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Review: Fairmont Royal York, Toronto

 

Upon moving from Montreal back to Toronto in early November, Jessy and I needed a place to stay for a couple of nights while we got all the essentials (i.e., internet access) set up in our condo.

Since Fairmont was running the lucrative Stay Close promotion at the time, which was essentially a buy-one-get-one deal on many Fairmont properties, I decided this would be the perfect opportunity to finally stay at the iconic Fairmont Royal York.

I made a booking for $210 for two nights – that’s what the hotel would usually cost for one night, but I was getting the second night for free under the Stay Close promotion. Outside of promotional times, the hotel’s nightly rates can fluctuate quite a bit, from about $160/night during off-peak season to $400+/night on peak dates in the summer and winter.

Having wandered through and gawked at the hotel’s lobby and public areas countless times back when I used to work on Bay Street, I was looking forward to finally checking out its guest rooms for myself.

In This Post

Fairmont Royal York – Location & Arrival

The Fairmont Royal York is situated on Front Street West, in the heart of Toronto’s Financial District and mere steps opposite Union Station, the main hub for local and commuter rail in the Greater Toronto Area.

It’s one of Toronto’s most iconic buildings, having opened in 1929 as one of Canada’s original grand railway hotels and and undergone several rounds of renovation since.

Fairmont Royal York – Exterior

Since we arrived in the evening, I headed out during the daytime to take some photos. The western entrance wing of the hotel was currently undergoing renovations, so the main entrance on Front Street was the only one in use.

Fairmont Royal York – Main entrance
Fairmont Royal York – Western entrance (closed)

The hotel also has an underground entrance, which you can access by exiting into the Toronto PATH from the north-side exit of Union subway station.

There’s a staff member stationed at both entrances to check your temperature as you enter the building, which provided a nice bit of reassurance as it’s not something I’ve seen every hotel in Canada offer thus far.

Fairmont Royal York – Underground entrance

Fairmont Royal York – Check-in

Just like the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac that I had visited a few months ago, the Royal York’s lobby was dominated by darker wooden colours and finishes that evoked the original era of the hotel’s construction.

Fairmont Royal York – Lobby lounge
Fairmont Royal York – Lobby lounge

At the same time, unlike the Château Frontenac which certainly was beginning to show its age, I could tell soft lighting, marble accents, and refreshed lobby furniture that the Royal York had recently undergone a round of modernization as well, giving the lobby a beautiful balance between the prevailing visual styles of the 1920s and the 2020s.

Fairmont Royal York – Lobby lounge

With Toronto and much of the GTA under Level 2 lockdown at the time, the hotel lobby was deserted when we arrived, and we were helped immediately by a friendly front desk associate.

Fairmont Royal York – Front desk

I had proactively emailed the hotel prior the stay hoping for a suite upgrade on account of my Fairmont Gold status, although my communications were met with no response.

When the associate confirmed our two-night booking in a base-level Fairmont King Room, I again reiterated the request, and he took a few moments to look up the options in his system.

He let me know that we had the option of a complimentary upgrade to a slightly larger Fairmont Room (although it would still be one the hotel’s older rooms), as well as the option of upgrading to a newly refurbished Fairmont Gold Suite with Gold Lounge access for a preferred rate of $180/night.

(The Gold Lounge wasn’t serving food and drink at the moment due to the lockdown, but we’d be treated to evening hors d’oeuvres and breakfast delivered to the room instead.)

Since we just needed a place to sleep in the evening, I decided to skip the upgrade for the first night, and take the upgrade for the second night only. Best of all, we’d be able to move into the Gold Suite at 8am in the morning the next day, and I also successfully asked for a very generous 6pm late checkout on the final day, giving us essentially two days of access to the Gold Suite for while only paying the upgrade fee for one night.

With the formalities complete, we took our keys to Room 11-122 and headed up to the 11th floor.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room

The Fairmont Royal York is currently in the process of a multi-year renovation project, and the 11th floor is one of the floors that they haven’t gotten around to sprucing up just yet.

Fairmont Royal York – 11th floor hallways
Fairmont Royal York – Room 11-122

Stepping into the Fairmont Room, you’ll see that it’s definitely on the small side, with simple furnishings and a dated decor style. If you paid $400+ for this room in the peak of summer, you might even find yourself a little disappointed.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room bedroom

The room consists of a king bed facing a television cabinet, as well as a desk and a lounger in the far end.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room desk
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room lounger

The pantry, housed in the television cabinet, came with an older model of a Keurig coffee machine. I might’ve had slightly higher expectations for the coffee maker at a Fairmont property – but more on this later.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room pantry

Similarly, the bathroom was pretty basic as well, fitted with a sink, toilet, and shower – whose door was not sealed properly, resulting in water spilling around the floor a fair bit.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room bathroom
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room sink
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room shower

One bright spot would be the Le Labo toiletries, which is always a nice treat. Unlike back at the Château Frontenac, however, these bottles didn’t come with my name printed on them, and I do get the feeling that the bespoke Le Labo toiletries are more of an occasional surprise touch than a consistent offering across Fairmont properties.

