The Fairmont Empress Hotel is the almost castle-like hotel in Victoria’s Inner Harbour that’s famous for its English Teas, history and stunning appearance.
Located at 721 Government Street, not only is the Empress Hotel a beautiful first-class place to stay but it’s also a National Historic Site.
This article contains the following information about the Empress Hotel:
The Empress Hotel
Built in 1908 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company, the impressive Edwardian-style building is arguably Victoria’s most recognizable landmark. The Empress Hotel is expensive and its rooms tend to be small, but it’s an experience to stay in.
Just past the lobby of the hotel is the Willow Stream Spa, ranked as one of the top spas in the country. It is only open from Thursday to Sunday. Make sure you’re able to go later in the week if you want to get pampered!
The Empress also has a heated pool area alongside a fitness centre. There is a standard swimming pool, a whirlpool, a wading pool for children and two saunas.
If you’re staying at the hotel with children, you can book the “Family Fun at The Empress” package. This includes a scavenger hunt around the property along with suggestions on where in Victoria to explore. A specially tailored afternoon tea, an in-room movie in the evening and other activities also come with the package.
Even if you don’t stay at the Empress, do still go inside and check it out. The English Teas there are exquisite and famous around the world. The entrance and interior of the building are quite grand too. Nobody will stop you from going in and having a glance, at least on the main floor and public areas.
Other Canadian cities have similar hotels. Vancouver, for example, has the historic Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.
History of the Hotel
The hotel was designed by Sir Francis Rattenbury who was one of British Columbia’s most famous and celebrated architects. Other buildings he designed include BC’s Legislative Buildings (across the street from the Empress) as well as the Vancouver Art Gallery. One of his earlier and more humble works is what is now the Roedde House Museum in Vancouver’s West End.
The project began at the beginning of the 20th century as part of the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company’s goal of opening a series of hotels to match the new transcontinental line. The Empress took four years to build. It was meant primarily to house rich visitors who took CPR trains and cruises to the harbour. This is why it was built right next to the water.
Given that it’s over a century old, there are a lot of stories attached to the hotel. This includes ghost stories! The Empress is one of the most “haunted” buildings in Victoria, with numerous reported sightings.
According to legend, some of the spirits that roam the halls of the hotel include the ghost of Sir Francis Rattenbury himself. Others include a maid that continues to try and clean the sixth floor and an old woman in her pajamas who can’t find her room.
We can’t guarantee you’ll see anything, but if you like ghost stories the Empress is a spot worth exploring!
Tips and Advice
Below is some extra information and suggestions to help you make the most out of your visit to the Empress.
TIP #1: If you’re downtown at the Inner Harbour and looking for a washroom, the Empress Hotel has nice ones down the stairs by the entrance closest to the Parliament Buildings and Royal BC Museum. Just don’t tell them we told you so!
TIP #2: Keep an eye out for Winston, the Hotel’s resident canine. You are able to hang out, cuddle, and take him for walks if you find yourself missing your own pup too much. If you can’t part with your pooch for this trip, the Empress does allow pets to stay there for an additional charge.
TIP #3: Try to get one of the bikes at the Empress to explore the city at a good pace. They are first-come first-serve so you’ll want to talk to the Concierge about getting your hands on one when you check-in. If you aren’t able to get one, there are also bike rental facilities near the Empress by the Inner Harbour.
TIP #4: If you’re environmentally conscious, you’ll be happy to know that this hotel strives to be as sustainable as possible. They have implemented a composting and waste program and have electric and hybrid charging stations. The hotel also uses sustainable ingredients gathered from local farms and has bee-hives to produce their own honey.
TRIVIA: Guess what is the highest-paid position at the Empress Hotel (at least in the past), even more than the General Manager? The Tea Servers! No, really! Including tips, which tend to be high, being a Tea Server at the Empress is a very lucrative job!
To book a room or for more information, see the Fairmont Hotel‘s website.
For a list of other places to stay see our article about Victoria Hotels.
Check out Victoria’s Tourist Attractions for ideas on what to do while staying in town.
For ideas on where to stay when visiting the Lower Mainland, check out Downtown Vancouver Hotels.