If you're lucky enough to be heading to Quebec City and you're considering the classic Chateau Frontenac, check out these tips before you book!
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**post updated, June 2019
The stunning Chateau Frontenac is celebrating its 125th anniversary. Since the turn of the 20th century, the Chateau has been standing guard over the gorgeous Quebec City.
Originally built as a railway hotel by the Canadian Pacific Railway and modeled on a Loire Valley chateau, the Chateau was meant to house travelers as they traversed the wide expanses of the Canadian landscape, and of course, to encourage them to use the Canadian Pacific Railway to get there! There are several of these hotels across Canada (one of my ultimate travel dreams is to visit them all).
The hotel has been expanded many times, even as recently as 1993. The resulting construction is a stunning behemoth - complete with hundreds of guest rooms, shops, restaurants, and views that can't beaten!
Chateau Frontenac's Location
Quebec City itself really is a phenomenal tourist destination. It's a taste of Europe, without having to cross the ocean. With the Old Town covering a stunning bluff over the St. Lawerence River, you'll find plenty to do, walking the streets and visiting the shops and restaurants throughout the city, in both the Upper and Lower portions of the town (both of which are part of the historic Old/Vieux Quebec).
As you'll spend most of your time traversing Vieux Quebec, why not stay right in the heart of things?
A couple restaurants we liked in the city:
The Chateau itself is in the Upper Town - which is easily accessed by the Funicular (below), if you aren't feeling up to the trek up the "Break Neck Stairs," which connect the Upper and Lower Town. But, it's worth taking the stairs down, at least, if you can! We walked up and down the vast majority of the time, aside from a joy ride on the Funicular. Honestly, the stairs just aren't that bad.
The Chateau is the highlight of the town - the pinnacle of the bluff, on the Dufferin Terrace (seen below), a sprawling boardwalk, named for Lord Dufferin, the third Governor General of Canada, who persuaded the citizens to save the old city walls and Chateau Frontenac, ultimately leading to Old Quebec becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Even if you don't end up staying at the Chateau, you'll certainly be stopping by, just to look, or for a drink or dinner at its lovely bars and restaurants, as the Chateau absolutely dominates the Upper Town. That said, one of the main "complaints" I read about while selecting the hotel does have some basis in fact. The hotel is crawling with tourists, popping into the lobby, the Starbucks, and throughout the basement areas (of which there are many, including a number of displays). If you're visiting Quebec City in the height of summer, like us, this likely won't bother you as, let's be honest, you weren't expecting a quiet retreat! But, I do understand that some guests feel like they can't get any respite from the tourist grind, even in their own hotel.
Restaurants in The Chateau Frontenac
The Chateau, being basically a city unto itself, has a number of restaurants: Champlain Restaurant, the most formal of the restaurants - you'll want a reservation!; 1608 Wine & Cheese Bar, the incredible bar with stunning views of the St. Lawrence River (the easiest to drop by, even if you aren't staying at the Chateau); Bistro Le Sam, Champlain's less formal counterpart; and Place Dufferin (breakfast in the lower level), in addition to a (very crowded) Starbucks right on the Dufferin Terrace.
We stopped by 1608 several times - check out this gorgeous gin and tonic! Personally, we enjoyed exploring the city's restaurant offerings, but having a drink per evening in 1608. It's good people watching, the drinks are amazing, and the views are even better! Like I said, even if you aren't staying here, definitely come in for a drink! And if you are staying here, I wouldn't plan to eat all your meals at the hotel, as the restaurants are quite high-end/packed in the high season.
Selecting a Room at Chateau Frontenac
The hotel is absolutely massive, with a large variety of room types and sizes, many of which are differentiated based on the views they offer. And, of course, be warned, they don't all have stunning views of the water. In fact, many of the rooms have internal views, even at the higher price points, which I did find a bit surprising.
We opted for the Deluxe King - which had plenty of space, a nice view of the interior of the hotel, and a marble bathroom. We actually had our own little turret in the corner, which I found endlessly exciting. That said, this is an old, and popular, hotel, and, for North America, the room was not large for the price. And yes, I'll acknowledge that my European friends will think the rooms are insanely large - but things are big out here and people are accustomed to desks and sofas, even in basic hotel rooms ;)
If you have any mobility concerns, be sure to ask for a room close to the elevator, or you could be in for an alarmingly lengthly walk to your room.
Is there a language barrier in Quebec City?
If your French language skills have escaped you, never fear! The Chateau's staff speak English and you won't have a problem finding your way around the town, using English. You may encounter some issues with random, more obscure vocabulary words (I helped an American guest order "oatmeal" at the Starbucks in the Chateau), but thank goodness for smart phones! If, even better, you want to practice your rusty French skills, the Quebecois are unfailingly kind, and will let you try it out. If you are looking parler Francais, do tell them you'd like to practice though, or else they'll sense your struggle and immediately switch to English, thinking they're making you comfortable by abandoning French.
And, you'll be greeted by the official hotel greeter, Daphne, who is extraordinarily welcoming (and sleepy). Her English and French are excellent. Her ability to stay awake? Not so much.
I hope you enjoy the Chateau Frontenac as much as we did!
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