The iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel is a staple of any visit to Victoria, BC, whether it’s taking a photo in front of the famed facade, having afternoon tea, visiting the spa or staying overnight in the century old grande dame.
The stately property recently changed ownership and the new owners have set about to renew and restore the property. Some of the plans have been controversial, and generated major media coverage but it only shows the place that the Fairmont Empress holds in the hearts of Victorians.
Last winter, half of the rooms of the hotel were closed, and work was carried out to renovate and update the oldest portion of the National Historic Site. Through years of renovations, the 1908 wing of the hotel had become a hodge-podge of room shapes and styles over the years, the renovation stripped the property back to the bones. Replacement of plumbing, electrical as well as cosmetic upgrades were undertaken and the results opened to the public in late spring. While The Empress always maintained its grandeur and a sense of class, the new look wing brings those qualities into the 21st century.
I recently stayed in one of the updated rooms and was thrilled to see some of the changes. It’s surprising what a difference a change of colour palate can do to modernize the property. The elegant new grey tones carry from the common areas to the new rooms as well. The comfortable new furnishings and accessories felt modern but classic. The expected Fairmont amenities were still present, like coffee pod maker, fridge, flatscreen tvs, and Le Labo toiletries. Thought was obviously put into the design to make the rooms useful for the business traveller and today’s connected travellers. The desks have been upgraded to include convenient power outlets and USB jacks. An added bonus is found in the build in outlets beside the headboard, meaning one no longer has to shift the bedside table to get access to an outlet.
The biggest change in the rooms came to the bathrooms, in this wing, the bathrooms were often oddly shaped, after-throughts. The new bathrooms is a luxurious, spa-like oasis, brightly lit with glossy subway tiles and marble with glass shower surround. No longer an add-on, they bathroom is a memorable centrepiece of the room.
The renovated rooms make your stay at The Fairmont Empress feel even more like a home away from home. Hopefully you’ll get to see for yourself on your next visit.
I look forward to seeing more of the renovations throughout the property. Half of the rooms have been completed, the other half will be renovated over the Winter of 2016-17.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel is located at 721 Government Street, on Victoria’s picturesque Inner Harbour.