Secrets of Fairmont Banff Springs

Banff Springs is the jewel in the crown of the Canadian Rockies

Even if you’re not from my neck of the woods, you’ve likely heard about The Castle in the Rockies. Fairmont Banff Springs is one of the world’s most iconic hotels, the jewel in the crown of Banff National Park. This historic hotel first opened its doors way back in 1888, but has been totally modernized with a swish spa, luxe pool and renovated rooms. She may be old, but like most grand dame’s she sure isn’t tired.

10 Secrets to know before staying at Fairmont Banff Springs

Fairmont Banff Springs was modelled after a castle in Scotland, as evidenced by its grand public spaces

If you’ve never stayed at Fairmont Banff Springs, you’re missing out. Even if you’re not a guest, you can still take advantage of many of the hotel’s swish attributes. Here are 10 things you need to know before your visit. 

Banff Springs Pool

There’s more than one pool to plunge into at Fairmont Banff Springs. Well, there’s a few more if you book into Willow Stream Spa, but for regular guests, you’ve got two pools at your disposal. One is a rather large (could it be Olympic length?) indoor swimming pool. Beside it is a small, separate wading pool for babes and toddlers, plus there’s an indoor hot tub. With the cathedral type windows letting in loads of light, the pool area is way nicer than anything else you’d find in Banff.

european inspired pool Banff Springs

It feels like a European bath house!

The second Banff Springs pool is a divine, outdoor, heated pool. It’s warm and lovely no matter the weather. In fact, it’s particularly rad it’s snowing. And they often offer drink service! The confusing thing is that despite being called Fairmont Banff Springs, this hotel doesn’t have hot spring water in its pools. The only place you get the thermal water direct from the source is at Banff Upper Hot Springs. If our family is deciding between going to Banff Upper Hot Springs or the Fairmont Banff Springs outdoor pool, the Fairmont pool always wins. The Upper Hot Springs can get quite crowded as it’s super touristy.

Banff hotels with pools

There are loads of Banff hotels with pools, but both the indoor and outdoor pool at this Fairmont are the most popular in town. Even though there’s so much to see and do in Banff National Park, you’re going to be spending loads of time in these pools – especially if you’re traveling with kids. Just make sure you budget enough time to enjoy the facilities.

It’s OK to dine and dash at Fairmont Banff restaurants

I’m not recommending you skip out on your bill, but you don’t need to stay overnight to experience dining around the castle. The Fairmont in Banff is one resort with range. You could spend a long weekend dining at different restaurants for every meal. Or, eat here instead of hitting a chain along Main Street, before driving home. There’s at least a dozen restaurants situated inside Fairmont Banff Springs. 

secrets Fairmont Banff Springs

Grapes Wine Bar is a secluded adults only dining spot.

For a classic steak house experience saddle up to 1888 Chop House (order the Tomahawk). For the best sushi in Banff nosh on freshly flown in fish at the Samurai Sushi Bar. My favourite is probably the Lookout Patio where they’ve got authentic Mexican going on. Afternoon tea can’t be missed, nor can fondue at Waldhaus. Insider tip: Head to the Waldhaus Pub on Thursday for quiz night with the locals.

canadian french bistro

The Vermillion Room just opened in 2018 and it is swish!

Food Tours at Fairmont Banff Springs

Say you have limited time and you want to hit as many of the hotel’s top restaurants as possible. Simply book into Alberta Food Tours ‘Eat the Castle.’ On this sumptuous food tour, you’ll travel through your stomach to 4 of the 14 dining establishments at Fairmont Banff Springs. The hotel can often be at 90% occupancy during the summer months, so this is an ideal way to access the iconic property and enjoy it just as a guest would. Not only do you taste the place, but tours also give that sense of place by taking you back to the history of the hotel when it first opened in 1888. Tours begin with Canadian inspired eats, before headed to Europe via the Spring’s new French brasserie: The Vermillion Room. Finally, you’ll cap off your food tour by tucking into Albeta’s signature dish at 1888 Chophouse. Can you guess what it is?

french food in banff

If you can’t make the food tour, nosh on steak frites in the newly opened Vermillion Room.

Is the Banff  Springs hotel haunted?

Yep, she’s haunted! When you’ve been around as long as the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel has, you’ve got to expect some skeletons rattling around. There’s Sam the (friendly) phantom bellman and even a Ghost Bride, who was commemorated with her own stamp and coin by the Royal Canadian Mint. Guests can take the 1 p.m. daily Heritage Tour to learn more about the hotel’s historic attributes and haunted tales. 

apparition staircase

At the bottom of this staircase lies a plaque that details the bride’s tragic demise.

