Several of Canada’s grand historic hotels, including the Fairmont Palliser Hotel in Calgary, Alberta, were built during the heyday of train travel. When the completion of the transcontinental railway connected the country’s east and west in the late 1800s, the railroad company decided that to encourage passengers to travel on this new train service, they needed to construct lavish hotels where guests could stay during their journeys.
Today, many of these hotels are still in operation across the country, from Vancouver, Banff, and Edmonton, to Toronto and Quebec City, now under the Fairmont brand. Calgary’s Fairmont Palliser Hotel carries on this tradition.
Here’s the scoop:
The Palliser Hotel, which opened in 1914, is located in downtown Calgary on the same block as a more recently constructed landmark, the Calgary Tower.
Though it’s been extensively renovated over the years, the Palliser retains many of its original features, from its stone facade and marble columns to its polished woodwork, carved moldings, and twinkling chandeliers.
Facilities and Services
One of the areas to receive a recent update is Hawthorn Dining Room & Bar, the hotel’s lobby-level restaurant. Hawthorn serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, as well as cocktails and classic afternoon tea.
While the lobby setting could feel hectic, at Hawthorn, it’s the opposite — a surprisingly serene space that’s quiet enough for conversation, whether you’re digging into a meal-size salad, a plate of pasta, or sauteed Brussels sprouts at a lunch meeting or catching up with a friend over drinks like “The Home Grown,” a blend of Alberta-made gin, prosecco, and honey from the hotel’s own apiary.
Things do get more lively at Hawthorn on Friday nights when a DJ kicks off the weekend and on Saturday and Sunday evenings with live jazz.
On the Palliser’s lower level, rnr Wellness, the health club and spa, offers options for exercise or relaxation, from a solo workout in the fitness facility, a swim in the indoor pool that’s lined with traditional black-and-white tiles, or a steam in the eucalyptus steam room, to a massage or other treatment in the spa.
Guest Rooms and Amenities
The 407 guest rooms and suites at the Fairmont Palliser vary in size and design, though all are equipped with one-cup coffee makers, tea kettles, HD TVs, safes, bathrobes, and La Labo Rose bath amenities. Some have more updated furnishings, while others are outfitted in a more traditional style.
The Fairmont rooms, the hotel’s smallest, measure 200-225 square feet, while the slightly larger “Deluxe” units range from 250 to 275 square feet.
For more space, consider booking a 325-square foot “Signature” room, with separate sitting and sleeping areas, the larger “Fairmont Gold” units, or any of the hotel’s suites, from the 400-square-foot Junior Suites to the elegant 900-square-foot Heritage Suite, which is designed for entertaining, with a dining area and a pantry with refrigerator and microwave.
Tip: While Calgary no longer has regular passenger rail service, the Palliser sits adjacent to the train tracks, which are still used for freight service. If you’re sensitive to train noise, avoid booking rooms below the 5th floor on the track side of the property.
The Fairmont Gold rooms have upgraded amenities, including Bose sound systems, Nespresso coffee machines, and plusher robes and towels.
The real benefit to guests who book a Fairmont Gold room or suite (for an extra fee) is access to the private Gold Lounge on the hotel’s 12th floor. A dedicated Gold concierge provides advice, books dining reservations, and arranges whatever other services that you might need. You can also expedite your check-in process by checking in here.
Staff set up an ample breakfast buffet and evening hors d’oeuvres in the Gold Lounge, which Gold room guests can use as a work space throughout the day, enjoying coffee, soft drinks, or wine and beer from the honor bar. There’s no extra charge for the city views. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Rocky Mountains.
Calgary may be best known for the annual Calgary Stampede, a celebration of western culture that’s part rodeo, part county fair, and part excuse to party. All the city’s hotels, including the Palliser, book up early for this July festival.
The Fairmont Palliser is convenient to Calgary’s city center attractions, including Studio Bell, which houses Canada’s excellent National Music Centre; the Glenbow Museum of history and culture (though the Glenbow is closed for major renovations through 2024); and the landmark Calgary Tower.
For many travelers, Calgary is a stopover on the way to Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper in the Canadian Rockies. Banff National Park is only a 90-minute drive from Calgary.
And even if you’re road tripping rather than riding the rails as you explore the cities, mountains, and lakes of Western Canada, the grand railway hotels, like the Fairmont Palliser, are still a comfortably deluxe place to rest.
Nightly double room rates at the Fairmont Palliser Hotel start at about CAD$309 in the colder months and at CAD$469 in the busier summer season. You can compare rates and make reservations at Booking.com or another online booking site.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. The Fairmont Palliser, in conjuction with Travel Alberta and Tourism Calgary, provided support for my Calgary research trip.