By Diana Ballon
Toronto’s luxury hotels boast some of the cities’ finest spas and dining options, so visitors to the city and residents are benefitting from the choice.
Looming 55 floors into the Toronto skyline, the upper floors of the west-end tower of the Four Seasons reflects the clouds above in its long panels of glass. The effect is dramatic and sleek.
Outside the Yorkville Avenue entrance, the interlocking stones in the driveway are designed in the pattern of a Persian rug: this is just one of the many design influences of Four Seasons’ founder Isadore Sharp, an architect by trade.
Step inside the hotel doors and the effect is equally calming and beautiful, with glass, metal, wood and stone used throughout the building, and displays of exclusively Canadian artwork. Above the check-in desk, whimsical dandelion mobiles hang down against a blue sky backdrop. On the same floor is d|bar and one floor up is Café Boulud, both the vision of Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. D|bar is perfect for a glass of wine and charcuterie: Café Boulud is an upscale brasserie where you can enjoy comfort food like their signature rotisserie chicken, or perfectly executed bistro classics, like their mouth-watering confit de canard and their lyon-style northern pike in a cognac-lobster sauce.
On the hotel’s eighth floor is the fitness centre, and covering the entire floor above is their newly revamped 30,000 square foot spa, with 16 treatment rooms, a beautiful spa and whirlpool, and steam rooms in the change areas.
The hotel’s spacious 259 guestrooms and suites rise to the 21st floor with residences above. The guest rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, and modern amenities with separate seating area living space.
With most Toronto hotels concentrated in the downtown, Les Mallins, founder of Streetcar Developments, took a bold step when he bought a Romanesque revival building built in 1891 and converted it into the east end’s first funky boutique hotel. This involved converting what was formerly a rooming house, a gathering spot for high society and more recently the decrepit Jilly’s strip bar into what is now an east end landmark.
The product is fun, funky, brash and eclectic, with design elements replicating a history that began in the 1890s. Here you’ll find everything from a wrought iron fire escape converted to an art piece around the lobby elevator, a neon-pink art installation hanging from the ceiling of their café, and patterned wallpaper that is a reproduction from what they discovered from its earliest days. Even the walls of the back stairwell display a mural that runs from the ground floor to the rooftop telling the story of the building and the neighbourhood.
By all accounts, visitors are excited too. On a Friday evening in late September, the hotel is hopping—its 58 rooms fully booked, its landmark) rooftop bar with a coveted 360 degree view is packed, and the all-day café and more formal restaurant, The Civic, are buzzing.
In about 12 hours, we cover all the bases. Our evening starts with a drink in our room listening to an old vinyl Joni Mitchell. Then we head up to the rooftop for a cocktail, before going down to the main floor to cozy up on an oxblood leather banquette for an amazing several-course dinner at The Civic.
The next morning, the duck Benedict and strong coffee in the café is just what I need to start to kick start the day.
Kimpton Saint George
This hotel is not the Holiday Inn. But it once was—until a six-month renovation transformed Bloor St. West’s Holiday Inn into what is currently the only Kimpton hotel in the country.
While the Kimpton brand is better known in the United States (there are 66 properties there), this sleek modern hotel, with its living room-style lobby is consistent with its U.S. partners in blending in with the neighbourhood. Located minutes from the St. George subway in the Annex, its designers Mason Studio have incorporated archways throughout the hotel to mirror the archways often found in older houses in the neigbhourhood. It is also close to Yorkville, and only steps from the ROM and the University of Toronto campus.
The Saint George has 188 rooms – 21 of which are suites – and throughout are perks to make guests feel at home and socialize in the hotel’s main floor “living room” or lobby. Throughout the hotel are more than 700 pieces of artwork, including five or six in each room, most of which are Canadian made.
For exercise, two bikes are available for you to explore the city, there is an in-house fitness centre on the second floor, and each room comes with its own yoga mat.
The Omni King Edward
There’s something iconic about the King Eddie. This luxury hotel first opened its doors in 1903, and continues to occupy an entire city block along King Street, just east of Yonge.
Stroll into its lobby, and you can pose for a selfie next to the giant chess pieces or collapse into one of the plush purple banquettes. With these “royal” accents, and its original moulding and columns, the style is Edwardian baroque, and a merging of old and new.
Classic elements of the King Eddie include the Sunday brunch and afternoon tea at Victoria’s restaurant. The scone recipe they use comes from the Royal household, and seasonal teas including a chocolate autumnal tea and the Nutcracker afternoon tea for the Christmas season.
As evening approaches, the Consort Bar is a fun spot to stop in for a craft cocktail or handcrafted tea mocktail for the non-drinker. It has a gentlemen club vibe, with dark wood sconces over the bar, and stately portraits of Queen Mary and Queen Alexandra hang on the walls.
The 301 rooms at the hotel start at 350 square feet and include an 1,800-square foot Royal suite. Most rooms have king-sized beds, and the 29 VIP rooms include extra perks, like a complimentary happy hour, breakfast and snacks at its Royal Club Lounge, which was part of the $40-million renovation completed in 2015.
While the Royal Club Lounge is one of this old world hotel’s modern offerings, the hotel hasn’t been upgraded with a spa or a pool. The draw here is more about history.
Hotel X Toronto
It’s difficult to miss the towering 29-storey Hotel X as you enter the Exhibition Place grounds. Set on nine acres with a 90,000 square foot fitness club, 404 rooms – many with floor-to-ceiling windows – and a rooftop bar and pool with killer views of Lake Ontario, it’s a large-scale urban resort.
The hotel is the first Canadian property of the Library Hotel Collection (which includes four boutique hotels in New York). Although your immediate impression isn’t boutique – the modern high ceiling and open main floor are divided into smaller living room type spaces to give it a cozier, more intimate feel, as are the lined bookshelves. Displayed throughout the hotel are commissioned photographs of natural sites by Canadian artist Neil Dankoff.
The Hotel X is located only a few minutes from Billy Bishop airport, and from the Budweiser stage, soccer matches, Argonaut football games and many other events. The hotel is also a big draw for fitness hounds who want more than the typical hotel gym. Ten X Toronto is a private fitness club available to hotel guests, with state-of-the-art TechnoGym equipment; a pilates, hot yoga and spin studio; four indoor tennis courts; nine squash courts and even a golf simulator. (Some extra fees apply.)