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12 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Casa Loma, Toronto

12 Things to Know BEFORE Visiting Casa Loma, Toronto

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Did you know that there’s a castle in downtown Toronto? It’s something we discovered while spending a few days in Toronto on our most recent visit!

Casa Loma is a Gothic Revival castle that was originally built as a private residence in 1914. But now, it’s a museum with tons of interesting exhibits, some very beautiful gardens, and one of Toronto’s best steakhouses (so make sure you’re not too full from a food tour!).

It’s a great place to dive into Toronto’s past and enjoy some beautiful views of the city while you’re at it since it sits on a hill. Casa Loma is Spanish for “hill house” which totally makes sense when you see it!

To be honest, we were expecting Casa Loma to be overrated, and a bit of a tourist trap. However, we were very pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. We really enjoyed exploring the castle, which is why we’ve put together this guide to 12 things you need to know before you go!

Don’t have time to read the full article? Casa Loma is a castle right in Toronto! To avoid the crowds (and have time to climb the historic towers!), plan a morning visit and buy tickets in advance so you can skip the line.

1. About Casa Loma

Vintage car out the front of Casa Loma on display in Toronto
A vintage car!
A bedroom at Casa Loma, Toronto
Just one of the bedrooms!

Casa Loma was originally the private home of Henry Pellatt, a well-known financier. It was built between 1911 and 1914, and was the largest private residence in Canada at the time. 

The castle wasn’t actually fully completed by 1914, but its construction was interrupted by the start of the First World War. The third floor, for example, was never finished and now houses the Regimental Museum for The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada which is an infantry regiment that’s had soldiers serving in every major conflict Canada has been in.

Pellatt also experienced financial difficulties as a result of the war, and so he lived in Casa Loma for less than 10 years before he had to sell it in 1923. It became a luxury hotel for a few years, attracting lots of wealthy Americans to its bar while Prohibition was in full swing in the USA. 

However, that didn’t last long, and Casa Loma was seized for unpaid taxes. In the late 1930s, it was revived and opened as a tourist attraction. It still serves that purpose today with an estimated 650,000 visitors every year! 

Casa Loma also had additional, secret purposes during World War II. The stables were used to research and produce sonar detectors for U-boats and the castle was a real-life secret agent training facility. You can learn all about Casa Loma’s role in WWII at the “2 Intelligence and Camp X” exhibit – but more on that to come! 

2. Where is Casa Loma?

Scenic view of toronto as seen from the steps to Casa Loma, Toronto
Views of Toronto from Casa Loma!

Casa Loma is located in downtown Toronto. It sits on top of Davenport Hill, so you can get some nice views of the city from here! You can either climb up the west side of Davenport Hill to get to the castle, or walk up the Baldwin Steps on the east side.

The castle is decently close to lots of Toronto’s most popular attractions, like the CN Tower, the Hockey Hall of Fame, and the Royal Ontario Museum, so it’s easy to fit into a day of sightseeing. 

3. How do you get to Casa Loma?

Bailey at a train station in Toronto on her way to Casa Loma, Toronto
We got the train!

Subway

There are two different ways to get to Casa Loma via the subway. 

The first is to take the Spadina – University subway line to Dupont Station. From there, you can head two blocks north along Spadina Avenue, and then either climb up the Baldwin Steps to the castle or walk up the hill on the west side instead. Be warned – there are 110 Baldwin Steps!

Alternatively, you can take the Spadina-University line to St. Clair West station, which is a 15-minute walk from Casa Loma. 

You can also take the Yonge line to St. Clair Station and change to the streetcar. It’s a 5-minute ride to Spadina Road and then a 10-minute walk to Casa Loma.

Bus

To take the bus, head to Spadina Station in central downtown, and take the Davenport 127 bus. You can either get off at Davenport and Spadina and climb the Baldwin Steps, or stay on until Davenport and Walmer and walk up the hill instead.

If you want to see more of the city, the hop-on hop-off bus also stops here. You can learn more about this bus on our list of the best Toronto sightseeing tours.

Taxi/Uber

Probably the easiest way to get to Casa Loma is via an Uber or taxi. This should cost around $15 CAD from downtown, which isn’t too bad, especially if you’re splitting it with other people. You can get dropped off in the east parking lot, which will save you from climbing the hill or the Baldwin Steps! 

