Fairmont Empress Canada
721 Government Street, Victoria, BC, V8W 1W5
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Date of Creation
Hotel General Manager
Dan McGowan. Dan’s career has spanned over twenty-five years at various landmark Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in North America. Before joining Fairmont Empress from his role as General Manager for the Fairmont San Jose, he held several progressive leadership positions at Fairmont Chateau Whistler followed by his appointment as Hotel Manager for the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, General Manager for the Fairmont Vancouver Airport, the Fairmont Palliser in Calgary and the Fairmont Dallas.
4 Diamond Property; Luxury Brand
History & Story
The Fairmont Empress is one of the most recognizable hotels in the world due to its iconic presence in history. “In a very special way, the Empress is Victoria. The reverse, too, is true: Victoria is The Empress.” So reads the opening lines of the book, “The Empress of Victoria”, by Godfrey Holloway. The Hotel was designed by Francis Rattenbury, an English architect, who also designed the British Columbia Legislative Buildings. The Empress opened its doors in 1908 and is now over 100 years old. Over the years the Empress has been host to kings, queens, presidents, generals, movie stars, sport celebrities.
The Hotel was designed Francis Mawson Rattenbury, an English architect, who had moved to Victoria in 1893 after trying his luck in the northern gold rushes. While in Victoria he also designed the British Columbia Legislative Buildings, also on the inner harbour, and the Bank of Montreal building on Government Street.
The Hotel rests on Victoria yellow and blue clay. In over 82 years the old lady has only settled 30 inches from north to south, a measurement no one would notice.
Horse drawn carriages and man labour erected the stately hostelry of 116 guests rooms, with walls at the ground floor which measure 30 inches thick, enough to support a small city. Great wood beams criss-crossed under the original roof, which gave the building the appearance of a fortress.
The Empress design did not remain unchanged. Within two years of it’s historic unveiling, a north wing was added containing 85 additional rooms and a library, which is now the Bengal Lounge. In 1929 an additional wing was added on Humboldt Street containing 270 rooms with suites, now increasing the guestrooms to an all new high of 416 rooms.
Over the years the Empress has been host to kings and queens, to presidents and generals, socialites and social climbers, movie stars and sport celebrities. Among its famous guest list rests the names of: Charles and Ann Lindbergh, Rudyard Kipling, Shirley Temple, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Rita Hayworth. Everyone from Van Cliburn, Rostropvich and Philippe Entremont to the Los Angeles Kings have stayed here.
Royalty has called on the hospitality of the Empress with several visits from members of the Royal Family. The royal visitors that created the most curiosity were King Prajadhipok and Queen Rambai Barni of Siam who brought with them 556 pieces of luggage.
In June of 1966 “Operation Teacup” was launched. Over $4 million dollars was spent updating the hotel to present-day standards with such amenities as efficient heating! Television was added to the rooms along with AC electric current outlets, the kitchens were redesigned with modern equipment and furniture and fixtures were updated. Some 1200 pieces of furniture were specifically designed to fit into the existing décor and another 2000 pieces were re-upholstered.
On October 23, 1988 the hotel’s doors were closed for just under 6 months. During this time, over 500 full-time workers, and indirectly, an additional 1500 workers began on “Royally Restoring” the Empress.
Plasterers working for over five months did nothing but make moldings. Over 200 guest room doors were stripped and tagged with new room numbers, and original inlaid hardwood floor was exposed and refinished in the Tea Lobby and Bengal. The stained glass dome of the Palm Court was rebuilt, guest rooms were redone from top to bottom, and the Crystal Ballroom was completely restored.
This brought a total of 477 guest rooms that reflected a high standard of luxury and beauty. Matching bedside cabinets and rich colours for drapes, bedspreads and carpets together with restored antique furniture delighted hotel guests. Ten million dollars was spent on furnishings and $300,000 on refinishing existing antique pieces alone.
The $45 million renovation meant additions like the new registration lobby, the pool and recreation pavilion and eight beautiful honeymoon rooms on the seventh floor Attic of the Hotel could be restored.
In 1996, Entrée Gold, our “hotel within our hotel” was opened. They currently have a total of 37 rooms, with a private check-in, and guest lounge, where breakfast and evening appetizers are served, in addition to an honor bar. Also, in 1996, duvets and ceiling fans were added to all guestrooms, and recently dataports, robes, and iron and ironing boards were placed in all guestrooms. Today the Empress has 460 guestrooms.
