by Matt Alderton | June 17, 2019

The Fairmont Royal York is to Toronto what The Plaza hotel is to New York City: historic, opulent, iconic. And yet, also really fresh. That's thanks to a major, multi-year renovation currently underway at the landmark property, pieces of which were unveiled June 11 in honor of its 90th anniversary.

Since opening on June 11, 1929, the Fairmont Royal York has hosted more than 40 million guests, including numerous celebrities and heads of state -- perhaps the most famous being Queen Elizabeth II, who has stayed in the hotel's 5,000-square-foot, two-bedroom Royal Suite on at least four occasions, according to local newspaper the Toronto Sun, which says the hotel keeps special furnishings for the queen in storage and puts them in the suite exclusively for her when she visits.

But its storied guests were not the stars of the show during the property's anniversary celebration Tuesday. Rather, it was the hotel's brand-new lobby and arrival experience, which according to the Fairmont website was inspired by "a journey from Toronto's past through its present." A juxtaposition of historic elements with contemporary touches, the revamped design features subtle railroad references that acknowledge the hotel's connection to Toronto's Union Station, which is across the street. For instance, the hotel said designer Rockwell Group created a "larger, more generous reception area lined with marble stairs and a sweeping ramp that guides guests to check-in stations inspired by train-ticketing counters."

In addition to the new reception area, which the hotel calls a "living room for the city," the lobby also features a new lobby lounge, called Clockwork Champagne & Cocktails.

"A pivotal part of the Fairmont Royal York, Clockwork will honor our legacy with a new statement timepiece," said Edwin Frizzell, regional vice president and general manager, Fairmont Royal York. "Our '90th Anniversary Clock' is dedicated to the people of the city of Toronto, as well as the past, present and future colleagues of Fairmont Royal York who have, for 90 years, been the beating 'heart' of our hotel."

Also opening on the lobby level this month is a new signature dining experience, Reign Restaurant + Bar + Bakery, that will encompass, as its name suggests, a new bar, restaurant and bakery.

Later this year, the hotel will uncork the rest of its transformation, including 70,000 square feet of modernized meeting space and two new "Legacy Suites" that will offer residential-style living to cosmopolitan guests.

"Fairmont Royal York has always been a defining feature of the Toronto skyline, and we are excited to [reveal] the next stage in its time-honored history," Frizzell said earlier this year, in advance of the big anniversary. "As we celebrate 90 years of outstanding service, incredible people and history-making moments, it is with great pride that we … unveil the most significant transformation this building has ever seen. A grand-scale renovation that both modernizes the property and stays true to our past, this project is a reflection of our storied history and a look into our exciting future."