Chateau Frontenac – The ‘Castle on the Hill’ Turns 125


By Maureen Littlejohn

Beloved by locals and sought out by visitors from around the globe, Quebec City’s Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is a Canadian icon. According to TripAdvisor, this National Historic Site is the most photographed luxury hotel in the world. Flip open a Canadian passport and you’ll see it gracing a page; buy something with a loonie and you might notice it on the face of the ubiquitous $1 coin. Mailing a letter? The hotel even has its own postage stamp.

Chateau Frontenac

The Queen, Churchill, Roosevelt, Hitchcock and Speilberg have all stayed at Chateau Frontenac

Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, Chateau Frontenac is spruced up and ready for another century of celebrities and champagne. An $80 million renovation in 2014 saw a major overhaul of its luxury guest rooms, restaurants, banquet areas and ballrooms. Tastefully true to its roots, there are new touches of vibrant colour, gleaming marble and plush upholstery that bring a zingy vitality to the vintage property. And a stellar program of events and exhibitions will be presented throughout 2018.

The hotel is named after flamboyant French governor Louis de Buade, Count of Frontenac who ruled New France from 1672 to 1698. On the Dufferin Terrace level a number of exhibits display some of the thousands of historic artefacts excavated from an area in front of the hotel where the governors’ residences and Saint-Louis Forts once stood, first built by famed French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1620.

Throughout its life, the Chateau has undergone a variety of expansions including the Citadelle construction in 1899, Mont-Carmel construction in 1908, and the Saint-Louis and Tour Centrale in 1920 and 1924. In 1993 the Claude-Pratte Wing with indoor pool, gym, and outdoor terrace was completed. Originally, the rooms at the top of the hotel were reserved for female staff. The dormer ceilings are still there, but most rooms have been enlarged.

Chateau Frontenac — Unique, Quirky, Canadian

Due to the numerous expansions, few of the 611 guest rooms are identical, amping up the property’s quirky charm. Recent unique additions include eight executive suites honouring a host of personalities with significant ties to the hotel:

  • William Van Horne, the railroad tycoon who built the Chateau
  • Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip stayed here on one of their royal tours
  • Sir Winston Churchill attended the secret Conferences of Quebec in 1943-44 to plan the invasion of Normandy (President Franklin D. Roosevelt also attended these conferences)
  • Charles de Gaulle stayed on his infamous visit in 1967
  • Alfred Hitchcock’s 1953 film I Confess was shot on location
  • Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and son Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stayed here numerous times; and
  • Celine Dion was signed to her first contract here after performing for a gathering of music company executives
Chateau Frontenac room with view

Chateau Frontenac overlooks the St Lawrence River

The list of celebrities who have laid their heads under the Chateau’s magnificent roof also includes Princess Grace of Monaco, Montgomery Clift, Chiang-Kai-Shek, Steven Spielberg, and Paul McCartney.

Along with the glorious décor, the hotel is known for its sumptuous dining. Salon Dufferin offers an elegant buffet and al la carte breakfast to diners who can nosh and sip coffee as they overlook the mighty St Lawrence River. Le Sam Bistro serves up lunch, creative cocktails, and tantalizing canapés including delicious cheese boards featuring artisanal Quebec products. In the Champlain restaurant, Chef Stephane Modat delivers creative, modern cuisine, paying homage to local Quebecois producers.

Other highlights include a sparkling indoor pool and Moments Spa, with a full menu of body and esthetic treatments.

Known fondly as the ‘Castle on the Hill’, the majestic Chateau Frontenac indeed makes all who stay there feel like royalty.

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Maureen Littlejohn has been writing about entertainment, lifestyle and travel for longer than she’d care to disclose. Currently, she is executive director of Culture Magazin (no e!).




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