The ultimate hotel guide to Toronto
As Canada's largest city establishes itself as a film and tech hub, new hotels are moving in at pace and old ones are upping their game.
Canada’s largest city has long had plenty to thrill visitors: world-class museums, international restaurants and golden beaches. Its accommodation, by contrast, hasn’t always managed to keep up — but things are changing. As Toronto establishes itself as a film and tech hub, new hotels are moving in at pace and old ones are upping their game. Hotels typically reflect their locale, from the historic Annex neighbourhood to the lively Entertainment District and hip Trinity-Bellwoods. For luxury brands, the Financial District and upmarket Yorkville are your go-tos, while bohemian-cool stays abound in trendy Queen West. Many of Toronto’s best hotels are within the central core, but if you base yourself further out, be sure you’re on a subway or streetcar line; bargain stays can quickly become otherwise if you have hefty taxi fares to contend with.
Best for aesthetes
1 Hotel Toronto: When American brand 1 Hotels launched its first Canadian outpost off King Street West in 2021, it did so with proper Canadian flair. Furniture was styled from local fallen trees; restaurant plates were garnished with herbs from the on-site garden; and glacier-carved Ontario stone was hauled in to create a spectacular lobby feature. Native plants were installed in bedrooms and public spaces, too — all by a dedicated in-house gardening team. The sustainable angle extends to the light-and-bright rooms, with reusable chalkboards replacing traditional notepads and carafes of filtered tap water standing in for plastic bottles. The other big selling point, beside the ethics? The suntrap rooftop pool, one of the few open-air pools in the city.
From CA$529 (£334).
Best for the jet set
Fairmont Royal York: Locations don’t get more convenient than the Fairmont Royal York, a 1929 chateau-inspired hotel just steps from central Union Station. Not that you’re here to escape Toronto, of course; this glam old pile has it all with its sultry martini bar, skylight-topped indoor pool and decadent weekend afternoon teas. Book one of the newly refurbished rooms — it’s a few dollars extra, but worth it for the fresh, steely blue aesthetic — and request a view overlooking the CN Tower, so you can wake up to Canada’s most famous landmark. Keep your eyes peeled for the A-list clientele; the hotel has hosted many notable guests in the past, including the Queen.
Rooms: From CA$559 (£353).
Best for glamour pusses
Park Hyatt Toronto: After four years of renovations, one of Toronto’s most storied hotels reopened quietly in autumn 2021 — and it’s a real looker. Swathes of marble, sleek dark woods and a calming colour palette make for a high-spec space that’s equal parts luxurious and crowd-pleasing. The location, in the smart Yorkville neighbourhood, makes it a prime pick for culture vultures visiting the adjacent Royal Ontario Museum, or for shoppers — Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Dior are a minute away. Don’t miss the lobby restaurant Joni for prawn crudo with clementine and black lime, while the moodily lit, intimate Writers Room Bar, frequented pre-refurb by authors like Margaret Atwood, is a destination in its own right.
Rooms: From CA$675 (£427).
Best for socialites
Bisha: Partly styled by Lenny Kravitz’s design company, this Entertainment District hotel thrums with music industry cool. Room decor is bold and feels made for after-hours partying, with dark, lacquered surfaces, velvet sofas and bar carts stocked with spirits — not to mention the love-it-or-hate-it art, including one print that instructs you to ‘leave your clothes at home’. In contrast, the 44th floor Kost restaurant, overlooking the pool, channels LA vibes with its sun-drenched tables and tropical foliage. Join the cool crowd for smoked short rib with guajillo glaze, washed down with frosty margaritas.
Rooms: From CA$560 (£434).
Best for design gurus
The Drake Hotel: This pad on Queen Street West quickly became a hub for the area’s culture, arts and live music scene when it opened in 2004. A shiny new extension, opened in 2021, has more than doubled its room count to 51, while maintaining the brand’s signature aesthetic of mid-century-modern furniture, bold contemporary prints and quirky Canadiana. (If you like what you see, check out their lifestyle and home accessories kit from The Drake General Store.) The Drake Underground, a locally loved performance space, will have you partying until late, while weekend brunches served until 4pm mean you can recover over fried chicken and waffles.
Rooms: From CA$360 (£228).
Best for bargain-hunters
The Rex: Central Toronto stays don’t usually come cheap — unless you’re staying at The Rex. A stalwart music venue at the edge of the Entertainment District, its worn-in bar fills nightly with some of Canada’s best brass, strings and vocal talent performing jazz and blues. There are hotel rooms on the upper floor, where a bed for the night costs sub-£100. Decor is no-frills, space is tight and there’s no lift, but in turn you get built-in nightlife and a first-rate location by big-hitting sights such as the Art Gallery of Ontario and CN Tower. You’re not short of local dining options either, but if you’re staying put, the restaurant serves a classic Canadian poutine.
Rooms: From CA$115 (£73).
Best for indie spirits
The Annex Hotel: Named after the leafy residential district it calls home, The Annex is about two things: style and simplicity. They’ve done away with the usual hotel admin, letting you check in online and see yourself to a white-washed room — simply text if something’s required. Larger bedrooms, with natural woods and minimalist decor, have an almost a Japanese aesthetic. Downstairs, the bar serves orange wine, local beers and mezcal cocktails. Restaurant Aunty Lucy’s, inspired by owner Chieff Bosompra’s Ghanian roots, has smash burgers with fried plantain, gooey jalapeno havarti cheese and zingy secret sauce.
Rooms: From CA$260 (£164), B&B.
Best for cool cats
Gladstone House: Toronto’s oldest continually operating hotel, perched majestically on a Queen Street West corner since 1889, remains one of its most enticing. It’s not just the refurbed Melody Bar, with its historic murals and raucous drag brunches, that make this such a destination, nor is it the rooms, combining original brick with one-off, purchasable pieces by Toronto artists. This hotel has plenty to keep guests busy, too, with its on-site artist studio, yoga room and open-plan lounge spaces. Book one of the spacious, coveted corner suites, before heading out to explore the artisan bakeries and CBD stores of nearby Ossington Avenue.
Rooms: From CA$265 (£168).
Best for peace-seekers
The Anndore House: The rambling north-south artery of Yonge Street, with its fast-food chains and condos, isn’t exactly known for serenity. But step into The Anndore, a high-rise hotel perched above the rush, and you’ll find a peaceful escape. Industrial-edgy rooms with exposed brick and subway-tiled bathrooms give the hotel a distinctly urban feel, and small touches like vinyl players and button-back chairs lend a lived-in, home-from-home vibe. Download the dedicated hotel app to act as your key card and control your room’s lights and TV, then explore nearby Bloor Street, home to Canadian stores such as Roots and Holt Renfrew.
Rooms: From CA$250 (£158).
Best for families
The Westin Harbour Castle: Aside from its enviable waterfront location — the ferry launch point for the parks and beaches of the Toronto Islands — families love The Westin for the perks it offers young travellers. There are outdoor tennis courts, bountiful breakfast buffets, an indoor pool and a kids’ club, too. And yet, for all the child-friendly focus, the hotel doesn’t compromise on style. Leather headboards, cappuccino hues and crisp white bedding give bedrooms a grown-up feel. Consider booking two interconnecting rooms — they’re a good option for larger families or those with teens after their own space.
Rooms: From CA$213 (£135).
Published in the October 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
Follow us on social media