The trendiest shopping district in Toronto is Queen Street West, which has been attracting people to its many stores, coffee shops, bars and restaurants for decades.
The street is known for its position on the cutting edge of Toronto fashion, but there is more to this area than just clothes. There are in fact several different potions that feature their own unique characteristics.
Yonge Street to University Avenue
Queen Street West begins at its intersection with Yonge Street, which also happens to be the home of the city's most popular retail attraction, the Eaton Centre.
In fact, it's generally considered to be the most popular attraction
in the entire city, period, boasting a million visitors a week. Once the home of the now-defunct Eaton's department store chain, the mall now hosts 330 stores including a recently revamped food court.
The intersection of Yonge and Queen is a major shopping destination
, but for the next few blocks westward the street has fewer stores as it skirts the city's business district.
However, visitors will still some of the great sights and attractions of the city, including City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
University Avenue to Spadina Avenue
Once past University Avenue, the street takes on a new persona as a younger, trendier neighbourhood
. In the late 1970s and 1980s, this area was the cutting edge of Toronto's music scene, which greatly influenced its redevelopment into what we see today.
Inevitably the area will always be associated with its most famous landmark, the CHUM-City Building, home of MuchMusic and several other media properties. Over the years many shows there have been designed to incorporate a certain amount of interaction with people on the street, including the epic MuchMusic Video Awards that close down Queen every August.
Here the street is lined with record shops, clothing stores, tattoo parlours and a range of novelty-type stores, as well as small hardware, electronics and variety stores that remain as hold-overs from a less-trendy era. There is also a large assortment of coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
Moving west towards Spadina, clothing stores become the more prominent tenants. There is an interesting mix of brands here, ranging from chains like H&M, Adidas and Quicksilver to small boutique fashion and jewellery stores.
One favourite spot of the younger crowd is Black Market Clothing, where vintage clothing and novelty t-shirts are the star attractions.
Past Spadina towards Bathurst Street, chain stores give way to mainly the smaller retailers: clothing and music stores, fast food joints, bars and music venues.
Here there are also a number of textile stores, leftovers from when this part of Queen Street was where clothing was made, rather than just sold. Meanwhile, to the north are the vibrant streets of Chinatown, home to an entirely different shopping adventure.
West Queen West
The development of Queen Street West as a shopping and tourist destination continues every year, as more and more of the street becomes revitalized.
West of Bathurst Street, hip restaurants, cocktails lounges and music clubs now crowd what was until recently a fairly grungy area. Here there are also great independent book stores, record shops and food boutiques. This stretch lasts until it reaches Trinity-Bellwoods Park.
Trinity-Bellwoods Park is one of the most popular parks in the city, situated on the north side of Queen Street West stretching all the way up to Dundas Street. It's a busy park that often hosts cultural events like Nuit Blanche, and it's also a favourite place for city-dwellers to walk their dogs or have picnics.
A farmer's market also runs here every Tuesday. Past the park is where Queen Street changes once again, this time into a fashionable district of art galleries and clubs.
This stretch of Queen Street is also known as the Art and Design District, and is dominated by art galleries small and large. It's also home to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.
Suffice it to say, the area is a great place for art lovers to visit, whether they are looking to buy or only to admire. There are also a number of nightclubs and boutique hotels here, including the Drake Hotel and The Gladstone.
Dufferin Street is generally considered to be where the Queen Street West district ends, but for how long is uncertain. The neighbourhood further to the west, known as Parkdale, might just be the next hot spot in the evolution of Queen Street.
Artists and hipsters have already begun to colonize this strip of furniture stores, antique shops and greasy spoon diners. Keep an eye out for the next Queen Street West shopping frontier!
The 501 Queen streetcar runs the whole length of Queen Street West at a frequency of every six minutes during peak times. Streetcar lines also run perpendicular to Queen along Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue, while buses run along Dufferin Street, Ossington Avenue and Bay Street as well.
Queen Street West is also well-served by the Toronto Transit Commission subway lines. The Yonge-University line has two stops on the street: Queen Station at Yonge Street, and Osgoode Station at University Avenue.
Bonus fun fact: In the 1940s the TTC proposed the creation of an east-west subway line running along Queen Street. While the line was eventually built along Bloor Street instead, an empty station still sits below Queen Station where the line would have run.