This grand railway hotel in the heart of Montreal is a train traveller’s dream. It sits right above Via Rail’s Central Station, so you can get from concourse to check-in without having to set foot outside. It’s also connected to the Underground City with all its shops, bars and restaurants. In a city that can be covered in snow and ice for a good few months of the year, this is a real blessing.
The station lift will deliver you directly to the lobby, an enormous space filled with marble pillars, plush seating, potted plants and dark wood. The overall atmosphere is one of hushed elegance, as befits the hotel’s regal name.
Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, or Le Reine Elizabeth as it’s known in Montreal, was one of the last grand railway hotels to be built in Canada by the Canadian National Railway (CN). There was huge controversy over CN’s decision to name it after the Queen, who had come to the throne while the hotel was being designed. Quebec nationalists wanted it called Château Maisonneuve after Montreal’s founder but despite widespread opposition, CN wouldn’t budge.
Since it opened in 1958, it’s played host to a wide range of visiting royalty, celebrities and other very important persons. It’s also seen more than its fair share of excitement and intrigue.
In 1970, the Quebec government went into hiding there during the ‘October Crisis’, a month-long emergency situation triggered by two government officials being kidnapped by the Quebec Nationalist group FLQ (Front de Libération du Québec).
A much more peaceful protest was held there in 1969: John Lennon and Yoko Ono held their infamous Bed-In and wrote and recorded ‘Give Peace a Chance’ in Suite 1742. The room is now stuffed full of memorabilia, including gold discs, pictures and press cuttings – enough to please please any fan!
Rooms and décor
All 982 of Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth’s rooms are stylish and cosy, all soft carpets, smooth wood and earth tones. Some are more luxurious than others but even the so-called ‘Moderate’ rooms are a cut above. Super-soft and comfy beds, fine linens, designer toiletries, cable TV, refreshments, city skyline views – it’s all included.
We were lucky enough to be given a room on the Gold Floor, a concierge level where every guest gets the royal treatment. A great glass elevator whisks you up to the 19th floor to the private reception, manned by staff who can’t do enough for you.
The rooms on this level are simply sumptuous. Our suite was huge, with a separate living area, proper coffee machine, iPod dock, and other boutique touches that made it feel like a home from home. You also get access to the exclusive Gold Lounge, a large comfortable space with a panoramic view of the city. Here you get showered with freebies from breakfast, hot drinks and afternoon canapés to computer access and magazines.
Food and drink
There are three restaurants to choose from in the hotel itself. The Beaver Club offers formal fine dining and is reputed to be one of the best restaurants in the country. It’s a dressy place but not as extravagantly priced as you might expect.
For something less formal head for Le Montréalais, a bar/bistro serving Mediterranean cuisine as well as afternoon teas. Les Voyageurs bar also serves food, from lunch to canapés to go with your evening cocktails. You can also buy tasty treats at Boutique Gourmandise, the gourmet food shop in the lobby, including honey from the hotel’s own rooftop hives.
If you’re watching your pennies there’s a cheap and cheerful food court just a few minutes’ walk through the Underground City.
We found the service at Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth absolutely impeccable – genuinely warm and welcoming without a hint of fawning or snootiness. And this wasn’t just because we were on the Gold Floor either. Before we’d even checked in we were treated well, despite the fact we looked tired and dishevelled from our long journey!
The hotel is located directly above Montreal’s Central Station. There’s a hotel entrance from the train station – just follow the signs.
Doubles from £121 per night.
This historic railway hotel was approved by Railway Stays!
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