Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC — In a city with so much history, creativity, architecture and beauty I always find it a little odd that it’s a hotel that consistently steals the show.
While there is no official record it is widely believed that Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is the most photographed hotel in the world, and you can see why. This gorgeous hotel oozes charm, history and style. Over the century Château Frontenac has expanded and evolved with the city and it shows — several of my favourite pictures of Quebec City always seem to have a picture of Château Frontenac hiding in them somewhere. Completed in 1893, the hotel dominates the landscape. With outstanding views of the St. Lawrence River, Levis (the city across the river) and the surrounding provincial capital — not to mention the hotel itself — it isn’t hard to see why this property is a national landmark. I truly love this hotel and even when I’m not staying in it, I always make a point to stroll through the controlled confusion of the front lobby.
Located within the walls of the historic fortified city and named in honour of the legendary 17th-century New France Governor Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac, Château Frontenac is an old gem with a new look. In 2014, $75 million was invested in the revitalization and modernization of this majestic hotel, which included improvements to the guestrooms, renovation and expansion of the Fairmont Gold floors and banquet areas, transformation of the main lobby, introduction of three new restaurant concepts and the addition of an urban spa.
The stats are impressive. The central tower of Château Frontenac is almost 80 metres (262 feet) high. In the 19th century, the hotel’s bricks were imported from Scotland to build the walls of the castle. Today, Château Frontenac welcomes more than 300,000 guests every year, celebrates 75 weddings and many anniversaries annually, and serves up to 3,000 meals each day.
During a tour with Maxime Aubin, coordinator, sales, marketing and public relations at the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, I was shown a room named Salon Rose that is famous for hosting the Quebec Conferences of World War II (Canadian Encyclopedia), involving US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Countless celebrities have made Château Frontenac their temporary home, including Queen Elizabeth II, Charles de Gaulle, Paul McCartney, Ronald Reagan, Charles Lindberg, Alfred Hitchcock and Montgomery Clift. Speaking of Hitchcock and Clift, the movie I Confess was filmed at the hotel in 1953. Pictures of celebrities line the hallways outside of Salon Rose.
Aubin says with 18 floors, 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) of hallways and 611 rooms, Château Frontenac is “a city within the city.”
“There are so many stories in this hotel, the history is so rich and there are so many events for people who come to the Chateau,” Aubin says.
Renovations are always a touch-and-go thing, especially with landmarks like Frontenac, but one of the aspects that works so well with Château Frontenac is the connection to the past and the future, carefully adding modern comforts without losing touch with its past. This isn’t an easy trait to achieve, as many older hotels that try to upgrade fall somewhat short, creating an experience that leaves a guest feeling trapped in time, not really getting everything they want.
Not so here, and it’s a good thing — Château Frontenac continues its tradition of stepping into the future without turning its back on the past with immaculate rooms, updated modern amenities, a welcoming swimming pool, patio, and above all a marvellous view of the city that seems to follow you wherever you are in the hotel. Award-winning chef Stephane Modat even has a beehive to work with, clearly visible from several windows in the hotel on the inner rooftop garden over the kitchen.
After my tour I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Bistro Le Sam, a casual bistro-style restaurant that is a perfect for chilling out. The Champlain Restaurant next door has outstanding food and is very photogenic, featuring a St. Lawrence Sculpture on the ceiling created by an artist in the Charlevoix area, as well as a great view of the statue of Champlain from the sun room. The art piece highlights the depth and length of the river from the tip of Orleans Island to Montreal. You can also see the sculpture design on the plates and menus. Between both restaurants is the charming 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar.
After touring the hotel, I decided to head outside for a stroll on the boardwalk. Well, not quite yet — something else had just caught my eye. No surprise, it looks like Fairmont Le Château Frontenac is about to find itself in yet another photograph.
MORE ABOUT FAIRMONT LE CHÂTEAU FRONTENAC
Address: 1 Rue des Carrières, Quebec City, QC
Room Rates: A recent search on the hotel’s website returned a low nightly rate of $186 for a weekend night in January.
MORE ABOUT QUEBEC CITY TOURISM
MORE ABOUT PROVINCE OF QUEBEC TOURISM