Discover Chateau Frontenac’s History and 7 Unique Ways to Visit

Here are 7 interesting facts about Chateau Frontenac and 7 different ways you can visit it.

Le Chateau Frontenac history Quebec City

Known today as the world’s most photographed hotel, take a step back in time with us as we share the history of Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. This breathtaking hotel towers over historic Old Quebec and is Quebec City’s most significant landmark. 

Keep reading as we share interesting facts about its historical significance and the best way to visit Chateau Frontenac so you, too, can walk its hallowed halls.

Just here To Know how to Visit?

Chateau Frontenac History

The Canadian Pacific Railroad Company built Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in 1893. It sits on the grounds of the former Chateau St Louis. This was the main administrative building for the French and British colonial governments until it burnt down in 1834.

American architect Bruce Price designed the grand hotel. He’s also known for designing Montreal’s Windsor and Viger Stations. He drew inspiration from Renaissance-era French chateaus in the Loire Valley when designing Chateau Frontenac.

It’s just one of several hotels William Van Horne, the Canadian Pacific Railroad Company’s general manager, built in the late 1800s.

The company aimed to build luxurious hotels to encourage wealthy tourists to board their trains to visit them. Other grand examples include Banff Springs Hotel, Chateau Lake Louise, and The Empress in Victoria.

The historical significance of Chateau Frontenac is visible from the canons surrounding it
Chateau Frontenac in summer, viewed from Dufferin Terrace (Photo par / by : Quebec Wonders ©)

So, why is it called Chateau Frontenac?

Van Horne named it in honor of Louis de Buade, the Count of Frontenac and Palluau.

He was the governor of New France twice between 1672 and 1698. New France was the name given to North America’s French colonies (including Quebec) at the time. De Buade was renowned for defending it against British and Iroquois attacks. 

7 Interesting Facts About Chateau Frontenac’s Historical Significance

Here are some fun facts about the history of Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.

1. It’s Hosted Several Important Events

If something important happened in Quebec City, it historically happened at Chateau Frontenac. The biggest being the Quebec Conferences during World War II (August 1943 and September 1944). 

The Allies, including US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, shut down the hotel to discuss strategies.

This included the invasion of Normandy (D-Day itself was planned at Chateau Frontenac), and, after the success of D-Day, how to demilitarize Germany.

Canada’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was also founded at the hotel in 1945.

2. It’s Hosted Royal Visitors

Several royals have stayed at Chateau Frontenac:

  • King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited in 1939.
  • A luxurious suite was designed to honor Queen Elizabeth II’s official visits.
  • When Princess Grace of Monaco was the president of the Queen’s Ball at the Quebec Winter Carnival in February 1969, she stayed at the Chateau.

3. It’s The World’s Most Photographed Hotel

What a cool claim to fame, right? But yes, it’s believed Chateau Frontenac is the world’s most photographed hotel. It’s also the most significant landmark in Quebec City.

Chateau Frontenac history is the world’s most photographed hotel
Chateau Frontenac in winter. People on this photo are watching people slide on the nearby toboggan slide. (Photo par / by : Quebec Wonders ©)

4. It’s a Movie Star

We all know Alfred Hitchcock. Well, in 1952, he filmed some scenes of his film “I Confess” at Chateau Frontenac. The movie starred Montgomery Clift, who played a devout priest framed for murder.

5. It Was a Prime Minister’s Office

Divisive Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis was in office from 1936 to 1939 and 1944 to 1959.

He transformed an elegant wood-paneled room next to Le Champlain, the hotel’s restaurant, into his office in the 1950s. That room is now the library.

 Duplessis also lived in Suite 1107 and regularly visited the onsite barbershop.

6. It’s Where Celine Dion Got Her Big Break

In July 1990, Quebecois native Celine Dion performed in Chateau Frontenac’s ballroom during a conference for record label executives.

CBS Records was in two songs later, offering her her big break into the English market.

7. Archaeologists Continue to Dig Up Treasures

An archaeological site was established on Dufferin Terrace between 2005 and 2007, adjacent to Chateau Frontenac.

They found remains of the basement and several outbuildings from its past life as Chateau Saint-Louis. They also discovered fortification elements from the four Saint-Louis forts. 

Inside the hotel today, you’ll find a display of 17th and 18th-century wine bottles discovered during archaeological digs around Quebec City.

Is Chateau Frontenac a UNESCO Site?

Despite its history Chateau Frontenac is not UNESCO-listed
The UNESCO monument is located in front of Chateau Frontenac, but Chateau Frontenac itself doesn't have a UNESCO status.

No. Instead, Chateau Frontenac was designated a National Historic Site in 1981.

However, it is located inside the fortifications of the Old Quebec Historic District, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You’ll also find the UNESCO Monument in front of Chateau Frontenac.

What’s the Best Way to Visit Chateau Frontenac?

You’re in luck! There are several ways to see the majestic inside of Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac:

  • Anyone can enter the Chateau’s lobby for free. You don’t need to be a guest. Go wandering to see the grand reception and shop in the boutiques.
  • Book a guided tour. Your guide will share information about the famous people and historical events that shaped the Chateau. They’ll also tell you about the recent redevelopments.
  • Have lunch at Sam Bistro. Named after Quebec City founder Samuel de Champlain, Sam Bistro is open daily from 11:30 am to 10 pm. Enjoy lunch, dinner, or a drink from the extensive menu. It’s known for its cocktails, after all.
  • Have a drink at Bar 1608. If you don’t get to Sam’s for cocktails, stop by Bar 1608. It’s open from 4 pm Monday to Thursday and 2 pm Friday to Sunday.
  • Book in for afternoon tea at Place Dufferin Restaurant. This is a must-do experience at Chateau Frontenac. Enjoy a selection of LOT 35 teas alongside a tower overflowing with open sandwiches, fresh scones (with Devonshire cream and homemade jams, of course), seasonal pastries, and sweets.
  • Have a meal at Champlain Restaurant. Established in 1893 and with Saint Lawrence River views, this fine-dining restaurant still has original features expertly blended with modern design. It’s known for its French cuisine and exceptional wine collection. It’s open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday and Sunday brunch, where you can feast on a buffet of sweet and savory delights.
  • Book a stay. Today, Chateau Frontenac has 611 rooms across 18 floors. There are both guestrooms and luxurious suites if you feel like spoiling yourself.

Final Thoughts

When visiting Quebec City, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t spend time at Chateau Frontenac.

Steeped in history, we recommend taking the time to see it from both the inside and outside. It’s simply breathtaking from all angles.

Plus, the Sunday brunch at Champlain Restaurant is said to be the best brunch in Quebec. You don’t want to miss out!

Anne Rodrigue-Beaudoin Quebec Wonders

About the Author

Anne was born and raised in Quebec City. She is our resident expert for the city of Quebec and other popular regional destinations such as Charlevoix and Gaspésie. Having travelled to every corner of the province with her children, she is also our expert for family related topics on Quebec Wonders.

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