/ The Vancouver Guide
Vancouver — By Andy Hayes on April 5, 2010 at 2:15 am
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The Hotel Vancouver: The Heart of Vancouver

The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, known locally as Hotel Van, is a Vancouver institution.  It’s not just another hotel: it’s part of the skyline, it’s a meeting place and favourite haunt, and it’s one of the few pieces of Vancouver historical architecture the city has left.  I recently had a chance to stay in this unforgettable icon, and it was an experience I soon hope to repeat.

The Building

Fairmont has a monopoly on massive, iconic hotels, and the Hotel Vancouver is no exception.  It’s just an enormous hotel – they just don’t make hotels on this grand scale anymore (if for no other reason that the exhaustion just getting from one end of the place to other.  There must be a thousand glistening chandeliers – they line every corridor – and the lobby has some high end shopping as well as a bar and restaurant.   This is one of the old railway hotels, built to last, and this particular one took 11 years to construct because of a 5 year building hiatus during WWII.  It opened in 1939 amid great fanfare, and was refurbished in the 1990s to make it one of Vancouver’s premier hotels.   It’s one of those always-handy places:  meet you at the Hotel Van, ok?

The Location

That’s the Hotel Vancouver there in the reflection on the right!

It doesn’t get better than here; the hotel is just next to the Art Gallery, making the Skytrain very convenient either into Vancouver City Centre station or Granville station.  Steps to the shopping and fine dining on Robson, or just to head into Gastown for sightseeing, nothing is far from the Vancouver.  Even Stanley Park is a short 15 minute walk if you’re enjoying one of Ruth’s Sunday walks, but you can get a taxi here from anywhere:  guidebooks even mention that if you can’t find a cab, go to the Hotel Vancouver.

The Staff

You’ll not find friendlier staff anywhere – I was able to meet several staff during my day and while they were all wonderful people, the fact is that it seemed like I could strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone in the entire hotel, from the maids to the wait staff.  I hear that Fairmont is a very good employer to work for, and it shows.  Treat your people like gold and it trickles down.

There are two very popular staff members mingle with the celebrities that often visit the hotel.  They’re so in demand that they rarely leave their concierge desk and instead wait for their admirers to come and pay a visit.  Who are these to-be-seen-with employees?  Beau and Mavis, of course, the hotel’s two dogs, who themselves are local celebrities.  They’re cuddly and amiable, if not downright lazy I might say.  Of course, when the Holywood celebs ask to be photographed with YOU, then I suppose you have earned the right to be lazy.

The Services

Hotel Van is a full service luxury hotel, so you get everything and then some.  Locals come for the cocktails in 900 West, the main atrium bar: supposedly these are second only to the bar at the Fairmont at the airport.  And the bar’s atmosphere is brill: not stuffy like some hotel bars can be, and a very interesting mix of people that tend to come through (not surprising when it is popular with hotel guests and locals alike).

In the rooms, which are very well appointed, my favourite service is the evening refresh.  You can get a tidy-up of your room and your bed turned down for the night.  I don’t what it is I like about it so much – maybe it’s that traditional flourish that is lacking in other hotels.

Don’t forget to join their President’s Club membership, which gives you free Wifi, or in this case, I should say free Internet.  This building was built to last, not to be a Wifi hotspot, and even my mobile phone had some difficulty connecting.  But there is wired ethernet, another vestige of the past it seems but it was speedy and worked just fine.

If I listed every feature and service available, we’d be here all night.  Let’s put it this way: if you need it, they have it or will make it appear.

The Price

Here’s the thing:  Hotel Van isn’t the cheapest act in town.  But really I think the Fairmont here is very price competitive, and without question excellent value for money.  If you look at other options in the Fairmont price bracket [which varies depending on season], you’ll find the Hotel Van to have tons of features over the rest.

When are you going?

There she is – the Hotel Van, peeking out from behind the Christchurch cathedral.

Fairmont has two other hotels downtown: The Fairmont Waterfront and the Fairmont Pacific Rim, so be sure not to get confused if you’re checking out the Fairmont website.  Because you’re planning your next visit, right?

So, regardless whether it’s cocktails in the lobby or spending a night upstairs, when are you headed to Hotel Van?  Meet you there.  Don’t forget to say hello to Beau and Mavis on your way in.

Disclosure:  Fairmont provided a promotional media rate to the author.  This in no way affected the editorial content featured here.

Images by Rodefeld (x2), Fairmont Hotels (x2), quinet

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  1. At the very heart of Vancouver is the landmark Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.
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    2 Comments

  • Ruth Kozak says:

    Wonderful article Andy. I’m sure the Fairmont will be very pleased. It is such a grand old hotel. You were lucky to get to stay there!

  • I am anxious to visit Vancouver. I drove through the Yukon Territory, BC, & Alberta last summer but we didn’t spend much time in cities – we tent camped most of it. I’m ready for a luxury trip to Canada!

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