Gladstone Hotel Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto’s oldest hotel today combines a boutique art hotel with a gallery, and it continues to be one of the biggest supporters of the Toronto art community in myriad ways. Named after Canada’s seventh prime minister Wilfrid Laurier, Fairmont Château Laurier has dominated the Ottawa skyline since opening in 1912. Its elegant corridors and grand ballrooms witness countless international events and celebrity guests, and the hotel is almost as recognizable as its neighbor, Parliament Hill.

 The biggest draw is the fact that each of the 37 rooms is designed by a different local artist.

Location:

 

The hotel is 20 minutes by streetcar west of downtown, steps away from the area’s arty boutiques, cafés, restaurants and galleries, and a five-minute walk from the edge of the equally hip Parkdale neighborhood. The shops and restaurants of the Ossington Street strip and the cool cocktail bars of Dundas Street West are a 15-minute walk away, as is Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Style & character:

This Romanesque Revival-style building was once one of Toronto’s grand railway hotels; today it maintains a design connection to its past via vaulted ceilings, original hardwood flooring, steamer trunk-friendly hallways that now double as gallery space on two floors, and a working manual cage lift running up through the main stairwell. Art is literally everywhere you look and changes regularly, thanks to the programming of more than 50 exhibitions throughout the course of the year. Old World grandeur starts right at the wooden, revolving front door and never stops. A hushed, museum-like atmosphere permeates much of the cavernous public areas and banquet rooms, with their turn-of-the-century furnishings, hand-painted ceilings, marble flooring, ornate plasterwork and vast yards of drapery. Photographer Yousuf Karsh once had his studio in the hotel, and a few of his most famous portraits hang in the lounge off the lobby, including a portrait of Winston Churchill that made its way onto the British £5 note. Take the 30-minute, self-directed walking tour of the hotel guided by iPads loaned out at the front desk. Typical guests are art enthusiasts, for whom the art community environment is just as important as the thread count. Local patrons pop in to hang out, pull out their laptops or grab lunch.

Service & facilities:

Service is friendly, genuine and informal. A 150-person capacity function room on the main floor suits weddings. Annual events that take place throughout the hotel showcase contemporary art, photography, Pride, textile and painting exhibitions.

Guests find a natural Canadian friendliness throughout the property, the service as warm as that of a small hotel. A health club on the lower level is equipped with state-of-the-art fitness machines and free weights, with personal training available on request. Massage therapy is also available, although there is no formal spa. A nautical-themed, 60-foot Art Deco swimming pool props up one end of the health club for your morning laps.

The whole second floor is a series of small incubator art studios and multifunctional short-term rental space. The Gladstone also has a bike-borrowing system complete with helmets; gym-goers are directed to the nearby 99 Sudbury Gym.

  •  Wi-Fi
  •  Parking
  •  Bar
  •  Restaurant

Rooms:

Rooms are cozy and functional, each with their own whimsical design. The Biker room is inspired by Seventies motorcycle culture; the Teen Queen room is filled with Tiger Beat imagery; the Puzzle Room is a jigsaw-puzzle extravaganza; the Lucky Strike celebrates queer culture via vintage matchbook covers; the Parlour of Twilight is a Forties-inspired film-noir reverie, complete with red neon lights. Compact bathrooms sports showers and natural, Canadian-made amenities. A few rooms have stocked wet bars. Guests can also enjoy hypoallergenic duvets and pillows, free local calls, and free coffee and tea served in the third and fourth-floor lounges.

Food & drink:

The main-floor Café is busy all day with breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, and cocktails – the focus is on local, seasonal ingredients and good value. Gluten-free breakfast sandwiches are filled with amazing homemade sausage. The dinner menu changes regularly and features shareable comfort food, with gluten-free and vegan items available.

House specialties include slow-roasted jerk chicken wings and a vegan burger with shiitake bacon, toasted coco bread, and pickled mango. The Chef in Residence Program [sic] mirrors the hotel’s art programming, bringing in noted local chefs to curate special one-off culinary experiences.

The Melody Bar is a lounge area during the day and morphs into a venue for live music, film screenings, karaoke and more on Tuesday to Saturday nights.

Value for money:

Double rooms from 200 Canadian Dollars (£110) in low season; and from 420 Canadian Dollars (£230) in high. Breakfast excluded; from 12 Canadian dollars (£7). Free Wi-Fi.

Family-friendly:

It’s not suitable for families, though cots are available.

 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto, M6J 1J6, Canada.

00 1 647 793 7027gladstonehotel.com

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