What do X-Men, Chicago, The Skulls, Maximum Risk, The Tuxedo, Extreme measures and Cocktail have in common? The answer is Casa Loma… The medieval inspired castle in Toronto served as a set for all of these movies – and many others. This is where Richard Gere had an office, Hilary Duff had a wedding, Tom Cruise had a drink, Jean-Claude van Damme had a fight, Keanu Reeves had an epiphany, Patrick Stewart had a stroll and Jackie Chan had a party… With its majestic rooms, appealing story, grand decors and secret passageways, Casa Loma is open to public and a great place for a short but enchanting visit.
Casa Loma is said to be Toronto’s second most popular tourist attraction, but somehow it still manages to very secretly sneak up on you while you’re exploring the city. Like a hidden treasure that you accidentally stumble upon while looking for other things… It unexpectedly colors the Toronto skyline with its stately orange rooftop towers, its majestic balconies, its luscious gardens, its uncountable elegant windows and its fairytale curves, alluringly suggesting a grand interior with glorious ballrooms and perhaps even more glorious suites. We were so drawn by its visual appeal, an entire architectural bauble waiting to be discovered, that we tacitly agreed to have a closer look. Even though people from Toronto call Casa Loma a ‘tourist trap’, it doesn’t disappoint. Eye candy from start to finish! No wonder Hollywood used it as a movie set so many times.
The sad, sappy story
The castle – it’s really just a very big house but with all the features of a proper castle – took 300 men, 3.5 million dollars and three years to build (from 1911 to 1914). It’s set in 5 acres of land in downtown Toronto and was the grand mansion of one of the richest men in the city, Sir Henry Mill Pellat. The military officer slash industrialist (he was the first to bring electricity to the streets and homes of Toronto by building a power generating station at Niagara Falls) was known for living extravagantly, but also for making risky investments. Eventually, he lost close to all of his money. He could no longer pay his taxes and was forced to sign ownership of the castle over to the city after only nine years. The home was abandoned for years and years, until the Kiwanis club restored it and transformed it into a tourist attraction, event venue and military museum. Since then, several movies, television series and commercials were filmed here. There’s a general self-guided tour that takes you through the castle, or, to stick with the movie theme, you can go with the ‘Hollywood Tour’ that highlights the castle locations used in over 20 major motion pictures, revealing glimpses behind the scenes.
Most of the third floor was left unfinished, and was transformed into a museum for the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, a military unit based in Toronto. Here’s a few interesting shots from things hanging on the walls.