There’s nothing like an Ace hotel lobby bar—and now Toronto gets to experience the good times.

Photo by William Jess Laird

For a city that hosted a record 28 million visitors in the year before the pandemic, Toronto’s hotel scene always felt a little staid. That’s changed, on an epic scale. In 2022 alone, this sprawling city saw openings of its first Ace, W, and 1 Hotel properties, along with total refreshes of stalwarts like the Park Hyatt, Sheraton, and Gladstone.

Just as exciting, travelers now have options in sought-after neighborhoods like the west-side Annex and east-end Riverdale—both beloved by locals for non-chain shopping, eclectic food, and a less frenetic pace than downtown.

More beds are on the way, with Toronto’s first Nobu, Andaz, Canopy, and Curio properties set to open in 2023. In the meantime, we’ve curated a short list of hotels—new and established—that convey the diverse flavors, nonstop energy, and restless creativity of Canada’s largest city.

The 1 Hotel brand has a distinctive, plant-filled look, though Toronto’s new edition borrows from local traditions as well.

Photo by Brandon Barre Photography

1 Hotel Toronto

What to expect: Plant-filled, ecoforward hotel shaped by local partnersNeighborhood: King Street WestBook Now

Though the 1 Hotel brand launched in Miami and New York, its first Canadian hotel has more local DNA than a maternity ward. Ontario woodworkers transformed fallen Toronto trees into more than 1,000 pieces of furniture. Local landscapers maintain the hotel’s 3,000 plants. Toronto artists Moss & Lam created the feathery hanging lobby sculpture. And the 1 Kitchen restaurant taps nearby purveyors like Cookstown Greens (Thornton), Sheldon Creek Dairy (Loretto), and downtown’s Forno Cultura Breads. A rooftop pool and bar give you more ways to embrace nature, while bright, rustic-chic guest rooms feel restorative after wading into the neighborhood’s raucous nightlife.

Toronto-born brand Four Seasons came home in 2012 with an exquisite new hotel in tony Yorkville.

Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel

Four Seasons Toronto

What to expect: Understated Canadian luxury, museum-quality local artNeighborhood: YorkvilleBook Now

The Four Seasons brand was born in Toronto—it started as a motel in 1961—so the company went big on this 259-room flagship, which opened in 2012. A serene, soaring lobby blends Asian influences with a rotating collection of 1,700 specially commissioned works by Canadian artists, like Alissa Coe’s dandelion sculpture above the front desk. Guest rooms, primarily in white, are understated yet beyond comfortable. New York superchef Daniel Boulud operates the pricey restaurant; newly reopened d|azur patio—with its massive pink mural by Ontario artist Florence Solis-Byun—feels a little more local. The hotel’s ultra-indulgent spa just relaunched its outdoor terrace, with a menu of California cuisine and skyline views. Affluent Yorkville’s at your doorstep, including Canadian luxe retailer Holt Renfrew, a five-minute walk southeast.

Music imbues the rooms at the Drake hotel, all the way down to the live indie rock in basement bar Drake Underground.

Courtesy of the Drake

The Drake Hotel

What to expect: Forever cool west-side institution with a gleaming new wingNeighborhood: West Queen WestBook Now

Opened in 2004 in a 19th-century building, the 19-room Drake is beloved for sharp design, intelligent art, and non-kitsch Canadiana—check out the gift shop’s Thrasher-inspired Toronto T-shirts. Its new Modern Wing opened in February, unveiling 32 more rooms with midcentury-modern overtones, quirky art like Owen Marshall’s Unremarkable Staircase text installations in stairwells, and custom platform beds.

With massive picture windows overlooking busy Queen West, the Drake’s restaurant provides the street’s best people-watching perch. Basement bar Drake Underground hosts some of Toronto’s best live indie rock. And the Modern Wing’s tiny lobby lounge makes an inviting spot for a shot or an evening, with its cherry-red bar and low-key lighting. The Drake claims its entire creative team lives in the neighborhood, so the hotel feels real without trying.

The Anndore House

What to expect: Former flophouse reborn as smart boutique hotelNeighborhood: Yonge/BloorBook Now

A former apartment building and onetime flophouse, the Anndore House is an elegant yet minimalist property whose largest suite, at 550 square feet, feels like a downtown condo, with exposed brick walls, wood floors, and a plush king bed. All rooms come with turntables; guests can spin from the front desk’s well-edited vinyl collection. Lobby restaurant Constantine has earned raves from hard-to-please local foodies for its Mediterranean fare; don’t miss the lamb burger with whipped feta. On the ground floor, local Crow’s Nest barbershop lures a devoted citywide following, and tiny Hot Black Coffee offers window seats on the passing downtown parade.

The Broadview Hotel

What to expect: Onetime strip club transformed into boisterous indie hotelNeighborhood: Riverdale Book Now

A few locals may miss longtime tenant Jilly’s strip club, but most Torontonians were elated at the Broadview’s 2016 transformation into a buzzy boutique hotel with 58 rooms, outfitted in leather, with high ceilings and oversized windows. In mostly residential, east-end Riverdale, the Broadview has become a scene. Drop your bags and zip up to the art deco–inspired rooftop lounge, whose indoor/outdoor seating offers killer 360-degree views of Toronto’s downtown skyline and low-slung neighborhoods. Eclectic lobby restaurant the Civic has become a neighborhood hangout, with standouts from gnocchi with spring vegetables to Nashville hot-chicken baos. Bonus: The Leslieville district, with its indie shops and chef-owned restaurants, is a short walk east.

