The historic Banff Springs Hotel was built in a Scottish Baronial style. It’s a former Canadian Pacific Railway property that was first opened to the public in 1888. With it’s majestic setting in the mountains it’s easy to see why it’s called the Castle of the Rockies.
If your budget allows a stay here it can make for a memorable getaway. The regular rooms can be on the small side, but staying at the Banff Springs is about the overall experience, not just the room. How much time would you want to spend in your room anyways when there is so much beauty to explore outside. Enjoy the family friendly Hike at Johnston Canyon or do the nearby Tunnel Mountain Summit Trail, stroll through Cascade Gardens, ride the Sulphur Mountain Gondola or take one of Banff’s many scenic drives.
If it’s a special occasion and you want to splurge for a deluxe room, go for it. The views from the rooms overlooking the golf course, Bow River and the mountains are spectacular. For even more discerning service and personal attention you can check into the Gold floor level of the hotel.
Deluxe Mountain View Room
The hotel’s exterior has a noble castle like appearance and the old world charm of the interior has been preserved. If it suits you there is no need to ever leave the property, everything you could possibly need or want is on site. If you need to go into town it’s just a few minutes drive or there’s a hotel shuttle and bus service. It’s a bit of a walk to town, but can be pleasant on a nice day. Allow 15 to 20 minutes.
There are several restaurants with food options to suit a variety of tastes. Authentic Italian cuisine is served in the Castello Ristorante. The hearty portion of eggplant parmesan is delicious, we also recommend the grilled swordfish. Other dining options include a sushi restaurant, the 1888 Chop House, Grapes Wine Bar and the romantic Bavarian style Waldhaus restaurant situated near the golf course. On weekends the Bow Valley Grill serves their legendary brunch.
The Rundle Lounge is the perfect place to have lunch or a late evening drink and bite to eat. It has cozy couches and chairs are set among it’s many nooks and crannies. Or you can sit and enjoy the mountain scenery from the sun room at the back of the lounge. The plate of assorted cheeses and crackers are great for sharing.
The Castle Pantry is the best option for a more moderately priced light meal or snack. There’s an impressive selection of breakfast items, cereals, bagels, toast, scrambled eggs, porridge, fruit and a variety of pastries. Soups, sandwiches and other snacks and beverages are available throughout the rest of the day.
You won’t run out of things to do during your stay. If the weather isn’t favorable check out the bowling alley and entertainment center, the pool and hot tub or the spa. There’s always a number of events and activities being hosted by the hotel, including a kids club. For outdoor activities there’s a croquet lawn and a world class Stanley Thompson designed golf course. Ask the concierge for a walking map of the area. They can give you suggestions of which trails to take depending on the length of walk or hike you desire. In the winter months there’s several flat trails that can be easily navigated.
The hotel itself is an attraction worth exploring. The woodwork, antique furniture and architectural details and features of the property are what make it so special. There’s a variety of shops selling unique goods and souvenirs. A wine specialty store offers tastings, including many Canadian wines.
Wander around exploring the various areas of the hotel, it’s so massive you practically need a GPS to navigate it without getting lost. On an upper level near the Grapes Wine Bar there’s an area with a few chairs sitting in front of massive windows overlooking the mountains. As long as there isn’t a private event going bring a tea or coffee from the deli and enjoy the views. In the off season we have sat here having the entire place to ourselves in total silence. There’s many other areas of the property with comfy chairs and couches where you can just sit and relax or read a book.
Check out the ladies washroom on the lower level near the bottom of the large spiral staircase. It has what is possibly the largest sitting areas of any restroom facility.
On the upper floor above the reception desks there’s an area with archival images and historical artifacts from the hotel. Photos of famous celebrities that visited such as Marilyn Monroe are on display.
There’s a guided tour of the hotel available to guests, inquire with the concierge. The tour is usually hosted by a long term staff member who will talk about the history of the hotel and may share some personal experiences from when celebrities, diplomats or royalty have visited in the past.
The property has two distinct sections that can be accessed through a connecting interior corridor. The rooms, restaurants and shops are in the original structure of the hotel as well as an indoor and outdoor heated pool, hot tubs and spa. The newer section has the conference center, large ballrooms, a theater room for performances and the bowling alley. The popular Banff wine festival is held in this part of the hotel.
Weddings at the Banff Springs property occur year round. We’ve witnessed them on several of our visits. What a magical place to say “I do.” The decorations and table settings for this particular winter wedding were stunning.
A wedding on one of the outdoor terraces overlooking the mountains.
The Luxurious Willowstream Spa
The Willowstream Spa is an oasis of relaxation and tranquility. There’s nothing like treating yourself to a full day of pampering. The facials leave your skin feeling silky smooth and the full body massages will leave your muscles relaxed into a state of bliss. With a treatment you have access to the spa mineral pools. We couldn’t take any photos inside, but we promise you it’s a fabulous facility. There’s a series of three cascading waterfalls that drop into mineral pools of varied temperatures. Standing under the falls gives your muscles an invigorating massage. The proper way to benefit from the therapeutic waters is to spend a few minutes in each mineral fall pool starting in the hottest one and ending with the coolest. Then spend at least 15 minutes in the large mineral pool in the center of the spa.
There’s plenty of lounge chairs around the mineral pools to relax in or for the ultimate experience throw on your provided terry cloth robe and head to the relaxation room upstairs. You can spend time there before or after a treatment or in between dips in the pools. Sink into the plush chaise lounge chairs while enjoying the breathtaking mountain views. Read a book, have a nap or order from the light spa menu and the food will be brought right to your chair. There’s also complimentary cucumber and other flavoured waters, coffee, tea, fruit and fresh baked muffins and cookies.
If you are not having a spa treatment you can pay for a day pass to use the mineral pools, relaxation room and other facilities within the spa. There’s a dry sauna and steam room in the women’s and men’s change room area as well as an indoor and outdoor hot tub accessible only to spa guests.
Tips For Getting Discounts On Rooms And Other Amenities At The Banff Springs Hotel
We’ve had the privilege to stay at this property on many occasions as Fairmont employees, but if you’re not so lucky to have that discounted option here’s some other ways you can get a better rate.
- Alberta resident can inquire about the locals rate, usually 30% off the best available rate. An Alberta drivers license must be presented at check in.
- AMA/AAA/CAA members rates are available as well as a seniors discount.
- Off season or shoulder seasons such as May or November can be a cheaper time to stay at the hotel.
- Joining the Fairmont President’s Club is free. It allows you to take advantage of discounts offered at some of the Fairmont properties, such as 10% off spa treatments. It also gives you access to free internet in your room and throughout the property.
- Package deals might work out cheaper, if you’re going to be dining at the hotel, using the spa or doing other activities see if a package price works out cheaper for you.
- If you’re stay is going to be during a holiday, the peak of ski season or in the the summer months, book as far in advance as possible. The cheapest rooms go fast, wait too long and the costly deluxe rooms will be your only option.