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We Help You Thoroughly Understand Where to Stay in Toronto!

Are you considering heading to Toronto? Great decision – Toronto is a city that you will not get bored in easily! The difficult part, however, of any Toronto trip is finding accommodation in the city. Where to stay in Toronto on a budget can be difficult since many of the hotels are concentrated in the centre of downtown. This makes them expensive. Incredible quality – but expensive!

Apartment rentals are good options and many neighbourhoods (some right downtown, some not) cater to offering travellers a place to call home for a short stay. This is especially relevant if you are wondering where to stay in Toronto with a family. There are also Airbnbs in Toronto but they aren’t always the cheapest.

We (both members of Penguin and Pia) lived and worked in Toronto together for almost a year. Eric also grew up north of Toronto so it’s safe to say we have some local knowledge to share! From where to stay in Toronto with a car to which areas in Toronto have the best nightlife, we cover all the need-to-knows!

While you’re here, you might need more information on Canada travel. In that case, feel free to check out our top posts on the subject:

Where to Stay in Toronto – Understanding Accommodation Types

car lights and historic building in toronto intersection where to stay in toronto
Old Toronto is hustling and bustling – this is downtown. // Photo: Pixabay

Because Toronto is such a large city that is very spread out, there are different accommodation types in all areas of the city. That said, you’ll find that there are more hotels in one area and more apartments in another. Let’s understand the different accommodation styles in Toronto so you can get to booking yours.

Hotels in Toronto

If you are travelling to Toronto, you might think about booking a hotel. However, we can see why this can be a difficult task. That’s because hotels and Toronto have a weird relationship. There are a few truths about hotels in Toronto:

  1. Toronto is a big city and a business city. Hotels serve a purpose for travelling working professionals.
  2. Most hotels are really only concentrated in just a few areas (which we talk about in this post).
  3. These areas are “downtown” and thus really good locations – but this makes them expensive.
  4. Cheaper hotels exist – but they are (for the most part) NOT right downtown and sometimes not of the best quality.
  5. This means that these hotels can be found in less desired areas (for a tourist) and/or you would have to take public transportation to get to the heart of Toronto.

In short, if you want a hotel in Toronto, you’re basically left with two options: pay for an expensive hotel (but it’s worth it logistically and comfort-wise) OR commit to going cheap and drive into the city/pay money for transit to downtown. However, commuting in Toronto traffic can be a nightmare so even that scenario isn’t a great option if you only have a few days in Toronto.

See the issue? It’s an either/or scenario, with very few great “cheap” hotel options in the downtown core. That said, for this post, we are going to cover the best areas to stay downtown and some of the best hotels in them. They can be pricey, but knowing how the city is laid out can help you plan. Also, you CAN find a deal on downtown hotels… so don’t think you are completely out of luck. We just wanted to make it clear to a new trip planner that you’re not crazy if you can’t find a cheap hotel in downtown Toronto. It’s because they don’t really exist!

Hostels in Toronto

Although Toronto is the biggest city in Canada, it doesn’t have a ton of hostels in it. The few that do exist seem to have either really good reviews or just absolutely terrible ones. We’ve never stayed in a Toronto hostel but know quite a few traveller friends (Australians, Brits, and Danes) that have and have had pleasant stays! Check here to review the top hostels in Toronto.

Apartments and Airbnbs in Toronto

Accommodation options that has grown in popularity in Toronto are Airbnbs as well as normal apartment rentals. Apartment rentals are good options for families or short-stay travellers who want their own space to prepare their own food, etc. These apartments often come with parking spots as well.

Generally, apartment rentals are in neighbourhoods that are surrounding downtown but not quite in the centre. This means that they are quieter to sleep in and only a short commute by streetcar, Uber, or subway from downtown. You can find a nice apartment rental in areas like: Cabbagetown, The Village, The Annex, Chinatown, Kensington Market, and The Beaches.

Three larger centres that are genuinely far from Toronto (and only considered to be in the Greater Toronto Area – not the city of Toronto) are: Mississauga and Etobicoke to the west of Toronto and North York to the north! You’ll definitely have to take the subway, Go Train, or drive into the centre of Toronto but if that works for you there are nice apartments for rent (and hotels on these areas) at a cheaper cost so have a look!

Areas to Avoid

Toronto is generally a safe and pleasant city. But with any major metropolitan centre, you’ll find differences between areas of the city. As such, there are areas that we wouldn’t recommend staying in. One of which is Moss Park. This is located on Queen Street East between Sherbourne Street and Jarvis Street. This area has a high prevalence of people living in poverty with homelessness and drug addiction very apparent among community members. Eric’s Masters Degree is in Health Inequalities and Public Policy, so he’s legitimately qualified to respectfully and truthfully discuss the realities of the area.

