There’s just something about a castles beauty, history and mystery that is ever-alluring. People travel all over the world (mainly Europe) to view their magnificent architecture. However, did you know that there are castles to visit in Canada too?
Many of the castles and castle-like buildings across Canada were either constructed as hotels for railway companies or were private residences of wealthy Canadians. A few others were built as government buildings to house legislators. So while the majority found here can’t be properly described as true castles (a fortified structure), they were built to give the appearance of a castle. And are as equally wonderful to look at.
The castles and castle-like structures are spread all across the country, with the majority in Quebec. My original intent was to highlight them all. However, during my research, I discovered so many castle-like structures that this article showcases those found in Western Canada (BC to Manitoba).
Luckily for us, all of the ones in British Columbia are right here in Victoria!
The following list will show you highlights of the structures open for public viewing. And as mentioned above, many of the castles are also hotels, which means you truly can live out your dream and sleep like royalty!
*The featured image used for this article was captured by Kim Passmore
**This article contains affiliate links, which means if you happen to book a hotel through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Castles in British Columbia
Craigdarroch Castle was built between 1887 and 1890 for one of Western Canada’s richest and most important men. Robert Dunsmuir, a Scottish immigrant, made his fortune from Vancouver Island coal and was also elected as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nanaimo. Unfortunately, Robert passed away before his beloved castle was even completed, leaving his wife his entire estate. His fortune is prominently displayed and reflected in the four-floor mansion, that is now a National Historic Site. Craigdarroch Castle has been meticulously restored and gives visitors a glimpse of how the wealthy lived in the late 1800s.
Hatley Park Castle
Hatley Castle was built in 1908 for James and Laura Dunsmuir (son and daughter-in-law of Robert Dunsmuir mentioned above). James wanted the exterior to look like a medieval castle, while Laura wanted the inside to be a beautiful place she could entertain and accommodate her large family and staff. Completed in just 18 months, prominent architect Samuel Maclure built a masterpiece featuring a Norman tower with two Tudor‐revival wings on either side. At the time it was the largest private residence on the west coast.
The Empress is coined as ‘Canada’s Castle on the Coast’! It also has the acclaim of being one of the ‘Top 21 Iconic Hotels in the World’ by National Geographic Traveler Magazine (among many other accolades). This iconic building was originally designed by Francis Rattenbury in 1908 for the Canadian Pacific Railway. In May 2017, Fairmont Empress unveiled the completion of a $60 million dollar renovation. While much of the historic architecture was preserved, guests now find a modern twist on the classic. If staying at this luxury hotel isn’t in the budget, you are welcome to tour the lobby and grounds at any time.
Victoria’s Parliament Buildings
This waterfront property overlooking Victoria’s inner harbour has served as a site of government in British Columbia since 1864. The original structure was built to house the elected assembly for the Colony of Vancouver Island. And after British Columbia became a Province of Canada in 1871, it continued to be used by the Legislative Assembly. The current Parliament Buildings, designed by architect Francis Rattenbury (yes, the same man who designed the Empress), officially opened on February 10, 1898. Free guided tours are offered on a regular basis.
Castles in Alberta
Banff Springs Hotel
The world-famous Fairmont Banff Springs hotel stands as a historic landmark in the picturesque alpine town of Banff, Alberta. Coined as Canada’s “Castle in the Rockies”, the hotel has been providing hospitality to guests for more than 130 years. It was built to enhance tourism and traffic on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Construction began in 1887 and the hotel publically opened on June 1, 1888. In the 1990’s it was declared a National Historic Site by the Government of Canada.
Chateau Lake Louise
Originally built as a base for outdoor enthusiasts over 100 years ago, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a year-round luxury mountain resort that can easily pass as one of Canada’s castles…or at the very least, a princely palace. Dozens of Royals have graced this hotel, including King Edward VIII, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip, Prince Rainier of Monaco, and Queen Margrethe of Denmark. If not the allure of the historic building itself, then the breathtaking emerald green lake behind the hotel will surely get you there.
