Is This the Most Beautiful Hotel Ever?
The iconic Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec City is a world treasure.
After passing through gleaming brass revolving doors, I entered a world of elegance and refinement. It was the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, a fairy castle of a hotel in Quebec City, and I would be staying for the next four nights.
The drop-dead gorgeous lobby is paneled in carved golden woods and crowned by a coffered ceiling with sea-blue insets. Along the marble floor are massive area rugs patterned in swirls of blue reminiscent of the flowing waters of the nearby St. Lawrence River. A backlit wall of icy blue onyx veined in gold stands behind the reception desk.
Near the front door was Daphnie, the official canine ambassador, who sports a black coat and white blaze, and who is ever ready to socialize. Her breed is St. Pierre, a mix of Bernese Mountain Dog and Labrador retriever.
The hotel, which celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2018, was built in stages between 1893 and 1993. The original section was developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway, which wanted a luxury hotel to encourage tourism to the area. The architect was Bruce Price of New York, who modeled the hotel after the grand chateaux in the Loire Valley of France. The hotel was named after Louis de Buade, Count Frontenac, a prominent governor of New France–the European country’s North American colonies in the late 1600s.
When it opened, the hotel boasted 170 rooms. Ninety-three were designed with private baths and fireplaces, which were extraordinary luxuries of the day. Several expansions followed, including the central tower, which stands 260 feet high, in 1926.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac underwent an extensive renovation, from top to bottom, in 2014. Today it has 611 guestrooms, four restaurants and a Starbucks, spa, hair salon, fitness center, indoor swimming pool and upscale shopping arcade. The building has 2,000 windows and more than 7 miles of hallways.
Perhaps the most exquisite of spaces is the Salon Rose. A circular special events room with a panoramic river view, it is appointed with deep rose-hued wall-to-wall carpeting and brocade walls, white woodwork, shimmering silver ceiling, mirrored fireplaces and silver chandeliers. The Salon Rose is where allies U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King hammered out strategy to end World War II.
In addition to these heads of state, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac has hosted an international roster of VIP guests, including world leaders, royalty, rock stars and cinematic luminaries.
My room was a deluxe queen in the Mont Carmel wing, a section that was added in 1908. The view was south, toward Dufferin Terrace and Governor’s Park. It was decorated in calming taupe and white, with accents of teal and robin’s egg blue. The oh-so-comfy bed was dressed in a thick white duvet and assortment of pillows. It also had a glass-topped desk, ornate bureau, upholstered reading chair, and flat-screen television. The nightly turn-down service was a lovely touch.
The bath was swathed in marble, probably original to the building. A large lighted mirror topped the elongated vanity. It was generously stocked with Le Labo Rose 31 toiletries, a Fairmont signature and one I adore. (Please, Fairmont, don’t ever change to bulk sizes, which in my view are cumbersome, unsanitary and tamper-able. I love taking the travel sizes home to use as an extension of my hotel stay.)
A design aspect that especially enthralled me was the hotel’s vast collection of artwork and artifacts, which are displayed throughout the walls and hallways. Among them are paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Even the light fixtures are exquisite. Some pieces are ornate and historic, and others are contemporary and even humorous.
At the front door is a 7-foot green-and-gold “melting clock” sculpture by surrealist Salvador Dali. A Dali lithograph hangs in the Salon Rose. Elsewhere stands a sculpture of a horse’s head fashioned from oxidized copper scraps left over when the roof was replaced during the renovation. China Alley is a hallway flanked by showcases filled with dishware used by the hotel through the ages.
A few words must be said about the hotel’s location, which is excellent for sight-seeing or quiet contemplation. It sits within the walls of Old Quebec–a UNESCO World Heritage Site–and on a promontory high above the St. Lawrence River. Within footsteps, a robust mix of discoveries awaits.
Get lost amid the diagonal streets and discover historic architecture and intriguing sculptures. Stroll Dufferin Terrace, a massive boardwalk and watch the cruise ships come in. Take the funicular (or a very long staircase) down to the restored Petit Champlain district, a former enclave of fur trading posts, where cobblestone streets are lined with bustling shops and bistros.
Back to my question: Is Fairmont Chateau Le Frontenac the most beautiful hotel in the world? I say yes. The hotel does claim to be the most photographed, and it has received dozens of awards and recognitions, including Best Historic Hotels in the Americas 2017 by Historic Hotels Worldwide.
Why not book a stay and decide for yourself?
(Disclosure: I paid for my 4-night stay at the hotel and was given a guided tour by marketing and communication manager Maxime Aubin.)
(Many thanks to Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac for use of its photographs, as credited in the captions. All others, including the feature photo at the top of this post, are mine.)