Fairmont Chateau Laurier, one of the best-known hotels in Ottawa, is more castle than hotel. It's also the ultimate setting for romance, celebrity, politics & intrigue.
The Laurier always looks more like a castle than a hotel, especially when you see it all lit up at night, with those fantastic turrets silhouetted against the black-blue sky.
In fact, this heritage property (opened in 1912) is one of a handful of historic “castle hotels” built by a railway company back in the early part of the 20th century. These romantic-looking buildings became so popular that they wound up creating what the Canadian Encyclopedia calls “a distinctively Canadian architectural form”, the so-called “Castles of the North”. The Fairmont chain which owns the Laurier also owns the Royal York Toronto, another fine example of a “castle hotel”.
The idea of a faux-chateau might seem a little pretentious at first but the Laurier is so charming that you quickly forgive and forget all about it.
The limestone walls and fantastical turrets covered in copper combine to make a pretty stunning exterior.
The interior of the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Ottawa is just as impressive. Step inside the marble lobby and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll feel like you’ve just passed through some kind of time-travel portal into another era… the early 1900s, when the hotel first opened.
Not just for residents
You don’t have to be royalty to stay here but it helps to have some riches. Prices for the Laurier start at around $225. However, some parts of the hotel are open to the public so even if you’re not staying here you can get a little taste of the “Chateau Experience”.
The restaurant/bar on the main floor, for example, is open to the public, so for the price of a drink or a snack you may sit here and enjoy the view of the Parliament buildings or just the lovely high-ceilinged elegant room, and pretend you’re living a life of vintage luxury. If you time it right you might be lucky enough to savour the stylings of the restaurant’s piano-player along with your meal – terribly grand.
Feel like a little shopping? You can also visit the Vincent Art Gallery on the lobby level, which sells Inuit sculpture and other Canadian contemporary art. I like to peek in and see what’s new when I’m in town.
Famous (and infamous) guests: If these walls could talk…
A lot has happened at the Chateau Laurier Ottawa since its namesake, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the Prime Minister of Canada, officially opened it in 1912. However, much of what has transpired can be spoken of only in whispers…
Why? The Chateau Laurier is a politician’s hotel because of its close proximity to the Canadian Parliament Buildings. One Prime Minister, Bennett, even lived here in a suite from 1930 to 1935. Others make it their unofficial meeting space, and because of this special relationship with the government, it’s been the site of many “backroom deals”. There’s something in the air here; I get a slight chill when I enter… perhaps it’s the lingering imprint of intrigues and evil power struggles that have gone on behind its closed doors. The wonderful Quebecois writer Michel Tremblay featured the Laurier in his novel “The Fat Woman Next Door is Pregnant” in which the “she-wolf of Ottawa” (a politicians’ whore – literally) recalls plying her trade in these hallowed halls, and sharing in the dark secrets.
It’s not only Canadian politicians who have made the Chateau Laurier Ottawa their hangout. The hotel has hosted royalty and heads of state and continues to be a home-away-from-home for political big-shots from around the world.
You’ll find another (very different) breed of guests here too: movie and theatre and dance stars. The hotel is just down the street from the performing arts centre, the National Arts Centre.
The hotel has an Art-Deco pool for its residents – a rather unusual feature.
There are more than 400 guestrooms, and 8 of them which are specially designed for physically challenged guests. These rooms offer:
-Wider entrance doors to the room and bathroom
-Lower light switches
-Support bars in bathroom
-Blinds with longer cords
The Chateau Laurier Ottawa is located at 1 Rideau Street, next door to the Canadian Parliament Buildings, the Rideau Canal (for biking or ice skating), and Major Hill’s Park where the Tulip Festival is held. It’s also just down the street from the National Gallery of Canada and the National Arts Centre (for performing arts) and the busy Byward Market district which has plenty of restaurants, shops, bars, and outdoor cafes.Related stories Ottawa Tourism