The Ultimate Guide to Visiting Casa Loma in Toronto
The majestic Casa Loma is one of Toronto's most distinctive landmarks and is a must-see on the list of places to visit in Toronto. More than 350,000 tourists now pass through its halls each year, marveling at the grandeur and elegance of a bygone era. Built by the visionary and renaissance man Sir Henry Pellatt in the years preceding World War I, Casa Loma was a family home for less than a decade before rising taxes and the pressures of a wartime Canada forced the Pellatts to leave their dream "castle." In the years following, it had many reincarnations before finally being rescued and preserved as a museum.
Today, the fabulous and fanciful gothic architecture and fascinating history of this grand home make it a breathtaking destination for visitors who want a taste of what life had to offer to the wealthy in Canada over one hundred years ago. This enormous house with 98 gorgeous rooms has many stories to tell, and its five acres of grounds and gardens are a peaceful respite in a bustling modern city. Casa Loma in Toronto is a treasure trove for history lovers and those who wish they could have been a guest at a grand house on the scale of Downton Abbey.
The Long, Wonderful Casa Loma History: Interesting Facts
- It took 300 men three years to build Casa Loma between 1911 and 1914.
- When Casa Loma was constructed, it was the largest private residence in Canada.
- During the years of Prohibition, Casa Loma, then operating as a hotel, was a favorite spot for wealthy Americans looking for a vacation spot where alcohol was legally available.
- During WWII, the Casa Loma stables concealed a secret sonar research and construction facility.
Plan your visit to Casa Loma: what you need to know before you go
Casa Loma is open daily with the exception of Christmas Day. Regular opening hours are 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (last admission at 4:30 p.m.). Casa Loma closes early at 4:00pm on Christmas Eve. The Tower closes at 4 p.m. to accommodate the Escape The Tower experience.
It’s recommended to visit early in the day to beat the crowds, especially in summer (before 11:30 a.m. is best). Casa Loma is open until 10 p.m. on certain days during the summer for their Summer Evening concert programs.
The Best Time of Year to Visit:
Casa Loma is worth visiting at any time during the year, although visitors tend to have different opinions about which season offers the best experience. Keep in mind that, as a castle, there isn’t central heat or air conditioning, so dress for the weather. For this reason, many think that Casa Loma’s charms are most apparent in the spring and fall, when temperatures are mild. In winter, the beautiful estate gardens that surround the castle are sleeping, but the benefit is that the castle is less crowded. The summer months provide the highest concentration of concerts and festivals to enjoy at the castle, but temperatures in the interior can be warm (only the gift shop is air conditioned) can be.
Casa Loma Parking:
There is on-street parking around Casa Loma, but the system of busy one-way-streets and ongoing construction in the area can make looking for street parking frustrating. Flat-rate paid parking is available on site for $10/vehicle. Additional paid parking is available nearby at George Brown College (south of Casa Loma, off Macpherson Avenue.) You can easily avoid parking by taking public transportation (more on that below).
Babies and Children:
Children must be accompanied by an adult. Children aged 3 and under are free with an accompanying adult. Strollers are not recommended due to stairs and are not permitted on the elevator, which is reserved for visitors with mobility issues.
Keep in mind that the castle was built without accessibility considerations, so some visitors find that touring Casa Loma can be tricky. However, Casa Loma provides the following areas of many areas of accessibility, and information on a few areas that are not accessible to all visitors. You can learn more here: http://casaloma.ca/accessibility.html
Castle Loma is located at 1 Austin Terrace, Toronto, Ontario M5R 1X8, at the corner of Spadina Road and Davenport Road.
There are four ways to get to Casa Loma by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC):
- Get off at Dupont station, which is two stops north of St. George station on the Spadina-University line. When you exit the station, walk two blocks north on Spadina Ave. To get to Casa Loma you can climb the Baldwin Steps at Spadina Ave. and Davenport Road: there are 110 steps. You can also walk up the hill on the west side of the castle, though this is a rather steep climb which can be difficult on hot days.
- Take the Davenport 127 bus from Spadina Station to Davenport & Spadina. You can get off the bus here and climb the Baldwin steps or stay on the bus for one more stop to Davenport and Walmer and walk up the hill on the west side of the castle.
