Walking through the streets of Toronto, it’s easy to see how the city has changed from its British roots of Georgian and Victorian architecture which dominated the city before World War II to a modern style reflected in the tall structures that monopolize the skyline of Canada’s financial capital today.
The last weekend in May, the city hosted the Doors Open event. During those two days residents as well as visitors to the city could explore Toronto’s buildings at no charge. In addition, members of the Toronto Society of Architects conducting tours of the city’s buildings and public art.
More than 130 buildings in the city, including the Old City Hall, were open to the public during the two day event. The Old City Hall was where we met for our first tour, the Tower Tour. Over the course of an hour and a half we learned about that building as well as the current City Hall and their proud histories.
We then proceeded to the Financial District where on the corner of Bay and King four of the nation’s Big Five banks tower over pedestrians. Known as Commerce Court, the 34 story North Tower of the complex held the title of tallest tower in the city for over thirty years from 1931-1962, however today it’s dwarfed by the glass and steel structures, the tallest reaching more than 20 stories above the North Tower.
Our plans had been made before we learned of the Doors Open event so we were only in Toronto for the final afternoon of the event and were not able to take advantage of walking inside the open buildings.
However, even without a tour, there were so many buildings to enjoy. The Flatiron Building. Many churches. And skyscrapers designed by world renown architects.
Of course the CN Tower is the most recognizable feature in the Toronto Skyline. At a height of 1,815 feet, it’s the tallest free standing structure in the Western Hemisphere. And while it’s open to the public daily, we decided not to part with $45 per person for tickets. This decision was based partially on the cost but also on our poor experience at the Empire State Building where we spent about three hours in line. We were on a tight schedule and didn’t want to risk wasting valuable time in line.
Above: The Roy Thomson Hall, home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, in the shadow of the CN Tower.
Below: The home of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rogers Center, can be seen to the left of the CN Tower.
Since I’m a sucker for libraries, we did spend some time in the Toronto Public Library and enjoyed the modern, curves of the stairways.
We also enjoyed the Toronto Music Garden, an outdoor space at Harbourfront.
A place inspired by Yo Yo Ma, the garden sections represent movements from Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for unaccompanied cello: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuett and Gigue. A concert venue with a full slate of performances scheduled from July through September, Toronto Music Garden proved to be a relaxing place to enjoy the natural beauty of the city.
Towers Tour – Led by Toronto Society of Architects; Saturdays 1:30-3:30; Tickets $10 (Canadian about $7.75 US) They also offer an Art & Performance Tour on Saturdays and a Culture and Campus Tour on Sundays
Tour Guys – Free Walking Tours in Toronto including a Downtown Tour, Old Town Toronto History Tour, Food Tour at St. Lawrence Market and a Graffiti Tour While these are called Free Walking Tours, they aren’t really free, but instead participants are expected to tip your guide “whatever they think the tour is worth”, usually between $15-$20. (We couldn’t take advantage of these tours because none are scheduled on Monday, the only day we had sufficient time for a tour.)
Somehow, we missed the University of Toronto campus. I noticed it as we were leaving the city (only blocks from our hotel), and it’s a beautiful campus I’d like to explore.
Niagara Falls – Less than two hours from Niagara Falls, perhaps the world’s most famous waterfall, check out my blog on a trip to the falls.