“This is your hospitality guru speaking. Please join me as we close our eyes and imagine visiting a place where nature joins us within our urban environment; where 85% of our food waste are composted for use in our own gardens or re-purposed as biofuel; where our water is triple filtered; where lush greenery of 3300 plants surround us during every step, sleeping or lounging moment; where our farm to table sustenance is sourced within a 100 km radius from local farmers; where transport to hiking trails or nature walks is provided by pedal power or electric vehicles; where our furniture is crafted using fallen city trees; and where a Zen lifestyle intersects with the excitement of a post-pandemic re-awakening. Now as I snap my fingers we will slowly re-open our eyes again and find ourselves at… 1 Hotel Toronto!”

Harriets Rooftop - 1 Hotel Toronto

Harriet’s Rooftop is a sushi bar on top of 1 Hotel Toronto with spectacular views of the city skyline
Photo: Brandon Barre

While on the surface, this set-up to 1 Hotel Toronto may sound a bit over the top, it’s not! The U.S. founder of this chain of “sustainable sanctuary” luxury hotels, Barry Sternlicht (CEO and Chairman of chairman of the Starwood Capital Group and in partnership with local real estate investment group, Mohari Hospitality), has taken all of these enviable objectives to heart in this and each of his 10 properties (and growing) across the globe with Toronto being their first Canadian entry.

Located within Toronto’s “Fashion District” (which is bordered by Spadina on the eastern edge to Bathhurst in the west and Queen St. West and Wellington St. West on the north and south), 1 Hotel Toronto has sprouted smack dab in the centre of the country’s largest city but feels like it could be just as easily be in Prince Edward County or off a country road on the Niagara Peninsula. Mind you this all changes at night, when the urbanites descend on the property for their dose of hand-crafted cocktails and DJ-spun tunes at the living-sculpture alter of the Flora Lounge, or at Harriet’s Rooftop, the rooftop sushi bar (which recently hosted some of TIFF’s celebrity-packed events). 1 Hotel Toronto truly offers the best of both worlds: the natural and the urban.

Skyline one bedroom flat - 1 Hotel Toronto

Skyline one bedroom flat
Photo: Brandon Barre

City Lounge King Bedroom - 1 Hotel Toronto

City Lounge King Bedroom
Photo: Brandon Barre

Between the rooftop pool, the various yoga classes , in-room massages, and vegetarian-leaning cuisine of 1 Kitchen Toronto, there is really very little reason to leave the hotel grounds. If you are inclined to venture farther afield the recommendations from the concierge’s desk are consistent with the hotel’s mission. Here you are likely going to be directed towards one of the city’s many parks, islands or hiking trails or loaned a bicycle at the front door to explore the city’s network of bike paths. Complimentary rides in the house Tesla are offered for shopping or excursions within a 4 km radius of the hotel. However, before going anywhere check the chalkboard in the lobby to see what activities are on tap for guests within the sanctuary. Choices might include a healthy jog with the Toronto Run Club, a HIIT Class, a Harvest Happy Hour, a 1 Kitchen Toronto Farmers Market experience, coffee tastings, live music in the Flora Lounge or a “Full Moon Sunset Yoga” session, depending on the day or season.

Culturally, the city has much to offer with the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) currently in the process of winding down an Andy Warhol retrospective (until October 24) and will soon be  showcasing Picasso’s “Painting the Blue Period” (from Oct.26, 2021-January 16, 2022). Or there is the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival with a mixture of outdoor, virtual and indoor photo exhibitions running until December 15.

Little Canada

Toronto skyline as interpreted by Little Canada
miniature exhibit at Yonge & Dundas
Photo: AJ Twist

If art is not your thing, then how about checking out the newly opened Little Canada? This exhibit of a miniature reproduction of Canada’s major cities and landscapes, is the result of one man’s love of his new-found country and a $20 million investment to bring his vision and gratitude to a broader market (at Dundas and Yonge). Live theatre has begun to re-open to audiences with the popular “Come from Away” set to welcome audiences again at the Royal Alexandra theatre as of Dec. 7th.

Once satiated from one of these many activities, while back in one of 1 Hotel Toronto’s 118 guest room and suites you may decide to unwind by the pool with a spectacular view of the city’s skyscrapers and the CN Tower or to simply relax in your room where the muted colour scheme and re-purposed wood furnishings by Just Be Woodsy is in itself rather calming.

1 Kitchen Juice Bar at 1 Hotel Toronto

1 Kitchen Juice Bar at 1 Hotel Toronto
Photo: Brandon Barre

Getting hungry? Then be sure to book a table at 1 Kitchen Toronto under the directorship of Executive Chef Derek Powers Jr. Here I was treated to their Ontario Field Tomato Soup with poached red crab and cherry wood smoked crème fraîche while my guest enjoyed their Curried Corn Soup with organic miso, spiced pine nuts and herb oil. Both dishes were divine. For our mains I had the Fogo Island cod (which is quickly becoming my “go-to” Toronto dish of choice) and she had the Sweet Potato + Ricotta Ravioli with summer black truffle, brown butter lemon, sugar snaps, charred leek and romanesco. An impressive collection of natural wines were on offer and our server (hats off to Nelson) was well-versed in the menu and efficient despite the restaurant being packed and lively.

The hotel is also well equipped for small business conferences with two ballrooms (perfect for your company’s next meeting on your environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategy session) or a destination wedding for an environmentally friendly party that does have to involve staying in a yurt somewhere remote and inaccessible!

1 Hotel Toronto

Photo: AJ Twist

Whatever may be the reason you find yourself headed to Toronto, if you are looking to bring some calm back into your life, a stay at the luxurious 1 Hotel Toronto may be just the nature prescription your doctor has ordered!

1 Hotel Toronto 550 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2V4. Phone: (416) 640-7778

A.J. Twist is a Montreal-based travel writer. ajtwist@me.com; www.ajtwist.net

Flora Lounge 1 Hotel Toronto

A living sculpture in the Flora Lounge as designed and installed by Lauren Wilson of Timberlost
Photo: Brandon Barre