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Casa Loma, the Toronto castle you need to visit

Toronto has many great attractions, but none of them is as unique as Casa Loma. While it’s not as grand as its European counterparts are, this Toronto castle holds its own in charm and esthetic. Once a grand private residence turned into a hotel, it is now a museum.

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The man behind Casa Loma

Casa Loma is a perfect testament to one man’s vision and deep pockets. Sir Henry Pellatt, the man behind the vision, was a wealthy financier and the wealthiest men at the time. Born in 1859, Henry was well-educated son of an investment broker. He made his fortune by investing in the railway and hydroelectric industries in Canada.

He fell in love with castles after taking a tour of Europe. Once he made his money, he envisioned a grand castle on a hill overlooking Toronto. He hired a renowned architect E.J. Lennox to fulfill that vision. Started in 1911, it took three years for 300 men to make that dream come to life.

Situated on five acres, this 200,000 square foot mansion was the largest private residence in Canada and cost $3.5 million. Sir Henry and his wife, Lady Mary, managed to enjoy it for almost a decade before financial difficulties forced them to abandon their dream. 

dining room

Casa Loma history

The Casa Loma history is just as interesting as the house itself.

A private residence

When Pellatt purchased the property for his dream home, he was one of the wealthiest men in Toronto. He employed the best artisans from Europe and latest technology, sparing no expense. Art works from all over the world and expensive furniture decorate the interior, while the gardens dazzled outside.

The estate also included impressive stables, potting shed and a coach-house north of the main building. This was also Pellatt’s Hunting Lodge and he lived here during the construction of the main house.

Upon completion in 1914, this 98-room estate included an elevator, pipe organs, secret passages, electricity, numerous bathrooms, central vacuum and a massive kitchen. The outbreak of World War I halted the construction, leaving the pool and bowling alley an unfinished dream.

guest room

Casa Loma hotel

The bankruptcy forced the Pellatts out in 1924, leaving their dream behind. Granted a long-term lease for the property, the architect William Sparling begun to convert Casa Loma into a luxury hotel.  He completed the great hall and the billiards room left unfinished by Sir Henry.

Although Sparling’s plans for two additional wings with 96 full suites and 56 rooms never materialized, the Casa Loma Hotel opened to the public in 1927 at a rate of $6 a day. 

Casa Loma in the spot light

During the 1920’s, Casa Loma became a popular nightspot for wealthy Americans. Many flocked over to see the Orange Blossoms band that played here during the 1927-1928 season.  The Orange Blossoms later became Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra, one of North America’s top swing dance bands.

Casa Loma museum

As the Great Depression put a stop to the life of luxury, Casa Loma remained vacant until the city took over its ownership for unpaid taxes. After a number of possible uses, including a possible demolition, Casa Loma officially became a museum in 1937.

Operated by the Kiwanis Club of West Toronto, Casa Loma museum, a grand tourist attraction was born. In 2011, city council established the Casa Loma Corporation for the purpose of managing and overseeing the day-to-day operations and future direction. The city remains its sole shareholder.

In 2014, the Liberty Entertainment Group entered a long-term lease with the city for running special events, programming and looking after the maintenance and improvements to the property

in the gardens

Inside the Toronto castle

Inside the Casa Loma, you can walk all three floors of the house, imagining what life was like for the Pellatts.  The audio guide provides information about the different rooms and objects with fun facts thrown in.

The rooms

Some of the most notable rooms on the main floor include the Great Hall with 60’ high ceilings, the stunning library and the dining room as well as the Peacock Alley, modelled after Windsor Castle’s passageway. One of the most interesting rooms that really showed off the Pellet wealth is the conservatory. In addition to the Italian marble floors and carved doors, steam pipes kept the flowers flourishing throughout the year.

On the second floor are the private rooms of Sir Henry and Lady Pellatt. Both suites feature marble bathrooms and fancy sitting rooms.  His rooms also feature a secret storage by the fireplace and an elaborate shower that looks more like a torture device.  Additional elegant rooms complete this floor.

The third floor of the house wasn’t finished and today is dedicated to military service – Queen’s Own Rifles Museum. Sir Henry Pellatt was also a soldier, achieving the rank of Major General with the regiment. Servant’s rooms and stairs to the tower complete the tour of this floor.  

shower

Lower level and the tunnel

The lower level was originally intended for the bowling alley, shooting range and pool that were never completed. Today you’ll find the washrooms, gift shop, an auditorium and a café. Worthy of a stop is the extensive wine cellar where pipes filled with ammonia and brine chilled the wines and champagnes during its heyday.