Now, that is not to say that the area is dangerous. You can walk through in the day and evening just fine. As a visitor who is new to the city, however, you wouldn’t want to stay in the neighbourhood. In the end, if you explore hard enough you will find areas all over Toronto with different kinds of people from all walks of life. That’s what makes Toronto, Toronto.

Where to Stay in Toronto – Map of Downtown Toronto

 

The map above covers the areas (blue pins) with the highest concentration of hotels and a few suggested hotels themselves. General Rule of Thumb for Hotels: The closer you are to the centre, the more expensive the accommodation is likely to be. Let’s dive into the areas on the map. You will find the corresponding bed colours for actual hotels in this post:

  • Downtown Toronto (in General) – Grey Beds
  • Entertainment District – Orange Beds
  • Financial District – Green Beds
  • Harbourfront – Purple Beds
  • Bloor-Yorkville – Navy Blue Beds
  • Fashion District – Pink Beds
  • Toronto Airport (Mississauga) – Yellow Beds

We also wanted to include hotels at Pearson Toronto International Airport because it might be helpful for some. We also wanted to show you how far the airport is from downtown Toronto. You can take the UpExpress Train to get downtown to Union Station in 30 minutes. This quick transfer train didn’t exist just a few years ago and it’s already been SO handy! Some locals actually use it to commute to work given where it starts and stops.

Where to Stay in Toronto – Featured Neighbourhoods and Hotels

In the section below, we’ll now cover each of the areas on the map in detail. We write a brief description of the neighbourhood and three of the top hotels. As mentioned, the neighbourhoods and the hotels below correspond with the map above.

Downtown Toronto (Where Everything Happens)

colourful signs and ads in dundas square where to stay in toronto
The lights at Yonge & Dundas are a sight to see! // Photo: Illia Cherednychenko

The reason we have a generic “Downtown Toronto” section is because there are a few notable hotels in a few areas of the city that we don’t specifically cover in this post. For these properties, you might have to sacrifice distance to downtown for the price – but that’s nothing that you can’t fix with a quick subway, walk, or streetcar ride. Plus, the hotels below are in good areas with lots of things to keep you entertained even though you are not quite in the “heart of the action”.

In the West End of the city, you’ll find a neighbourhood called Liberty Village. Just north of Liberty Village, on Queen Street, are two famous hotels in the city. If we didn’t mention them here you might not find them so we wanted to let you know! The Drake Hotel and Gladstone Hotel are basically right beside one another – but they have cemented themselves as a place for good nightlife and a cool place to stay – with lots of bars and restaurants around.

There are two more notable hotels that don’t fit into the areas we’ve covered in this post. They lie below Bloor-Yorkville but above the heart of Downtown. There is lots to do and places to shop and eat. They are just more on their own compared to the rest. The Grand Hotel is over on Jarvis which is a long street running north-south through the east end of the downtown core in The Garden District.

The Chelsea Hotel Toronto is more central just off of Yonge Street and just north of Yonge-Dundas Square – the “Times Square” of Toronto. This area is close to shopping, tons of restaurants and bars, public transportation, you name it. You’ll even find street performers here so check it out but watch your pockets!

Entertainment District (Nightlife, Bars, Events)

steel and glass buildings from above where to stay in toronto
Looking down on the Entertainment District – the circle is Roy Thompson Hall!

There are things to keep you entertained all over the city – and the Entertainment District is definitely a place to get an evening started (and also where to end)! It is known for its nightlife, bars, and events. Technically, this area goes all the way down close ot the waterfront near the CN Tower, the Air Canada Centre, Ripley’s Aquarium, and Steam Whistle Brewery.

However, there is a part of the District north of those attractions and that is where you will find many of the nightclubs and bars. This area is re-branded from the original  “Club District”. As such, these few blocks of restaurants and places to go out are what many would define as the “true Entertainment District”. This area of the Entertainment District is known for attractions/places like: The Ballroom Bowl, Roy Thompson Hall, The Princess of Wales Theatre, and much more!

Featured Hotels in The Entertainment District

Below are three of the top hotels in The Entertainment District. You’ll see that they are more north of things like the CN Tower since we cover hotels closer to there in “The Financial District”. The hotels below are in one of the main areas for bars, restaurants, and nightlife in Toronto.

Templar Hotel – Check Now

The Templar Hotel is a boutique and modern hotel. Situated right on Adelaide Street West, the building is physically super narrow and almost wedged into downtown. Don’t let that fool you – the rooms are bright and modern. We walked by numerous times heading to the old office and wondered what it would be like to stay there. Now we have an idea! The location is great for walking downtown and into both the Fashion and Entertainment Districts. Also, guests rave about the helpful staff and the views.

