Walking through urban Toronto: Part I

Toronto is a great city for walking, especially if you’re the kind of person who likes to explore urban spaces. Here’s a suggestion for a leisurely exploration of some of the more interesting parts of the Toronto‘s eastern downtown, combined with a look at some of the up and coming transitional parts of the city. (Although Toronto is generally a very safe city, you will probably feel more comfortable on some parts of this walk during daylight hours.) You can start anywhere and end anywhere, but for ease of reference I’m going to start at Union Station right downtown, and take you via a circuitous route to Broadview station on Toronto‘s well-known Danforth Avenue.

I’m writing this with a Google Map of Toronto in front of me and this will be easier to follow with a map in front of you as well.

Starting at Union Station, walk east along Front Street’s south side. To your right, you’re seeing Toronto‘s old Union Station and a classical-style federal government building next door. On your left are Toronto‘s Bay Street bank towers and the Royal York Hotel.  As you keep walking northeast on Front, on your right you’ll see major cultural centres such as the old O’Keefe centre (now being renovated as the Sony Centre) and the St. Lawrence centre for the Arts. The latter is the home of Canadian Stage Company and organizations such as Music Toronto. Across the street is the Hockey Hall of Fame. As you continue walking up Front St., on your left you’ll see Berczy Park and Toronto‘s version of the Flatiron Building — in its day one of the most glamourous buildings in Toronto and the business offices of the Gooderham and Worts — the owners of the giant distillery complex that has now become Toronto‘s famous Distillery District (see below).

Keep walking along the south side of Front, and between Market Street and Jarvis you’ll see the old St. Lawrence Market building. Drop in between Tuesdays and Saturdays and explore the variety of gourmet foods on offer, including the selection of fine cheeses at Alex Farm Products. On Saturday mornings, there’s also a farmer’s market on the north side near the North Market Building. As you keep walking along Front Street, you’ll see the highly desirable condos that combine proximity to downtown with a cool street scene and great shopping.  On the north side of the street at Front and George is Romagnia Mia, a great place for northern Italian pastas and risottos (though not quite as good as it used to be when it first opened and Joanne Kates raved about it).

Eventually Front Street becomes a bit dull and industrial, so turn right at Sherbourne Street (may be called Lower Sherbourne at this latitude) and walk south toward the Esplanade. Trivia: before we started putting landfill in Lake Ontario, the Toronto shoreline was somewhere between Front and the Esplanade. Turn left on to the Esplanade and you’ll see a long stretch of green known as David Crombie Park, named after one of the Toronto‘s progressive 1970s-era mayors. This is the St. Lawrence co-op area, one of the first major attempts to combine low- and middle-income families in a friendly urban space. Walk east along the park to Parliament Street and Parliament Square Park.

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