Car

If you happen to have a rental car in Toronto, there is parking available on-site. It’s pricey though! Expect to pay a set rate of $20 CAD per vehicle and you’ll need credit/debit as cash isn’t accepted. The parking lot can fill up, especially on busy days in the summer, so there’s additional parking at George Brown College across the street.

Related Read: Cycling is another mode of transport that’s a fun way to see Toronto! These are our favorite bike tours in Toronto to check out.

4. How much does it cost to visit Casa Loma?

Stain glass roof at Casa Loma in Toronto
So beautiful!
Paintings a decorations at Casa Loma in Toronto
What a place to live!

Tickets to Casa Loma are $40 CAD and slightly cheaper for seniors, teens, and young kids. If you have any little ones aged 3 or younger, they are free. Because you can spend so long here, it can easily turn into one of the best cheap activities to do in Toronto!

You can easily purchase tickets online to secure your spot.

5. Do you need to purchase your ticket in advance? 

One of the bedrooms at Casa Loma in Toronto
One of the main bedrooms!

Technically no, but we recommend that you do because it’s much easier. We bought our tickets in advance and it saved us a lot of time!

6. When is Casa Loma open?

Old artifacts at the museum at Casa Loma, Toronto
The museum!
A chandelier at Casa Loma in Toronto
A chandelier!

Casa Loma is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm every day except Christmas Day. The last admission is at 4:30 pm, although we do recommend you get there earlier than that as you’ll want to spend a few hours here. 

Meanwhile, the Gardens close earlier, at 4 pm from Monday to Wednesday and 3 pm from Thursday to Sunday, so bear this in mind when visiting. The Gardens are spectacular and you don’t want to miss them! 

The Scottish Tower also closes earlier than the rest of the castle on certain days. It closes at 3 pm from Wednesday to Friday, and at 1 pm on Saturday and Sunday. The Norman Tower stays open with the rest of the castle, though.

7. When is the best time to visit Casa Loma? 

The wine cellar at Casa Loma, Toronto
The wine cellar at Casa Loma, Toronto

Casa Loma gets really busy, so going first thing in the morning is best if you want to avoid the crowds. You should definitely go early if you want to climb the Norman and Scottish Towers, as it doesn’t take long for the lines to get super long!

We also recommend visiting during the summer, because the beautiful gardens and hilltop views are part of the experience, and obviously they’re much better on a clear sunny day! But, with that being said, visiting Casa Loma also makes for a good rainy-day activity in Toronto because a lot of the attractions are inside. So if you do visit during the rain or snow in the winter, it’s not the end of the world.

8. What are the highlights at Casa Loma?

Bailey poses for a photo with a wax statue at Casa Loma, Toronto
Can you recognize her?
Mike Tyson wax statue at Casa Loma, Toronto
Mike Tyson!

The Backstage Celebrity Gallery

A lot of TV shows and movies have been filmed at Casa Loma, thanks to its super impressive architecture! Scenes from movies like X-Men and Scott Pilgrim vs the World have been shot here. Casa Loma opened the Backstage Celebrity Gallery on the 2nd floor of the Stables, which is like its own mini version of Madame Tussauds.

There are lots of figures of famous actors here who have filmed scenes at the castle, including Chris Evans, Jackie Chan, Halle Berry, and Sarah Jessica Parker. 

2 Intelligence and Camp X 

The 2 Intelligence and Camp X exhibit is awesome if you’re interested in military intelligence and spies! It does a great job of demonstrating just how much intelligence changed over the 20th century through artifacts like uniforms, photographs, weapons, and tools. You’ll learn about Camp X, where secret agents were trained here at the castle, and Casa Loma’s very own Station M, where top secret military gadgets were developed during World War II. 

The Rooms 

Exploring The Rooms gives you an insight into the life and imagination of Henry Pellatt, the financier who built Casa Loma. As you explore, you’ll see that Pellatt was clearly a romantic – although that’s probably obvious anyway, since he built a huge castle on top of a hill for his wife! We loved exploring the Edwardian-era rooms, as they’re really ornate and impressive, with lots of antiques.