The Ivy at Verity

What to expect: Ultra-discreet hideaway in a former chocolate factoryNeighborhood: Queen Street EastBook Now

You might walk by this restored 1850s chocolate factory without realizing it’s your hotel. That’s how regulars like it. Ivy is the ultra-discreet four-room hotel now inside Verity, a 65,000-square-foot private women’s social and networking club on a central Queen Street East block. Suites feature king-size Hastens beds and plush upholstered furniture. Guest rooms, a little old-school, are larger than typical Toronto hotel rooms and all have expansive terraces. Chef Lorenzo Loseto’s highly regarded George restaurant occupies the ground floor; its tasting menus are spectacular and pricey. Note that while the Ivy welcomes everyone, its spa is women only.

Fairmont Royal York

What to expect: Completely updated classic facing Toronto’s main train stationNeighborhood: Union StationBook Now

The Fairmont Royal York breathes Toronto history. Nearly a century after opening as a grand railway hotel, this 1,363-room Gothic revival masterpiece still feels magical. Public areas underwent a total overhaul in 2019—it’s now back-to-the-future cool—and guest rooms have been refreshed with a lighter palette and clean-lined furnishings. Its location across from Union Station is ideal if you’re taking the UPExpress train to or from Toronto Pearson International Airport; smaller Billy Bishop airport, which Porter serves, is 10 minutes by cab. Attractions like the Hockey Hall of Fame, Ripley’s Aquarium, and the CN Tower are all within walking distance. The Fairmont Royal York also employs some of Toronto’s most capable concierges.

Hotel Ocho

What to expect: Industrial-chic retreat near bustling Chinatown and Kensington MarketNeighborhood: Fashion DistrictBook Now

A 120-year-old former warehouse that once stored everything from cigars to rags, Hotel Ocho is the only boutique hotel on this bustling strip just south of Chinatown and boho Kensington Market. Like the industrial-chic public spaces, guest rooms also have exposed brick, rough-hewn wood, and steel surfaces. All beds are queen size; bathrooms gleam in marble and granite. The second-floor Ocho restaurant has become a destination for earthy French Italian fare. Bonus: Buzzed-about new Vietnamese spot Ca Phe Rang is one block south. The hotel also situates you a few doors from local landmark Sonic Boom, a trove of vinyl, CDs, books, and ephemera.

Ace Hotel Toronto

What to expect: Crackling social scene and mod design at Ace’s first Canadian propertyNeighborhood: Fashion DistrictBook Now

Opened in July, Canada’s first Ace hotel is working hard to embrace its new home. It’s partnering with Toronto indie label Arts & Crafts and queer collective Yohomo on DJ nights; the 123-room hotel even has a community and marketing manager, who plans to showcase homegrown arts and culture. Meanwhile, the Ace is impressing neighbors and guests with a towering concrete lobby, groovy guest rooms, and a just-opened restaurant from local star chef Patrick Kriss. The Ace is sandwiched between popular Queen and King streets on Camden Street; a huge food hall is slated to debut across the street this winter.

Not that we care about “being seen,” but if we did, the W would be the place.

Courtesy of W Hotel

W Toronto

What to expect: Brutalist facade, riotously colorful interiors, and downtown’s biggest rooftop terraceNeighborhood: Yonge/BloorBook Now

Toronto’s first W replaced a dowdy Marriott in a striking brutalist building. Opened in July, the hotel is packed with original art, from Alan Ganev’s graffiti-inspired Toronto Gush mural in the street-level Public School coffeehouse to Sage Barnes’s floral painting Self Care near the sixth-floor “welcome desk” (don’t say “lobby” here).

Its huge rooftop is the neighborhood’s biggest terrace, a plant-bedecked, Marrakech-inspired fantasia serving Middle Eastern tapas. Guest rooms strive for sexiness, with velvet curtains, curved banquettes, and mushroom-shaped lamps. The hotel also boasts the first W Sound Suite in Canada, a kitted-out recording studio that takes karaoke to new levels. A terrific location puts you in the symbolic heart of downtown, the intersection of Yonge and Bloor streets.

The Annex Hotel

What to expect: Urban hideaway in the middle of one of Toronto’s most desirable neighborhoodsNeighborhood: AnnexBook Now

Painted black, the Annex is nearly concealed in an alley, but gets you close to Bloor Street West’s coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, and bars. The Annex is the only hotel in this highly desirable neighborhood of stately houses and University of Toronto buildings. There are enough eateries nearby that the hotel forgos a full-service restaurant. Two Twos, the Annex’s bar/burger joint, can get raucous; an adjacent wine bar feels more like a speakeasy, albeit one with biodynamic wines. Guest rooms are functional and bright, with beds on wooden platforms. They’re designed for people who spend most of their time exploring, not indoors.

Michael Kaminer Writer Michael Kaminer splits his time between Montreal, New York, and Toronto.

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