It’s not easy for a hotel that has served more than 40 million guests to still feel special, but the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto will still wow guest number 41 million.
Many Fairmont hotels in Canada have a storied history of grand elegance next to railway terminals and the Royal York is no exception. It opened in 1929—not exactly an auspicious year, boasting a grandeur that was new to Toronto. With 28 floors it was the tallest in Canada and boasted plenty of other superlatives, like a 12,000-book library, ten ornate passenger elevators, a 50-ton pipe organ, and the largest hotel kitchen in Canada “with a bakery that could produce over 15,000 French rolls a day. Oh, and a 66-ft.long switchboard manned by 35 telephone operators.
It boasted innovations like bathtubs and radios in every room, but now you can get free Wi-Fi if you sign up for Fairmont’s loyalty program, which also gets you into a special line for check-in.
Fortunately check-in and check-out run faster here than at many other area hotels. I went straight up to the desk and was done in two minutes when it was time for me to leave. Then I went a few blocks down the street to meet someone at the Westin for a business meeting. Their check-out line was like one for an airport counter, 30 people deep.
The lauded Fairmont Service makes a difference here, but it’s the lobby that wows visitors first. With layers and layers of craftsmanship and dramatic design on display, it’s hard to not just stop and linger for a while to take it all in. Marble inlaid with more marble, mosaics, and hand-painted ceilings are some of the embellishments. The elevators are ornate as well, a far cry from the utilitarian look of so many new ones.
Several bars and restaurants are on site, as well as arcade hallways where you can pick up a souvenir or a quick coffee and muffin in the morning. As I was there to attend a conference I didn’t get to experience the outlets as much as I would have liked, but I did get to enjoy The Library Bar, a place where I almost felt bad for ordering a beer instead of a classic cocktail. Piper’s Gastropub may be a better choice for that, or you can enjoy an afternoon tea spread for something more sedate.
Rooms at the Fairmont Royal York were built for less demanding guests when it comes to size, so this is a place where upgrading to the next level can be money well spent. While the suites are downright spacious, the smallest standards (250 square feet) are best for those who won’t be spending a lot of time in their room—or those who plan to spend most of their time in bed.
All of the 1,300+ rooms have been renovated multiple times, however, and have standard amenities like robes, minibars, HDTVs, coffee makers, and windows that actually open.
The main drawbacks at this Toronto Fairmont have little to do with the hotel and much to do with Toronto. To put it mildly, the neighborhood is a mess. The whole area around the hotel is a giant construction zone right now, plus the recent summer 2013 flood didn’t help matters. Allow plenty of extra time to arrive and depart.
Review and photos by Tim Leffel, who was staying at the Fairmont Royal York while booked as a speaker at TBEX Toronto 2013.