Planning Studies & Initiatives

Toronto's Downtown Heritage - Walking Tours


The City of Toronto's Inventory of Heritage Properties contains over 8,000 properties. This guide to Toronto's Downtown Heritage has been arranged by neighbourhoods or "themed areas" to highlight some of the most significant heritage buildings in downtown Toronto. Take a walk around the downtown neighbourhoods and see how our heritage buildings form an integral part of this City.

Old Town
This area was founded as the Town of York in 1797. For a century, Old Town served as the heart of a ten-block townsite community. After falling into neglect in the early 1900's this area and surrounding neighbourhoods were revitalized and important heritage buildings restored.

Financial District
This area was first developed in the late 19th Century as a continuation of the Old Town of York. The Great Fire of 1904 destroyed most of the area, beginning a massive rebuilding campaign that included Toronto's first skyscrapers and the tallest buildings in Canada.

Railway Lands
This area along Toronto's waterfront was transformed in the 1850's by the arrival of steam railways. The "iron horse" changed the way goods were moved and led to the construction of buildings to accommodate this new mode of transportation.

Queen Street West
At the end of the 19th Century, this area emerged as the new city centre when Toronto's City Hall relocated to Queen Street West and two of Canada's major department stores opened nearby. In recent years, the Queen Street commercial strip between Yonge Street and Spadina Avenue became a popular artists' and musicians' haunt, as well as a major shopping destination.

King Street West
This area was established in the early 19th Century with fine residences, churches and various government institutions. After the Great Fire of 1904, the elegant buildings of the area shared the block with relocated industrial warehouses. The 1960's revitalization of the neighbourhood converted many of the area's buildings into theatres, shops and restaurants.

Yonge Street
Yonge Street is the world's longest street at nearly 1900 kilometres. It became Toronto's main street at the end of the 19th Century. Yonge Street intersects with five other major streets in the downtown area and serves to draw crowds of people downtown for business and entertainment.

Allan Gardens
Serving as an urban park devoted to horticulture, Allan Gardens contains a collection of buildings illustrating the evolution of glass building technology. The Conservatory boasts the "Palm House", a heritage landmark esteemed amongst horticulturalists and architects.

University of Toronto
The University campus encompasses a collection of architecturally and historically important buildings supporting its reputation as one of the most prestigious and premier educational institutions in Canada.

Ontario Legislative Buildings
As the seat of provincial government, the Ontario Legislative Building conveys a grand and authoritative presence at the top of University Avenue.

Heritage Conservation Districts
City Council has designated a number of areas in Toronto as Heritage Conservation Districts in order to protect and enhance their special character. The character of a District is established by the heritage quality of buildings, streets and open spaces as seen together.

Full Toronto Downtown Heritage Walking Tour
This Guide provides a consolidated package of the nine major neighbourhoods in Toronto which have contributed to the development of the downtown area. Take a walk around these neighbourhoods and see how our heritage buildings form an integral part of this city.