Visiting a castle is one of the things to do in Canada that may not necessarily be at the top of your list. Did you know that across Canada, there’s a collection of glorious turrets and intricate stonework from some of the most impressive Canadian castles and forts? These forts and castles in Canada vividly punctuate the stunning Canadian landscape like props in a fairytale.
Visiting or staying in a fort or castle is a great way to experience how the rich and famous – and the mighty mavericks in the businesses of fur and soldiering – slept, dined and entertained.
Soak up the glamour of Canada’s early days and live like royalty in one of these six Canadian castles and visit these four Canadian forts.
- Canadian Castles
- 4 Forts in Canada
1- Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa
Ever since first opening this historic gem in the heart of Canada’s capital has rolled out the red carpet to world leaders, tycoons, and renowned artists.
Many celebs and noted politicians also have claimed 1 Rideau Street as their address.
For instance, acclaimed photographer, Yousuf Karsh along with his wife lived in this Canadian castle on the glamorous sixth floor for 18 years.
The fully furnished apartment studio appears as if Karsh just stepped out for a moment. The living quarters are beautifully preserved and restored and are available for hotel reservations.
Prime Minister Trudeau (Justin’s dad) used to swim laps regularly in the art deco pool at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier.
For the grand fete tuck inside Zoe’s Lounge for the famous Afternoon Tea or relax at the alfresco La Terrasse with beautiful views of the Parliament Buildings and the Rideau Canal.
The countdown to Canada’s 150th year of Confederation has started and Ottawa is the place to be.
2- Casa Loma in Toronto
Yes, wealthy entrepreneurs both past and present have put their architectural stamp on lavish landmarks in the Province of Ontario’s capital.
You know the old saying, “Your home is your castle.” Look no further than the Casa Loma.
This Canadian castle is a medieval fantasy with an eclectic patchwork of architectural styles.
Built atop an escarpment, Casa Loma is a potpourri of castledom.
At the time of its completion in 1911 it was Canada’s largest house.
The original owner, Sir Henry Pellatt (1859 to 1939), was a multimillionaire industrialist whose fortune went awry leaving him penniless.Over the years, a non-profit organisation became the custodian of Casa Loma but recently new owners have glammed up the 98-room stone building.
It’s now popular for meetings, events and wedding photography. Tours are also available.
3- Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello in Quebec
Where do you think the world’s first largest cedar log cabin was made? Try in the forest-rich, countryside east of Ottawa in the province of Quebec.
Planners and builders were on a mission to construct a log palace to open for Canada Day.
It was to be one of the grandest Canadian castles in Quebec.
Except it was the height of The Great Depression in 1930 when money was tight.
Even so, the need to be frugal did not deter the main stakeholders (railroad barons and banking presidents) who wanted this magnificent building for a private club. According to the records of Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello, an army of 3500 labourers ensured the project was completed in four months. The club opened on July 1, 1930.
Today, hotel guests and day trippers can enjoy the forested grounds, the Olympic-sized pool (it’s also the country’s largest indoor hotel pool) and relax in nature.
4- Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City
As the capital of the province of Quebec, nothing screams “Canadian castle” more than having a fabulous palace overlooking the romantic city along the storied St. Lawrence River.
This world-renowned luxury hotel was built in 1893 and is located on a historic site.
Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is located near the Citadel and the Saint-Louis Forts and Châteaux, which served as the seat of the colony’s executive power for nearly 200 years. Recently, a team of archaeologists discovered ruins of the Saint-Louis Forts including the first fort built by Champlain in 1620 by the famous Chateau. Be sure to get a glimpse of them by the Dufferin Terrace.
For cocktails, luxurious spa treatments and indulging in fine French cuisine, you can’t go past the Chateau Frontenac. It’s all about pampering and glorious joie de vivre here.
Hitchcock movie fans will recognise the iconic Canadian castle building in the 1953 Hitchcock class, I Confess.
5- Fairmont Banff Springs
Mention the “Castle in the Rockies” to a Canadian and they’ll instantly know you’re talking about the Fairmont Banff Springs.
Nestled in the heart of Banff National Park by hectares of forests where wildlife viewing is supreme, this is where Canadian railroad baron William Cornelius Van Horne (general manager of CP Railways) erected his dream vacation spot.
