Where to Stay in Banff

SD › Best Places to Stay in Banff
Updated: September 3, 2020
By Santorini Dave

The Best Areas to Stay in Banff

Banff is a small town located in a spectacular alpine setting, ringed by rugged mountains, and has a wide selection of hotels and restaurants. It is very touristy and is abuzz with travelers from around the world, giving it a lively international flavor, with the peak season from late June through to late September and during Christmas. Traffic can be congested, so it’s often better to park and walk, when possible, as it’s a very pedestrian-friendly town. There is excellent hiking, world-class downhill skiing at three resorts in the area, and golfing—just to name a few.

During the summer, downtown Banff is the hub of activity and filled with restaurants, shops, bars, tourists, cars, and numerous motorhomes. In winter, it’s significantly quieter. There are three ski resorts in the area – Mount Norquay, Banff Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise Ski Resort. Banff is a 40-minute drive from Lake Louise and 1.5 hours from the Calgary International Airport. Some of the best hiking is near Lake Louise, but there are many other excellent hiking options in and around Banff as well.

Very few hotels in Banff and nearby areas have air conditioning because the mountains are usually cool at night even in the summer. However, in recent years, there is the odd week where temperatures don’t cool off enough for some people. The following Banff hotels offer air conditioning: Fairmont Banff Springs (select rooms) • Fox Hotel and Suites (suites with living room only) • Moose Hotel and Suites (all rooms) • Mount Royal Hotel (all rooms)

The Best Places to Stay in Banff

The “Castle in the Rockies”. The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is a UNESCO Heritage Site and the best place to stay in the Banff area.

The 6 Best Neighborhoods in Banff for Tourists

1. Downtown District (100-400 blocks of Banff Avenue)

Banff has a small dense downtown which covers a few blocks on the lower end of its main thoroughfare – Banff Avenue. This area is the center of the action and is where most of the restaurants, shops, bars, and other amenities are located including its main supermarket. Adjacent to downtown, lies the Bow River and the Bow River Trail which meanders alongside the beautiful river’s edge with plenty of benches to take in the impressive scenery. Canoe rentals are also available further along the Trail. Central Park is a beautiful green space beside the Bow River and is steps from the heart of downtown.
Pros: Very little walking required to access a large selection of restaurants, shops, and its extremely convenient after a long day of outdoor activities like hiking or skiing.
Cons: Street noise from traffic, abundance of tourists, late-night partiers on Banff Avenue may be noisy at times.

2. The Uptown District (400–600 blocks of Banff Avenue)

The Uptown District area extends a few more blocks in all directions from downtown. It is less dense, with fewer hotels (most of which are older properties), and there are only a few restaurants. It is, however, on the public transit route and walkable to downtown.
Staying in uptown offers easy access to Rotary Park which has a small playground for young children.

3. Sulphur Mountain Area (on the lower end of Banff Avenue and across the Bow River Bridge)

In this area are Banff Upper Hot Springs with an outdoor pool offering splendid views and the Banff Gondola, a cableway to the top of Sulphur Mountain. Two of the most luxurious and largest Banff hotels – the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel and the Rimrock Resort Hotel – are also located here. Note: Even though the Rimrock Hotel is just over 2 miles from downtown, walking is not recommended as there are no sidewalks in some sections. Virtually all the restaurants and bars in this area are in either the Banff Springs Hotel or the Rimrock Hotel.

4. Outskirts of Banff

5. Lake Louise / Moraine Lake

Lake Louise is world famous for its fabulous scenery, turquoise lakes, the Victoria Glacier, soaring mountain peaks, incredible hiking and skiing, and the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel. It is a small, serene village (hamlet) and has only about a thousand residents, perfect for relaxation and tranquility. The road to Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks is an off-shoot from the main road. Many types of shuttles are available, however, so getting there is never a problem. Note: If you are staying at either of the hotels (the Chateau Lake Louise or Moraine Lake Lodge) guest parking is provided and access to the two roads is never hindered. The village of Lake Louise has roughly a dozen restaurants, from casual to fine dining, and a handful of these are first-class. The allure of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake is that it’s in the heart of amazing scenery and surrounded by extraordinary hiking trails, including Larch Valley. Unique to the area are two Tea Houses that can only be accessed by foot (hiking): the popular Lake Agnes Tea House and the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House. In both, the summer and the winter, you can feel closer to nature here than in the Banff town center. Lake Louise/Moraine Lake is a 45-minute drive from Banff, and 2.5 hours from Calgary International Airport. Located very close to Lake Louise Ski Resort and their summer gondola, which is a great spot to see wild grizzly bears in their natural environment. Non-skiers have the option to skate, snowshoe, cross-country ski, sightsee, ride a horse-drawn sleigh, go dogsledding, and take in special events such as the Ice Magic Festival (ice carving competition) held every January at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

6. Canmore

This small, quaint town is less commercialized than Banff. It is surrounded by soaring peaks and home to the majestic Three Sisters Mountains, which is the centerpiece of Canmore, and is located 5 minutes east of the Banff National Park gates, and 15 minutes from the town of Banff. The restaurants and other businesses have a true down-home vibe. There are some fantastic restaurants and microbrew pubs, and with far fewer tourists than Banff, it doesn’t have the same international buzz that Banff offers. One of Canmore’s newest attractions is Legacy Trail, a 22-km cycle path running from Canmore to Banff. Tip: if you pedal one way and don’t want to pedal back, just get on the local ROAM bus with your bike. Buses run every 30-60 mins in summer. Not as touristy as Banff, it has a more neighborly atmosphere and offers many fantastic dining options. Also, accommodations tend to be less expensive than Banff and Lake Louise. However, there is no ski resort in Canmore, but they do boast the Canmore Nordic Centre which offers world-class cross-country skiing in the winter and over 60 miles of trails for mountain biking and trail running in the summer.

About Santorini Dave

Santorini Dave Santorini Dave was started in 2011 by a guy who loves Greece and Europe, travel and great hotels. We're now a small team of writers and researchers dedicated to providing the best travel content on the internet. We focus on Santorini, Mykonos, Athens, and Greece, offering recommendations for top hotels, neighborhoods, and family-friendly hotels worldwide. Dave can be contacted at dave@santorinidave.com.