf course.
In preparation for your stay call the concierge at the hotel before you leave home and ask for the events calendar for your stay. This will help you plan your stay better and you’ll discover some of the fun tours and activities that they have on. I recommend booking early as space is usually limited.
As mentioned the Banff Springs Hotel sits right beside the famous Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Course, easily one of the most beautiful places to golf in the entire world. If you’re a golfer you have to enjoy a round here. If you’re not, have a beer at the Waldhaus and watch everyone else!
Christmas at the Castle
An event called Christmas at the Castle lasts from late November to January, with different events happening the entire season. The Banff Springs decorates the entire property in lavish Christmas decorations that is a treat to see. It’s like stepping into a winter wonderland. If you’re visiting Banff around Christmas it’s definitely worth it to see the spectacle here. You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to see the Christmas decorations.
Tips for kids: Family-friendly activities are also set up such as treasure hunts, creativity evenings, and bowling (additional fee applies for bowling). Note kids on your reservation for a welcome gift for the Prince or Princess of the castle. This is one of the most family-friendly hotels in Banff.
Eating at the Banff Springs Hotel
With nine restaurants and bars in the hotel, all serving different food options, you will be spoiled for choice on where (and what) to eat. From STOCK, a deli/café in the lobby with quick on the go options, all the way up to 1888 Chop House for high end dining and some incredible steak options. Here are a couple of my favorite dining experiences in the hotel.
Afternoon Tea in the Rundle Lounge
Of all the restaurants in the Banff Springs, the Rundle Lounge in my opinion has the best view. Exclusively used for the decadent Afternoon Tea, this is one experience you won’t want to miss. After treating my parents to this on one of my last stays there, I can first hand tell you this is worth the cost.
Cocktails in the Rundle Bar
This classically timeless bar in the heart of the hotel is a wonderful place for an evening cocktail before (or after) dinner. They serve light meals too but it’s their cocktail list that really makes it special. Try one of their signature creations or local beers in elegant surroundings.
Pro tip: Sign up for the Accor ALL membership and you could receive complimentary welcome drink vouchers to use at any of the bars when you reach Silver level (10 nights stayed).
Dessert at the Waldhaus Pub
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. This quietly tucked away European inspired pub is set away from the main hotel, down near the river. There is a path and staircase that lead you to the pub which sells German beer and has wonderful evening views. A cozy pub with some scrumptious desserts that are worth the extra walk. This is my favorite place at the Fairmont Banff Springs, maybe even the best restaurant in Banff.
Final Thoughts on the Fairmont Banff Springs
The history, the charm and the grandiosity of the Castle in the Rockies might just sweep you off your feet. The pros to staying in this property, so perfectly positioned in the midst of one of the most incredible National Parks, far outweigh the cons.
A stay at the Banff Springs isn’t cheap but seasonal deals in the off season and winter mean it could be more affordable than you think. Having stayed at several places in Banff, this one stands out as just that little bit more magical than the rest. For the best deal on a room try searching in late March, April, May, October, and November.
So even if the Banff Springs Hotel it is slightly above your budget I think it’s worth it for at least a night. Go ahead and treat yourself to a stay at a castle!
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