Good morning, everyone! I had a bunch of requests for this travel guide to Banff so that’s what I’m sharing today. It was easily one of the top two prettiest places I’ve ever been (the first being the Amalfi Coast in Italy) and it was one of my top five favorite trips, because my mom and I had so much fun on this one 🙂 And we ate a TON of good food, haha! I’m rounding up my instagrams from the trip, but you can find our full trip re-cap and recommendations on where to eat, stay and play at the end of this blog post.
I’ve been to Canada a few times (to Quebec a few years ago & Toronto last year) and have always been so impressed with their country – the people there are SO nice and the cities are always beautiful and clean. Banff had been on my travel list for the past couple of years – all of the travel accounts I follow on Instagram always post pictures of Banff and it’s so beautiful (I truly thought it just couldn’t be that pretty in real life). But it IS, you guys! The lake waters are more blue/turquoise than the waters I’ve seen in the Caribbean, and the way the mountains jut up against the sky – it is a striking sight. I cried when we got to the top of our hike and saw the stunning view of Moraine Lake – in that moment, I questioned how anyone could doubt God’s existence when you’re looking at His beautiful creation.
I truly believe everyone should travel to Alberta at least once in your life, to experience how pretty it is yourself. This would make a great trip for girlfriends, a romantic couples trip or even a family trip with your kids (the hotels we stayed at were incredibly kid-friendly!). Anyway, let’s get started…
HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest way to get to Banff and/or Lake Louise is to fly into the Calgary airport (YYC). It’s an hour and a half drive from the airport to Banff, so my mom and I chose to rent a car – it’s too far to take a taxi.
WHERE TO STAY
My mom and I decided to split our trip into two parts: Banff and Lake Louise. They are about an hour away from each other and both completely worth it! If you call to make reservations at either Fairmont hotel, they can book your stay at both (this is also easier because they have full access to both hotels’ room availabilities). We stayed at the Fairmont Banff Springs (in downtown Banff) first, which was a good decision because it’s closer to the airport! If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative, there are a bunch of small hotels and motels located in both Banff and Lake Louise.
Fairmont Banff Springs: This hotel certainly has its architecture going for it – it looks like a huge castle on a mountaintop!! Your jaw drops when you drive up to it for the first time! The inside of the hotel is very spacious, with a coffee shop, tons of gift shops and restaurants, and a gorgeous pool. We stayed on the Gold Level (the 5th floor) because it comes with a free buffet breakfast in the morning and free hors d’oeuvres and dessert at night. Our room was very clean and the beds were really comfortable, and overall we really loved everything about the hotel. Plus it’s only a two minute drive from downtown Banff, where all the shops and restaurants are located. You can also walk downtown – it’s about a ten minute walk, be sure to ask the concierge to show you the most scenic route on a map!
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: While the Fairmont Banff Springs has the architecture down pat, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise definitely has the location! This hotel is located right on Lake Louise and offers a STUNNING view of the lake and surrounding mountains. Our room was in the Mount Temple Wing and was incredibly spacious (much bigger than our room at the other hotel) and had an amazing view of the lake from our window! There aren’t many restaurants or shops around Lake Louise, so you pretty much have to eat at the restaurants at the hotel – good thing the food was delicious! My mom and I both loved all of our meals here.
WHERE TO EAT
Coyotes Southwestern Grill: We ate here on our very first night and it was absolutely delicious! We snagged a table outside so that we could soak up the cooler weather and the atmosphere of downtown Banff. The whole menu had a southwestern feel, and there were lots of healthy options which I liked. My mom ordered the chile & honey glazed salmon, while I got a cup of sweet potato corn chowder alongside a goat cheese salad. Oh and we both had a glass of red wine. DELISH!
Earl’s Kitchen and Bar: To be honest, we picked this place for lunch one day because of the appealing outdoor seating area! Little tables line the sidewalk and each table had a vase of fresh flowers. We’re glad we went here, though, because the food was really good. They serve a mix of different cuisines, from pizza to noodles, burgers and tacos. My mom and I split an order of garlic fries (they were addicting) and a margherita pizza.