Guests and the public can catch a glimpse of the Empress’ exciting past by leisurely sauntering through the Archives Gallery located in the Lower Lobby. Items from Canadian Pacific’s past and present can also be purchased at the Canadian Pacific Store, located on the Upper Lobby of the Empress.
All 464 rooms, lobby, spa, pool, restaurants, gold floor lounge. Finishing renovations June 2017
Date added extensions
Main Strengths, Special Touch
Fairmont Empress’ strengths or special touches are turning moments into memories for our guests by striving to provide the best possible guest service.
Fairmont Empress is located in Downtown Victoria’s epicenter looking out over the inner harbor. It is across the street from the British Columbia Legislature and Royal BC Museum. In the heart of Victoria, surrounding neighborhoods include: James Bay, Fairfield, Fernwood and Victoria West
Key sites/activities in the area
Sites: Butchart Gardens, Butterfly Gardens, Royal BC Museum, British Columbia Legislature Building, Craigdarroch Castle, Hatley Castle, Emily Carr House, Steamship Terminal Building, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ogden Point Breakwater, Beacon Hill & Dallas Road, Chinatown, Abkhazi Gardens, Antique Row on Fort Street, Fisgard Lighthouse & Fort Rodd Hill
Activities: Whale Watching, Horse-drawn carriage, Fishing, Seaplane Tours, Kayak Tours, Golf, Scooter/ Bicycle Rentals, Winery Tours, Distillery Tours, Walking Tours, Ziptrek Tours – Adrenaline, Wildplay
Over the years the Empress has been host many famous guests. Among its famous guest list rests the names of: Charles and Ann Lindbergh, Rudyard Kipling, Shirley Temple, Spencer Tracy, John Wayne, Bob Hope, and Rita Hayworth.
Royalty has called on the the Empress with several visits from members of the Royal Family including King Prajadhipok and Queen Rambai Barni of Siam who brought with them 556 pieces of luggage.
Children’s Activities: Fairmont Empress Kids Scavenger Hunt, Prince & Princess Tea at the Empress, Butchart Gardents, Butterfly World,Miniature World, Victoria Bug Zoo, Kid’s Petting Farm Beacon Hill, and Fisherman’s Wharf
• Number of suites: 48
27 Regular suites, 21 Gold Floor Suites
•Number of Luxury rooms: 464 (after renovations are completed in June 2017)
60 Gold floor rooms and suites
• Number of rooms, (keys) in all: 464
• High speed and wireless Internet access
• In-room safes
• Terry bathrobes
• Cable television with in-room pay movies
• Keurig one-cup coffee maker
• Tea kettle
• Luxurious linens and down-filled duvets
• Windows that open
Restaurants & Bars
• Q at the Empress, Pacific North-West Cuisine, Executive Chef Morgan Wilson
• Q Bar, Signature Cocktails and Local Craft Beer, Executive Chef Morgan Wilson
• Lobby Lounge, Tea at the Empress, Executive Chef Morgan Wilson
• Veranda, Seasonal Dinning, Executive Chef Morgan Wilson
• Willow Stream Spa
• Indoor Swimming Pool
• Fully-equipped Gym
Corporate & Celebration Events
• Crystal Ballroom, 320 Pax Banquet Seating
• Shaughnessy Ballroom, 180 Pax Banquet Seating
• Rattenbury, 170 Pax Banquet Seating
• Bengal Room, 100 Pax Banquet Seating
*More than 23,000 square feet of event space and over 96,000 square feet when combined with the adjacent Victoria Conference Center
Extra Notable Features
• Ski Hill: Mount Washington Alpine Resort ( 245 kilometres from Fairmont Empress)
• Hiking: Goldstream Railway Trestle, Mount Finlayson, Mount Tolmie, Mount Douglas, Elk Lake and Thetis Lake
• Cineplex Odeon Cinema (12 minute walk from Fairmont Empress)
Hotel and restaurant Awards
• Condé Nast Readers’ Choice and Gold List hotel
• Travel + Leisure Top Canadian Hotel
• Canadian Spa and Wellness Awards: Top 25
• Trip Advisor Diners Choice Award 2016 – Q at the Empress
• Trip Advisor Diners Choice Award 2016 – Tea at the Empress
Number of employees