Last year I spend a few days in Banff. I was there to attend a conference for my day job and fortunately, I was not paying. I was lucky enough to convince my boss to go to the location the hotel where the conference was taking place: Banff Springs Fairmont Hotel.
How to reach the Banff Springs Fairmont
We arrived from the airport in Calgary. If you are coming from Europe, direct flights from Frankfurt are not specially expensive. In my case, I flew from Brussels to Frankfurt, and from there to Calgary. It barely cost me 400€ although my boss bought the flights a month later and the price doubled. So yeah, book in advance specially if you are coming from Europe!
Once at the airport, the easiest way to get to Banff is to book a shuttle. We used Banff Airporter and it was great. We had to wait for ten minutes (they depart hourly) and then they took us directly to our hotel. Unless you are in a very small hotel or guest house, they will drop you right on front of your hotel. The only bad thing about this service it’s the price, it is easily 100€ for the return ticket.
Shuttle services aside, you can take any of the local buses (Greyhound) for less than 20CAD each way but beware, there are only four buses a day! If you decide to go with the latter option, you will be dropped by the old Railway Station. From there to the Banff Springs Fairmont you have to either take a taxi (more or less another 20CAD) or walk. The walk is quite easy since the town is small, but consider that you will be walking at least 30-45 minutes, and if it is -20ºC outside it may not be the most pleasant of the walks.
About the location of the Banff Springs Fairmont
Well, this hotel is mostly a castle, and it has a privileged view of the valley. From the “Surprise Corner”, right across from the other side of the valley, you can really appreciate the location of this hostel. In the middle of the Rockies and with views to the Bow Valley, Banff Springs Fairmont Hotel has the perfect location to explore the Bow River, and Bow waterfalls, visit lake Louise and skiing in one of the many snowy slopes around. Moreover, the hotel (and town) are located within the Banff National Park and just walking around the hotel is enough to see some wildlife. And if that were not enough, there are some nearby attractions like Johnston Canyon or the hot springs.
A little history about the Banff Springs Fairmont
I learned a little about the story of this hotel from the driver of the shuttle. He explained us that the Banff Springs Fairmont was constructed before the town actually existed. More than a century old, this hotel was constructed when the initial Railway network of Canada was constructed (19th century). Later on, a little bit more of research taught me that this Hotel is actually considered a National Historic Site by the UNESCO.
Amenities in the Hotel
There are many options regarding room type in this Fairmont. You can order with or without views, double, twin, bigger, higher… In any case, if they are any similar to ours it will be fantastic. And, if it is too cold outside, there are many things to do without even leaving the hotel premises!
Starting with the food, there are a few options around that are quite interesting. Right behind the hotel, and going a few stairs down to the river, you can find a pub. Funny thing, this pub (Walhaus), is a German-style one, but their food is amazing. The shuttle driver recommended us to have the schnitzel and it was good. We were there a few more times, and everything I tried was plain good. Even though this is not officially part of the hotel, it is often visited from the guests that want a more affordable option.
Another option is to go and try the “Grapes” bar. This place is the perfect location to have a mid-day wine and cheese experience. Although it may lack in substance to have a proper dinner (in terms of quantity not quality). There is another very fancy Italian restaurant (The Castello) and a steak house (1888 Chop House), both unbeatable in quality. Besides these, there was also a Japanese restaurant (Samurai Sushi Bar), and a few lounges where fast food could be ordered for most of the day. Finally, let’s talk Breakfast. And it does deserves a capital B. Although not included, breakfast at the Banff Springs Fairmont was something else. For about 20€ we were able to indulge in amazing salmon, delightful eggs benedict and decadent mousses. It was beyond fantastic. Again, this is a high end hotel and it really shows.
About the Halls
Now, about the common spaces. There are many different and beautiful rooms and halls in the Fairmont. While we were there, we were able to witness quite a few weddings. Moreover, we were a few thousands of attendants to our conference and the place never seemed crowded. There are some zones where it may look like if you were in a fairytale in a Disney palace, but at the same time the finesse in this castle cannot be matched.
Finally, let’s talk pools. The Banff Springs Fairmont has a Spa and a Fitness center. There is a possibility to get you nicely pampered in the Spa but I cannot talk about this from first hand experience. What I can talk about is about the common pools at the Fitness Center. It is extremely common that someone in the elevator is covered in snow and ski-clothes, and someone else is wearing a bath suit and bathrobe. That is because almost everyone in the hotel go to the pool sooner or later. The indoor pool, while long and nice, is not as popular as the other ones. The outdoor ones are the best. They are kept at 35-37ºC and being there while you are at -30ºC outside is an amazing experience. I, for once, had no idea that steam could freeze!
Things to do around the Banff Springs Fairmont
This magnificent hotel has a divided reception. In one side, you can actually manage your bookings and do the check in/out. To the other side, you have the concierges. There we met the kindest and nicest man we encountered during the whole trip. He told us about the best places to have breakfast, dinner or just a drink. He called to make the reservations to any activity we may wished to participate on. And he even called us later on to check on how good were this activities. For example, we made a mistake and did not book in advance the dog-sledding tour and he called in our behalf and managed to squeeze us in a tour leaving in a couple of hours. I really regret not remembering his name, because he was without a doubt, one of the best parts of staying in the Banff Springs Fairmont.
The only bad thing about this hotel
As it often happens with big hotels, this place had no offers for single travelers. If you want to get there and you travel solo, you may have to pay double the fee. It is unfortunate, but for a hotel that is often fully booked, they do not want to attract solo travelers.
Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I just really liked the place and wanted to share my experience!