Historic. Classic. Massive. Iconic. Traditional. The Château Laurier embodies all these adjectives, reigning for more than a century in downtown Ottawa, Canada. Now part of the Fairmont chain, it’s in the middle of the capital city at the intersection of Rideau Street and Sussex Drive, and overlooking the Rideau Canal.
The 660,000-square-foot “French Gothic Revival Châteauesque” hotel with 426 guest rooms (including 33 suites) was built between 1909 and 1912 to connect accommodations with transportation; a tunnel leads to what used to be Ottawa’s downtown Union Station (there haven’t been trains since 1966). The hotel was designated a national historic site in 1980.
It’s a glorious, fanciful structure fashioned from Indiana limestone with conical turrets, gables carved with flowers and Tiffany stained-glass windows. Stepping onto the Belgian marble floors of the lobby evokes a different era, when both men and women wore hats and suits, bellmen carried stacks of leather-bound luggage, and travel was itself a luxury.
I had one of the larger guestrooms: my desk (with lots of convenient power outlets on top) was in a turret. Yes, it’s very distracting to have more than 180-degree views over Ottawa when trying to work.
The color scheme was classic and muted taupes and creams, with pops of color from a scarlet upholstered chair and dark green draperies. The bed was touted as a “luxury Sealy sleep experience”. Rooms have individual climate control, an alarm clock-radio, bathrobes, hair dryer, iron and ironing board, humongous flat-screen television, and Nespresso coffee makers with complimentary coffee, tea and herbal infusions. Bonus: the windows open.
Although I was there only one night, guests with more free time on site will enjoy the hotel’s health club with a fitness room (access is available 24 hours) and and classic Art Deco style swimming pool (open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily).
The weather was glorious on the August evening I checked in, so I headed to the hotel’s outdoor La Terrasse restaurant for a “patio casual” dinner. There are two other dining options on site: Zoé’s Lounge for afternoon tea, drinks, and casual fair, and Wilfrid’s Restaurant for a more formal meal.
You can make a reservation on the hotel website or via one of the usual hotel booking sites such as Hotelopia or Expedia. Rooms start about $270. Valet parking is available to all registered guests at a daily rate.
The highly polished elevator doors evoke a bygone era when travel was glamorous.
(Photos by Susan McKee, who was a guest of the Fairmont Château Laurier)