Prince of Whales
The Prince of Wales was built in 1927 by the Great Northern Railway as a Canadian link to their chain of North American resorts. With its soaring roofs, gables and balconies, the hotel has striking architectural designs. And exactly why it’s one of the most photographed hotels in the world. If you’ve never been, Waterton National Park is an absolute must-see! The scenery is simply breathtaking.
Fairmont Hotel MacDonald
Another famous Fairmont that is very much castle-like is the Hotel Macdonald. This historic landmark has been gracing Edmonton’s skyline since 1915 and is named after Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Overlooking the North Saskatchewan River Valley, the seven-storey hotel is faced with Indiana limestone and roofed with copper. The price to construct and furnish this iconic building in 1915 was approximately $2,250,000. In today’s time that equates to over $35 million! The characteristic Chateau style is an adaptation of French 16th Century castles first brought to Canada in 1892.
Alberta Legislative Building
Known locally as “the Ledge”, Alberta’s Legislative building was built between 1907 and 1913 in the Classical Revival style. It was constructed utilizing classic Greek, Roman, and Egyptian elements that suggest power, permanence and tradition. The interior is full of marble pillars, Vancouver Island granite, and carved oak. The dome you see in the above photo is a height of 55 metres (180 feet) and lit by stained glass skylights and approximately 600 light bulbs. Daily tours are available.
Castles in Saskatchewan
This historic building was built in 1935 in a Châteauesque style (an architectural style based on French Renaissance architecture). The Bessborough was designed by Archibald and Schofield and built for the Canadian National Railway as part of a hotel chain. Up until 1966, it was the tallest building in Saskatoon. The hotel is presently managed by Marriott International.
Saskatchewan Legislative Building
Completed in 1912, the Saskatchewan Legislative Building is a grand beaux-arts building designed to reflect the architecture of English Renaissance and Louis XVI of France. Since completion, the building has housed the executive and legislative offices of the province. The Legislative Building and its grounds were designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2005. Tours are available 362 days per year (closed only on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Good Friday).
The Thorvaldson Building opened in 1924 to house the Department of Chemistry at the University of Saskatchewan. It was one of the last of the original stone collegiate gothic buildings designed by Montreal architect David Brown. With its stone archways and gothic peaks, it was also the most elaborate of the early campus buildings. Another good one to check out while there is the Peter MacKinnon Building, constructed between 1910 and 1913. It is the centrepiece of a collection of original stone buildings located around ‘The Bowl’. The Canadian Register of Historic Places has called this group of buildings “the finest collection of Collegiate Gothic university buildings in Canada.”
Castles in Manitoba
This ‘prairie castle’ is located in Souris, Manitoba. It was built in 1910 for Fred and Maud Sowden, son and daughter-in-law of Squire W.H. Sowden, the town’s founder. It was designed by a local architect to reflect English architecture and meant to recall the castles of Maud’s childhood in England and India. It was once one of the top heritage properties in the country. In 1967, this historic building became the Hillcrest Museum when a group of local citizens formed a committee and purchased the property. The museum is only open during the summer months.
Built for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, the Fort Garry Hotel opened on December 11, 1913. It was considered Winnipeg’s “new castle of opulence”. Over the years, the hotel has hosted many famous guests, including Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, Laurence Olivier, Louis Armstrong, and Liberace. The Fort Garry Hotel is now a National Historic Landmark.
Constructed in 1895, Wesley Hall was the first building erected for what was then Wesley College (now the University of Winnipeg). The castle-like structure, designed by architects George Browne, Jr. and Samuel Frank Peters, is one of the province’s best remaining examples of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. The building received historic landmark status in 1973.
Manitoba’s Legislative Building
Many consider the building shown in the above photo to be the finest provincial Legislative Building in the country. The neoclassical structure was completed in 1920 and stands seventy-seven metres tall. On top of the dome stands the ‘Golden Boy’ – a large gilded statue depicting success. He’s arguably Manitoba’s best-known symbol (there’s even a local song about him). The interior of the building is said to be as equally stunning as the exterior. From July 1 to Labour Day in September, free tours of Manitoba’s Legislative Building are offered on an hourly basis from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm. Appointments can be made for all other months of the year.
As you can see, there are a great many castle and castle-like structures to visit in (Western) Canada! How many of these castles have you been to? Let us know in the comments below.
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