However, the underground 800-foot tunnel that connects Casa Loma with the stables was one of my favourite things. As the city divided Sir Henry’s property with a road, he had the tunnel constructed so the servants and tradesmen could safely travel between the properties without having to cross the street. The tunnel has lights and with so many people walking by doesn’t feel too creepy. Along the way, you can see images of the past called Toronto’s Dark Side. These archival photos look back into the days of the Prohibition, The Depression, The Plague, damage done by the Great Toronto Fire, and Toronto’s first plane crash.

Stables, carriage room and garage

As you emerge from the tunnel, you find yourself in another lovely spot. Today, the carriage room and garage feature a collection of vintage cars from the early 1900s. The stables, still smell like horses and I wouldn’t be surprised to see one in a stall. Sir Henry spared no expense here either, with mahogany, Spanish tiles and hose names embossed in gold.

The garden

As befitting any castle, the gardens surrounding it are spectacular. With a wide variety of plants, flowers and fountains, you can’t help but feel impressed.

Casa Loma today

Today, Casa Loma remains a popular destination for tourist and locals alike. There are many special events hosted at Casa Loma throughout the year.

Symphony in the Gardens

On Tuesday evenings, starting in the beginning of June to the end of August, you can enjoy the Toronto Concert Orchestra under the stars. Guests can enjoy dining alfresco while strolling the gardens and enjoying views of the city.  

Time: Tuesday evenings at 7:30pm (Doors at 5pm)

Price: General Admission Tickets $30 (adult), General Admission Seasons Pass Booklet $250

Tickets: Onsite or in advance online here

Schedule: see it here

Menu: view here

Soul in the City – Starring Sean Jones

Mondays, between June 18 and August 27, enjoy Juno Award-winning artist Sean Jones, accompanied by a seven–piece band and special guests. Guests can enjoy dining alfresco while strolling the gardens and enjoying views of the city. 

Time: Monday evenings at 7:30 p.m. (Doors at 5 p.m.)

Price: General Admission Tickets $30 (adult).

Tickets: Onsite or in advance online here

Menu: view it here

old school phone

Comedy at the Castle

On Wednesdays between July 25 and August 29, you can enjoy Just For Laughs Comedy at the Castle featuring live comedy performances. Comics form the world-famous comedy festival headline this event.

Time: Wednesday evenings at 7:30pm (Doors at 5pm)

Price: General Admission Tickets $30 (adult)

Tickets: Onsite or in advance online here

Schedule: see it here

Menu: view here

Halloween Hunted House

Casa Loma wouldn’t be a proper castle without a haunted house. Each October, you can check out the Legends of Horror production that leads visitors through the gardens and castle tunnels. This 2 km experience, brought to life by actors dressed up as most recognized horror characters, guaranteed to rise the hair on the back of your neck.  

Find information and tickets here.

Casa Loma escape rooms

With rising popularity of the game, Casa Loma escapes are fun and immersive. You will find yourself on a set with live actors and story lines blending facts and fiction. Three different options to choose your adventure.

Shows and tickets info.

Weddings

Casa Loma is a popular set for events and wedding photos. If you’ve ever wanted to have a wedding reception at a castle, or just get your photos done with a great background, here is your chance.

Booking information and prices

Casa Loma in the movies

Unsurprisingly, Casa Loma is a popular film and television set. Some of the high profile movies shot here include:

  • X-Men
  • Strange Brew
  • Chicago
  • The Tuxedo
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Warehouse 13
  • Descendants
  • Twitches Too
  • The Pacifier

Visitor information

What you need to know before you visit.

Casa Loma admission/tickets*

Adults (18-64): $30

Seniors (65+) or youth (14-17): $25

Children (4-13): $20

Children (0-3): free

*prices include HST (13%)

What’s included:

  • Self-guided tour of the house, tunnels and the stables and carriage house
  • Use of our multimedia audio guide in seven languages
  • Access to grounds and gardens (seasonal)
  • Documentary viewing in the theatre
  • Entrance to Sir Henry Pellatt documentary

Purchase General Admission Tickets online

Hours of operation

Open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (last admission at 4:30 p.m.)

