QUEBEC CITY—Fairmont Le Château Frontenac kicked off its year-long 125th anniversary celebrations in grand style recently, with a lavish gala for guests, partners and 128 journalists from seven countries.
“It’s more than a hotel, we’re running an icon,” said General Manager Robert Mercure.
Champagne flowed as we wandered along a Grand Gala Route from the main ballroom through four salons, enjoyed signature Quebec dishes from poutine, to elaborate pastries, artisan charcuterie and local cheeses.
It was a fitting party for the historic hotel, a UNESCO World Heritage-designated hotel designed to resemble a medieval-style castle. It’s a romantic symbol of Quebec culture, built near the site where the 17th-century Saint-Louis forts once stood and opened during early days of Canadian Pacific Railways’ push for cross-country travel.
Expanded over the decades, the image of the hotel accompanies Canadians on every international trip. Check your passport. Le Château Frontenac is on page 24. Perhaps even more important in the age of social media, it’s an Instagram darling, with fairy-tale good looks making it the most-photographed hotel in the world.
The media visit was also an opportunity to show off the results of an $80-million renovation of the 611-room grand dame, completed in 2014. Plus there are eight new signature suites, each named for a famous guest, including Céline Dion, Winston Churchill, Alfred Hitchcock and the Trudeau & Trudeau father-son-themed room, saluting former and current prime ministers.
The timing couldn’t be better for a year-long spotlight on the Château Frontenac, which is riding the best year in its history in 2017. It was also a record year for Quebec City tourism as American visitors are respond to the “Europe in North America” appeal of historic old Quebec.
Asian tourism has also taken a marked upswing at the hotel, thanks to a hugely popular South Korean TV fantasy drama, Goblin, which was shot at the Château Frontenac in 2016.
The hotel is offering special rates and packages tied to the 125th anniversary, as well as events throughout the year focusing on food, culture and history, including the Great Spring Festival, where chocolate and maple syrup share top billing.
The 75th anniversary of the historic World War II Quebec Conferences meetings of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King will be marked in August. In November, the hotel celebrates the 50th anniversary of Princess Grace of Monaco’s visit to the hotel.
The events culminate with a huge party for the official opening day of the hotel, Dec. 18.
For details on events, go to chateaufrontenac125.com.
This trip also gave me a chance to experience the opening of the 64th annual winter-embracing Carnaval de Québec, including a tour of the impressive sound and light spectacular in Bonhomme’s Ice Palace.
Yes, it was cold. But shots of warming Caribou (a spiced, boozy wine) and hand warmers helped as we got into the festive spirit of the event. From ice slides to snow sculptures and outdoor ice bars along the Grande Allée, which was closed to traffic for the kickoff, it was a magical evening.