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 when it comes to charm and aesthetics. 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 man at the time. Born in 1859, Henry was a 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. Starting 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.
Casa Loma history
Casa Loma’s history is just as interesting as the house itself. 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 the latest technology, sparing no expense. Artworks 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, a central vacuum and a massive kitchen. The outbreak of World War I halted the construction, leaving the pool and bowling alley an unfinished dream.
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 began 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.
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During the 1920s, 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 several options for possible uses, including 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, the city council established the Casa Loma Corporation to manage and oversee 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
Inside Casa Loma
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.
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 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 area 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.
Lower level and the tunnel
The lower level was originally intended for the bowling alley, shooting range and pool but was 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 Prohibition, The Depression, The Plague, the 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.
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 tourists and locals alike. There are many special events hosted at Casa Loma throughout the year.
On Tuesday evenings, starting at 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 7:30 pm (Doors at 5 pm)
Price: General Admission Tickets $30 (adult), General Admission Seasons Pass Booklet $250
Tickets: Onsite or in advance online here
Schedule: see it here
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
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.
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 the most recognized horror characters, is guaranteed to raise the hair on the back of your neck.
Casa Loma escape rooms
With the rising popularity of the game, Casa Loma escapes are fun and immersive. You will find yourself on a set with live actors and storylines blending facts and fiction. Three different options to choose your adventure.
Shows and tickets info.
Casa Loma is a popular setting 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.
Casa Loma in the movies
Toronto is a popular filming location. Unsurprisingly, Casa Loma is a popular film and television set. Some of the high profile movies shot here include:
- Strange Brew
- The Tuxedo
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
- Warehouse 13
- Twitches Too
- The Pacifier
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%)
Purchase General Admission Tickets online
- 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
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 10 pm (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 4.30 pm 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.
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 on how to get to Casa Loma
Address: 1 Austin Terrace
South of St. Clair and northwest corner of Spadina Road and Davenport Road. 10-15 min walk from Davenport Station.
Public transit information