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Is the Gladstone an affordable Toronto hotel for digital nomads?

While your Guide was in Toronto, Canada last year, I stopped by the Gladstone Hotel. Always one of my favorite places to attend events back at the start of the century. But this review of the Gladstone won’t be entirely positive. I don’t want to be the old guy in the back of the bar with a pitcher of pisco sour all to himself mumbling about how things were better back in the old days, but we can’t have everything we want in life.

Some history about the Gladstone Hotel

The original Gladstone Hotel was built in 1889, designed by local architect George Martell Miller in the Romanesque Revival style, and named after Gladstone Avenue, next to the hotel. It was built across from the Parkdale railway station to serve passengers arriving in Toronto, especially visitors attending the Canadian National Exhibition. 

By the time the Parkdale railway station was decommissioned (in the ’70s), the hotel had also declined in popularity. But in the early 2000s, when I was attending university in Toronto, the Gladstone was revived as an artsy venue space. Cool art shows, great parties, and the (massive) rooms were all individually decorated by local artists that seemed to have a freehand to make them as funky as possible.

Looks cool, but how is it designed?

As an event space, hosting trivia and karaoke nights in the Melody Bar, pop-up restaurants and comedy nights in the dance hall, the Gladstone functions great. The lobby also got a beautiful-looking redesign just a couple years ago. But as a hotel guest, I literally felt like I was in the way, because I was. 

As part of the redesign, the big antique check-in desk got eliminated and replaced by a minimalist podium at the door to the restaurant where the food comes into the restaurant from the kitchen. There was a line-up of people waiting to check-in, and since the check-in desk was only the size of one person, we were lined up in front of it. This seemed to make the waiters visibly frustrated as they carried big platters from the kitchen and had to navigate through luggage and guests.

Lobby of the Gladstone Hotel, with ceiling and wall art by local artists.

From the check-in line to where the front desk used to be in the old days.

The King Studio room at the Gladstone

For one night, the King Studio room, cost $424.12 CAD. That got me a king bed beside my bathroom sink, for easy access. There was a private toilet and shower. There was a coffee set on a table just large enough to hold the coffee set.

It’s like a Japanese business hotel room but with better lighting and Toronto bricks and 4x the price. 

The thing is, it was actually the cheapest hotel room in Toronto I could find. That brings up something you should be aware of if you’re planning to do some digital nomading or existing in Toronto…

In the photos: The King Studio room, the coffee set, a lounge area for guests, and art in the stairwell around the antique elevator.

Hotel demand outstrips supply in Toronto, so...

There’s no incentive for hotels to provide good service, invest in rooms, or not price gouge. You can pay close to $1000 CAD per night for a three star hotel room. I just picked a random Tuesday night coming up in June and the hotel price-gouging hasn’t changed in Toronto. 

For example, the Delta’s most affordable room will set you back $1143 for one night. The Courtyard Marriott Toronto Downtown, a 3-star hotel, is not hitting 3-star prices. It’ll cost $859 for that one weekday night.

So the Gladstone is looking pretty good now, eh? But what about the internet…

How is the Gladstone for digital nomads?

If the price and the size of the rooms is not an issue, and you like the surrounding area, or there’s an event going on, or you want to get some photos with the art, the Gladstone might still be appealing to you. If you stay and you need the internet, bring your pocket WIFI or have a good data plan because, for me, the Gladstone’s internet speeds were not fast enough for my work. 

Besides my room only having a tiny table that just fit the coffee set–too small for me to work at–the room WIFI only clocked in at just over 2 mb/s (up and down). That speed test is not missing a couple digits. But since the Gladstone has nostalgic value for me, the turn-of-the-century internet speeds were part of the atmosphere.

I assumed that meant speeds in the common areas must be blistering fast, but the lounge area for guests only came in at 17 down and 8 up. 

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