Banff quite literally wouldn’t be Banff if it weren’t for its hot springs, which gush out from 2.5km beneath Sulphur Mountain at a constant temperature of between 32°C (90°F) and 46°C (116°F) – it was the springs that drew the first tourists to Banff. You can still sample the soothing mineral waters at the Upper Hot Springs Pool, near the Banff Gondola.
Several hotels once occupied the site where the present-day Upper Hot Springs Pool stands – Dr RG Brett’s Grand View Villa, built in 1886, was joined by the Hydro Hotel in 1890, but both establishments burnt down and were replaced in the 1930s by a new bathhouse in the fashionable art-deco style.
Renovations have since masked some of the bathhouse’s period elegance, but the hot springs still rank as one of the not-to-be-missed Banff experiences – there aren’t many places in the world where you can take a hot bath with a mountain view as spectacular as this.
The pools get busy in season, so aim for an early or late dip if you prefer smaller crowds (alternatively, with three weeks' advance notice you can hire the whole place for $270 per hour). Towels and swimsuits are available for hire.