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Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac review

Nestled along the promontory overlooking the St. Lawrence River, with distinctive architecture including its iconic soaring turrets, the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is the stuff of hotel legend. One glance at the fortresslike structure and it’s easy to see why many consider it the most photographed hotel in the world.

Not only is the hotel an experience unto itself, but its prime location in Quebec City’s historic district (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), replete with plentiful European charm, makes a trip to this Fairmont property particularly special, especially for those who consider themselves history buffs or francophiles.


So, what is it actually like to sleep within the walls of this Canadian grande dame? I recently made the six-hour drive from Boston to Quebec City and checked in to the landmark property for two nights to see what it’s all about. Here’s what my stay was like.

Related: 5 small Canadian cities you can use points and miles to visit

What is the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac?


Composed of 610 rooms and suites, the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is a historic hotel — and a National Historic Site of Canada — that’s played host to notable political meetings, celebrities and figureheads.

The property was built in 1893 under the direction of William Van Horne, the CEO of Canadian Pacific Railway, as a way to promote luxury train travel. Designed by acclaimed American architect Bruce Price, the hotel’s grandeur was — unsurprisingly — an instant hit among upscale travelers, and Le Chateau Frontenac quickly became a hot spot for major social events and parties. It continued to grow in popularity, becoming a trendy holiday destination for all kinds of VIPs, including Princess Grace Kelly of Monaco, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II and Alfred Hitchcock. It was also the backdrop for the Quebec Conferences of World War II in the mid-1940s, led by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, then-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill and then-Prime Minister of Canada William Lyon Mackenzie King.

As a result of its over-a-century-long story, the hotel is full of nods to its past (and to a time even before its existence), from historic architectural and structural elements to artifacts that date back hundreds of years to special design details and well-preserved pieces of art. It’s a bit like walking through a museum, and you could easily spend an hour or two just exploring the property and reading about the history along the way. You’ll notice this the moment you walk through the gleaming golden turnstiles and into the opulent lobby.

After a $75 million renovation in 2014, the hotel has had a bit of a freshening up — though it still maintains its distinct historic integrity throughout the public spaces and exterior.

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Keep in mind that French (predominantly Quebecois) is the primary language spoken throughout the province of Quebec, meaning coming here will present a wonderful opportunity to test out your skills. That said, many people — especially those who work at hotels, shops, restaurants and bars within the old walled city — speak English fluently, so you can get by without knowing French.

How to book the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac


Like most hotels in popular tourist destinations, rates at Le Chateau Frontenac will vary greatly depending on the season (in Quebec City, high season is generally considered January, February and June through September).

I chose to travel to Quebec in March (an off-peak month), and I booked my deluxe courtyard-view room directly on the hotel’s website at a rate of 314 Canadian dollars (about $230) per night, which is relatively reasonable compared to peak-season rates. For comparison, the rate for one night in the same room type for a week in August costs CA$921 (about $673).

Luckily, booking cash rates isn’t the only option. If you are a member of the Accor Live Limitless program, you can potentially use your points to book a stay and enjoy specific perks, depending on your status.

Keep in mind that this property is part of the American Express Fine Hotels + Resorts program, so if you keep either The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express in your wallet, you can book via FHR. Going this route will ensure some great perks, like a free daily breakfast for two, a $100 food and beverage credit, guaranteed checkout at 4 p.m. and a room upgrade (if available).

Another option is to transfer accumulated points or miles from a card like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card or the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to Accor (currently at a 2:1 ratio) and then redeem those points for a booking.

An unbeatable location

The property’s location within the centuries-old fortified walls of Old Quebec — which dates back to the 1600s and is the only North American city with original, preserved ramparts — is certainly one of its biggest draws. Those flying into Quebec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB) can anticipate a 20-minute drive to the hotel, with taxi prices ranging from CA$50 to CA$65 (about $36 to $47), though the exact fares will depend on the time of day and demand. Ubers seem to be a bit cheaper, more in the CA$30 to CA$40 (about $21 to $30) range.

If you choose to drive from Boston, like I did, the trip is roughly six hours. From New York, this would be close to an 8 1/2-hour drive. If you’re traveling with a car, there is street parking near the hotel, but I chose to use the valet service, which is CA$50 (about $36) per day, with full in-and-out privileges.


For those planning to spend most of their Quebec City time in the historic district, Le Chateau Frontenac puts you just steps away from the local funicular, the charming shops and cobblestone streets characteristic of the Petit-Champlain district, dozens of restaurants, and several historic sites like Dauphine Redoubt and the Plains of Abraham (a lush park that was the site of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, wherein the British army defeated the French).


It’s worth taking a walk or two into town after dark to gaze back up at the palatial hotel from below. It becomes particularly magical with the windows lit up and the dramatic shadows cast from the turrets.

