Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Toronto Introduction Walk I (Self Guided), Toronto

Toronto, the capital of the province of Ontario, is a major Canadian metropolis on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario renowned for its dynamic pace and a high-rising skyline comprising ultra-modern skyscrapers and historic architecture.

People have inhabited the area of present-day Toronto for thousands of years, among them the Iroquois tribe, preceded by the Wyandot (Huron) people who had occupied the region for centuries before c. 1500. The name Toronto is likely derived from the Iroquoian word tkaronto, meaning "place where trees stand in the water". However, the word "Toronto", meaning "plenty" also appears in a 1632 French lexicon of the Huron language, which is also an Iroquoian language.

After the broadly disputed Toronto Purchase, when the Mississauga surrendered the area to the British, the latter established here the town of York in 1793. During the War of 1812, the town suffered heavy damage by American troops in the Battle of York. In 1834, York was renamed and incorporated as the city of Toronto; in 1867, it was designated as the capital of the province of Ontario during Canadian Confederation.

The first significant wave of immigrants were Irish, mostly Catholic, who fled the Great Irish Famine. The city received new European immigrant groups, such as Germans, French, Italians, and Jews, in the late 19th-early 20th century. These were soon followed by the Russians, Poles, and other Eastern Europeans, in addition to the Chinese entering from the West. The postwar boom had resulted in rapid suburban development of Toronto. In the decades after World War II, refugees from war-torn Europe and Chinese job-seekers arrived, as well as construction labourers, particularly from Italy and Portugal. By the 1980s, Toronto had surpassed Montreal as Canada's most populous city and chief economic hub.

Today's Toronto boasts rich cultural scene and is a prominent centre for music, theatre, motion picture and TV production. The city has a diverse array of public spaces, a multitude of green spaces, offering a wealth of entertainment and recreational facilities. Home to numerous museums and galleries, national historic sites, festivals and public events, Toronto attracts annually over 40 million tourists.

On this self-guided Introduction Tour of Toronto, Part I you get a chance to explore some of the city's most prominent sights, such as Ontario Parliament, Kensington Market, Chinatown, and more. Just take a walk and see for yourself!
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Toronto Introduction Walk I Map

Guide Name: Toronto Introduction Walk I
Guide Location: Canada » Toronto (See other walking tours in Toronto)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: alice
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Ontario Parliament
  • University of Toronto
  • Kensington Market
  • Chinatown
  • Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
  • Royal Alexandra Theatre
  • Princess of Wales Theatre
  • King Street, Entertainment District
Ontario Parliament

1) Ontario Parliament (must see)

Ontario Parliament is an impressive building dating back to the late 1800s. The parliament is located within the Queen's Park and represents the Legislative Chamber of Ontario, which is the provincial legislature comprising two elements: the monarch of Canada, i.e. the British Queen represented by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and the unicameral assembly, called the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. The legislature has been in place since 1867 when Ontario, then called Canada West, became one of the founding colonies of the Canadian Confederation. The building is open to guided tours and, sometimes, houses various exhibitions.

Once you enter from the south main doors, you have the option of taking a tour, sitting in during sitting of the House (if in session), or observing some of the portraits on the west wing of former Speakers of the House – there is a wall of Women Members of Parliament near the west entrance. Special exhibits may be housed in glass cases in the east wing; there is also a gift shop.

If you're looking for coffee, there is a spot in the lower level, but better yet, try the restaurant where you can order from a set menu OR it may be the day that a full hot and cold buffet is set up!

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm; Sat-Sun: 9am-4pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
University of Toronto

2) University of Toronto (must see)

The University of Toronto is a public research university in Toronto, and is situated on the grounds surrounding Queen's Park. The university was founded by royal charter in 1827 as King's College, the first institution of higher learning in Upper Canada. Originally controlled by the Church of England, it assumed the present name in 1850 upon becoming a secular institution. As a collegiate university, it comprises 12 colleges that differ in character and history, each retaining substantial autonomy on financial and institutional affairs. Academically, the University of Toronto is noted for influential movements and curricula in literary criticism and communication theory, known collectively as the Toronto School. The university was the birthplace of insulin and stem cell research, and was the site of the first practical electron microscope, the development of multi-touch technology, the identification of Cygnus X-1 as a black hole, and the theory of NP-completeness. By a significant margin, it receives the most annual research funding of any Canadian university. It is one of two members of the Association of American Universities located outside the United States.

