I’m a camper and a cheap hostel sleeper, but when I want my hotel stay to be an experience, I look for local, boutique, unique hotels. Knowing I wanted a real crash pad when we reached Toronto on our recent road trip, I asked locals who lived in the city and frequent travelers where they recommended. I also asked the local tourism board, and one property that kept popping up was The Gladstone Hotel.
Just take a look at the website for this place, and you’ll understand immediately why I was drawn to it. It comes off as hip, edgy and artistic, and it hits all of those branding points right on point. There are 37 guest rooms at The Gladstone Hotel, and each one has been designed by a specific artist with a specific theme. From the Red Room, which is saturated in scarlet, to the Parlour of Twilight, which elicits the transfer in time from day to night. We stayed in room 411, called Offset, which was sleek and sharp with horizontal and vertical lines wrapping the room. The bed was incredibly comfortable, and the room was dark and quiet. Admittedly, the bathroom was a bit small, but we don’t require a lot of room, so it wasn’t much of an issue for us. We had fast, reliable and free wireless internet service, and every morning we were treated to a delicious, free cup of Joe, delivered right to our door.
Located in West Queen West right on the border of Parkdale, The Gladstone Hotel is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto and has been in business since 1889 (check out the historic elevator!). This appears to be a thriving corner in the Toronto arts scene, and there are several restaurants and bars nearby; the hotel has its own cafe and bar.
The building’s colorful history and interesting architecture are meticulously detailed, but what I liked most is that, not only has The Gladstone Hotel turned each and every room into its own work of art, but the hallways are lined with work by a variety of rotating artists, and the space is inviting and warm with sofas and chairs in the common areas on each floor, encouraging people to relax and enjoy the atmosphere. We spent a couple hours wandering around the property one night, just admiring the art.
One of my favorite things about staying at The Gladstone Hotel is that the entire place is absolutely saturated in creative thought. However, guests don’t get to just to passively enjoy it … they can actively experience it by reading and learning about the artists who have decorated the property’s hallways. If you take a look at the website pages that highlight each and every room in The Gladstone Hotel, you’ll realize that this, too, is a gallery. Each room page has details about the space and design and many feature an interview with the architects and artists who collaborated to create the rooms.
In addition to its commitment to the arts, The Gladstone Hotel has a social and environmental policy I can get behind. In addition to the normal reuse-a-towel routine, the property has an extensive recycling and composting program and very heavily relies on local, organic and fair trade products and ingredients throughout the hotel and in the restaurant. It is a member of the local CSA (community shared agriculture) farm, which means fresh food comes right from the neighborhood.
The only downside to The Gladstone Hotel is its location. I don’t know much about the history of Toronto, but even I can tell that The Gladstone Hotel is located in an older part of town, and though it is obviously going through some very positive growth spurts, the property is not exactly in the most tourist-friendly spot. Toronto is not a car-friendly city, and those driving in will need to pay $15.00 per day to park in the neighborhood grocery store lot. The hotel is right on one of the main public transit lines in the city, so it’s simple to catch and get around this way. We walked into the downtown area of Toronto—about a two-mile stroll to get to the CN Tower—and if you don’t mind hoofing it or finding another form of transportation to get to the hub of all that’s happening in the city, then The Gladstone Hotel’s location is not a problem, but it certainly isn’t just a hop, skip and stone toss from the front door to the city’s main attractions.
Rates at The Gladstone Hotel start at $165.00/night during the low season. Considering the fact that most name brand, high rise (and, therefore, relatively nondescript) hotels start at or above this rate, and the fact that you’re buying into a social, ethical and environmental policy that gives back to the community and the earth, The Gladstone Hotel is a smart choice in a massive city filled with other options.
The Gladstone Hotel generously gave me a media rate for the two nights I stayed at the property. All photos used in this post are credited to The Gladstone Hotel. Top: 411 – Offset (our room), middle: 309 – Puzzle Room, bottom: 415 – Snapshot