Bunking Down at Victoria’s Luxury Hotels
Victoria, the capital of the province of British Columbia, capitalizes on its natural scenic beauty with several boutique hotels that are far from provincial in their ambience and service.
Romantic souls will find themselves at home at Abigail’s Hotel, a cozy Tudor-style bed and breakfast. Originally built in the 1930’s but recently renovated to new levels of luxury, Abigai’s is walking distance from the Inner Harbour and Beacon Hill Park. Rooms feature big four-poster beds with goose-down duvets, wood-burning fireplaces, stained-glass windows, and Jacuzzis.
Gourmet breakfasts are created daily by the chef in Abigail’s dining room, and the library, just across the lobby, has a wide-screen TV to watch in between noshing on hors-d’oeuvres served each evening. Abigail’s offers wedding packages that start at $2,500, including the ceremony, wedding cake and champagne, a couple’s massage, and more. This is a five-star Victoria property in every sense.
The Magnolia Hotel is a cool, modernistic building just off the Inner Harbour, has built a reputation for personalized luxury since opening in 1998. Floor-to-ceiling windows, marble bathrooms, and sumptuous traditional furnishings create a mansion-like ambience. The Magnolia also serves a complimentary continent breakfast daily. Spa junkies will enjoy the in-house facilities, from an Intelligent Nutrients facial to a hot stone massage. The 64-room venue is walking distance from nearly all of Victoria’s downtown tourist attractions.
Billed as “Victoria’s Art Hotel,” the intimate, recently revamped accommodations at Swans Suite Hotel do not disappoint. It’s hard to believe Swans is the result of converting a grocer’s warehouse built in 1913. The 1600-work art collection of the late former owner, Michael Williams, gives life and vibrancy to the 29 guest rooms where it’s displayed. The artists include internationally renowned names like Roy Henry Vickers, Myfanwy Pavelic, and Toni Onley. Loft-style suites with full kitchens and miniature balconies offer a soothing feel. The 3,000-square-foot penthouse, showcasing everything that makes Swans special, goes for $895 a night. Downstairs, you’ll find the famous Swans pub, plus a microbrewery and chic bistro.
And of course, there’s always the legendary Fairmont Empress Hotel. The ivy-covered walls of the Empress are so imposing that tourists frequently confuse it with the neighbouring Parliament Buildings. Nearly a century old, this Victoria landmark is considered one of the world’s top hotels and a defining feature of the city’s reputation as the last outpost of the British Empire. Past guests have included Harrison Ford, Barbra Streisand, and numerous members of royalty.
The Empress has buffed up and modernized its image in recent years: it’s not just about afternoon tea in the grand lobby anymore. With 477 guestrooms, there are plenty of luxurious styles of accommodation to choose from. Don’t miss the Bounty of the Sea seafood tower at The Veranda restaurant, featuring seared Qualicum scallops, split king crab legs, candied salmon and more. The $6-million Willow Spa, which opened in 2002, offers soothing mineral water baths. Check out the view of the Inner Harbour from the top floor.
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