Toronto’s trendy neighbourhood, which could be compared to New York’s famous Soho district, is a great place to see an opera, enjoy a fine dining restaurant, sit on a patio at a bar, café, or bistro and kick back for some people-watching; or to spend some hard earned cash and shop in the heart of the fashion district.
There are funky boutiques with the latest urban designs and on any given night a person could catch the next big band playing at one of the numerous venues such as the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Besides shopping for clothes, there are numerous galleries showcasing contemporary art where you could spice up their living room with some of the best local artworks. Queen West has become an international arts center and a major tourist attraction in Toronto.
The stretch between University Avenue and Spadina Avenue is lined with upscale boutiques, chain stores, restaurants, tattoo parlours and hair salons. One of the best-known landmarks would be the broadcast hub at 299 Queen St. West, formerly the headquarters of CityTV, now broadcasting operations of a number of television outlets owned by CTV Globemedia.
Other notable landmarks are institutional and cultural buildings such as Old City Hall, Toronto City Hall, Osgoode Hall and of course I cannot forget to mention the Eaton Centre – which has been a primary shopping centre since the 19th century. In 2006, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts was inaugurated and it proved to be the first building of its kind in Canada. It’s a theatre built specifically for opera and ballet performances with the some best designed acoustics in the world.
This stretch of Queen West was a cultural nexus in the 1980s, known for its clubs, restaurants, eclectic mix of street performers, musicians and was a haven for the punk rock scene.
In the early 1970s this was an inexpensive place to live, but by the early ‘80s, the area was transformed by local students including those of the nearby Ontario College of Art & Design and the area developed an active music scene, which became one of the dominant centres of Canadian music. The vibrant art culture soon attracted other artists, audiences and wealthier people to the area.
Since then the name Queen Street West has been synonymous with “trendy and hip.” As rent prices rose, high-priced clothing stores opened and the continuous buying and renovating of buildings continued, most artists began moving from the area and can often now be found even further west to “West Queen West.”
There never is a dull moment in this vibrant neighbourhood and if you are a fashion hound, music lover or hungry foodie, this is the place for you. You can be lost in the amazement of the city just by spending an afternoon walking along Queen Street West.
Photo by Kevin Steele