By: Ashleigh VanHouten

I spent Easter weekend in Toronto, and had the opportunity to check out a famous boutique hotel that I’ve been meaning to stay in for some time – the Gladstone hotel, which (not surprisingly) is situated on the end of a series of super-cool blocks of Queen Street West, about a stone’s throw from another Toronto hospitality institution, the Drake.

Known as Canada’s “favorite boutique art hotel” the historic building blends 19th century Victorian architecture with contemporary amenities and culture. Think exposed brick walls, high ceilings and an authentically creaky wood staircase housing interactive art shows and live music. Hosting over 70 art exhibitions a year and with two event spaces and two restaurants, there is more than enough to see without ever leaving the hotel.

The Gladstone was built in 1889, and the lengthy, colorful, and artistic history of the building is worth a read; even those who aren’t architecture nerds will delight in taking the original elevator (the oldest in Toronto) up to their room—the beautiful old glass box, manually operated by hotel staff, floats up the middle of the building past the art exhibits in each floor’s landing.

     \ IMG_3229

But the coolest part? The 37 unique artist-designed bedrooms. From the nostalgic and vividly floral Chinoiserie room to the self-explanatory Canadiana room and beyond, each space creates a distinct feeling and experience with no detail spared. We decided to have some fun and booked the Surreal Gourmet room, designed by artist and Food Network Canada host  Bob Blumer. This fun–if loud–space is retro and interactive, with colorful representations of a foodie’s favorite treats and childhood characters. It also comes with a next-level kitchenette boasting a Panini maker and all the cocktail accoutrement, as well as some decidedly gourmet snacks. From the swiss cheese overhead lighting element to the Pillsbury Doughboy-covered sliding door that covered the television, it was a playful and fun escape utterly unlike any hotel stay I’ve had before.

IMG_3213 IMG_3214

The Gladstone is historic and artsy and cool, but it’s also a reminder that hospitality should be fun, and different from the everyday. Next time you’re in Toronto, book yourself a room, and feel free to pick a style you’re unfamiliar with. Whether it’s modern industrial, ornately old-fashioned, or just a silly room with Mr. Peanut on the wall, you’ll find it here.