The Drake Hotel
Playfully Modern, $$
Toronto's famed 21st-century trend-setting boutique hotel, The Drake, began life as a 19th-century inn that, like so many across the continent, eventually went through many seedier iterations — flop house, punk bar, rave den — before its multi-million dollar transformation at the hands of a Canadian hotelier with exacting taste. (He was inspired by the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan.) When The Drake opened in 2004, it was a huge hit that went on to dominate the Queen West neighborhood, drawing tons of locals to its basement club and music venue, corner cafe, and Sky Yard rooftop patio. (A staggering data point from a 2016 article in Toronto Life states that of the 35,000 people who came through its doors one August, only 600 were hotel guests. The rest were locals.)
The Drake has expanded its empire over the last two decades to include a cluster of neighborhood bars and restaurants and the Drake General Store, which feels more like a museum gift shop than a traditional hotel one. In 2021, the hotel opened its Modern Wing, more than doubling room count (from 19 to 52) in a new contemporary building outfitted with cool Canadian design pieces and architectural details.
The BLM movement brought attention to issues of equity and inclusion and the development of the organization's Equity Report Card, which holds The Drake accountable for diversifying its leadership team, educating staff, acknowledging biases and racism, and retooling arts programming to be more inclusive so that its events, screenings, exhibitions, and concerts can truly serve the creative community at large.=
At a Glance
The Vibe: Energized and lively with uber-friendly Canadian hospitality.
Standout Detail: The seemingly casual (yet thoughtfully calculated) way that design, art, food, and music come together.
This Place Is Perfect For: Travelers who want to dive right into the design-y, scene-y, indie-loving Queen West neighborhood.
Rooms: Fifty-two cheery, colorful, and eclectic rooms (19 original, 32 in the new wing) combine woods, exposed brick, custom millwork, great wallpaper, fun textiles, and a collection of contemporary art from Canadian artists.
On Site: The hotel's music venue, Drake Underground, primarily features local and emerging acts (though Beck and M.I.A. have also graced the stage). Drake General Store is a popular brick-and-mortar and online shop for sourcing cool design products made by Canadians.
Food + Drink: Find breakfast, brunch, lunch, snacks, bar bites, dinner, dessert, and drinks, among the restaurant, street level patio, lobby bar, cafe, and rooftop lounge.
What to Do Nearby
Queen Street is a major east-west thoroughfare dotted with indie shops, cafes, bars, and music venues. A vibrant Chinatown delivers pretty much anything your heart desires in terms of cuisine. The city of Toronto is diverse and multicultural, with Turkish pizza spots, savory West Indian snack shops, sophisticated French restaurants, Japanese temples to fish, and zero-waste mainstays. Explore the Toronto Guide on Fathom.