The Beverley Hotel  – Check Now

The Beverley Hotel is a simple and compact hotel. Located right on Queen Street West, there are hundreds of shops and food places at your doorstep. Given the location, the rooms are smaller, modern, and functional. Guests rave about the friendly staff and the location. The Beverley often (somehow) gets missed among the other hotels and so you might find deals that slash the room rates almost in half. Have a look at the Beverley and see if it’s for you!

Le Germain Hotel Toronto  – Check Now

Le Germain Hotel is a clean and elegant hotel experience. Located between King Street and Front Street, the location is quiet yet right in the middle of everything in the District. The Rogers Centre is close to catch a baseball game – while the restaurants of King Street are just around the corner. Rooms are modern, there’s a chic bar, breakfast is good, and guests never fail to mention the staff and how accommodating they can be. There’s also parking available if you have a rental car while in Toronto! Check out Le Germain and see for yourself!

Financial District (Business, Social, Upscale)

people crossing street with tall buildings where to stay in toronto
The corner of King and Yonge is a busy place where money flows! // Photo: Alx Andru

The Financial District is a place where you can often feel the pulse of Toronto. Located downtown along a majority of Bay Street – and as a specific sub-section of the downtown – the district is known to be all business, very social, and often upscale. The area gets the name from the fact that all the big Canadian banks – and many other institutions – have their headquarters located here.

As such you’ll find lots of top restaurants, cafes, and places for fancy cocktails among the street level businesses of the larger office buildings. You can check out things like: The Hockey Hall of Fame, the Toronto Stock Exchange, and the famous Gooderham Building nearby. 

Featured Hotels in Financial District

Below are three of the top hotels in the Financial District. While there are lots of hotels in the area, there are certainly ones that have more of a name for themselves as being luxurious or popular. Yes, they will be expensive – but you get quality when you stay in the Financial District. You are a quick walk into the Entertainment District, close to the water, and well-connected to Union Station. There simply are no negatives.

One King West Hotel and Residence – Check Now

One King West Hotel is a historic and elegant hotel. Built back in 1914, the hotel is in an amazing location in the heart of the Financial District. Eric actually visited for a relative’s wedding years ago. The place was amazing. One King West is made up of only suite-style rooms so you get things like a microwave, dishwasher, or sitting area. As such, guests tend to make it a longer stay and use it as a base to explore Toronto. The staff are super friendly and there is an onsite bar and restaurant but the entire city is around you – so go and explore!

Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel – Check Now

The Sheraton Centre is a quiet and reliable hotel. Located right across the street from Nathan Philips Square and City Hall, the Sheraton has a great location for shopping with the Eaton Centre so close! You stay at the Sheraton for the amazing views of the city in all directions. Rooms are modern and well equipped. The Sheraton has a bar and restaurant but, again, you are right in the centre of many bars and restaurants that you should go and explore! It’s also conveniently connected to “the PATH” – a massive underground walkway covering much of downtown Toronto – makes winter walking a little less cold!

Fairmont Royal York Hotel – Check Now

The Fairmont Royal York Hotel is a vintage and charming hotel. Located right on Front Street, you are steps from Union Station and the Air Canada Centre. Eric has stayed here a few times back when he was in recruitment and each time was honestly great. The hotel is absolutely massive and has a variety of rooming styles to suit all needs. The restaurant has an amazing breakfast buffet, and the staff are always on their top game. Take advantage of the other amenities and great location in a hotel that is shaped like a giant armchair!

The Harbourfront (Scenic, Social, Central)

white boats in water with skyline behind where to stay in toronto
The boats in Toronto Harbour // Photo: Eugene Aikimov

If you want to stay close to the water of Lake Ontario, then The Harbourfront is the place for you. This part of town is known to be very scenic, social, and central. There is a wide pedestrian sidewalk for exploring and piers that you can check out for basically as far as your eye can see. You’ll have views of the Toronto Islands, Billy Bishop Airport, and be close to attractions like The Harbourfront Centre, Boat/Sailing Cruises, and Amsterdam Brewery.

Featured Hotels in The Harbourfront

Below are three of the top hotels in or very close by to the Harbourfront area. There aren’t actually that many hotels located in the actual perimeter of the Harbourfront (south of the Gardiner Expressway Highway) so two hotels mentioned below are located JUST north of this area and are a very quick walk to the shores of the lake.

