The University of Toronto buildings situated near King’s College Circle are a favourite destination of mine, regardless of the season. UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, created in 1853, is a National Historic Site of Canada. Its imposing exterior, the result of a medley of architectural styles, features arches, intricate carvings, and a beautifully dormered circular structure on one corner.
Don’t miss the cloisters in the outdoor courtyard within the college’s walls. A walk through these grounds never fails to deliver the solution to a dilemma, a positive plan of action or just a lighter frame of mind.
There is much to appreciate inside University College, but if your time is limited, I recommend, instead, heading around the corner – up Hart House Circle – to HART HOUSE. This beloved gathering place features a theatre, a fitness centre, an art museum and gallery, and numerous event rooms. My ramshackle study nook in the basement is long lost to renovations, but Hart House is still full of corridors and corners of architectural beauty. Its charm, however, is in the serendipitous moments you’ll experience while exploring.
Wander by the East Common Room where the next Glenn Gould or Angela Hewitt might be practising on the grand piano, or a choir or jazz band might be rehearsing. Take a photograph of a stone archway and then join a casual student discussion in one of the many seating areas.
Grab a coffee in the Gallery Grill, where a chamber quintet of students might be playing. Spend a quiet moment examining the stained glass window in the chapel, and then head outside again to explore the grounds.
To reach University College and Hart House from the Westin Harbour Castle:
On foot: Not recommended for this trip because of the distance.
TTC: 20-30 minutes via the subway from Union Station to Queen’s Park Station, including walk time to and from the stations, depending on the walking route you choose.
Route #1 is the longer, straightforward route: Exit Queen’s Park Station on Queen’s Park (the street) and cross the intersection of Queen’s Park and University Avenue. Turn right (north) and follow Queen’s Park as it becomes Queen’s Park Crescent West and winds around the Legislative Assembly of Ontario building, which is set on a large greenspace called Queen’s Park. Continue on Queen’s Park Crescent West as it turns left (west) until you reach Hoskins Avenue. Turn left (west) on Hoskins Avenue, walk for a block and turn left on Tower Road, which leads you to Hart House Circle and University College.
Route #2 is shorter if you have sharp eyes: Follow the directions for Route #1 until the front of the massive Ontario Legislative Assembly building is on your right and the University of Toronto Canadiana Gallery is on your left. Turn left onto the walkway to the Gallery and then take the lane leading around the left side of this building. Follow the lane until you reach King’s College Circle and immediately turn right. Follow King’s College Circle for about a block to University College. Single fare: $3.25. Unlimited day pass: $12.50. Visit TTC Trip Planner to plan your trip.
Taxi: 8-22 minutes. Fare: $14 (Time and fare vary depending on traffic and weather conditions and are subject to change without notice).
UberX: 8-22 minutes. Fare: $9-12 (Time and fare vary depending on traffic and weather conditions and are subject to change without notice. Higher surge pricing may apply during peak periods.)
When it’s time for good food, make it an experience. Head northeast from the Westin Harbour Castle to National Geographic’s recent pick for top market in the world, ST. LAWRENCE MARKET, at the southwest corner of Front Street East and Lower Jarvis Street.
A brisk 15-minute walk works up your appetite and gets you there faster than the TTC. You have a choice of routes, but I recommend you exit the Westin Harbour Castle on Queen’s Quay West, turn right and walk for a block to Yonge Street. Turn left (north) and walk up Yonge Street to Front Street East, then turn right (east) on Front and continue to the main entrance of the market. This route takes you past popular landmarks, including the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, the elegant Hockey Hall of Fame on the northwest corner of Yonge and Front (sports fans may want to return and spend some time appreciating the glory of Canada’s national sport), Berczy Park – don’t miss its huge, whimsical dog sculpture fountain – and the Gooderham/Flatiron Building at Front and Church Streets with its unusual pie shape and massive trompe l’oeil mural.
The St. Lawrence Market’s two-storey south building is home to 100+ vendors selling fresh cheeses, meats, seafood, breads, fruits and vegetables, along with artisanal preserves, condiments, pies, confections and maple syrup. Canada produces three grades of its world-famous maple syrup: #1 is light-medium, #2 is amber, and #3 is dark. The darker the syrup’s colour, the more intense the maple flavour.
Pick up a beverage to go with your choice of sandwich or other prepared food and enjoy it at one of the outdoor patio tables, weather permitting. Locals and visitors regularly make a trek to the market for the popular “peameal bacon on a bun,” but there are food options for most every taste. After you’ve eaten, browse the kiosks selling art, handmade crafts, cooking utensils and quirky household items, while reflecting on the fact the market building housed both a jail and Toronto’s first city hall from the mid- to late-1800s.
To reach St. Lawrence Market from the Westin Harbour Castle:
On foot: 15-17 minutes.
TTC: Not recommended for this excursion. Visit TTC Trip Planner to plan your trip.
Taxi: 6-7 minutes. Fare: $7 (Time and fare vary depending on traffic and weather conditions and are subject to change without notice).
UberX: 6-7 minutes. Fare: $6-8 (Time and fare vary depending on traffic and weather conditions and are subject to change without notice. Higher surge pricing may apply during peak periods.