Fun fact: I’ve always dreamed of spending Christmas in London, England. To be fair, I think visiting London anytime would be pretty great – I’ve never been and it’s always been on my bucket list! But whenever I see London-related posts from travel bloggers and Instagrammers this time of year, I’m especially enthused. It just seems like a city that really knows how to do Christmas right – everything looks so festive! Many of the businesses in London seem to go all out when it comes to decorating for the holidays, from fancy restaurants to grand old hotels – especially the hotels. There are even multiple articles dedicated to the London hotels with the best Christmas decorations.
In Toronto, we may not have as many grand old hotels as London does, but there are certainly a couple of fancy Toronto hotels that decorate to the nines each Christmas. One of these is the Fairmont Royal York.
Located on Front Street right across from Union Station, the Fairmont Royal York is one of Toronto’s most iconic and architecturally significant hotels. At the time it was built in 1929, it was Toronto’s tallest building, and its Chateauesque-style exterior – designed by Canadian architects Ross & Macdonald – harkens back to a more glamorous time. Notable guests of the Fairmont Royal York have included Ronald Reagan, the Dalai Lama and Queen Elizabeth II – in fact, the clock in the main lobby was a gift to the hotel from the Royal Family. Although the hotel interiors have been renovated and refreshed several times over the years, most recently in 2019, the hotel still exudes an air of old-world charm and elegance.
I had the pleasure of staying at the Fairmont Royal York just once. For my 19th birthday present, my grandmother and aunt decided to treat me to the ultimate staycation: a weekend on the hotel’s Gold Floor. It was amazing! From the chocolate truffles left on our pillows to the plush hotel robes and (the best part) 24-hour access to a lounge stocked with fancy appetizers and snacks, it was truly a luxury experience. Since then, I’ve been back to the Fairmont a few times, whether it’s to enjoy a meal at their fabulous Clockwork restaurant or just to stop by and admire the décor while running errands downtown. However, I always make a point of visiting at Christmastime!
When I said the Fairmont goes all out at Christmas, I mean it. As soon as you enter the lobby, you’re greeted by their glossy, glittery, 20-foot tall Christmas tree. There are also smaller (but equally gorgeous) trees sprinkled throughout the hotel.
In December 2019, I had popped by the Fairmont and they had a 20-foot tall gingerbread house made entirely out of real gingerbread. It was seriously impressive – you could even walk upstairs!
This year, the Fairmont created a different but equally drool-worthy experience: Gingerbread Lane. This walk-through experience (which is free and open to the public) consists of 8500 bricks of real gingerbread held together with royal icing and decorated with 12 different types of candy. Before you even step into the hallway, the unmistakable scent of gingerbread hits you. It’s so much fun to walk through!
After indulging our sugar plum fantasies on Gingerbread Lane, we headed up to the second floor to check out more of the hotel’s Christmas decorations. They have these luxe blue velvet thrones set up in front of a fun holiday-themed backdrop. I don’t imagine they allow professional photography (at least not without a paid permit) but wouldn’t this be a perfect setup for a Christmas card photo?
A few feet away are these adorable mailboxes for letters to Santa. I opened one of them to take a peek and smiled when I saw that it was filled with actual letters to Santa from kids. It makes my heart happy that in today’s day and age, kids still send hand-written letters to Santa – some things never change and I’m glad for it!
If you’re looking for more holiday fun at the Fairmont Royal York, you can sip Polar Punch at the Thirsty Elf pop-up bar or enjoy a prix-fixe holiday dinner at their acclaimed restaurant Reign. Other experiences like their Holiday Tea and New Year’s Eve party have already sold out, so be sure to book early if you’d like to go next year.
If you haven’t been to the Fairmont yet this year, I hope you’ll consider popping by and taking a stroll through Gingerbread Lane! And I’ll keep you posted if I ever make it to London for Christmas one of these years.
What’s a city you’d love to visit over the holidays?
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