The Dark Side Tunnel

While The Rooms are super charming and romantic, there’s also a darker side to Casa Loma. Henry Pellatt had several secret passages built, as well as an 800-foot (243-meter) long tunnel that connected the main house to the stables. It’s believed that a poltergeist inhabits the tunnels and occasionally grabs visitors’ hands or pulls their hair!

So given that The Dark Side Tunnel already has a bit of a fearsome reputation, it’s naturally the perfect place for an exhibit on the dark side of Toronto’s history. As you wander through the creepy tunnels, you view a series of photographs that detail some of the less pleasant parts of Toronto’s past, including the Depression, the Plague, and the Great Toronto Fire.

An old car at the car museum at Casa Loma, Toronto
There’s an entire car collection!
A car from the car museum at Casa Loma, Toronto
Old horse carriage!

Antique Car Display

Out in Casa Loma’s garage and carriage room, you’ll find a collection of vintage cars from the early 1900s (which look nothing like the cars on the roads today!) They’re all in pristine condition, and the collection includes lots of old Fords and a 1910 Maxwell Model Q.

The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada

The third floor of Casa Loma was never actually finished, and now it’s home to the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum

The Queen’s Own Rifles is a Canadian infantry regiment, whose soldiers have fought in every major conflict Canada has been involved in since 1866. Sir Henry Pellatt was a Queen’s Own Rifles commanding officer and also contributed a lot of financial aid to the regiment. If you’re interested in military history, it’s definitely worth checking out this museum!

Hollywood Film Gallery 

Casa Loma has been featured in a ton of movies, TV shows, and commercials, and the Hollywood Film Gallery gives you a glimpse behind the scenes. Located in the castle’s basement, the gallery contains lots of movie posters, stills, and information boards. It’s pretty cool to see just how much has been filmed here! 

Group of Seven Collection

The Group of Seven was a collection of notable Canadian landscape painters, whose mission was to create a distinctly Canadian style of art. They actually had 10 members by the time they disbanded in 1933 and formed the Canadian Group of Painters instead (an organization which is still going to this day!) These artists had a huge influence on Canadian art, and on the third floor of Casa Loma, you can see a collection of their works in the Group of Seven Collection.

The Towers 

There are two towers you can climb at Casa Loma: the Scottish Tower, and the Norman Tower. However, you’ll need to get there early if you want to do this! We ended up skipping climbing the towers because of the long lines, but if you get there at 9 am when Casa Loma opens you shouldn’t have to wait too long. 

Also bear in mind that the Scottish Tower often closes early (3 pm Wednesday-Friday and 1 pm on weekends), which is even more reason to do it in the morning.

Views of the back garden with views of Toronto at the CN tower from Casa Loma
The back garden with views of Toronto and the CN Tower from Casa Loma

The Back Gardens

The gardens out the back of Casa Loma are just beautiful. They cover over 4 acres (about half a hectare) and are perfectly manicured. During the summer in Toronto, you can see thousands of beautiful flowers in bloom, including roses, azaleas, and rare wildflowers.

You also get awesome views of Toronto and of the castle’s exterior. The gardens were one of the highlights of our visit and a good reason to visit Casa Loma on a clear summer’s day. 

BlueBlood Steakhouse

If you’re looking for a memorable dining experience in Toronto, then the BlueBlood Steakhouse at Casa Loma will most definitely fit the bill. I mean, it’s not often you get to have dinner in a castle!

BlueBlood Steakhouse serves up delicious steaks as well as fresh seafood, and dining here will definitely make you feel like a member of the aristocracy. As if the mahogany walls and chandeliers weren’t enough, there’s also art on the walls by some of the all-time greats, including Andy Warhol and Salvador Dali. 

BlueBlood is open from 5-11 pm from Monday to Friday and opens an hour earlier on weekends. You’ll definitely need to make a reservation in advance, especially if you want to dine in one of their private pods or the library! Steaks here start around $80 CAD and can cost up to $270 CAD, so it’s not the place for a cheap dinner, but it’s definitely an awesome dining experience.

The Gardens of Casa Loma 

If fancy restaurants aren’t your thing (or a $270 CAD steak just isn’t in your budget!) then head to The Gardens of Casa Loma. Here you can enjoy a more casual, al fresco meal right in the middle of Casa Loma’s beautiful gardens! We think this would be such a great date night experience, and with entrées priced between $26-$48 CAD, it’s a lot more affordable than BlueBlood. 

