Visit Québec City in Style
Purported to be the most photographed hotel on the planet, the stunning Fairmont le Château Frontenac looms over historic Vieux Québec like a majestic Renaissance castle. The focal point of a picturesque landscape that has been enjoyed by politicians, royalty, and movie stars since it was built in 1893. Chateau Frontenac is so iconic, it’s even featured on the Canadian passport!
I first laid eyes on the Château as a 15-year-old, and it was love at first sight. Who wouldn’t be awed by the graceful turrets, the green patina of the copper roofs, and the romance of the Victorian opulence that oozes from the hotel’s every pore? On subsequent trips to the old city, I became acquainted with the public areas of the hotel – the shops, sumptuous lobby, restaurants and coffee shop. I’d wander up the grand staircase with my Starbucks, imagining I was on my way up to my own Château suite, knowing this was the closest I’d ever come to actually stay in such luxurious digs.
All that changed in the winter of 2020, when a cancelled vacation to Panama prompted an impromptu road trip to Carnaval de Québec. We found a last-minute deal on rates at the Château Frontenac, and a dream 26 years in the making was finally realized! So, what is a stay at this iconic landmark really like, and is it worth it? Read on to find out!
Did you know? Vieux Quebec is a Unesco World Heritage Site?
Let’s be honest: a stay at the luxurious Château Frontenac is not among the cheapest of your options when vacationing in Québec. Even a basic room with no view can run several hundreds of dollars during high season. Still, if you visit during the off-season, or are lucky enough to snag an online deal, you can sometimes find rates for hundreds of dollars less than during peak travel times.
We booked a very basic room on a low floor with no view to speak of (and still considered ourselves lucky to have found rates cheaper than $300 a night during Carnaval). When we arrived, we were offered an upgrade to a Fairmont President’s Club Gold room on a much higher floor – our choice of 11th or 16th. We got a city view, free wifi, concierge desk, and access to a VIP lounge with free daily breakfast, hors-d’oeuvres, beverages and snacks. For an extra $75 a night (a reduced upgrade fee due to the hotel’s low occupancy), we thought it would be well worth it for the extras.
We weren’t disappointed. Pre-dinner appetizers and after-dinner tea and desserts in the swanky 14th-floor lounge, with stunning views of the St. Lawrence, made us feel like true VIPs and became daily highlights of our short stay. Our 11th-floor room, while not looking out over the beautiful river, did afford spectacular glimpses of the various wings and turrets of the Château Frontenac (it felt like our own private Hogwarts view!), as well as the rooftops of the old and new city. We were fortunate enough to have a recently refurbished room, complete with elegant wall panelling, marble bathroom and bedside tables, plush bathrobes and slippers, chaise longue and a fully stocked minibar (with, unsurprisingly, exorbitantly priced contents we didn’t touch).
Knowing what I know now, I’m not sure that a stay at a lower level, more dated room with a view of a brick wall or inner courtyard would have been worth it for us. Your expectations may differ, of course, but I’d say if you’re going to stay in the Château Frontenac, it’s worth doing right, especially when a relatively small upgrade fee can make such a drastic change in your view, comfort and overall hotel experience. Of course, if money is no object, the sky’s the limit. Impeccably themed suites commemorating the Château’s most famous guests offer luxe stays, and the front desk had plenty of other upgrades to offer us, starting at $375 a night, which we turned down!
Food and Drink
While we frequently found ourselves enjoying the views and complimentary snacks in the VIP lounge, we also made a point of trying out the hotel’s restaurants. We were handed complimentary champagne upon entering Le Champlain, the Château’s flagship restaurant, where the frescoed ceilings, sparkling crystal chandeliers and floor-to-ceiling wine fridges accessed by rolling ladders provided the perfect backdrop for our fine dining experience. We loved the casual vibe and tasty bites at Le Sam, and we even ordered from the extensive room service menu for the experience. There’s also an upscale bar (Le 1608), and if you haven’t upgraded to a President’s Club package, you can purchase breakfast (and fancy afternoon tea) at Place Dufferin.
There is a beautiful pool area with hot tub, kiddie pool emptying into the main pool by a waterfall, and sauna. Plus there is free fruit and water. The pool area was almost deserted when we took our mid-morning swim. Although we didn’t spend any of our valuable Château time working out, we did take a quick tour through the gym – predictably, expansive, airy, and gorgeous.
It really was the extras, the flawless attention to detail, that made all the difference in our stay. The bathrobes were soft, warm and plush, and turn-down service left individually-wrapped cookies featuring embossed chocolate versions of the Château Frontenac on our pillows. The gleaming brass elevators operated by a key card made us feel like royalty every time we left our room, and the staff at the VIP lounge knew us by name by the end of our short stay. The service at Chateau Frontenac was exceptional on every front. A request for hot chocolate was answered with a tray of hot milk, marshmallows, and a small meltable chocolate replica of the Château. Watching the sunset over the historic city (and those Instagram-worthy turrets) each night was a true delight.
While the Château Frontenac’s history goes back nearly 130 years, it occupies a site that’s been integral to New France since the 1600s. Québec’s first fort was built here, as were the châteaus for its founder, Champlain, and subsequent governors, between the early 1620s and the 1830s. In fact, you can visit the remains of these earlier structures underneath Dufferin Terrace, now a Parks Canada site, and the terrace level of the Château houses an impressive exhibit featuring artefacts the site’s past.
One of the most amazing things about the Château Frontenac is the way that it’s constantly evolving to stay relevant to contemporary visitors while staying true to its legendary historical roots. If you’re looking for an unforgettable stay while exploring Québec City, you owe it to yourself to try Fairmont le Château Frontenac; it’s the perfect fairy tale backdrop for a fabulous vacation.
Book your own stay at this historic hotel, here.
During a summer 2019 road trip through Quebec City, our other roguetrippers (Nick Kulnies & Greg Bellefontaine) stopped into Chateau Frontenac to admire this amazing property.