Walking Tour: Downtown Yonge

  • Start City Hall
  • End Barbara Hall Park
  • Length 3km; two hours

Begin at City Hall, the flying-saucer-style building that caused so much controversy when it was completed in 1965. Walk around Nathan Phillips Square, taking a selfie in front of the ice rink or the fountain (depending on the season) with the iconic ‘Toronto’ letters behind you. Cross Bay St to tiny Albert St, admiring Old City Hall, now a courthouse, with its bronze gargoyles. Albert St dead-ends at James St. Take a left onto a leafy pedestrian walkway – especially gorgeous in autumn – to the Church of the Holy Trinity, celebrating same-sex marriages and serving as a small concert venue. Walk the labyrinth in front. Head from this meditative state to the consumer state of the Eaton Centre next door. Grab a seat in the central atrium and look up to enjoy the remarkable 'Flight Stop' sculpture by Michael Snow: 60 fiberglass geese in flight at the mall's southern end. Exit on Queen St and head north on the east side of Yonge. Walk past the vaudeville-era Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre, the only double-decker theater left in the world. A tour here is highly recommended. Continue north to Yonge & Dundas Square. A smaller version NYC’s Times Sq with its jumbotrons and moving crowds, it's the site of many outdoor festivals. Continue on Yonge and turn right onto Carlton St, passing Maple Leaf Gardens, the home of Toronto’s beloved NHL team for 68 years, now part Ryerson University arena, part upscale Loblaw's supermarket. Turn left onto Church St, the heart of the Village, Toronto’s longtime gay neighborhood. See rainbow crosswalks and flags, gay bars and clubs, shops and boutiques. Pop into Glad Day, the world's oldest gay bookstore, to peruse the tomes. End your walk a half-block north, just past the 519 community center at Barbara Hall Park, a small, verdant park named after a former Toronto mayor. The park has an AIDS memorial and views of a remarkable three-story mural celebrating LGBTQ historical milestones. If you’re here in the evening, you'll see the park lit up in rainbow colors.