Since this is an outdoor patio dining experience, The Gardens of Casa Loma is open from 5 pm on good weather days between June and August. It’s such a nice way to make the most of the picturesque gardens and spend a summer evening in Toronto!  

9. How long do you need to explore Casa Loma?

Outdoor fountain at Casa Loma, Toronto
Outdoor fountain at Casa Loma, Toronto
An old piano in Casa Loma, Toronto
An old piano in Casa Loma, Toronto

On average, we’d say 2-3 hours – and definitely not less than 2 hours. There’s so much to see here, and you could stay longer than 3 hours, especially on a sunny day when you’ll want to spend a while exploring the gardens and enjoying the views.

We weren’t expecting to spend that long here, but we stayed for over 3 hours! It turned out to be one of our favorite self-guided tours in Toronto.

Related Read: To see more Canadian castles, make sure to make the trip across the country to the beautiful city of Victoria, BC. There are two castles here you’ll want to check out!

10. Is Casa Loma wheelchair-friendly?

Daniel poses for a photo at Casa Loma in the outdoor garden in Toronto
It’s a castle!

Mostly. 

All of the exhibits on the first, second, and third floors of Casa Loma are wheelchair accessible, except for the Queen’s Own Rifles Room, the Pellatt Room, and the Servant’s Room. There’s also an elevator that can be used to access the basement level, and the lower garden terrace is accessible from the Great Hall, the Library, and the East Garden Gate. 

There are wheelchair-accessible bathrooms on the main floor of Casa Loma, and there are two accessible parking spots in the West Parking Lot. 

The Norman and Scottish Towers are not wheelchair friendly because they’re only accessed via spiral staircases. 

11. Is Casa Loma suitable for children? 

Old dining area at Casa Loma, Toronto
Old dining area at Casa Loma, Toronto

Yes, kids love it! There’s so much to explore and they’ll have fun roaming around the gardens, too. It’s a great place for a family day out in Toronto.

Children who are 3 and younger are free and you can buy tickets for the adults and older kids online here. Just a note that strollers aren’t recommended here just because there are so many stairs.

12. Is visiting Casa Loma worth it? 

Bailey walks up a staircase in Casa Loma, Toronto
Exploring the hidden passage!
Bailey poses for a photo in Casa Loma, Toronto
Yes, it’s such a cool place to see!

Yes! We weren’t sure if it would be, but we loved our visit here and would absolutely recommend it. Even if you only have one day to spend in Toronto, it’s worth carving out some time to pop in.

Casa Loma is such a beautiful building and there are so many cool exhibits to explore. Plus, we loved the gardens and the views over Toronto. If it’s not on your Toronto itinerary yet, it should be! 

Other Things to do While You’re in Toronto

Views from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls looking down at the cruise below Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is close enough for a day trip from Toronto!
Daniel poses for a photo with the current Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada
The current Stanley Cup!

Toronto is a city filled with tons of things to do and see. So before (or after!) your visit to Casa Loma, take some time to explore some of the other top attractions and activities:

  • Check out the view from the CN Tower – The tallest building in the city and all of Canada, heading up the CN Tower is a must! The main observation deck is on the 33rd floor and if you’re feeling brave, there’s a glass floor or the Edgewalk that takes you outside to walk high above Toronto! General admission is $43 CAD.
  • Eat great food! – With so many different cultures and restaurants, Toronto is a foodie heaven! Miku Toronto is considered the best sushi restaurant in the city with a big outdoor patio and a happy hour (3-4 pm) with great discounts. Food tours in Toronto are also top-notch and we enjoyed this walking food tour to help us try a variety of tasty dishes from butter tarts to pierogies to maple syrup and the chance to explore the iconic St. Lawrence Market.
  • Go sailing – For a unique cruise, climb aboard a 1930s schooner with this Toronto tall ship cruise. You’ll help the crew raise the sails for the journey from Toronto Harbor to Lake Ontario. There are panoramic views to take in and kids love it when the crew fires the ship’s canyon! Tickets are available online for only $43 CAD and cheaper for kids.
  • Watch a hockey game – Hockey is HUGE all over Canada, so taking in an NHL game while you’re here is sure to be a fun night. While I’m a diehard Oilers fan, the Toronto Maple Leafs are the home team here and the atmosphere is a lot of fun. Tickets range from $150 – $350 CAD and you can buy tickets on Viator. If it isn’t hockey season, pop into the Hockey Hall of Fame instead to see the famous Stanley Cup!