Rooms are clean and functional but often lack space

With 610 rooms and suites to choose from, Le Chateau Frontenac has a decent selection of accommodation options, from standard rooms to larger suites and the elevated Fairmont Gold accommodations (located on the top floors with panoramic views). There are also connecting rooms available for those traveling with family.

My deluxe courtyard-view room (in the standard category) was just under 200 square feet and comfortable, though with the courtyard view, I didn’t feel there was much privacy with the window shade open, so I kept it drawn during most of my stay.


The room featured muted, neutral tones — a blend of gray, beige, cream and brown — with a few tasteful pops of color and a mixture of textures, like a patterned carpet, satin throw pillows and a leather headboard. The lighting in the room was a bit dim, and even with the shade open during the day, the courtyard created a lot of shadows, so I wouldn’t call this space light or airy.

Walking into the room, there was a very small bathroom immediately to the right (more on that in a moment) and a small but functional closet to the left holding an ironing board, an iron and several hangers (two satin, the rest wooden). There was a full-length mirror on the inside of the closet door.


Just beyond the entryway, to the left, was a small wooden desk with a lamp, a telephone and a chic, light-blue velvet chair that seemed to hark back to another century.


Beyond that was a large wooden cabinet that held a TV (equipped with cable and on-demand movies), as well as a small minifridge with refreshments (Coca-Cola, Canada Dry tonic water, Sanpellegrino Limonita, Aupale water and a small selection of local spirits) to enjoy for a fee. There were also a few snacks (also for a fee) like Pringles. Additionally, a tea kettle with several options for tea and a Nespresso VertuoLine coffee machine with mugs were available.

On the other side of the TV and wooden cabinet was another light-blue upholstered lounge chair next to a standing lamp. Above the lounge chair was a narrow window with a view of the courtyard, and to the right was a large window, both with shades and curtains.

The king-size bed was quite comfortable with fluffy pillows and featured wooden bedside tables on each side, as well as turquoise glass lamps, standard outlets with both USB-A and USB-C options, a second phone on one side and an alarm clock on the other. There was a safe within the drawer of the left-hand bedside table. A small decorative mirror with a metal lattice framework hung above the headboard that had small built-in reading lamps. A small gray love seat with a little side table sat in front of the bed, creating an ideal setup for a midday rest or morning cup of coffee.

In terms of decor, the room felt very pared back, with minimal artwork and discreet touches of color from the upholstery and bedside lamps.

If you thought the room was small …

Much to my surprise, the bathroom was considerably smaller than the room. It wasn’t by any means problematic for my short two-night stay; the bathroom served its purpose, and I enjoyed the touch of white marble tiling, the bright lighting, the bath products by Le Labo, the fluffy towels and the strong water pressure in the shower. But just note that there is little room for movement in the compact space.


As you can see, it was difficult to get the entire bathroom into one photograph.

The shower featured both an overhead showerhead and a removable wand, and, as mentioned, the water pressure was strong. Over the sink and toilet, there were a large mirror (as well as a small, retractable makeup mirror) and a glass shelf with water glasses, a standard vanity kit and tissues. A hair dryer in a bag hung to the left with plenty of towels of varying sizes, and there were standard USB outlets on the wall next to the sink.

The restaurants are worth a visit (or 2)

The hotel is home to three restaurants and a chic cocktail bar, and it also offers in-room dining, afternoon tea and takeout menus.

I had the pleasure of dining at all three restaurants and thoroughly enjoyed my meal at each. The cocktail bar, 1608 Bar, had a very long waitlist both nights I visited, so I didn’t get to try it out; it was bustling the entire time and seemed to be a popular drinking hole for both guests and locals.


Place Dufferin

Place Dufferin is the breakfast restaurant at Chateau Le Frontenac, and it was my favorite dining experience. The light and airy ground-floor restaurant places guests in an elegant dining room with views of the promenade and river, and the buffet features an impressive variety of fresh food. This is also where the hotel hosts its afternoon tea service.


I enjoyed a rich cappuccino with an array of fresh fruit, delicate crepes covered in a caramel-like sauce, freshly baked pastries and smoked salmon.

The breakfast buffet is served daily and costs CA$45 ($33) for adults and CA$22 ($16) for children.

Champlain Restaurant

This is the property’s fine dining experience, open for dinner and Sunday brunch.

At Champlain, guests can enjoy a set dinner menu of four to six expertly crafted courses in an elegant, white-tablecloth atmosphere with sweeping views of the glimmering river below. Ingredients for my meal were mostly locally sourced, according to my server, who walked me through each course in detail.

This space was all about an alluring ambience, which was created with rich wood walls, leather-backed chairs, painted ceilings, huge windows overlooking the river and shimmering chandeliers.