The Lookout Patio: This little restaurant is located within the Fairmont Banff Springs and is the perfect spot for a glass of wine and an appetizer with an unbeatable panoramic view of the Canadian Rockies. My mom and I sipped a glass of rosé and snacked on hummus and pita while taking in the view. It was one of our favorite spots!
Melissa’s Misssteak: We were recommended to go to this restaurant for breakfast one morning. Head towards the picturesque Bow River in downtown Banff and you’ll find yourself standing in front of this cozy restaurant (the outside is really cute!). We heard that their dinner and lunch menu is also good, but for breakfast they serve pretty much anything you could ever dream of: cereal, omelettes, eggs benedict, pancakes, french toast… even banana nutella crepes.
Poppy Brasserie: This restaurant is located inside the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, but it’s worth going to, even if you aren’t staying at the hotel. The real draw of this restaurant is the patio because of it’s truly amazing and jaw-dropping view of Lake Louise and the surrounding mountains (so try to reserve a seat on the patio, if you can!). I ordered a turkey sandwich on a pretzel bun and a side salad, and it was absolutely amazing. Plus they have warm blankets at each seat on the patio, since it does get pretty chilly in the mornings and evenings, you will very likely need them!
Alpine Social: We went here for dinner one night during our stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. We sat outside and had a wonderful view of the lake! This is a great place to go and get a drink and watch the sunset – we ordered the Pimm’s, a really refreshing cocktail made with soda, cucumber slices, orange slices and mint leaves. My mom and I shared the 18oz salmon fillet and some mashed potatoes – the salmon came with a chimichuri sauce that was out-of-this-world good. Oh and the absolute best part of the meal was dessert – mini donuts filled with nutella and raspberry compote, with a maple dipping sauce. SO GOOD.
We wish we had time to try more restaurants! We received recommendations from lots of people (thank you!) and here were some of the most-recommended restaurants: the Maple Leaf Grill and Lounge on Banff Ave., Bear Street Tavern in Banff for pizza, the Grizzly House in Banff for fondue, Crazy Weeds in Canmore, lunch at Muriettas on Main Street in Canmore, and High Tea at the Fairmont.
WHAT TO DO
Moraine Lake: If you do anything at all while you’re in Alberta, you simply MUST go to Moraine Lake. The lake itself is much prettier than Lake Louise (it is more turquoise!). Rock Pile Trail is an easy five-minute hike and at the top, you won’t find a more amazing view. Just be sure to arrive early in the morning because it gets very crowded quickly and nobody is allowed to park after 9 a.m. because the lot is already packed! We arrived at 8 a.m. and wished we had gotten there earlier.
Lake Louise: Lake Louise is still a must-see (even if Moraine Lake is prettier) because there’s a little bit more to do at Lake Louise. Dine on the patio at Poppy Brasserie for a panoramic view, go canoeing on the lake, or take one of the many hiking trails that start at the lake.
Hike to Lake Agnes Tea House: We really wanted to do this but ran out of time! The hike to the tea house starts near the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and climbs uphill for 2.2 miles (about a 1.5 to 2 hour hike). Once you arrive at the Tea House, you can order homemade soup, sandwiches and more than 100 varieties of tea – and you get a beautiful view of the “lakes in the clouds,” Mirror Lake and Lake Louise.
Banff Gondola: The gondola is located just 5 minutes from downtown Banff, on the shoulder of Sulphur Mountain. Take the glass-enclosed gondola 7,000 feet above sea level up the mountainside for an unsurpassed view of Banff, the Bow Valley and a 360 degree view of six different mountain ranges.
Hike to the Hidden Cave in Johnston Canyon: My friend Amy recently visited Alberta and she told me that her favorite hike was the cave in Johnston Canyon. It’s supposedly a pretty easy hike and can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. I found this blog post which had a good description of the trail (and beautiful photos).
So many of you guys said you were headed to Banff in the near future, so if you have any additional questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below! 🙂
Thank you to everyone for following along!
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