Where to Stay in Toronto

One King West Hotel & Residence
Photo credit: One King West Hotel & Residence

Let’s face it, Toronto is a huge city with practically endless options when it comes to hotels. But, not all hotels are created equal – you want to ensure you book a place with an amazing location and even better amenities, which narrows down your choices.

I’ve handpicked some of the best places to stay in the city – the below hotels all have an ideal central location as well as everything you need to have a comfortable stay!

If you’re looking for more info about where to stay in Toronto, be sure to read our blog. It includes detailed info on the best area to stay, how to get from the airport to your hotel, and the top hotels!

Fairmont Royal York Hotel (Luxury Stay – $$$)

The Fairmont Royal York Hotel is one of the most luxurious hotels in Toronto. With its historic ballroom, beautiful rooms, and a gorgeous skylit indoor pool, you’ll have to force yourself to leave and explore the city! But once you do, you’re steps from Union Station, so getting around via public transport is really easy. It also means that you can take the train from the airport directly to the hotel! 

The Hockey Hall of Fame is two blocks away, and you’re also about a 20-minute walk from both the waterfront and the Distillery District. Rooms usually start from around $500-$600 CAD per night and you can check availability and book the Fairmont Royal York online here!

The SoHo Hotel (Moderately-priced Boutique Hotel – $$)

The SoHo Hotel is an excellent choice for anybody looking for a centrally located hotel that is just stunning. This hotel is located only a short walk from attractions like the CN Tower, and it also has plenty of nice facilities including a lap pool and fitness center. Oh, and did I mention the rooms have heated bathroom floors?!

Room rates typically range from $300 CAD and up. The SoHo is one of the highest-rated hotels in Toronto, so be sure to book online here well in advance to secure your room.

One King West Hotel and Residences (Moderately-priced Full Apartments – $$)

If you’re looking for a home away from home, then One King West Hotel and Residences might be the best choice for you. Although a hotel, this property features fully self-contained apartments complete with a kitchen. This is perfect if you like to cook some of your own meals. On top of that, the location is ideal and you’ll also find a fitness center and onsite bar and restaurant.

For an entire apartment in Toronto, prices start at about $330 CAD. You can check availability and book online here.

Town Inn Suites Hotel (Budget Hotel – $)

You don’t have to spend a small fortune to stay in Toronto. If you’re on a tighter budget, Town Inn Suites Hotel is the best choice for you. Starting from only $170 CAD per night (in the low season), this centrally located hotel is tastefully decorated and features plenty of amenities. Rooms also feature a kitchenette, which comes in very handy. You can check prices and secure your room online here.

Samesun Toronto (Budget Hostel – $)

The Samesun Toronto is the perfect choice for backpackers or solo travelers wanting to meet others. The hostel has a great location as well as communal spaces (including a huge kitchen) where you can relax. They offer both dorm beds as well as budget private rooms, but bathrooms are all shared.

You can grab a dorm bed for less than $100 CAD per night during peak season. You can book the Samesun Toronto online on either Booking.com or Hostelworld.

One of the best ways to experience Canada is by hitting the road. Some of the best things to do and attractions are located in remote areas between destinations. For that reason, we highly recommend getting your own wheels!

  • Rent a car – To simply rent a vehicle, search on Discover Cars where they compare tons of different rental companies near you. This way you can easily compare prices, features, policies, and more!
  • Rent a campervan or motorhome Motorhome Republic is great for finding a motorhome or campervan to rent in Canada. With your own home on wheels, you can camp in beautiful places and save money on accommodation!

Thanks for reading!

Bailey and Daniel take a selfie at Casa Loma, Toronto
Thanks for reading!

Exploring a castle in Canada’s largest city is such a unique activity that you won’t want to miss! Hopefully, this guide on visiting Casa Loma in Toronto has helped you plan your trip. Whether you’re climbing one of the towers, wandering around the ornate rooms, or eating a meal at one of the fantastic castle restaurants, this is a great addition to your trip.

For more travel tips and ideas, check out our other blogs about Canada and the USA. Or leave us a comment or question below!

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