Christmas at the Castle
I was lucky enough this holiday season to get to spend a very luxurious and pampered weekend at the Banff Springs to kick off their Christmas season. This hotel has remained in my top 3 most favourite places to stay ever since I got my first Mountain Hot Stone Massage at the Willow Stream Spa 4 years ago. It is a historical location that is perfect for the Christmas season and lives up to its name as being the ‘Castle in the sky’. It always gives me such a feeling of nostalgia to walk through the medieval corridors, lined with historical imagery, soft carpets and cushy chairs.
The Christmas season is the ideal time to visit the Banff Springs. It is the perfect setting for a Holiday feast, corporate party or a family get together. I remember having Christmas dinner at the Bow Valley Grill with all my relatives when I was little.Absolutely hating my turtleneck sweater as I watched as big fluffy snowflakes fell from the sky and accumulated on the window cill. I’d have to give the whole santa business another year (yes i was one of THOSE kids) but I remember watching a harpist play in the event hall next to one of many enormous Christmas trees feeling like I was in a fairytale castle. It’s one of those uniquely Canadian memories that I will always cherish, full of family, friends, good food and happy locals.
The room was beautiful and cozy. One of the coveted mountain view rooms with a stunning walk-out shower and my own personal Christmas tree on the corner desk. From the window I could see people hiking along the river and walking down the pathways to the Waldhaus. It amazed me how well the hotel had been maintained since first being constructed in 1911. It was hard to believe there was actually an older wooden structure build in 1888, that was wholly replaced and expanded with concrete and stone years later. The original building was quite different from the present Banff Springs structure. It bore the resemblance of a swiss chalet and was clad in shingles with stone accents and featured dormers and turrets. One interesting piece of trivia was that a mistake made by the builder to create the current building changed the intended orientation of the building, turning its back on the mountain vista (I wouldn’t have wanted to be him when he realized that mistake). By the time 1968 rolled around the entire hotel was winterized so that it could be open year round. To think it had gone through so many generations and retain such a classic, historical feel was impressive.
Later on in the afternoon I got a knock at the door and was gifted a few chocolate covered strawberries that were shaped like reindeer, which was a great kick start to a weekend away. Next on the agenda was a shower before venturing into town for a little walk around downtown Banff to do some Christmas Shopping.
I have to admit, I was a little obsessed with the bathroom.
I LOVE walk-in showers and this one had a massive one. I couldn’t help but use it 3 times while I was here (whoops) but I guess the plus side was that I smelled absolutely delightful. It didn’t exactly help that the Le Labo toiletries smelled fantastic. I also really loved the modern, minimal design, and the marbled detailing in the shower made it even more photogenic.
After walking around town and grabbing something to eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory, I drove back and strolled around the hotel to reacquaint myself with some of the famous halls and restaurants that I had so many memories of as a child.
The Rundle Room has long been a classic Afternoon Tea location for my mom and I. Located on Mez 2, it presents some amazing views of the Golf course and mountain range with expansive windows and comfy couches that were occupied by lots of people with books and board games. Having been here during every season, I have never failed to find the menu anything less than delightfully crafted, and often featured many local and Canadian treats. The staff at the Banff Springs know how to treat its clientele well and your needs will always be looked after during your stay.
For anyone who is looking for a perfect way to spend time with the ladies, the Mountain Afternoon Tea is like none other. It runs around $60 a person, but the quality and views are worth it and it is a perfect place to host a wedding shower, birthday or bachelorette party. Additionally, they have their own breakfast blend, for all you tea lovers out there.
In the summer, the main floor cafe, Stock (pictured above), puts together custom picnic backpacks which are absolutely phenomenal and a great date idea for the couple who likes to hike (and eat good food). It comes complete with a tablecloth, full set of cutlery, plates, s&p shakers, bottle openers, cloth napkins, garbage disposal bag and a cutting board. Stock (Food+Drink) is also just great place for a cold beer or to simply hang out while you wait for valet to bring up your vehicle. I believe it is their newest addition to the hotel and has a modern design as well as an amazing menu.
As I walked past the Bow Valley Grill, I had pleasant memories of brunch with momma bear, and family Christmases in the private event rooms at the back. This restaurant is a great, affordable way to indulge in some amazing food. Usually served buffet style, the breakfast and brunch is an endless variety of cultural and classic Canadian cuisine. This hotel is filled with restaurants, including a Japanese one that gets great reviews… and a smattering of cafes and wine bars that seem to blend nicely into the classic decor.
During your stay at the Banff Springs, you also get free spa access which is an absolute treat. The mineral pools are a great way to relax in the evening, or in my case, early in the morning. Each time I come to the Willow Stream spa I am so impressed with the excellent, professional service I receive from the front desk and RMT’s. You have all day access and if you happen to have health coverage, a Mountain Hot Stone treatment is the perfect way to relax the muscles after a day of skiing without having to worry about added costs on your holiday. There is also a private outdoor hot tub so you can enjoy the view and relax. Its important to note that the hotel protects client privacy by recommending that phones be left in the lockers and discouraging camera use. So these photos were taken first thing, before any customers were present.
Needless to say, my Friday was well spent and I was already starting to feel the holiday cheer, especially considering that I passed about 35 Christmas trees on the way back to my room in my robe.
On Saturday morning it was time to indulge in some brunch at the Waldhaus Pub. This German restaurant is located just down the hill toward the Bow river and sits perched on a hill overlooking the valley and river. The restaurant upstairs is open for dinner and has a very medieval feel to it with high back chairs and a fine dining menu. However, the informal brunch is served in the lower level pub, which gives off a European pub vibe and feels cozy. The food is nothing short of amazing though, and another patron graciously let me take a photo of their french toast as it looked incredible. After 2 massive cups of coffee and a hefty Salmon eggs Benedict I huffed and puffed my way back up the hill to Stock cafe to browse Instagram for a bit (yes my cardio is shameful, but hey, food babies are no joke to carry around) and then make my way to the theatre for the last event of the weekend.
The Banff Springs provided me with tickets to see A Christmas Carol, one at 2pm and one at 8pm. To respect the actors however, I refrained from taking any iPhone and flash photography as directed.
The theatre is located across the street from the hotel, in the conference centre. The centre also has a liquor store, convenience store and a bowling alley/bar for those snowy days when its too cold to head down the hill into town. The performance was really great and also super family friendly. I would definitely suggest this for couples and families who are looking for a light afternoon experience. Many of the kids showed up in their pajamas which was adorable, but did look a little leary of Scrooge (although that undoubtedly proved Ryan Luhning did a great job at his role). There was also an 8pm performance which I did not attend but expected to be much more packed than the afternoon show.
After the valet dropped off my car at the front (i wish i could be so posh to have that all the time), it was unfortunately time to drive off into the sunset, back to my little life in Calgary. Needless to say, Christmas at the Castle is by far, a worthy and exciting experience to invest in for the Holidays.
Although i’d been here many times, it was nice to be able to get the full scope of what a weekend in this grand and luxurious hotel feels like. Sometimes we all need a little looking after, and what better way than to gift yourself a little bit of relaxation. Merry Christmas everyone!
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