The Varsity Blues are the athletic teams representing the university in intercollegiate league matches, with particularly long and storied ties to gridiron football and ice hockey. The university's Hart House is an early example of the North American student centre, simultaneously serving cultural, intellectual and recreational interests within its large Gothic-revival complex. The most favorite places for tourists to visit within the University of Toronto are the chapel, the bookstore, the dining hall, the art gallery, and others. During summer there are also guided tours.

Why You Should Visit:
You will not only see historical buildings and fantastic nature, but you can also feel the atmosphere of student life, see busy students and find yourself in a place where everyone is happy to help and share some words with you.

Make sure to go inside Hart House, University College, Knox College... all open to the public.
There are also walking tours available around campus. You can start with Philosophers Walk which runs south from Bloor St. across from the Intercontinental Hotel. Eventually, you will reach King's College Circle, a large open area that is the center of the campus.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Kensington Market

3) Kensington Market (must see)

Kensington Market is a fascinating, multicultural neighbourhood, one of the oldest and best-known in Toronto. Described as “as much a legend as a district, photographed more often than any other site in the city”, this bohemian area attracts artists and tourists in great numbers to its indie shops, vintage boutiques and arts spaces, much as students and families who populate the local Victorian homes.

The place is home to a wide array of bakeries and specialty grocers selling merchandise from all over the world, as well as trendy bars, cafes and international restaurants frequented by hipsters and other colorful lot. Most of these are found along Augusta Ave. and neighbouring Nassau St., Baldwin St., and Kensington Ave.

During the early 20th century, the area became populated by eastern European Jewish immigrants, prompting a nickname "the Jewish Market". After the Second World War, most of the Jews moved north to the more prosperous uptown areas and suburbs. During the 1950s, the arrival of new waves of immigrants from the Caribbean and East Asia made the community even more diverse. The Vietnam War brought a number of American political refugees, adding a unique utopian flavour. The closeness of Chinatown makes the Chinese the largest ethnic group here. During the 1980s-1990s, substantial groups of immigrants also came from Central America, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Iran, Vietnam, Chile and other global trouble spots.

A unique architectural feature of the neighbourhood are the extensions built onto the front of many buildings. In recent years, the Market has seen a small explosion of upscale cafés, restaurants and clubs, replacing many of the older ethnic businesses. There has been much speculation that Kensington's long history as an immigrant working-class neighbourhood is near its end.

The annual "Kensington Market Festival of Lights", now known as the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Festival, is celebrated as a street parade during the Winter Solstice in December. Over the years, Kensington Market has been the setting for a number of television series, such as King of Kensington, Twitch City, and Katts and Dog, as well as the street riot scenes of the 1984 comedy Police Academy. It was also the primary location for Cory Doctorow's novel Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town.

In November 2006, Kensington Market was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
Sight description based on wikipedia

4) Chinatown (must see)

Toronto's Chinatown, also known as Downtown Chinatown or West Chinatown, is an ethnic Chinese enclave located in the city's downtown core, centered at the intersections of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street, West. In fact, this is one of Toronto's many Chinatowns, and was formed in the 1950s-1960s in a formerly Jewish district.

Downtown Chinatown is one of the largest in North America. Historically, it has been represented by immigrants from southern China and Hong Kong. Since the transfer of Hong Kong's sovereignty to the People's Republic of China in 1997, immigrants from mainland China have greatly exceeded those from Hong Kong. Starting the 1990s, the area has been redefining itself in the face of changing demographics and gentrification prompted, among other factors, by the increased interest from urban professionals and young people who work in the Financial District.

While the majority of the grocery stores and shops remain, most of the once-famed restaurants on Dundas Street West, especially the barbecue shops located below grade, have closed since 2000. With the population changes of recent decades, the area has come to reflect a diverse set of East Asian cultures through its shops and restaurants, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese eateries ranging from dim sum and pho to modern fusion. The major Chinese malls in the area are Dragon City and Chinatown Centre.

The El Mocambo live music venue, a 1940s establishment that had been in place even before the neighbourhood became Chinatown, is still operational. Also “evergreen” proved the animated Asian open-air markets and shops along Spadina Avenue that offer fresh fruits and vegetables, along with herbal medicine and souvenirs. Chinese New Year celebrations are yet another local attraction, drawing tourists and locals to live stage shows, martial arts demonstrations and lion dances.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the most popular districts for shopping, walking and enjoying Chinese food and culture in Toronto.
The information overload of all the Chinese signs makes this an interesting neighborhood to take a stroll.
You'll find lots of inexpensive eateries here, especially late at night; also a great place to pick up gifts for home, as it is cheaper compared to the shops in the city centre. The local shops offer all kinds of merchandise.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)

5) Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) (must see)

One of the most spectacular structures you can ever encounter in Toronto is the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Housing the world’s largest Canadian art collection, the Art Gallery of Ontario is a must visit when in the city.

