Set against a backdrop of historic buildings, Queen West has one of the trendiest shopping scenes in Toronto. Toronto’s Art and Design District boasts an extensive array of menswear, vintage, shoe stores and craft and sewing supplies. It’s a goldmine for the fashion-hungry! At night the neighbourhood offers lively patios and bars and a variety of live music ranging from roots to rock at internationally-renowned venues like the Cameron House, the Horseshoe and the Rex. Re-charge with food from around the world at unique restaurants and cafes that are often open late.
With art galleries, independent boutique shops, Graffiti Alley, patisseries, fabulous eateries, patios, film production studios and other general awesomeness, it’s clear why outsiders have taken note of this insanely eclectic and hip stretch of businesses and apartments in TO.
Toronto’s hippest residents spend their time here, pondering provocative art, philosophizing over artisan coffees, talking business with vintage cocktails in hand, or ducking in and out of the coolest local designer boutique shops selling clothes, footwear, handbags, furniture and accessories.
Often compared to New York City’s Soho, Queen Street is the place to go for trendy dining and nightlife, plus cutting-edge fashion, art galleries, antique shops, and bookstores.
Queen Street is one of the early traces of European settlement in the Toronto area. Originally known as Lot Street, it was the baseline established by the Royal Engineers when they laid out the town of York (now Toronto) in 1793. Today, the street remains one of the city’s most important cross-town corridors, with Queen streetcars linking neighbourhoods from the Beaches in the east to Parkdale in the west.
Another important impetus in the renewal of Queen Street west of University Avenue was the 1985 purchase by CHUM radio/CityTV, of the white, terra-cotta Wesley building. The structure’s Gothic ornamentation, linked to its former use by a religious press, seemed a daring choice for a communications giant built on its appeal to a youthful audience and later to members of the ethnic community. But this energetic “hip” profile combined the cultural with the trendy, and engaged its audience through such innovations as the 24-hour, autonomous “live-eye” on speakers’ corner outside the building.
Only a block away from the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) and the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) at McCaul and Dundas, it was natural that Queen Street West should become a magnet for budding artists and fashion graduates of OCAD. In the 1980s the down-at-the-heels neighbourhood offered reasonable rents both for students and designers, and a vibrant music scene flourished in local clubs. Visitors began comparing the district to SoHo, in London or New York.
Today Queen Street West is an animated mixed-use corridor, that functions as a local and regional destination drawing people from the residential neighbourhoods that surround it, and extensively, from all over the city and beyond. The history of the street, and its place in the collective memory continues to be enhanced by the presence of a vibrant retail and entertainment scene, and the multiple events and venues that make Queen Street West their home.