The Delta by Marriott – Check Now

The Delta by Marriott is a stellar and luxurious hotel. Located right in the heart of downtown, the Delta offers great views of the CN Tower and the Harbourfront. From the rooftop lounge to the pool and parking onsite, this place has everything. Rooms are modern and fancy. The staff go well beyond their call of duty for guests – and the breakfast is said to be absolutely amazing. Some Toronto visitors swear by the Delta and we can see why!

The Westin Harbour Castle  – Check Now

The Westin Harbour Castle is a classic and scenic hotel. Located right down on the Harbourfront, you pay for the views of Lake Ontario. Guests enjoy a rooftop patio that overlooks the lake where you can watch the planes come in and out from Billy Bishop Airport on the lake. The location is quiet, yet still just a quick walk to major attractions in downtown Toronto. Rooms are modern in this older (but well maintained) hotel. There is parking onsite, tennis courts, and friendly staff!

Le Germain Hotel Maple Leafs Square  – Check Now

Le Germain Maple Leafs Square is an elegant and modern hotel. Another Le Germain makes the list – this time for a different reason. Located in Maple Leafs Square, you are steps from the Air Canada Centre where the Toronto Maple Leafs and Raptors play. It’s a busy area for sports fans – but yet also very close to the waterfront. The staff go above and beyond to take care of the guests, there is parking onsite, and great food options in the hotel and very close by!

Bloor-Yorkville (Posh, Shopping, Upscale)

cn tower with blue sky and other skyscrapers where to stay in toronto yorkville
This isn’t “midtown” but it sure is pretty just like it!

Do you want to go shopping at high-end places? Then Bloor-Yorkville is the place for you! The area is known to be posh, upscale, and good for shopping. The area is loosely based around the intersection of Bloor Street and Yonge Street and technically defined as “midtown” since you are not right in downtown Toronto.

That said, it’s easy to get down there by subway and you can walk if you wanted to. Another area close by is The Annex – which we mentioned above in “other neighbourhoods” that are good for apartment rentals. The attractions the district is known for are: lots of Shopping, The Bata Shoe Museum, and The Royal Ontario Museum, among others.

Featured Hotels in Bloor-Yorkville

As mentioned, this area can be seen as upscale and good for shopping. It’s also a heavy business area with large offices for major companies. This means that the hotels in the area are quite nice and can be expensive. However, with good amenities and a well-connected link to public transportation (or to hail a cab) the area at Bloor-Yorkville is a great option for a hotel.

Downtown Home Inn B&B – Check Now

The Downtown Home Inn B&B is a comfortable and cozy bed and breakfast. Located a quick walk from the centre of Bloor-Yorkville, the location is very quiet yet so close to shopping, bars, and restaurants. The old house has lots of charm and the rooms are clean, stylish, and comfortable. One even has a private rooftop terrace. Guests mention that the owner is very pleasant and that it felt like a “home away from home”. Check it out for yourself!

Windsor Arms Hotel – Check Now

The Windsor Arms Hotel is a historic and elegant hotel. Located in the heart of Yorkville just off of Bloor, the Windsor couldn’t be more central for shopping! The rooms are lavishly decorated to feel like many decades ago and the hotel, in general, is good for couples to appreciate the “old world” elegance. There are lovely pool and spa services which guests rave about. There’s parking onsite and you can even have a traditional “high tea”!

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto at Yorkville Check Now

The Four Seasons Toronto at Yorkville is a stunning and first-class hotel experience. Located in Yorkville just north of Bloor, you can’t beat the location if shopping is your main motivation. You’re also well connected to downtown via subway or cab! As with any Four Seasons, you pay for a very high-quality level of service. Rooms are impeccable and the staff and their service is essentially perfect. The pool and spa let you relax while staying in Toronto, and of course – there is onsite parking!

Fashion District (Trendy, Hipster, Social)

street car zooming past at night where to stay in toronto
The corner of King & Spadina is at a corner of the Fashion District. // Photo: Jorge Vasconez

Ah, the Fashion District. Located west of the Entertainment District, this area is known to be trendy, somewhat hipster, and very social. The area got its name because it was once full of factories for the garment and textile industries! The District exists to the west of Spadina and somewhat north of King Street and encompasses many restaurants and bars.

The area is usually clustered in with another neighbourhood – King West – which is a stretch of King Street West that has amazing food options. There isn’t much to do in the form of attractions but you can check out Graffiti Alley. In any case, the Entertainment District is very close on foot or streetcar. Stay near here for the food and look for food places like: WVRST, Gusto 101, Wilbur Mexicana, Portland Variety, and many, many, many more.