The museum was established in 1900 and was the resultant of the efforts of a group of citizens who didn't take art lightly. Although the museum had a shaky start, it progressed to earn the reputation of being one of the best-known museums in Toronto.

The AGO has a proud collection of over 80,000 pieces of works that display art right from the 1st century till the present day. Rembrandt, Vincent van Gogh, Frans Hals, Peter Paul Rubens, Tintoretto, Anthony Van Dyke, Thomas Gainsborough, Pablo Picasso are the few artists whose works are proudly displayed at the museum. The perfect place for admirers and followers of art, the AGO also has a brilliant collection of modern and contemporary artists like Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Jenny Holzer. Not only is the museum a haven for devoted paint and canvas lovers, the works of some of the finest sculptors can also be seen here. The AGO has the largest collection of sculptures by Henry Moore, who took the world by storm with his semi-abstract pieces of work.

Why You Should Visit:
The gallery's architecture alone is worth coming for; add the permanent Group of Seven exhibition as well as the African, European and Indigenous art to make a most enjoyable experience.
You can also stop into the museum shop for all the fun and interesting items.

The museum policy allows for exiting and re-entering on your ticket within the day.
Don't forget to check out the basement which has many models of naval ships, mostly from Britain. It's spectacular and often overlooked.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu: 10:30am–5pm; Wed, Fri: 10:30am–9pm; Sat, Sun: 10:30am–5:30pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Royal Alexandra Theatre

6) Royal Alexandra Theatre

The Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, commonly known as the Royal Alex, is the oldest continuously operating legitimate theatre in North America, established in 1907.

Built in the style typical of 19th century British theatres, this 1,244-seat, beaux-arts style, proscenium-stage venue has two balcony levels. Its construction began in 1905 and was completed in 1907. Since 1963, the theatre has been owned by Ed Mirvish Enterprises, a company established by Toronto department store owner Edwin Mirvish. Since 1986, it has been managed and operated by Mirvish Productions, the theatre production company headed by Ed's son, David Mirvish. The "Royal Alex", otherwise referred to as simply "the Alex" or "the R.A.T.", is named for Queen Alexandra, a Danish princess and wife of King Edward VII, the great-grandmother to the current Queen of Canada, Elizabeth II. The theatre received letters patent from Edward VII entitling it to the royal designation. Its present owners believe that it is the only remaining legally "royal theatre" in North America.

In the words of David Mirvish, the $2.5-million renovation of the theatre commenced in 2016 was intended to "once more restore and give life to that sparkle and give a level of comfort that will preserve the theatre as our flagship of the 21st century". The most significant change was the refurbishment of its seating areas to improve audience comfort, with the replacement of its original seats with modern versions that are larger and arranged to increase legroom. The new seating layout necessitated a reduction in capacity from 1,497 to 1,244; David contrasted it to the trend of theatres increasing their capacity to "maximize" revenue, arguing that the improved amenities would build improve customer loyalty and encourage repeat visits.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Princess of Wales Theatre

7) Princess of Wales Theatre (must see)

The Princess of Wales Theatre is a 2,000-seat live theatre in Toronto whose name has a triple meaning: it honours Diana, Princess of Wales, with whose consent the theatre was named; it links the building to its sister theatre, the Royal Alexandra, one block to the east, also named – with Royal assent – for a former Princess of Wales; and it recalls the Princess Theatre, Toronto's first "first-class legitimate" playhouse, that stood three blocks to the east until 1931.

Ed and David Mirvish built the theatre as a state-of-the-art facility to stage large-scale musicals for long runs. The family's Mirvish Productions owns Toronto's Royal Alexandra, Ed Mirvish (formerly the Canon), and Panasonic theatres. The Mirvish family owns the former Honest Ed's department store and the Markham Street "Markham Village" retail district.

For the Princess of Wales Theatre, David Mirvish commissioned a series of murals by American abstract expressionist painter and sculptor Frank Stella. The paintings—10,000 square feet (1,000 m2)—cover the auditorium ceiling dome, the proscenium arch, the walls of lounges and lobbies on all four levels of the theatre and the outside back wall of the fly tower. They are believed to comprise one of the largest mural installations of modern times. Stella also designed the decorative fronts of the boxes and balconies and the decorative end-caps of the each seating row.