The heritage property first opened in 1888 and is a majestic place that has the ambiance for a royal getaway.
The reason for the lavish hotel’s existence is simple: Mr. Van Horne wanted to bring tourism to the region so he created a place for his railroad guests to stay and enjoy the Rockies. It’s one of the most iconic Canadian castles you’ll find. The grand landmark wears its exquisite Scottish Baronial style with dignity and charm.
Back then, the tourism lure was to come and soak in the area’s natural hot springs.
People flocked to convalesce and breathe fresh air. And of course, they took the mighty train to get there.
6- Fairmont Empress Hotel in Victoria
Visit Victoria, the province of British Columbia’s capital, and you know you have arrived in the land of Victoriana.
There’s a huge Brit love affair apparent in street names and architecture. And the real treasure is this historic property by the sparkling Inner Harbour.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel opened as a hotel, like so many other historic Canadian castles. This location was also owned by the Canadian Pacific Railways as a terminus for the company’s steamship line. High Tea Afternoon is a definite bucket list activity.
The Fairmont Empress Hotel website declares, “During the summer months, The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, serves Afternoon Tea to more guests than most hotels in London, England.”
4 Forts in Canada
1- Fortress of Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Before Canada became the nation it is today, there were battles and rebellions.
The Fortress of Louisbourg juts out from Cape Breton Island into the Atlantic Ocean and has a strong significance in Canadian history.
Originally a French fort in New France built in 1713, during its heydays, it was considered the jewel of France’s holdings in the New World. Louisbourg was a place of dreams.
It was France’s rêve imperial. To boot, it was one of the busiest 18th-century seaports in North America.
Plenty of trade with shiploads of raw materials and codfish were shipped back to France coupled with a steady growing population of settlers. Fortress of Louisbourg paid a bloody price, though.
The Brits seized the settlement twice and completely destroyed the fortress.
For years the grass-covered ruin was a playground for local kids. But, in a huge monumental undertaking in 1961, then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, in a national works project, had the fort recreated as a make-work project for the unemployed Cape Breton coal miners.
The recreated Fortress of Louisbourg was to open in 1967 for Canada’s Centennial. It sadly did not but did partially open in 1969.
To this date, it is considered North America’s largest reconstruction project.
A Parks Canada operated National Historic Site, this bucket list experience along with Parks Canada’s other parks and sites will have free admission in 2017. Now you need to visit to see what the next chapter holds.
2- Halifax Citadel, Nova Scotia
For nearly 250 years this hilltop walled fortress has been seen by all who arrive in the capital of Nova Scotia, even if they decide not to venture inside.
But trust us you will want to.
Guidebook publisher Fodor’s pegs this heritage landmark as Canada’s most visited National Historic Site.
We like to think so too.
The best part is to head inside to see the barracks, guardroom, and powder magazine and to watch the parade of soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Royal Artillery and the 78th Highland Regiment Pipe Band (this is their home base). See the kilts and tall feather bonnets and watch the Noon Guns fire daily.
To get a real feel of Canadian history why not don a full uniform and enroll in the “Soldier for a Day” program?
Next year you’ll be beating a happy drum too as this National Historic Site run by Parks Canada will have free admission.
3- Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario
Location, location, location. This 19th-century British military fortress with its imposing features looms high atop a natural cliffside and gives a strong message: don’t mess with us.
So why is it here?
Originally it was set up to defend the Rideau Canal and the Naval Dockyard but it was mainly used to defend the city of Kingston and the busy harbour.
Originally built in 1832, the fort was added to over the years. The strangest discovery of Fort Henry is its purpose. While it was built for military action, it never saw any.
Instead, the grand complex was a prison. Fort Henry held prisoners from the Rebellions of 1837 and both World Wars.
4- Fort William Historical Park in Thunder Bay, Ontario
Go see only the largest reconstructed fur trading post in the world.
Dial back the clock to 1850 and feel like you’ve stepped back into the past.
See recreated buildings in this old company town which stood as the headquarters of that other fur trading company, the North West Company.
Fort William’s heydays hailed during the great fur-trading expeditions from the 1770s to the 1820s when beaver fur was considered high fashion.
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