Check-in: Fairmont Vancouver Hotel


Multimillion-dollar renovation polishes the golden shine of Georgia Street’s grand dame

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During what was supposed to be the summer of the road trip, global forces have caused many British Columbians to rethink those weekend getaways. Call it a painful break at the pump.

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Instead, they’re staying close to home and discovering, perhaps rediscovering, why so many tourists from around the world have a summer vacation in Vancouver on their to-do list. That’s why so many downtown hotels are rolling out the red carpet for locals with stay-at-home deals and alliances with nearby attractions and exhibitions.

All of this is perfect timing for the iconic Vancouver hotel, which has wrapped up the bow of a massive and somewhat lengthy $75 million renovation that has returned the Grand Dame of Georgia Street to its former glory. In particular, the 50 rooms and private lounge on the ninth floor Gold Level have undergone major upgrades in keeping with the hotel’s luxurious history and splendid architecture.

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A summer sunset ride with Cycle City Tours shows Vancouver at its best.  CREDIT: Cycle City Tours
A summer sunset ride with Cycle City Tours shows Vancouver at its best. CREDIT: Cycle City Tours

polish gold

I had stayed here a few years ago, before the renovation, and left with the same impression I had of so many of those classic Fairmont hotels, such as Victoria’s Empress, Toronto’s Royal York, and Seattle’s Olympic. They all have incredible architecture dripping with history and an undeniable sense of stately permanence, but the rooms themselves were fairly ordinary, and in some cases dated in terms of bathroom fixtures and fittings, audio technologies /video and even though small, but increasingly vital, thing like USB sockets. It seems Fairmont executives felt the same way, as all of these properties mentioned have all undergone major multimillion-dollar renovations in recent years that have brought their rooms into the 21st century. That’s certainly what I discovered during a recent one night stay at the Gold level of the Vancouver hotel.

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Golden Rooms, which include three-bedroom suites sleeping up to 10 people, now feature a warm, nostalgic palette of deep navy blues, heather grays, gold metals and marbles, along with custom Axminster wool carpets with large-scale patterns. . Much of the renovation involved craftsmen who restored and, if necessary, repaired or replicated all of the original plaster crown molding, trim, decorative fireplace inserts and shelving. Likewise, the lounge has been completely redone, as has the elevator hall and the Gold Level check-in station. Fairmont hotels pride themselves on service, and this Gold level on the ninth floor increases with a dedicated concierge service that provides itinerary planning, dinner and theater reservations, morning coffee delivery to your room and free shoe shine and ironing. Kind of old fashioned service, which seems fair given the rich and romantic history of Hotel Van.

With the lounge offering free daytime service starting with a full breakfast buffet, scones and pastries mid-afternoon, hors d’oeuvres from 5-7pm and finally sweets from 7-9pm, I was almost tempted to stay within the comfortable confines of the Gold level for my entire stay. I say almost, because another free treat for Gold-level guests is a two-hour bike rental at nearby Cycle City that promised me and my mate not only a good workout, but revived my deep appreciation for the city that has lured me away from home for three decades since.

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Good on two wheels

We arrived early and left our luggage with the concierge staff and then headed to the walking block of Cycle City on Hornby Street, where we often had the pleasure of being outfitted by the founder and, according to his business card, chief crankman Josh Bloomfield. The store’s rental fleet is quite varied, but as we found out, if you want one of their very popular e-bikes, a reservation is in order. Instead, we were set up with some really nice commuter-style bikes with locks, helmets, maps, and suggested routes. We were off and I almost immediately enjoyed all those downtown bike lanes that sometimes make me swear behind the wheel. To paraphrase that age-old saying, walk a mile in their clip-on shoes.

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Luckily Josh had kindly extended our ride time from two hours to three, and we covered some ground in that time, a testament to the established cycling network in the city center and beyond. First it was up to Coal Harbor and around Stanley Park, then along False Creek to the Olympic Village, then onto Granville Island where we left the bikes with the free valet for a ride around the island. It was my first time since before the pandemic, and it was heartwarming to see the market buzzing, the restaurants bustling with the sound of people, and the streets bustling with the sound of children.

On the way back to the hotel, aside from thinking about dinner at Hotel Van’s Notch8 restaurant, which has a new chef and respective new menu, I found myself looking at sites I come across almost daily – Science World, False Creek, the downtown skyline, the North Shore mountains — and see them with fresh eyes. Maybe it was the oxygen I had taken in during the ride or the unique perspective – for me at least – offered by cycling past familiar places. Either way, it was a bit of an eye opener and underscored how special and unexpected a staycation can be.


Go for Gold Package (May 15 to December 30): Best Rate on Fairmont Gold, Self Parking for one vehicle, Access to Fairmont Gold Lounge, Concierge Team, Pillow Concierge, Turndown Service. More details here.

Residents of British Columbia, Washington State and Alberta receive a 20% discount on deluxe accommodations with free parking included. Visit here.

Make it an evening to remember with fizzy chocolate covered strawberries, breakfast in bed, late check out and free parking included. Check it out our here.

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