The theatre has seating on three levels—orchestra, dress circle and balcony—with elevator access to all levels and is configured as a traditional 19th century English proscenium theatre. Further, the entire building is barrier-free, enabling wheelchair access to all levels — not a common occurrence in Toronto, considering the age of many of its theatres. The Princess of Wales Theatre is designed to incorporate both traditional and contemporary design elements. The Toronto Star described it as "...a glittering glass jewelry case, a sparkling glimpse into a spectacle of total design." It is often used for study by architecture, engineering, design, and theatre students.

On September 29, 2012, after operating for only 19 years, Mirvish Productions announced a plan to demolish the Princess of Wales Theatre in favour of a multi-purpose complex designed by Frank Gehry and which would include an extensive artwork collection available for public viewing, as well as museums, condominium units, and retail spaces. However, in response to criticism from city planners, Mirvish and Gehry announced a revised plan in May 2014 which would spare the structure.
Sight description based on wikipedia
King Street, Entertainment District

8) King Street, Entertainment District

King Street is a major east–west commercial thoroughfare in Toronto. Yonge Street, the north–south divider of many Toronto east–west streets, divides King Street into King Street East and King Street West. King Street West is known for trendy restaurants, design shops and boutique condo developments. Previously industrial, this neighborhood has undergone considerable urban development since the early 2000s.

The Toronto Entertainment District is concentrated around King Street West between University Avenue and Spadina Avenue. It is home to theatres and performing arts centres, three of Toronto's major-league sports teams, plus an array of cultural and family attractions. The area is also home to most of the nightclubs in downtown Toronto.

Canada's Walk of Fame runs along King Street, from John Street to Simcoe Street, and south on Simcoe. It is a tribute in granite to Canadians who have gained fame in the fields of music, literature, journalism, dance, sports, acting, entertainment and broadcasting.

The Fashion District (also known as the Garment Distric) is located to the west of intersection with Spadina Avenue. This commercial and residential area is occupied by a mix of artists, musicians, designers, professionals and students. Many former garment warehouses house clothing outlets while others have been refurbished into artists’ studios and galleries, publishers, software and tech design offices and condos and lofts.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Toronto, Canada

Create Your Own Walk in Toronto

Create Your Own Walk in Toronto

Creating your own self-guided walk in Toronto is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Toronto Shopping Tour

Toronto Shopping Tour

There are many ways to enjoy shopping in Toronto. You can either walk along the oldest streets of the city, like Yonge street and visit the huge fancy shopping centers, or you can experience the atmosphere of the historic market of St. Lawrence. This tour has it all: from small unusual stores to big "all-mighty" malls. So don't hesitate to enjoy an authentic shopping experience by...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Historic Buildings Walking Tour

Historic Buildings Walking Tour

Once an Anglo backwater, today's Toronto is the cultural and economic hub of English-speaking Canada. The city's architectural beauty is supplemented by its historical richness, with some of the buildings dating back as far as the late 18th century. This self-guided tour invites you to explore the most prominent of them, such as Gooderham, Daniel Brook Building, Massey Hall and others,...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Distillery District Walk

Distillery District Walk

The architectural treasure of Toronto's Distillery District dates back to 1859 as the site of the largest distillery in the British Empire. This former industrial complex is now a National Historic Site of Canada and represents a unique pocket of Victorian-era architecture, featuring the continent's best-preserved collection of cobblestone pathways and historic buildings housing...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles
Toronto Islands Tour

Toronto Islands Tour

The Toronto Islands is a chain of islands located in Lake Ontario, comprising three major islands (namely: Center Island, Algonquin or Sunfish Island, and Olympic Island) and several smaller ones, which collectively represent a great recreation destination set in a peaceful and joyful environment. Other than a great panoramic view of Toronto, the islands offer a wealth of attractions. To acquaint...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles
Cabbagetown Walking Tour

Cabbagetown Walking Tour

Once a small community of Irish immigrants and one of the poorest neighborhoods in Toronto, Cabbagetown is also one of the city's oldest districts, established in 1840, east of downtown. In 2004, it was declared a historic district and presently claims to be "the largest continuous area of preserved Victorian housing in North America". Attesting to this claim is Amelia Street...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Top Religious Sites

Top Religious Sites

Because it is an ethnically diverse city, Toronto has different types of churches beginning with imposing Revival style Cathedrals to small postmodernist churches. This tour however aims to introduce you to some of the most famous religious structures in the city. While in Toronto be sure to check the ones listed below.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.0 Km or 1.9 Miles

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