Entering Toronto, you’ll find yourself surrounded by inordinate construction, either towering above you as half-finished condominiums or lurking all around you in various public works convolutions. A decade-long building boom shows no signs of slowing— testament to the city’s will to keep up to its own growth and breathe life into its downtown core. Many designs seek to restore as they renew— architectural innovation meets heritage preservation, making for an exciting future. Nevertheless, it can all be just a bit overwhelming, so if you’re looking to bring things down to street-level (and human scale), here are some reference points for the labyrinth. On your walk, you’ll get a good sense of some of the Old Town’s most historic buildings, neighborhoods, parks, and landmarks.
The Vault – One King West Hotel & Residence
Savings Department Safety Deposit Vaults
From the street, you may question your decision to stay at this historic hotel, but the gorgeous lobby and classy rooms will quickly win you over. It’s got a friendly little reception bar for a nightcap, and a beautifully restored hall at the top of a winding staircase for major events. The underground vault, built into bedrock in 1913, features a four-foot-thick steel door that weighs 40 tons, but can be moved with your little finger. Best of all, it’s as central as central gets.
Just up the road, you can get breakfast at a place that's been serving simple, classic and delicious fare for over 90 years:
Located in the core of the trendy Queen Street West shopping district, Fashionably Yours specializes in buying and selling pre-owned, authentic designer clothing, bags, shoes, sunglasses, and other accessories by names like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, and Gucci. Priding itself on its exceptional customer service, the store has been the recipient of numerous well-deserved accolades. A lifetime 100% authenticity guarantee is provided for all purchases.
Self-described as “your source for curated vintage,” Black Market, an alternative clothing store at Queen and John offers all its wares for $10 or less. T-shirts feature unique designs, and there is a fantastic selection of seasonal articles, like their famous holiday sweaters. The store also offers sweet vinyl finds from Shortstack Records and a professional silk-screening service with very reasonable rates.
Speaking of vinyl, Toronto’s oldest Indie record store, Kops Records, has been around since 1976 and boasts the city’s largest stock of near-mint used records and value bins.
The staff is friendly, knowledgeable, and happy to talk music whether or not you’re making a purchase. And, as a family business with 40 years of buying experience, they’ll treat you fair if you’re looking to sell a precious collection. Kops has a few locations in and around downtown Toronto.
Toronto’s Old Town is one of the most concentrated areas of 19th century buildings in Ontario, including the site of the first Parliament in Upper Canada. The St. Lawrence neighborhood grew up around the still-standing market of the same name.
Part of a restored historic corner of commercial buildings (est. 1840) at Front and Jarvis Streets, the Corner Place Restaurant and Lounge is a friendly neighborhood hangout right across from the St. Lawrence Market. Delicious burgers or eight-hour, slow-cooked brisket are perfectly paired with local beer and wine. Soak up some sun on their great people-watching patio; once you're fed and watered, you’ll be ready to continue your walk.
Operated by the Town of York Historical Society, Toronto’s First Post Office (est. 1833) is a historic site, museum and authorized full-service Canada Post dealer, offering special philatelic services. A team of experts, including architects, historians and curators volunteered during the restoration project. Today, the museum hosts fascinating exhibitions, workshops and educational programs.
Likely the city’s oldest watering hole, drinks and hospitality were first served at the Black Bull Tavern between 1833-1838, just after York became Toronto. For much of the 20th century, it was operated as the Clifton House, a pretty “rough” joint. In the early 1980s the bar was owned by retired football players Taylor and Hughes. Today it continues to be popular with locals, tourists and trends'ters.
What is a travel app?
A GPS-guided travel app embeds GPS coordinates of locations mentioned in your favorite articles, along with a map guiding you from place to place. You can upload the articles to read at your leisure without wi-fi and use them to guide you in walks around the next beguiling city you visit.
Enter your email to win a free one-year iTunes subscription ($18.99 value) to our travel article app courtesy of GPSmyCity and hundred wunders! You'll get instant access to over 6,500 walks in 1,000+ cities around the world.