Featured Hotels in The Fashion District

Below are three of the top options in/close to the Fashion District. The Thompson is very much in the area while the Alexandra and Hotel Ocho are a bit more north but still very close by. As mentioned, this area is not super well-defined but is certainly downtown and accessible to many other great areas in the city on foot or via the King streetcar (504 or 514), Queen streetcar (501), or Spadina streetcar (510).

The Alexandra Hotel  – Check Now

The Alexandra Hotel is a basic and functional hotel. Located in a quiet area to the north of the Fashion District, this simple hotel provides guests with a simple stay for a great price. The location is a tad farther from the centre of downtown, but you are still very much down there compared to other neighbourhoods. Each room has a full kitchenette – making the Alexandra a good place for a longer stay and to prepare meals if that’s your style! There is also lots of parking outside and the staff are friendly!

Hotel OCHO – Check Now

Hotel OCHO is a vintage and renovated hotel. Located at the corner of Queen and Spadina, the hotel’s history of exposed brick is seen throughout the rooms. The location is great for exploring areas like Kensington Market and you are a quick walk or streetcar to the major attractions in the centre of downtown. Rooms are comfortable and spacious with great artwork. OCHO might be the perfect mix for your stay in Toronto.

The Thompson Toronto – Check Now

The Thompson Toronto is an upscale and trendy hotel. Known for the famous rooftop pool and lounge in the summer, the Thompson is definitely a “happening” place to stay in Toronto. Rooms are modern and come with designer linens. There is onsite parking or valet parking for a fee. Even though the Thompson overlooks the Fashion District, you are still a quick walk to downtown attractions and very close to many restaurants, bars, and nightclubs on King West.

Toronto Pearson International Airport

airplane and tunnel on tarmac through window where to stay in toronto
Staying close to the airport has its advantages.

We wanted to include the hotels in the area around the airport so that trip planners knew where it was and could plan accordingly. It’s also useful information for those passing through Toronto in need of an airport hotel. The airport is technically in the Greater Toronto Area in a city called Mississauga. Some would argue that the airport is in the north end of Etobicoke but the difference doesn’t really matter. All you need to know is that Pearson Airport is not close to downtown Toronto.

If you stay right at the airport (basically beside the terminals), you could, however, take the Up Express train to Union Station. Alternatively, to get downtown from this area you can grab an Uber or a cab/shuttle (which would be expensive).

Featured Hotels at Toronto Pearson International Airport

Below are three of the top hotels around Toronto Pearson International Airport. In general, there are lots of hotels very close by to the airport that connect via a free sky train. The other hotels in the area (like the Best Western below) has a free shuttle service to take passengers from the hotels to the airport.

Best Western Toronto Airport  – Check Now

The Best Western Toronto Airport is a simple and functional hotel. Back in the day, Eric was a recruiter and he stayed at this hotel many times over a span of a few months. Because it’s a Best Western, you know what you are getting. The location is great if you are heading for the airport. There is a free airport shuttle that makes the rounds to the hotel lobby door. Rooms are clean and spacious and there is a restaurant onsite. Can’t go wrong if you need a nice, simple place to stay.

Alt Hotel Toronto Airport – Check Now

The Alt Hotel Toronto Airport is a chic and modern hotel. The hotel is a newer addition to the many hotels that are close to the airport and close to the Skytrain transit to the terminal buildings. This makes it a convenient choice for a quick stay over in Toronto. Rooms are modern and stylish, the decor is hip and trendy, and they are even pet-friendly! There’s loads of parking and super friendly staff that are used to travellers coming and going!

Hilton Garden Inn Toronto Airport – Check Now

The Hilton Garden Inn Toronto Airport is a traditional and simple hotel. The hotel is conveniently located close to the airport (not downtown) however it has good connections to the terminals. Rooms are standard, clean, and simple and do the job for lots of travellers. There is a trendy onsite bar and full restaurant. Staff are super helpful, there is parking onsite, and there’s even a swimming pool!

And there you have it – a rundown of hotels and the best areas to stay in Toronto. In the end, there is no “single great” place to stay. Downtown has its advantages the same as Midtown has advantages and the same as other neighbourhoods do, too. They are all unique and offer visitors something different. We hope that our guide gives you a little but more knowledge so you can plan your trip for what interests and suits you best! We love Toronto and it’ll always be close to home. We’ll continue to write posts about the city and share our Toronto knowledge.

As always, Happy Toronto Waddlin’,
-L&E

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Where to stay in Toronto, Canada

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While waddling the globe, Penguin and Pia enjoy belly slides and tasting the freshest fish dishes the world has to offer. When not lounging on ice chairs, they can be found working in the travel space in countries all around Europe.

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