Expert guide to Banff
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic.
Banff became established as a town in the 1880s, when the railway came to the area. Tourism began here after the railway workers discovered natural hot springs nearby, and a few years later Swiss mountain guides brought in to help with the railway introduced skiing to the mountains. Since it is a gateway for exploring the Canadian Rockies and the Banff National Park in the summer high season, there is plenty of good value accommodation available during the winter.
Banff town is the most vibrant and popular accommodation base for the three ski areas of Banff Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay, with plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars, mainly focused on Banff Avenue. There is a handful of places to stay in quieter Lake Louise (which offers the spectacularly-sited Fairmont hotel), and the only ski-in/ski-out accommodation in the area is the Sunshine Mountain Lodge at Sunshine. For nightlife, Banff town wins hands down.
Tunnel Mountain Resort
On Tunnel Mountain Road, and around 2km from Banff town centre, the Tunnel Mountain Resort has stirring views of the Canadian Rockies, an indoor pool, two hot tubs, a fitness centre and sauna and a children’s playground.
Lake Louise Inn
Making the most of the spectacular mountain scenery, the Lake Louise Inn in a quiet location in Lake Louise has floor-to-ceiling windows, three restaurants, a bar and a heated indoor pool and whirlpools.
Brewster Mountain Lodge
In Banff town, this friendly three-star lodge is close to the ski-bus stop for transfers to all three resorts. With a fireplace in reception and a sauna to relax in after a day on the slopes, Brewster Mountain Lodge offers 77 rooms and suites, some sleeping up to four.
Sunshine Mountain Lodge
Banff National Park’s only ski-in/ski-out hotel, Sunshine Mountain Lodge is in a tranquil location at the top of the gondola in Banff Sunshine; the lift runs until 5.30pm most days, 10.30pm on Fridays. With a rustic mountain theme, the hotel also has an outdoor hot tub and three restaurants.
Fairmont Banff Springs
Once owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, the two Fairmont Hotels are the iconic five-star properties to stay in, whether a short walk from Banff itself or in Lake Louise.
Post Hotel & Spa
In Lake Louise, the four-star Post Hotel & Spa boasts a fine dining restaurant, a fondue restaurant, extensive wine cellar, pool, hot tub, steam room and an English-style pub.
Book it: Half board from £124 per person per night, when booked directly. Excludes travel.
Fairmont Lake Louise
Splash out on a room with a view over the huge frozen lake to the spectacular Victoria glacier and you’ll be amazed at the stunning vistas from Fairmont Lake Louise. It’s a huge hotel with 539 rooms, shops, pool, hot tub, steam room, fitness centre and several varied restaurants.
Next door to the Fairmont Lake Louise, the charming Deer Lodge dates from 1923. Its varied rooms are an eclectic mix of traditional and modern and its philosophy of leaving the outside world behind means that there are no TVs in the rooms. But there is a rooftop hot tub and a sauna.
Banff Caribou Lodge
On the main Street (Banff Avenue), the Banff Caribou Lodge has individually designed wood-clad rooms, including six spectacular loft suites, and a reputation for good service. The Keg Steakhouse and Bar is popular with locals as well as residents. And there’s a huge 26-person hot tub, a steam room and a fitness area.
Spectacularly set out of town on Sulphur Mountain, the Rimrock Resort is a luxurious hotel with over 300 varied, contemporary-style rooms and suites, most with stunning views. There are two restaurants and a bistro, an indoor pool and hot tub, a fitness centre and a variety of spa treatments available.
Booking.com rates above are guide prices per person per night, please note that packages can differ across accommodation. Owing to the current coronavirus pandemic, these rates may change. Please check the properties’ websites for further information on what’s included.