Great railway hotels
3 of a kind:Great railway hotels
FAIRMONT LE CHATEAU FRONTENAC, CANADA
1 rue des Carrieres, Québec City, Canada, tel: 001-418-692-3861, Fairmont.com
This palatial edifice that towers over the old city of Québec was built by the president of the Canadian Pacific Railways, William Van Horne, in the late 19th century. It was designed by a station architect, Bruce Price, who was responsible for Montreal’s Windsor Station. The Gare du Palais station is a short walk from the hotel.
Unusually for a “castle” hotel, this has been host to real royals including King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939, and Princess Grace of Monaco and Prince Rainier III in 1969. Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson also stayed there in happier days.
President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met here with Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King for second World War discussions, while many other historical heads of state, as well as a plethora of celebs from Charlie Chaplin to Sting, have also been. Hitchcock filmed I Confess here. Other guests include 70,000 bees in four hives on the roof, which supply the kitchen with honey, while hens in the garden take care of egg deliveries.
Rooms:There are 618 rooms on 18 floors, including 33 suites. The standard rooms have various views, from the St Lawrence River, the historical quarter of Québec City or the inner court and gardens. There are studio rooms and junior suites that can accommodate up to five people, as well as larger suites.
Those who find the scale overwhelming can head to the top four floors of the tower, to an area known as Fairmont Gold, designed as a boutique hotel within a hotel. Doubles start at $189 (€147) from November-April and $249 (€193.50) from May-October.
HOTEL CIPRIANI PALAZZO VENDRAMIN, VENICE
Giudecca 10, 30133 Venice, Italy, tel: 00-39-041-5207744, hotelcipriani.com
The founder of the Venice-Simplon Orient Express liked this hotel so much he bought it in 1976. James B Sherwood had stayed at the hotel regularly since its opening in 1956 by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar. Cipriani had envisaged a hotel near St Mark’s Square and yet in a peaceful spot: hence its position on Guidecca Island overlooking the lagoon and the Doge’s Palace. In 1968 he bought adjoining land and built an Olympic-sized pool – the only one in Venice.
The hotel is still part of the Orient-Express portfolio and is a 20-minute boat journey from Santa Lucia station. The original Orient Express service was operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits and ran from 1883 to 2009, but stopped going to Istanbul in 1977 and scaled back its operation. Eventually it sold some carriages to the Venice-Simplon Orient Express train company, which restored the train carriages.
Rooms:There are 79 suites and rooms, with views over the lagoon and gardens. There are also 16 suites in the adjoining 15th century Palazzo Vendramin, with views across to St Mark’s Square. The decor is in the Venetian style with interiors decorated in local artefacts. Doubles from €550.
ST PANCRAS RENAISSANCE HOTEL, LONDON
Euston Road, London, UK, tel: 0044-207-8413548, marriott.comFittingly for a station hotel, the minute you arrive in the reception of the St Pancras you feel you have arrived. The area is packed with people drinking, doing business, meeting people off trains or just socialising. This was the former taxi turning place in the recently restored Midland Grand hotel (and later council offices), designed by architect Gilbert Scott, who also created the UK’s tardis-like telephone box.
Beyond the reception area, trains arrive and depart, south to France or north to Leicester, while the Booking Office restaurant buzzes next door. The newly built side of the hotel – known as Barlow House – has standard, smart Marriott rooms, while the Chambers side is in the original building with its spectacular spaces, including 18ft high ceilings, wide corridors, a grand staircase and Gothic details. The rooms with tall windows overlooking the railway tracks bring romantic visions of waving to your loved one from the bedroom window as they step off the train from Paris.
Rooms:The Barlow House rooms are smart and comfortable. The Chambers rooms and suites are palatial spaces into which sleek bathroom boxes have been inserted. The decor is grand – because of the existing architecture – but understated: the details and scale do the talking. Rooms overlooking the tracks come with earplugs as the trains begin to run from about 6am. Prices in Barlow House start from £270 (€335.50) and rooms in the Chambers start from £400 (€497).