- Get off at St. Clair West station on the Spadina-University line. When you exit the station, walk east on St. Clair to Spadina, and turn right (south). Casa Loma is about a 15 minute walk along Spadina Ave.
- Get off at St. Clair West station on the Yonge line. You can take a 5 minute ride on the St. Clair streetcar going west to Spadina Road. Due to construction this service is temporarily provided by a bus instead. Walk approximately 10 minutes south on Spadina Road to Casa Loma.
Getting your Casa Loma tickets
CityPASS allows you to join the expedited line for entry to Casa Loma. Just present your CityPASS booklet at the box office or the Front Reception Desk.
Exploring the Castle: A Mansion, Gardens, a Secret Tunnel and Towers
Casa Loma is a self-guided visit, so you can go at your own pace when discovering the castle. Usually, two hours are recommended. There are no tour guides, but a multimedia audio tour is available on a first-come, first-served basis (get there early or there may be a wait). The Audio Tour is included with your ticket and is available in English, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, and American Sign Language.
Before setting off on your journey around the castle, take some time to enjoy the award-winning docudrama, Pellatt Newsreel: The Man Who Built Casa Loma. The film is screened in the Billiards/Smoking room on the main floor and offers invaluable context for everything you’ll see on your visit. The film is 22 minutes long and plays every half hour. The film is included in your ticket.
The main floor contains many impressive rooms, including the great hall, the library, the conservatory, and Sir Henry’s study.
On the second floor you can enjoy the elegant bedrooms and suites where the family and their guests relaxed. The third floor, which was never fully finished in Sir Henry’s time, is now a museum for the Queen's Own Rifles Museum. Sir Henry was a staunch supporter of the regiment, and visitors can learn about their distinguished record of service throughout Canada’s history. This is also where you will find the entrances to the grand gothic towers: they are quite a climb, with narrow spiral steps that some visitors may find challenging, especially in hotter weather. If you make it to the top, however, you will be rewarded with an incredible view of the Toronto skyline.
On the lower level, or basement, of the castle, you’ll find the wine cellars and the remnants of rooms that Sir Henry once intended to be a bowling alley and a swimming pool. These days it houses the Casa Loma gift shop and a café, as well as an exhibit of movie posters for films that have been shot at Casa Loma, including X-Men. This is also where you can enter the "secret" 800-foot tunnel which connects the house to the potting shed and stables, which offer a wonderful exhibit of vintage cars. As you travel through the tunnel you can read about Toronto’s historical "Dark Side," including the Prohibition era, the Depression, and the Great Toronto Fire.
The gardens and grounds of Casa Loma are an attraction in themselves, with five acres of formal borders, walled gardens, and other botanical delights. The gardens are open from 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily from May to the end of October (with some extended hours in summer: check the Casa Loma Events page) and are included with your admission to Casa Loma. The Terrace Grill overlooks the gardens for a meal with a beautiful view.
Snacking and Shopping
There are two Casa Loma restaurants on site where you can grab a bite to eat, and a lovely gift shop for souvenirs.
Located in the basement and open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., the Liberty Caffé offers snacks, pastries, coffee, sandwiches, salads, pasta dishes and more.
Offering casual dining with incredible views of Casa Loma, the estate gardens, and the Toronto skyline, the Terrace Grill is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm, with extended hours when the castle and gardens are open for the evening concert series in the summer.
Grab a memento of your visit to Castle Loma in the gift shop, which is housed in a lovely arched area originally intended to be a bowling alley. The gift shop is open seven days a week, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, with the exception of Christmas Eve and Day.
Events at Casa Loma
Castle Loma Concerts
A summer series of concerts is held in the Estate gardens. Seating is first-come, first-served, and the concerts are generally rain or shine. Check the Casa Loma events page for the current schedule.
Casa Loma Escape Room
The Castle Loma tower hosts the Castle Loma Escape Series, which offers interactive, theatrical “escape” games that blend fact and fiction. As part of the Castle Loma escape room experience, you must work together with other visitors to solve puzzles and a mystery before you can escape the tower. Tickets to the Escape Series are sold separately and are not included in general admission or CityPASS. You can purchase Escape Series tickets online here.
Legends of Horror
For the month of October, Casa Loma is transformed into a high-end haunted house. Ticket prices and hours may vary; check the Casa Loma events page in season for details.