Arriving at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle makes one feel like a VIP. The feeling of “they know who I am and when I’ll be there” begins with an e-mail from the hotel on the day of arrival asking for an estimated arrival time. Fairmont President’s Club members with credit cards on file can simply let the staff know when they need their room ready for check-in and they’ll receive another e-mail when their room is ready. Upon arrival, one need only show identification to the door person to receive the key to the room, undoubtedly first stopping to admire the stately ionic columns that soar above the hotel’s façade.
Of course, that presents a dilemma. One could go to the elevator and straight to the room, but that would rob one of the opportunity to take in one of the most beautiful public spaces in all of Seattle: the hotel’s lobby. A trot up the escalator deposits guests into the two story vaulted ceiling-capped room where the chandeliers and fresh flower displays announce that you’ve not only entered the realm of one of the city’s finest hotels, you’ve stepped into a space where the Emerald City has long celebrated special moments with genteel atmosphere and gracious hospitality.
First constructed in 1924 and refreshed throughout the years (most recently in 2005), the hotel is once again undergoing an update to corridors and guest room designs, taking out a somewhat more anachronistic gilt for cleaner lines and bolder colors, with new (comfortably difficult to exit) beds, midcentury modern furnishings and geometric shapes and sumptuous marble bathrooms. Corridors are also refreshed in the same careful style, which updates without compromising the design integrity of the historic space.
In addition to guest rooms, the hotel’s dining spaces are memorable. The Georgian, with its massive chandeliers and soaring windows looking out upon tree-lined avenues remains perhaps the most opulent breakfast venue in the city, where guests can also enjoy luncheon and afternoon tea. Shuckers Oyster Bar has taken up residence in a spot that was once a haberdashery (sewing notions, or supply) shop, which maintains its original dark oak paneling and tin ceiling. Expect to find local oysters here, served a variety of ways, as well as luscious fresh Northwest seafood (halibut! crab! salmon!) with a supporting cast of locally grown produce and honey ale with honey from the hotel’s rooftop apiary (yes, the bees find pollen, even in the city).
It’s certainly a crowded hotel market in Seattle, and there are some tremendous options to choose from in the Downtown core – buildings historic and modern, hotel brands new and old, luxury and budget. But the Fairmont Olympic seems to stand out among the rest of them, having been The Olympic for her entire 92 year existence. To say the hotel looks good for its age is an understatement; to say that the hotel’s beauty continues to captivate visitors even in the face of one of the world’s most enrapturing cities is somewhat more fitting.
More photos of a recent visit can be found on the author’s Instagram.
Accommodations and some meals were provided by the Fairmont Olympic Hotel Seattle in preparation for this story.