Editor’s Note: CNN Insider Guides are thoroughly checked for accuracy. Given the fluid nature of the travel industry, however, some listings may fall out of date before guides can be updated. The best practice is to confirm current information on official websites before making plans to visit any business or attraction.
Many in Canada complain that Torontonians have a center-of-the-universe attitude. True or not, the city can cast a shadow over the rest of the country.
Home to 2.5 million people (5.5 million in the Greater Toronto Area) of more than 200 distinct ethnic origins, Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in North America.
It’s an economic and social powerhouse with a vibrant bar, restaurant and arts scene, not to mention major league sports teams.
It’s a city of neighborhoods – Chinatown, Little Italy, Queen West. It’s a city of festivals – the Toronto International Film Festival, Caribana, Gay Pride.
But above all, the best of Toronto is a great place to visit, a city full of promise and potential.
Four Seasons Toronto
This hotel towers over the city’s upscale Yorkville neighborhood, with its high-end shops and reputable restaurants.
The entrance and lobby walls are lined with wood. Decorative metal dividers stretch from floor to soaring ceiling.
Art designed to look like over-sized dandelion seed heads hovers above the check-in desk.
The hotel has 259 guest rooms, including 42 suites, all done up in cool contemporary grays and whites. The spa is one of the best in Toronto, and the pool area is gorgeous.
Guests can congregate in the casual dbar or eat at Café Boulud, with a menu designed by Michelin-starred Chef Daniel Boulud.
There’s plenty to savor, like the inventive grapefruit givré, a mixture of sorbet, grapefruit segments and Turkish delight, topped with torched sesame cracker and wisps of halvah.
The Ritz-Carlton, Toronto
With its glossy wood, big brass maple leaves, neutral earth tones and original artwork, the Ritz-Carlton is a luxurious tribute to Canadiana.
The hotel’s 263 guest rooms, all at least 41 square meters, provide views of the CN Tower and Lake Ontario.
Rooms on floors 18 to 20 have the views – if you go lower than that, condos partially block the lake.
Bathrooms are decked out in marble, with deep tubs and in-mirror TVs.
One of the Ritz-Carlton’s best of Toronto restaurants, TOCA (short for Toronto, Canada), sports a menu filled with dishes made with only local, naturally raised ingredients.
Cutting-edge cocktails mixed at the DEQ Terrace and Lounge draw all sorts of customers, who are encouraged to dabble in mixology.
The Ritz-Carlton also lays out a customized wellness program, with experts who tailor everything from facials to fitness to the needs of each guest.
There are plush loungers in the co-ed Urban Sanctuary sunroom, which has a wide selection of tea and glossy magazines.
The Fairmont Royal York
The Royal York is the Grand Dame of Toronto’s hotel scene, an imposing stone and copper-roofed structure that’s firmly anchored in a sea of steel and glass.
It’s been a star since it officially opened in 1929, a favorite for royalty, celebrities, movie directors and regular folk who want to soak up its Old World charm.
A C$100 million renovation that finished in 1993 helped keep the property in good shape.
Rooms have an elegant, Victorian style, with antique furniture, quilted bed covers and thick curtains and valance.
The Royal York is located across the street from the grand Union Station (and connected to it via underground walkway), Toronto’s main train station, which is also built in a neoclassical, Beaux-Arts style.
This contemporary hotel in a slick condominium complex is a short walk from the shops and restaurants on King West and Queen West, plus the bars and clubs in the Entertainment District.
SoHo’s 92 guest rooms (55 square meters on average) feature ultra-soft Frette linens and towels, natural down duvets and bathrooms with deep tubs and heated floors.
Lights, blinds and the “do not disturb” sign can be manipulated by remote control.
Thick windows block out sound, but guests have the option of opening them.
Big spenders can book the 370-square-meter penthouse suite, which has an in-suite glass elevator, two bedrooms, two fireplaces, a state-of-the-art kitchen, plus a rooftop terrace with a barbecue and an eight-seater hot tub.
The bakery/bar/restaurant Sen5es (get it?) is attached to the hotel, serving up baked goods and a solid menu, including a dinner deal for C$50 that provides one appetizer, one entrée and one dessert.