Tried & Tested

Hotel check: The Fairmont Royal York

12 Nov 2013 by Tom Otley

BACKGROUND

Probably Toronto’s best known hotel, The Fairmont Royal York was opened in 1929 by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and was then known as the Royal York. While it today remains opposite Union Station, the rest of the city has changed around it.

At the time of opening it was the tallest building in the British Empire. Later additions included a 400-room tower built on its east side in 1959. Over 40 million guests have stayed in the hotel since 1929, including three generations of the British royal family.

Fairmont Royal York exterior

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

From 1988 to 1993, a $100-million restoration took place and in 2013 the hotel is going through refurbishment again, with about 200 of the 1,365 rooms so far having been completed.

It’s a very grand place, but with friendly and professional service. Stay here to enjoy the history, including-hand painted ceilings, travertine pillars, ornate furnishings, crystal chandeliers and wall hangings.

WHERE IS IT?

Located on Front Street, which as the name suggests was once on the waterfront of Lake Ontario but is now hundreds of yards away because of infill and high-rise steel and chrome blocks.

The Fairmont is in the centre of Toronto’s downtown area, opposite Union Station and the subway, where there are three kilometres of shops underground. It is also near the CN Tower, the Rogers Centre, Hockey Hall of Fame, Chinatown, St. Lawrence Market, Harbourfront and the Air Canada Centre, Toronto’s sports and entertainment complex.

ROOM FACILITIES

For an old hotel, it certainly is huge, with 1,365 guestrooms, including 191 suites and 82 Fairmont Gold rooms.

The current refurbishment of the rooms is much needed, and when you book (online or over the phone) you should ask for a refurbished room, since these have been given a refresh in both colours and amenities. You can see the different between them in these two photos – both are the lead-in size of 23 sqm.

Fairmont Royal York original room

On the way out: A standard room that has yet to be refurbished

Fairmont Royal York refurbished standard room

As it looks now: A refurbished standard room – that’s a flatscreen TV on the wall above the cabinet

These new rooms have a media hub for connecting your laptop to the flatscreen television, high-speed wifi (all rooms have this, for a fee), tea and coffee making with a Keurig machine, a good work desk with multiple powerpoints and a bathroom with shower and bathtub.

Note however that there is a lot of building work outside the hotel and the building is also restoring some stonework on the exterior. So again, it is worth enquiring about this when booking.

At the time of my stay in October 2013, the hotel’s Fairmont Gold rooms had not yet been updated. Though, of course, you still received a complimentary continental breakfast, private lounge with honour bar service, on-floor check-in, and private concierge service.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS

There are five in total including Epic, the hotel’s signature fine-dining restaurant, a Japanese teppanyaki steakhouse and sushi bar, a deli and Piper’s, a casual gastro pub with a wide selection of domestic and imported beers.

On the roof, 200 feet above ground, the hotel’s 14-year-old herb garden supplies herbs to the kitchen, including lemon balm, edible pansies, and red basil while the apiary, established in 2008, produces over 500lbs of honey per season.

Fairmont Royal York lobby

Lobby: A grand hotel with friendly and professional service

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES

These are huge, and in recent times a fair proportion of guests were probably attending one function or another in the 6,500 sqm of available space in the hotel’s 34 conference and banquet rooms.

The Fairmont Royal York Xerox Business Centre features private work stations, internet access, and an on-site printing house ideal for meeting planners and guests alike.

LEISURE FACILITIES

There is a health club and swimming pool, although both of these are small and there are plans for them to be upgraded.

VERDICT

An excellent location, and the public areas have a lot of class. Staying here feels like sharing in a bit of Toronto history. There are some good prices available, but make sure to choose one of the refurbished rooms.


FACT FILE

  • How many rooms? 1365, with over a dozen room types
  • Highlights The history of the hotel, including some fabulous public areas – the lobby is worth sitting in for awhile to watch people passing by, and try and look into the concert hall or the ballroom
  • Price Lead-in prices for a Fairmont King room in mid-January 2014 were $277 Canadian dollars including taxes, while a refurbished Fairmont Luxury King was $295 including taxes
  • Contact The Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front Street West, Toronto, Ontario; tel (416) 368-2511; fairmont.com
Tom Otley
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