Fairmont Royal York – Le Labo toiletries

The views from the room were rather limited. Since it’s located in one of the side wings at a right-angle from the main building, the view was dominated by the hotel building itself, with a slice of Union Station below as well. 

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont King Room views

Jessy and I got a little bit of work done and then went to bed for the night, looking forward to moving to a nicer suite in the morning. The Fairmont King Room got the job done for those two limited purposes, but there wasn’t much more to the room than that.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite

At 8am sharp the next day, I popped down to the front desk to collect my keys to the Fairmont Gold Suite, before heading up to the 14th floor – better known as a Fairmont Gold Floor.

Fairmont Royal York – 14th floor hallway

Fairmont offers a Gold Floor concept that’s pretty unique among its fellow international hotel brands. Commanding a premium nightly rate compared to the base-level rooms, the Gold Floor rooms are generally nicer, larger, and better serviced, with guests typically also getting access to a hotel’s Gold Lounge as well.

(Unlike other brands like Marriott, Hilton, or Hyatt, Fairmont doesn’t provide Gold Lounge access to its Accor elite members, instead keeping it exclusively for guests who pay for a room on the Gold Floor.)

This would be my first experience staying at a Fairmont Gold Floor room, and I was already impressed by the time I stepped out of the elevator. Naturally, the Gold Floor has been recently renovated, boasting a gorgeous colour palette of subtle gold and navy hues against a refined monochromatic backdrop. I was instantly a fan, and I hadn’t even gotten to my suite yet!

We had been assigned Room 14-113, which bore the stylized Fairmont Gold symbol on its door sign.

Fairmont Royal York – Room 14-113

The Fairmont Gold Suite was very impressive, and a world of difference compared to the Fairmont Room from the previous night. A foyer with marble flooring greeted me upon arrival, followed by a lush carpet that spread throughout the rest of the suite.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite foyer

Here in the foyer, you’ll find the closets, minibar, and pantry, this time boasting a state-of-the-art Nespresso instead of an old Keurig model. That was my first sign that the Fairmont Gold Suite would turn out to be a much nicer experience.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite pantry

The living area consisted of a chair, an “L”-shaped couch, a television, a coffee table, and a table with two chairs that served the twin purposes of dining and working.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite living room
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite living room

Again, I loved the style of a muted monochrome look with gold accents drawing your attention, and the suite gave me plenty of interior design inspiration as we prepared to move back into our place.

For such a large living area, one oversight was perhaps the lack of power outlets dotted around the space, and I had to work from the table on many occasions when I might’ve preferred to sit on the very comfortable couch instead.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite table

The suite also had some nice views overlooking Union Station and the buildings near Harbourfront. Alas, it wasn’t one of the lucky rooms with direct views of the CN Tower, although I could catch a sliver of it if I craned my neck from the side.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite views

Through a set of jet-black French doors, the bedroom was similarly beautiful, again featuring a light colour palette brought to life by the patterned navy throw pillow, the sculpted backdrop of Toronto’s skyline and street layout, and the marble cabinet with suede finishes and gold trim. Sleep quality wise, the king bed was immaculate as well.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite bedroom
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite bedroom
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite bedroom

The bathroom took things to another level, as if knowing that a luxurious marble bathroom was the key to my heart. 

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite bathroom
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite double sinks

The sink, marble, shower, and toilet all boasted a gleaming marble finish, giving me maximum enjoyment of every moment I spent in here.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite bathtub
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite shower

The large-sized Le Labo toiletries (for a suite as opposed to a regular room) were a nice touch as well, and even though they didn’t come with my name printed on them, I still brought home a few bottles for future use.

Finally, the bedroom closet housed the remaining sundry items like the iron, safe, and pair of very comfortable bathrobes – the kind that’s lined with soft fabric on the inside.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Suite closet

I loved the Fairmont Gold Suite as a whole and was thrilled that I got to spend 36+ hours in here while only paying for one night’s upgrade. The suite was spacious, well-appointed, and decorated exactly to my taste.

