Toronto's Grande Dame: Fairmont Royal York

I spent three terrific days in Toronto recently, touring hotels, lunching at Holts Renfrew, walking miles through the neighborhoods, and meeting great people.  It’s only an hour’s flight from New York and despite the icy winter chill, I grew to really like the city. 

Hotel options, as in any major financial and business center, range from detached convention hotels to small, luxury boutiques.

However, there is just one Grande Dame, and that is the Fairmont Royal York.

Given the name of this landmark property, it’s no surprise that Queen Elizabeth II takes over the Royal Suite during visits to the city, most recently in 2010.  Rumor was that Prince William and Kate would stay there on their Canadian tour this summer, but alas, Toronto didn’t make the cut for their visit.

The Royal York is regal in every way, from the golden glow of the lobby, to the stately but buzzing Library Bar.  I’d recommend that Wills & Kate stop for a cold Royal Stinger when they do visit Toronto, a smooth honey ale made with the resort’s own honey.  I love that Melanie Coates, the PR guru on site, doubles as the Royal York’s beekeeper, cultivating delicious honey on the rooftop. The signature beer was delicious.

To further tap into its regal history, A Queen Victoria look-a-like contest is held each year in May. 

Massive in size, the Royal York used to be the tallest building in Toronto before skyscrapers grew up around it.  With 1,365 rooms and a city-block long kitchen, the hotel can cater to huge events, like a Justin Bieber press conference held the day before I visited. If you can swing it, you may want to check into a Gold Level room to enjoy a private lounge, snacks and drinks, and more personalized service. With that number of rooms, the lounge is almost a must for me.

I was glad to see the Royal York keep historical elements but also grow with the pace of Canada’s largest city. Epic, the hotel’s restaurant off the historical lobby, feels very new and modern.  Hollywood has taken over the hotel for movies like Serendipity, Cinderella Man, Amelia, and Chloe. 

Know that the hotel is within walking distance of the CN Tower and the tourist-y King Street, but far from Yorkville and other Toronto neighborhoods.