Queen West


About the Neighbourhood


  • No longer the hippest address in town, the original Queen West is now a retail strip fronting global brands like Zara, H&M and Lululemon mixed with sneaker shops and longtime indie favourites that continue to persevere despite sky-rocketing rents.
  • Things get a bit more interesting and eclectic west of Spadina where locals favour spots like Tequila Bookworm, Fressen and The Cameron House. Not to be missed are the galleries and rooftop garden at nearby 401 Richmond.
  • Queen West is gallery central with some of the city's most cutting-edge galleries dotting the street-scape from Trinity Bellwoods Park to Dufferin. Anchored by the nightlife and cultural destinations that are The Drake and Gladstone Hotels, this neighbourhood oozes creativity, community and fun. Not to be overlooked are hidden gems like Julie's Cuban and Luna Cafe up Dovercourt or the burgeoning South Ossington strip.
  • Queen Street was the cartographical baseline for the original east-west avenues of Toronto's grid pattern of major streets. The western end of Queen (sometimes simply referred to as "Queen West") is now best known as a centre for Canadian broadcasting, music, fashion, performance, and the visual arts. Over the past twenty-five years, Queen West has become an international arts centre, and a major tourist attraction in Toronto.




  • Since the original survey in 1793 by Sir Alexander Aitkin, commissioned by Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe, Queen Street has had many names. For its first sixty years, many sections were referred to as Lot Street. The first lots in the new city of York (which would be renamed Toronto in 1834) were given to loyal officials who were willing to give up the amenities of modern cities such as Kingston to take up residence in the forests. These 40 hectares (99 acres) lots were placed along the south side of the first east–west road laid in York, Lot Street. In 1837 Lot Street was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria.
  • "Queen West" is local vernacular which generally refers to the collection of neighbourhoods that have developed along and around the thoroughfare. Many of these were originally ethnically-based neighbourhoods. The earliest example from the mid-19th century was Claretown, an Irish immigrant enclave in the area of Queen Street West and Bathurst Street.
  • From the 1890s to the 1930s, Jewish immigrants coalesced in the neighbourhood known as "the Ward", for which Queen Street between Yonge and University served as the southern boundary. The intersection of Queen and Bay Streets also served as the southern end of a thriving Chinatown in the 1930s. From the 1920s to the 1950s, the area was also the heart of Toronto's Polish and Ukrainian communities. From the 1950s through the 1970s, many immigrants from Portugal settled in the area. Gentrification over the past twenty years has caused most recent immigrants to gradually move to more affordable areas of the city as desirability of the area drives up prices.



  • Ogden Jr., 33 Phoebe St., (416) 393-9110 (Public School)
  • Ryerson Jr. and Sr., 96 Denison Ave., (416) 393-1340 (Public School)
  • West EndAlternative, 70 D'arcy St., (416) 393-0660 (Public High School)
  • Charles G. Fraser Jr., 79 Manning Ave., (416) 393-1830 (Public School)
  • Givens/Shaw Jr. & Sr., 180 Shaw Street, (416) 393-1240 (Public School)
  • Central High School of Commerce, 570 Shaw St., (416) 393-0030  (Public High School)
  • Harbord Collegiate Institute, 286 Harbord St., (416) 393-1650 (Public High School)
  • Senator Santo Christo, 30 Humbert St., (Catholic School)



University to Spadina: Queen West

  • The area between University and Spadina Avenues was a cultural nexus in the 1980s known for its restaurants, clubs and eclectic mix of street performers, musicians and a haven for the punk rock scene with its famous club kids such as Kinga, Seika, Wanda and a host of others. In the 1960s and early 1970s, this stretch of Queen Street West was an ageing commercial strip, known for "greasy spoon" restaurants and inexpensive housing in the area. In the late 1970s and 1980s, 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 was one of the dominant centres of Canadian music in its era.
  • The vibrant arts culture soon attracted other artists, audiences, and wealthier people to the area. Since then, the name "Queen Street" has become synonymous with the words "trendy", "hip", and "cool". Older and hipper bars such as the Cameron, the Horseshoe Tavern and The Rivoli have not changed much, and top Canadian musical and comedy acts can still often be found performing in the area.
  • The broadcast hub at 299 Queen Street West(formerly called the CHUM-City Building), housing a number of CTVglobemedia's television operations, is located at the corner of Queen and John Streets in this area. Most notably, MuchMusic has become intimately associated with Queen Street's culture; the station's VJs have often broadcast their segments live from outside the building, and programs such as Electric Circus and the MuchMusic Video Awards have regularly taken place on the street.
  • A movement by local citizens to rename the area "Soho" after a side-street in the area has never been taken seriously by the municipal government.

 Queen West West (the Art and Design District)


  • Between Trinity Bellwoods Park and Dufferin Street is West Queen Street West, also known as the Art and Design District. For this one kilometre stretch, nearly every storefront on the north side is either a gallery, bar, or nightclub (the south side of the street is largely taken up by the buildings and grounds of the former Queen Street Mental Health Centre, now part of CAMH.) The Stephen Bulger Gallery, founded in 1994, is also located on Queen West.
  • Another cause of this gallery conglomeration was the conversion of an old building into Gallery 1313, with extensive financial assistance by the city. The large amount of gallery space, including such galleries as Loop and Fly, allows Toronto artists of all levels of ability to show their work at a low cost. Unlike the boutique-oriented storefronts of the eastern portion of the street, the Gallery District contains an abundance of space available for special events. The Camera Bar -- originally established by film director and producer Atom Egoyan -- is now operated by the Stephen Bulger Gallery as a rental space that offers a bar and film/video screening venue.
  • Queen West West has undergone rapid transformation in the past couple of years. Rents have increased dramatically and many galleries have left. Recent departures include Sis Boom Bah, Luft Gallery, Burston Gallery and Brackett Gallery. At the same time as galleries have closed, many new bars have opened. Many attribute this sudden shift to the development spearheaded by the Drake Hotel, a former flophouse recently renovated and converted to a boutique hotel at a cost of $6 million.
  • The Gladstone Hotel is one of a few pre-existing businesses in the area that has been able to capitalize on the recent boom. This grand old railroad-era hotel had over the years fallen into disrepair and maintained itself by renting boarding-house style accommodation. The tavern on the first floor is now home to a weekly "Art Bar", where locals from the arts community converge to socialize. In 2005, it underwent a major renovation spearheaded by the Zeidler family.
  • The Queen West Art Crawl (QWAC) is an annual three-day festival celebrating the arts on Queen Street West and featuring the artists, arts organizations and businesses on the thoroughfare. It is produced by the not-for-profit Parkdale Liberty Economic Development Corporation.

West Queen West BIA


  • The businesses on the stretch of Queen West from Bathurst to Gladstone Ave. have organized the West Queen West Business Improvement Area, which is mandated to undertake streetscape improvement projects, organize community events and promote the neighbourhood's unique commercial establishments.
  • Its vision is to retain the unique character of the West Queen West business community in the midst of renewal and growth, while attracting visitors/tourists to an area known to boast high concentrations of art and culture. The BIA promotes the West Queen West neighbourhood as a distinct destination for residents and tourists.


Cool Things in the Neighbourhood


  • Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 952 Queen Street West-MOCCA’s facility is modest in scale, impressive in design and functions effectively as a nucleus of energies for the production and exchange of creativity, ideas and innovation. Admission to the Museum is Pay What You Can


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Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) District: C01

Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) Communities: Kensington-Chinatown (0960), Trinity Bellwoods (0970),  Niagara (0990)



Kimmé Myles
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