How to score free wifi at any Fairmont

Like most luxury hotels, the Fairmont charges for wifi – expect at the Fairmont Banff Springs! Used to be, you had register to be a Fairmont President’s Club member to score wifi. Not any more. Still, if you register you get complimentary newspapers and magazines from around the world (via the PressReader electronic service). Joining is free, so if you’re a Fairmont fan, it makes sense so you can snag extra perks. 

Banff Springs golf

A round of golf at Fairmont Banff Springs is a bucket list item for many visitors. The Stanley Thompson 18-hole golf course is one of the world’s most beautiful and has these optical illusions created by the surrounding mountains. That’s impressive and all if you’re golfer, but if you’re not, it’s still worth checking out the Banff Springs golf course. Why? Animals love the wide open spaces of the green. Take a complimentary shuttle down to the course from the hotel for a lovely scenic drive. From there, you can tuck into proper barbecue at Stanley’s Smokehouse or do a golf cart tour around the stunning course, possible viewing elk, deer and even bears! Not to worry, they close the course when dangerous wildlife won’t budge. 

banff national park hotels

Golf, spa and dine your way around Fairmont Banff Springs

The best Banff gym

Nothing’s worse then walking into a hotel gym and seeing it’s smaller than your walk-in closet. (Not my closet, but a rich person’s.) The gym here is as sizeable as any in Banff, with all the machines, cardio equipment and free weights you could ask for. In a room separate from the main gym, Fairmont Banff offers daily (decent) fitness classes led by certified instructors. I had my butt kicked at a Saturday interval class and the yoga isn’t a snoozer either. Forgot your gear? Take advantage of the Fairmont Fit Program to have gym shoes, workout gear, plus a yoga mat delivered to your room at no charge.

Fitness and pool area banff springs hotel

Warning: Women who wear make up to the gym attempt to sweat in here.

Biking in Banff

One of the best ways to explore Banff is by biking and like many Fairmonts, Banff Springs offers complimentary BMW bikes for guests. They don’t have a bike for every guest (obvs!), and it’s first come, first served, so snag yours early. There are plenty of biking trails laced throughout Banff townsite and it’s worth hitting the Legacy Trail for biking all the way into Canmore.

In winter, the hotel operates its own ski school, a complimentary shuttle to the hills, plus ski gear storage.

Proximity to Banff Hot Springs Pool

Here’s a little local secret: many Bow Valley residents aren’t fans of Banff Upper Hot Springs. They think it’s too touristy and isn’t hot enough. While I still like me a thermal soak, I have to admit the outdoor pool at Fairmont Banff Springs is more up my alley. It’s the perfect temperature, has tons of noodles to float with and boasts prettier views than the Hot Springs. Naturally, the Fairmont Banff Springs pool is complimentary for guests, but you can buy a pass in 3, 6 or 12-month bundles to use the pool and fitness facilities as often as you like.

outdoor heated pool banff springs hotel

If only they served drinks poolside. Oh wait, they do! (Photo credit: Adam Goldberg Photography)

Fairmont Banff Springs family activities

Not many hotels sport their own bowling alley, but you’ll find four lanes of five-pin bowling at Fairmont Banff. Even if you’re not a guest, you can use the space for kiddie birthday parties and group outings in Banff. If you are a guest, you’ll be spoiled of choice with all their summer and holiday family activities. Take advantage of their Kids @ The Castle programming for nature safaris, horseback riding, treasure hunts and loads more.

best hotel room in banff

For a real treat, bed down in the Royal Suite at Fairmont Banff Springs.

How to get what you want at a fancy hotel

The huz hates it when I send food back to the kitchen and ask hotel staff too many questions. But hey, I live by the motto: You don’t get what you don’t ask for. Not everyone is as comfortable with making demands polite inquires as I am and for those folks, there is the Kipsu program. Meaning: You can text the front desk for more towels, dining reservations or anything your little heart desires. It’s super fast, no-one will know you’re doing it and shy types don’t feel like they’re imposing – which is weird they would, but whatever. Everybody’s different and all that.

Marilyn Monroe canada

Marilyn Monroe once stayed at the Banff Springs Hotel!

Pet friendly hotels in Banff

Yes, your pet is welcome at Banff Springs! And unlike some luxe hotels, there’s no weight limit. You can’t leave your pet alone in the room, but Fairmont offers a pet sitting service. Don’t forget Banff is in a National Park, so some hiking trails don’t allow pets. Those that do, will require your pet is leashed. 

Here I am at the end of my post and I haven’t even touched on Willow Steam Spa, but that swish oasis deserves its own write up, don’t you think?

Have you ever stayed at Fairmont Banff Springs? What’s your impression of this landmark hotel?

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castle in the rockies

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