5 places to get some peace and quiet in downtown Toronto

By: Jim Bamboulis

Downtown Toronto. Always loud, hectic and frantic. Sometimes obnoxious and pretentious. Always beautiful.

City Hall (old and new), Nathan Philipps Square, Eaton Centre and of course Bay Street, the financial epicentre of Canada, are found along the downtown section of the 501 streetcar route. And the beauty of Toronto is that all of these notable landmarks are within walking distance. You get off the streetcar at Yonge and Queen and walk west. Take it in, eat, shop, photograph and eventually rest.

Looking west along Queen Street West at Yonge Street
Looking west along Queen Street West at Yonge Street

That’s where this article comes in. The resting.

And despite the go-go-go city, there are spots that offer peace and quiet. Because if you’re like me, someone who REALLY likes to sit down once in a while, then you will love these 5 serene spots. They are worth exploring and sitting down in.

5. Trinity Square 

This little park is a gem. Located on the west side of the Eaton Centre and behind old City Hall (map), Trinity offers a bit of a cottage feel, plenty of green space and a historical backdrop while you sit. The Church of the Holy Trinity dates back to 1847 and it plays the role of a terminating vista, offering a clear view from Bay Street. At certain times of the year, at dusk, it offers some incredible light.

As for the green space itself, you can enjoy plenty of seating and shade. Under a tree or in a Muskoka chair for extra comfort.

4. Green Roof at City Hall

Cross Bay Street and you get to one of my favourite structures in Toronto. City Hall (map). It’s unlike any other city hall in the world. Unique, curvaceous, ahead of its time and warm. Well, as warm as cement can possibly be. The big knock over the years around City Hall was the fact that there was too much cement and not enough green space in Nathan Phillips Square (directly in front of City Hall).

So in late 2009, a green roof was eventually added. More than 10,000 people showed up and took advantage of it when it opened in May 2010 and since then, it’s consistently used by those who want to eat their lunch in peace, those who love to meditate and even those who love the view. Walk up the ramp and enjoy.

3. Courtyard in the Sheraton Centre Hotel

Across the street from City Hall, you find the Sheraton Centre Hotel (map). I don’t picture too many locals going into the Sheraton unless it’s necessary but next time you’re downtown, go inside and check the courtyard. It’s stunning no matter what the season. Here’s the winter look.

The hotel offers seating in the lobby with clear views of the courtyard and its two waterfalls. Convenient when it’s cold outside. But in the summer, you can go outside and view them up close. Grab a seat, read a book and enjoy the sounds of the waterfalls all while the busy city moves around you.

2. Grange Park

Further west and just north of that iconic corner of Queen and John, you find Grange Park (map). The reason I love the Grange is because it’s a beautiful, unpredictable space. Expect anything and everything here, including early morning Tai Chi  from local residents. The space is also beautifully surrounded by both modern architectural beauty as well as history.

Near the south side entrance, we have St. George the Martyr Anglican Church which which opened its doors in 1845.
On the northeast side, we have the main building of OCAD University, Canada’s largest and oldest educational institution for art and design.
The Grange (house) was built around 1817 for Lawyer and Merchant D’Arcy Boulton Jr. In 1911, his Wife Harriette insisted that the house become property of what is now the Art Gallery of Ontario (blue building with winding staircase).
Looking south from The Grange.

1. Osgoode Hall

It’s a funny thing with Osgoode Hall (map). Despite the grounds being so close to busy traffic on Queen Street West, somehow it feels like a world away. The beautiful Greek-inspired architecture as well as the greenery inside the gates makes the small space popular with both wedding photographers as well as the lunch time crowd. It’s graceful, intimate and tranquil.

There you have it. It is in fact possible to get some rest and relaxation in the middle of a busy and frenetic downtown Toronto. If you have a better green space that you want to suggest or if we missed one, please let us know.

Otherwise, pick your park, have a seat and relax.

We’re moving along, further west to the centre of hip and current, Queen Street West. We’re publishing that article next week. To read up on the neighbourhoods we’ve already covered in our 501 series, click here.

Thanks all and happy travels!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Hello Jim,
    Being a scholar in one of the B schools in Canada, I have always felt Toronto to be too hectic and always busy. So, I have always had a thought of exploring new places here to spend my weekend in peace and bliss. This blog was very helpful in finding such places along with various interesting information.

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