Where to eat, go book shopping and catch some culture in a charming, low-key Toronto neighbourhood....
In the Spotlight: Casa Loma
Built in a striking Gothic Revival style, Casa Loma is among Toronto’s most striking and unique architectural landmarks.
It was initially built in 1911 as a private residence—the largest in Canada at the time—for financier Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, Casa Loma (1 Austin Terrace) is now a historical museum, as well as a popular tourist spot and filming spot for movies and television.
Visitors can explore the many impressive rooms of Casa Loma at their own pace. Walk through the great hall, or peruse any of the 10,000 books in the library on the main floor, or look at the elegant suites on the second floor. Climb up to the many narrow staircases to the top of the gothic towers (the entrances of which are located on the third floor) and marvel at the majestic views of the Toronto skyline.
Stroll around Casa Loma’s expansive grounds, covering five acres of borders, resplendent walled gardens and other botanical marvels. Visitors with green thumbs would enjoy observing the seasonal garden flora, as well as Casa Loma’s potting shed, where the estate’s collection of rare orchids and chrysanthemums are kept in the winter.
Places to eat at Casa Loma
Dining at an authentic castle is a unique gastronomical experience and visitors looking for places to eat at Casa Loma won’t have to look for long. There are three restaurants on the estate. Grab a snack or a quick cup of coffee at Liberty Caffé in between your explorations of Casa Loma. Dine under a magnificent stained-glass dome at internationally-acclaimed Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto, or feel like nobility and feast on Toronto’s best steak at the BlueBlood Steakhouse.
Visitors longing to sit down after an extensive jaunt around the castle will enjoy Liberty Caffé, with its fresh pastries and hot coffee (try out their specialty coffee and hot chocolate!) served from morning to afternoon. They also serve light lunch fare such as hearty soups, sandwiches and plates of pasta, as well as beer and wine.
Located within the Casa Loma is BlueBlood Steakhouse, an esteemed fine dining restaurant that offers a refined gastronomic experience. Home to Toronto’s best steak, the menu includes cuts of the world’s finest beef, as well as fresh seafood. Visitors can choose from an extensive collection of wines and spirits, and spend their evening surrounded by classic architecture, heirloom antiques and modern art from artists such as Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali.
Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto
Located in Casa Loma’s historic conservatory with its breathtaking McCausland stained glass ceiling, Don Alfonso 1890 Toronto showcases the Amalfi coast’s fresh, distinctive flavours. As the first location opened by Michelin Star chefs Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino, diners will be indulged with their modern take on Mediterranean fare.
Things to see at Casa Loma
Being the only one of its kind in all of Canada, there is a near-endless list of things to see at Casa Loma, including exhibits as well as seasonal events. Summers are filled with a series of concerts held in the gardens, while autumn transforms Casa Loma into a haunted house––perfect for a Gothic castle!
Casa Loma houses several exhibits within the premises. There is the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum located on the third floor. It contains artifacts and archives about the exploits of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, which is the country’s oldest continuously-serving infantry regiment.
Visitors interested in learning about Toronto’s sordid past can traipse through the Dark Side Tunnel Exhibit, an 800-foot tunnel under Casa Loma that connects the main house to the stables. The tunnel is lined with archival photographs of Toronto’s “dark” years during the Prohibition, the Depression, the Plague, the Great Toronto Fire, as well as the very first plane crash in Toronto.
Drive back to the Roaring 20s by visiting the antique car display located in the carriage room. It contains many gorgeous vintage cars from the early 1900s, notably a pristinely preserved 1910 Maxwell Model Q Standard, a 1924-1925 Ford Model T Touring, a 1922 Ford Model T Woody and a 1929 Ford Model A.
Fans of landscape art are recommended to make a beeline for the third floor, which contains a collection of artwork by Canada’s famous Group of Seven. They were a group of master landscape painters whose work revered the majesty of the Canadian landscape.
There is also a gallery dedicated to Casa Loma’s place in Hollywood as a prime filming location. Located in the basement, the Hollywood Film Gallery contains a plethora of film posters and behind-the-scenes photographs and information about the film productions set up around the estate.
Love a good mystery? Casa Loma’s Gothic towers make it an ideal setting for escape rooms. The Castle Loma tower is home to the Castle Loma Escape Series, where visitors work together to solve a fully interactive and theatrical mystery!
Fun facts about Casa Loma
Besides its magnificent towers and classically-styled rooms, learning fun facts about Casa Loma is part of the entire experience.
- The castle has a whopping 98 rooms, including a bathroom equipped with a full-body shower—revolutionary when it was built
- Inspired by European castles, the owner Henry Pellatt employed actual stonemasons from Scotland and 400 tradesmen to build Casa Loma. The entire building took three years to finish
- After the Pellatts moved out, Casa Loma became a hotel and nightclub that became popular among wealthy Americans looking to consume alcohol legally during the Prohibition Era
- During the second world war, Casa Loma concealed a sonar research and construction facility in its stables
- Casa Loma has suites built to accommodate visiting royals from England
- A royally cheeky surprise awaits visitors in the Great Hall: on one wall hangs the portrait of young Queen Elizabeth II and on the opposite side of the hall over the fireplace hangs a portrait of Prince, the king of Purple Rain himself
- The 800-ft underground tunnel is said to house a naughty ghost, who is rumoured to make strange noises and even pull at people’s hair!
- Casa Loma’s imposing appearance has attracted many a film and television production crew so that visitors may have seen it many times on the silver screen. Notable examples include X-Men, RoboCop, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, La Femme Nikita and MasterChef Canada
How to Get to Casa Loma
By car from the Southwest: Take the 401 East to Allen Expressway, then south towards Eglinton Avenue West. Make a left on Eglinton to Spadina, then turn right. Continue along Spadina until you reach Casa Loma.
By car from the Northeast: Take the 401 West to the Don Valley Parkway, then south toward Eglinton Avenue East. Head west on Eglinton towards Spadina, then turn left, continuing along Spadina until Casa Loma is in view.
By public transportation via the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC): Alight at Dupont Station (two stops north of St. George Station along the Spadina-University Line). Exit the station, walk two blocks north along Spadina Avenue, climbing the Baldwin Steps until you arrive at the castle. Visitors can also opt to get off at the St. Clair West Station on the same Spadina-University Line, then walk east along St. Clair to Spadina Avenue and take a 15-minute walk to the castle.
By public transportation via Bus: Take the Davenport 127 bus from Spadina Station headed towards Davenport and Spadina, where visitors can climb up the Baldwin steps to the castle, or stay on the bus for one more stop to Davenport and Walmer to walk up the hill on the West side of Casa Loma.
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