Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Daphne Thompson.
Planet Traveler Hostel ($)
357 College St.; (647) 352-8747; theplanettraveler.com; open daily 7am-midnight
The employee at the front desk makes a compelling case for Planet Traveler Hostel: A former guest himself, he liked its communal vibe so much he decided to never leave. The hostel’s ethos of inclusivity, he says, mirrors the spirit of its Kensington Market surroundings. Each guest receives a full tour of the hostel upon arrival and can fully partake in one of their Saturday night BBQs, making this Planet anything but lonely. Dorms and private rooms are sleek and clean, and the gorgeous rooftop is studded with solar panels, a reflection of the hostel’s commitment to earth-friendliness. Speedy Wi-Fi, free breakfast, and a super-friendly staff top off an out-of-this-world hostel experience.
Dorms from $38 CAD, privates from $93 CAD; no wheelchair accessibility; breakfast; Wi-Fi; towels, linens, lockers, coffee, and tea available
College Backpackers Hostel ($)
280 Augusta Ave.; (514) 282-8069; collegebackpackers.ca; reception open daily 9am-10pm
True to its name, College Backpackers Hostel might remind you of your enormous college dorm—occupying a much bigger building than most hostels in the city, it’s one of the few budget stays in Toronto that can accommodate large groups. Rooms are bare-bones but as cheap as you’ll find in the city, and come with the standard hostel amenities: Wi-Fi, linens, breakfast, and a kitchen. The neighborhood—bustling, never-boring Kensington Market—is the most compelling selling point: you’ll be steps from a world of buzzy, affordable eats and plenty of late-night bars, ideal for avoiding a drunk subway ride home. Travellers looking for social life in the hostel might look elsewhere, though; College Backpackers prefers to keep the building a quiet escape from its bumpin’ surroundings.
Dorms from $34 CAD, privates from $69 CAD; Wi-Fi; breakfast; linens and lockers available
Pitman Hall (Ryerson University) ($$)
160 Mutual St.; (416) 979-5210; ryerson.ca/summer-stay/; reception open daily 24hr
If a summer out in the cold real world has you longing for the warm, somewhat sticky embrace of your college dorm, renting a room at Ryerson University’s Pitman Hall offers an affordable retreat to your comfort zone in downtown Toronto. Available only from late May to early August while the usual residents are out on their unpaid internships, Pitman Hall falls somewhere between a hostel and a hotel: The rooms are private, but the carpets have definitely seen more than a few games of slap cup. Choose from a single with a hallway bathroom or an apartment-style suite—Big Lebowski poster and string lights not included. Pitman is open to guests of all ages, but current students should reach out to email@example.com to inquire about a discount.
Privates from $72 CAD; reservation required; wheelchair accessible; Wi-Fi; linens and towels included; laundry available
The Rex Hotel ($$)
194 Queen St. W; (416) 598-2475; therex.ca; reception open M-F 6:30am-2am, Sa-Su 8:30am-2am
In the immortal words of Barry B. Benson: ya like jazz? If so, you’ll be down with The Rex Hotel, a snug, stylish inn that houses one of the city’s best jazz and blues bars. It’s a family business that’s been around since 1951, but the the clean, simple rooms—equipped with a TV, Wi-Fi, and in some rooms, bamboo floors (at least, that’s what it seems like)—don’t show their age. The location in downtown Toronto means you’ll be within walking distance to almost all the major tourist attractions and super-close to a Line 1 subway station. With live shows every night, the first floor isn’t the best choice for early sleepers, so request a higher-up room or bring earplugs if you can’t drift off to the dulcet tones of a trombone trio.
Privates from $89 CAD; reservation required; no wheelchair accessibility; Wi-Fi; linens and towels included
Just a small town girl livin’ in a lonely world, Daphne took the mid-morning train goin’ to the East Coast of the United States and Canada (fine, plus Chicago). She graduated Harvard in 2018 with a degree in Government, a law school acceptance letter, and an overwhelming sense of dread re: her all-too-fleeting youth, so she took off to the party capital of the Western hemisphere: Quebec City. The race against the cold, unfeeling march of time continued in Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Miami, a wildly diverse array of cities united by not-boring weather and stupid-high rents. Along the way, Daphne sampled legit Canadian poutine (squeaky), smuggled her notebook into nightclubs (sneaky), and lived on cheap falafel pitas (tzatziki). The Oshkosh, Wisconsin native finished her spirit quest back in the Midwest, where the Windy City welcomed her nasally accent back with open arms. When she’s not writing aggressively alliterative articles for Let’s Go, Daphne probably can’t be found. Don’t even try it, Internet creeps!