The preferred upgrade rate of $180 I had received might have been the result of my Fairmont Gold status or the fact that the hotel was operating at about 5% occupancy; however, if you can swing it, I’d certainly recommend booking at least one of the Fairmont Gold Rooms here at the Royal York, which will give you a much nicer experience than the basic Fairmont Room.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Lounge

The Fairmont Gold Floor experience wouldn’t be complete without the Fairmont Gold Lounge, which as I mentioned above is an exclusive space reserved for those who pay the premium for a room on the Gold Floor.

Alas, on this stay, the Gold Lounge was not serving food and drink due to the local lockdown in Toronto, but I at least got a chance to swing through and check out the space.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Lounge front desk

Here at the Royal York, the Gold Lounge occupies the southern wing of the 18th floor, and there’s a front desk to check your eligibility for the lounge and help you with any needs you might have during your stay.

The Gold Lounge channels much of the same design inspiration as you’ll find in the Gold Floor rooms, with a glass-encased fireplace adding another touch of indulgence this beautifully appointed space.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Lounge seating area
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Lounge seating area

The west side of the lounge hosts a library-like area, where you can sit down to watch the television, get some work done, or have a quick business chat.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Lounge library

Meanwhile, across a large bank of seating options, the east side houses the kitchen area, which was sadly deserted at this time.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Lounge kitchen
Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold Lounge kitchen

Normally, this space would be occupied by a breakfast spread in the mornings and a light canapé spread in the evenings. Due to the lockdown, however, both food presentations would instead be delivered via room service.

Since I had only paid for one night’s upgrade, that meant I’d get the evening canapés first, followed by breakfast the next morning.

There wasn’t much choice when it came to the evening canapés – I simply received a plate of charcuterie bites and nachos with salsa. I had to run out for a few hours shortly after receiving the food plate, so it was a bit cold and stale when I got around to eating it.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold evening canapés

We were able to choose any wine or beer for our complimentary drink, though, so Jessy and I enjoyed a glass of Malbec each to cap the night.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold evening drinks

Gold Lounge breakfast via room service was a lot more exciting. This time, we got to order off the in-room dining menu – in unlimited quantities!

There’s something so luxurious about picking up the phone to order breakfast and being told “you can order anything you wish from the menu sir, there are no limits”, and I’d say that between the steak and eggs, the Benedict, the pancakes, and the fruit plates, we did our best to justify our upgrade cost in this one breakfast sitting alone.

Fairmont Royal York – Fairmont Gold in-room breakfast

In fact, there was plenty of leftovers for lunch later as well, as we mostly worked in our room until we reached our 6pm late checkout time.

Fairmont Royal York – Other Facilities

The Fairmont Royal York offers quite a few additional amenities, such as a Health Club with a pool and gym, although they were closed during my stay due to Toronto’s lockdown. 

Similarly, I loved the look of the Reign restaurant and bar on the lobby level and would’ve liked to enjoy a nice meal similar to Champlain at my last Fairmont stay, but it wasn’t open for service at the time.

Fairmont Royal York – Reign restaurant and bar
Fairmont Royal York – Reign restaurant and bar

The Luxury Bar and Imperial Room normally occupy the western wing of the ground floor, but are currently undergoing renovations as previously mentioned. A few years ago, these parts of the hotel were my favourite to wander through on my lunch breaks, so I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out on a future stay.

Fairmont Royal York – Luxury Bar & Imperial Room, under renovations

Finally, if you head down to the underground level, there’s a variety of shops and retail outlets in the hallway leading to the Toronto PATH, ranging from convenience stores to high-end tailors. Again, many of these were closed due the current pandemic, but it’s great to know there are retail options available immediately downstairs if you were staying here under normal circumstances.

Fairmont Royal York – Retail outlets
Fairmont Royal York – Retail outlets

Conclusion

I’m very pleased I picked the Fairmont Royal York for our impromptu two-night hotel stay and finally got to check it out for myself.

While the cheapest Fairmont Room was a little disappointing, the paid upgrade to the Fairmont Gold Suite on the Gold Floor more than made up for it, providing us with an oasis of comfort as a reintroduction to life in Toronto. The resulting in-room breakfast was another real treat, and perhaps a silver lining to the fact that the Gold Lounge wasn’t serving food and drinks for the time being.

Until the renovations are complete in a few years’ time, I’d highly recommend picking the Fairmont Gold Room, or at least a refurbished Fairmont Luxury Room, over the basic Fairmont Room.

There are quite a few more local Toronto hotels I’d like to try for future staycations, but I could definitely see myself returning here for a special occasion sometime soon when the Gold Lounge and other facilities have reopened, in order to get the full breadth of the Royal York experience.