Christmas Eve (December 24) – closes at 4 p.m.

Christmas Day (December 25) – closed

Casa Loma is open until 10pm (Monday, Tuesday + Wednesday) during the summer months for Soul in the City, Symphony in the Gardens and Comedy at the Castle.

The tower closes at 4.30pm to accommodate Escape the Tower.

Dining at Casa Loma

There are three different food venues to choose from while visiting Casa Loma.

  • BlueBlood Steakhouse: An upscale steakhouse, reservation required, not included in the admission.
  • Liberty Café: A café offering a range of pressed sandwiches, pastries, fresh pasta, specialty coffees and juices.
  • Terrace Grill: Seasonal outdoor casual service restaurant.

Parking

Limited parking is available onsite for $10 a vehicle. Additional paid parking is available at George Brown College (south of Casa Loma, off Macpherson Avenue).

Directions how to get to Casa Loma

Address: 1 Austin Terrace

South of St. Clair and North West corner of Spadina Road and Davenport Road. 10-15 min walk from Davenport Station.

Public transit information

Map

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Travelling in the footsteps of history and blogging about it. Forever Indiana Jones wanna be. Come along for the ride!


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26 thoughts on “Casa Loma, the Toronto castle you need to visit

  1. Suma

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    Wow, what a stunning castle! Every nook and corner has beauty, a true masterpiece! Would be such a delight to tour this castle, never knew Toronto had this beautiful place.

  2. Alexander Popkov

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    I think it is one of the most interesting castlesand I have seen many. Would really love to see it with my own eyes and to photograph.

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      what’s great about it is that it was built as a residence and it’s not that old. Didn’t crumble away by time and damage.

  3. Adrenaline Romance

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    Wow! That’s a beautiful castle! It looks very different from its European counterparts (which look like forts). This one looks like an old gothic mansion. Nice interior too, but it looks like those haunted houses in the movies. I wouldn’t be surprised if a ghost pops out of there.

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      I’m sure there are ghosts somewhere! The guy who built it loved European castles and used them as inspiration 🙂

  4. AlwaysCarryOn.com

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    I love the idea of visiting at Halloween to check out the haunted house 🙂 I love spooky, scary things like that (and reckon a gothic themed wedding here would be brilliant!) x

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      They actually have the Halloween haunted house in the gardens. It’s def a spectacular place so there should be a ghost of two hanging out 🙂

  5. Soumya Gayatri

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    I totally love castles. And I had no idea Toronto had such a beautiful one. This is great post on Loma. Would love to visit when I am there.

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      It’s definitely unexpected in a place like Toronto. If you ever visit the city, it’s worth a stop 🙂

  6. PRIYAM KAKOTI BORA

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    Wow. Very informative. Would totally look into it if I every visit Toronto.

  7. Nicole Hunter

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    I grew up in Toronto and never went to Casa Loma. It is a huge regret. I love how they now have adapted it for all sorts of events, like an escape room and a haunted house. That will definitely bring in the younger people.

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      It brings a LOT of tourists. I didn’t realize just how many until I decided to check it out. But totally worth it!

  8. heandshetravels

    [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    I lived in Toronto before I went off travelling but I never went inside Casa Loma! Your post has inspired me to explore a bit more of my own city when I move back home. The building and the history look awesome… same with the escape room experience!

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      I think most people who live here don’t really go visit. I wish I went earlier. Hope you get a chance to visit when you’re back 🙂

  9. agnesstramp

    This is one awesome castle which I have to add to my bucket list, Kasia. Casa Loma seems like a perfect place to explore. How long does it take to see everything there?

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      It really depends on how quickly you move and how many times you stop to take a picture. For me, about 2-3 hours is sufficient. They also have audio guides which means you might stop and listen to recordings in each room. Safely, I’d plan 3 hours. You can always take longer too 🙂

    1. kasiawrites Post author

      The last time I was there they were setting up for a wedding. It is a gorgeous venue 😍

      1. Dippy Dotty Girl

        Since I cannot see the comment box, I had to resort to invading this reply thread, so apologies. But love the vision of Sir Henry Pellatt. That is how life should be lived — in the castle of your dreams 🙂 Actually, I love how grand the accoutrements are. xx

      2. kasiawrites Post author

        Oh thanks for letting me know! I’ll look into the comment box! 🙉 I knew you would like it! It’s so beautiful 😍

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