If you walk around downtown Seattle, as my husband Alan and I did on a recent weekend getaway, you can’t help but notice the numerous new buildings, from technology company offices to residential condos, under construction throughout the city center. Yet one classic downtown hotel is updating in a quieter way.
Built in 1924, the stately Fairmont Olympic Hotel, a deluxe 450-room downtown lodging, is getting a facelift.
Here’s the scoop.
The 12-story Fairmont Olympic is a traditional grand hotel, from its ornate public spaces (including a ballroom with its original gold chandeliers) to its polished service. It’s hard not to think, “They don’t build ’em like this anymore,” when you walk in.
There’s a lounge in the high-ceilinged lobby, and a well-equipped fitness facility, with an indoor pool, on the second floor.
Guest Rooms and Amenities
During our recent visit, the Fairmont Olympic was in the process of redoing its guest rooms, with new furnishings and a contemporary taupe and turquoise color scheme. The renovations are slated for completion in the summer of 2016.
Standard guest rooms with one king bed are relatively spacious, starting at 350 square feet. The comfortable beds have down pillows and duvets, and the updated rooms include handy individual reading lamps that fold out of the headboards, as well as outlets on the night tables for charging your electronics.
The bathrooms are getting an update, too, with granite countertops and rainfall showers.
Guest rooms have Keurig coffee makers and tea kettles, along with a selection of Fairmont black, green, and herbal teas. Other amenities include robes and slippers, in-room safes, and minibars.
We stayed in a larger executive suite, measuring 450 square feet, with a spacious sitting room furnished with a sofa, wing chair, and a work desk. A sliding door separates the living room from the bedroom.
Members of the Fairmont President’s Club frequent guest program, which is free to join, get complimentary Wi-Fi. Otherwise, it’s $13.95/day.
The hotel’s main dining space, the elegant Georgian Room, with double-height windows and sparkling chandeliers, is open for breakfast, lunch, and traditional afternoon tea.
Like many Fairmont properties, the Olympic keeps bees on its roof, which produce more than 600 pounds of honey in an average year. The hotel has partnered with a local beer company to make a honey beer that’s available in the hotel’s restaurants and lounges.
I had lunch in the Fairmont’s popular seafood restaurant, Shuckers, set in a classic wood-paneled space that was once a men’s haberdashery.
As you’d expect from the name, oysters are a specialty, with seasonal varieties delivered daily. You can order them raw, pan-fried, smoked, and in several other preparations.
Another popular locally-sourced splurge is the Dungeness crab cocktail, a mound of fresh crabmeat served with a traditional horseradish-spiked cocktail sauce.
The daily fresh sheet features a selection of fish; my first-of-the-season spring halibut, grilled and served atop cheesy “smashed potatoes” and caramelized Brussels sprouts, was rich and flavorful.
The Fairmont is centrally located in downtown Seattle, two blocks from the Seattle Art Museum and five blocks from popular Pike Place Market. We walked from the hotel to Pioneer Square and the International District and up to Capitol Hill, which has numerous contemporary restaurants.
If you do have a car, the Fairmont valet will park it for $49 per night. You can park it yourself in a garage behind the hotel for $39/night. Several streets around the hotel allow free overnight parking, but you’ll need to move your car or begin feeding the meter at 8am.
When the Fairmont Olympic opened in 1924, you could rent a room for $3.50 a night. These days, nightly double room rates start at $320. Make a reservation directly with the hotel, or through a booking site such as Travelocity, Expedia or Hotelopia.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books Moon Handbooks: Ontario (now available in a new 2nd edition) and Living Abroad in Canada. Her latest book, Moon Vancouver and Canadian Rockies Road Trip, will be published in 2016. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. The Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle, hosted my stay for review purposes.