Old Town Toronto began as the Town of York, founded in 1793 as part of the British colony of Upper Canada. The city was incorporated in 1834 and renamed Toronto. The Great Fire of 1849 destroyed most of its wooden buildings, which were replaced by solid brick constructions, mostly Second Empire or Georgian in style.
I wanted to experience this part of the city, so I designed a walking tour based loosely on the Insight City Guide: Toronto’s section on Old Town.
My starting point was the King Subway Station on the Yonge-University-Spadina (yellow) line and walked down King Street East. Le Royal Meridien King Edward Hotel (37 King. St. East) was on my right. It was built in 1903 on the very spot where York’s first jail was located. Hundreds of hangings took place here until 1826. I briefly wondered (hoped?) whether this stately neoclassical construction was haunted, but I didn’t think so.
Further up King Street, across the street, is the Anglican Cathedral of St. James. It was built in the Gothic Revival in the 1850s and has the tallest spire in Canada. It houses the retired colours of the Royal Canadian Grenadiers and the Royal Regiment of Canada. Inside, its crisp white walls playfully reflect the colourful light that filters through the stained glass windows. The atmosphere is calm and soothing.
St. James’ Park adjoins the cathedral. As it was sunny, but crisp, autumn day, there were some people eating their lunch and basking in the (rather weak) sun.
Across the street from the park is the majestic St. Lawrence Hall (157 King St.), an awe-inspiring Victorian neoclassical building. Unfortunately, it’s not open to visitors (unless there is a cultural or social event).
I then turned right into Jarvis Street. Round the corner is the St. Lawrence Market, built in 1844. The fruit and veg were as fresh as it gets and the meat counters were a symphony of pinks.
After I left the market, I walked west on Front Street and stopped for a quick sandwich and coffee at Second Cup. There are other options for lunch and dinner there too.
The view down Front Street is postcard-worthy: the famous Flatiron Building set among modern steel and glass counterparts and the CN Tower in the background.
I took Wellington Street (to the right of the Flatiron Building) and did a double take. Out of the corner of my eye saw a French chef eating sushi at Ichiban (58 Wellington St). It was none other than Eric Ripert. I thought that if I were a sushi fan, this is where I would come. By the way, I’m not in the habit of stalking world famous chefs.
At 49 Wellington St sits one of the most interesting buildings, the Gooderham Building, popularly known as the Flat Iron Building.
Then followed a longish walk up Church Street and west on Queen Street as far as Yonge St., where Eton Centre is located. Eton Centre is a huge shopping mall but I didn’t stop here (this time, at any rate), I simply crossed it to get to the Old City Hall, built in 1899 in the Romanesque Revival. Across the street is the New City Hall, designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell in the Modernist style in 1965, it overcame criticism and became one of Toronto’s most recognizable landmarks.
Technically, this is the Financial District, but I thought that the sun setting behind the curved buildings of the New City Hall was a picture-perfect ending to my walk.