Dishes rotate seasonally, of course, but may include the likes of rich, miso-glazed arctic char; halibut with whitefish roe, saffron sauce and delicate sunchokes; beef consomme with sherry; melt-in-your-mouth duck with salted plum juice and maitake mushrooms; cranberry kombucha; and delicate tiramisu.

The set price for the menu varies: You can choose to do four courses for CA$135 ($99) with a wine pairing add-on for CA$105 ($77) or six courses for CA$189 ($138) with a wine pairing add-on for CA$159 ($116). A six-course vegetarian menu is also available for CA$175 ($128). We opted for the standard six-course menu and ordered a bottle of wine instead of the wine pairing, and left feeling impressed with the overall level of service and the intricate flavors of each dish.

Sam Bistro

Sam Bistro is the hotel’s more casual eatery that’s open for lunch and dinner daily. This venue also has seating with beautiful river-facing windows, sultry velvet upholstery, modern lighting and an upbeat vibe.


I enjoyed our dinner here, though I wouldn’t necessarily return for another meal. We sat at the bar, and I found the bartenders were very friendly, resulting in an overall inviting atmosphere in a lively space.

I ordered the Chateau burger for CA$32 ($23), which came with fries, coleslaw and a side salad (the fries were my favorite part of the meal). I also tried the Sam’s Caesar salad for CA$15 ($11), which was crunchy and fresh. These items hit the spot, but, like I said, the meal didn’t blow me away.

There are plenty of ways to unwind

Whether you fancy a workout, a swim or a spa treatment, there are plenty of wellness options at Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac.


The fitness and aquatic center sits in a well-lit atriumlike space complete with locker rooms; a small but functional fitness room with cardio machines, free weights and a stretching area; a large (and accessible) indoor pool; a steam bath; and a whirlpool, all with views of Old Quebec below. In the summer, the outdoor terrace has cabanas that guests can reserve for sunbathing and outdoor relaxation.

Moment Spa, which occupies a few different rooms in one wing of the hotel, offers tranquil treatments, such as relaxation, deep-tissue, couples and prenatal massages. Rates begin at CA$208 ($152) for a 50-minute relaxation massage. Other treatments include facials, manicures and pedicures.


Reasons the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac might not be for you

Those searching for a vacation colored by the fascinating history of Old Quebec will likely enjoy checking in to the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Here are a few reasons why this property may not be the best choice for your Quebec City getaway.

  • As mentioned above, standard room types are quite small, so it might be hard to justify the pricey rates, especially during the peak travel seasons. If you plan to spend a lot of time in your hotel room, this might not be the best option (unless you plan to book a spacious Gold-level room or a suite).
  • The hotel can be very busy, with large crowds in the lobby and dining venues during peak travel seasons. (I was there during Quebec’s March school break, and there were throngs of people in the public spaces.)
  • This is a family-friendly property, so those searching for a serene or adults-only environment should look elsewhere.
  • Though renovated in 2014, the property maintains its original, historic feel. Rooms have contemporary touches, but overall, this hotel feels inspired by another century. That might not be the right vibe fit for those looking for a modern hotel.
  • The hotel bar and two restaurants were lively at night, but I wouldn’t describe this property as having a party scene; guests in search of a lively atmosphere on-property should book elsewhere.



The Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac features multiple Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant rooms and suites, and most public spaces are accessible, too. Guests can find a decent amount of information on the hotel website’s accessibility page, but it’s recommended to reach out directly for more information.

Accessible room features include doorways with 32-inch widths, teletypewriters and assistive listening devices upon request, closed-captioned TVs, and Braille signage. The hotel noted that accessible public spaces include a special accessible public entrance, the concierge area, the public restrooms, the restaurants, the fitness center and the pool.

The on-site valet service accepts vehicles outfitted for those traveling with a wheelchair, and there are designated accessible parking spaces in the self-parking facility.

Service animals are welcome at this property.

Checking out


There’s something special about sleeping in a hotel where so much has taken place over the course of centuries: battles, fateful political meetings, movie productions, celebrity sightings. As someone who enjoys both learning about a destination’s local history and being surrounded by preserved historic architecture, those two elements alone were enough to make my experience at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac a positive one. Add in the delicious food, the quick and friendly service at check-in and checkout — and at all three restaurants — and the beautiful, opulent interiors and exteriors, and I left with a smile and fondness for this landmark property.

Sure, there were some inconveniences: The room was smaller than I would’ve liked, and the crowds felt a bit overwhelming at times. But all in all, I would return to this hotel, especially during an off-peak season when rates are somewhat reasonable. Quebec City feels like a bustling European hamlet — a miniature Paris, even — and it’s certainly nice to have that within driving distance rather than having to cross the pond.

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