Favourite Toronto Walks – Yonge Street

Part of a series on my favourite walking trails in Toronto.

Hey Toronto, remember to practice Physical Distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic! Also be aware that some of the amenities, parks, or services listed below may have limited availability. Please check the links included below for up to date information on what’s open and what’s not.

And now on to the regular post …..

Samual Johnson once said, “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life”. With a nod to Dr. Johnson, I’d say that also applies to Yonge Street in Toronto.

The foot of Yonge looking north from the Lake

Many cities have a well-known street – Broadway in New York, Oxford Street in London, George Street in Sydney – but Yonge is a different from those thoroughfares in that, in a sense, there isn’t one “Yonge Street”. While it may be a single road, because it’s such a long street it takes on many moods, so that multiple stretches of Yonge form distinct little neighbourhoods, referred to usually by the cross streets – Yonge & Dundas, Yonge & Bloor, Summerhill, Yonge & St. Clair, Yonge & Eg, and so on as it goes north. Walking any 3-4 km stretch of Yonge between Steeles and the Lake will take you through at least a couple of these neighbourhoods, each with its own atmosphere and vibe. That, and Toronto’s famous mix of cultures from round the world, means that walking Yonge is like a mini tour of the United Nations dipped in maple syrup. I love it.

Length: Yonge is a little more than 20 km from the lake to Steeles, so allow about 5 hours if you want to walk the whole thing. That said, an hour’s stretch at picked at random is lots of fun and lets you explore the surrounding neighbourhoods too.

Surface: It’s a public road so concrete, concrete, concrete, and in winter add large dollops of salt. Wear comfy shoes.

Public Transit: Subway Line 1 runs most of the length of Yonge, from King up to Finch, and bus route 97 covers most of Yonge as well so it’s very easy to pick start and stopping points based on one of the subway or bus stops.


If it were me, I’d pick a stretch partly based on the weather and partly on the kind of food I like to eat. Starting down at the Lake on a sunny late spring day can be fantastic, and so can exploring mid-town or uptown. Downtown, mid-town, and uptown there are too many restaurants and shops to count, and there are parks like Ramsden or Alexander Muir Gardens or York Mills along the way too.

One way to decide is to simply pick a subway stop at random and then tell yourself you’re going to walk at least 3 subway stops either north or south along Yonge – keeping in mind that north of St. Clair, the stops are quite a bit farther apart than they are downtown.

The Beltline Bridge over Yonge, just south of Davisville

However you do it, try walking not just Yonge but also the surrounding streets that parallel it. Often a block east or west of Yonge takes you into residential streets and that’s a great way to explore too, and also get away a bit from the traffic and hustle.

A favourite stretch of Yonge for me is in mid-town, between Bloor and north past Eglinton. This stretch goes past Ramsden Park (a mid-town jewel) as well as Mount Pleasant Cemetery, and it’s lovely to detour into those treed oases for cooling greenness on a hot summer day.

The entrance to Alexander Muir Park on the east side of Yonge, about 2 blocks south of Lawrence Ave


Sights on Yonge are as much or more about the people than about the buildings or shops. People watching on Yonge is a year-round sport, and endless fun. Part of that is being people-watched yourself – the way you walk down Yonge, what you wear and what you carry, will provide gossip for others just as much as you can gossip about them. In summer, that includes sitting at one of the sidewalk cafes and patios and people-watching the street scene, sipping a cold glass of something while the passers-by judge you by the food you’re eating. Oh the joys.

Of course, there is history along Yonge as well, if you want to explore. Yonge-Dundas Square, which has become a celebration point when something big happens, like the Raptors NBA Championship win in 2019. Or little bits of history like the plaque that marks the Montgomery Tavern at Yonge and Montgomery, where William Lyon Mackenzie set off with a group of like-minded followers in 1837 during the so-called Upper Canada Rebellion to protest against the government of the day. And landmarks like the clock tower of the old CN rail station at Summerhill that’s now become an iconic location of the LCBO.

The Hockey Hall of Fame at Yonge and Front Street

Of course, for many people Yonge is really about the shopping. For most of it’s length, it’s lined by shops of all descriptions – antiques, clothing, shoes, foods, guitars, bikes, tea, electronics, and so much more. We lived for many years just off Yonge in mid-town and did all of our daily shopping within a 2-block stretch of Yonge that included a fishmonger, a greengrocer, a cheese shop & deli, a bakery, and a butcher, all great little shops where we knew the shopkeepers and they greeted us by name. Sure, Yonge has its share of the big chain stores, but why would you bother when you find some little neighbourhood gem for a unique experience? Between the shops and the many unique little restaurants and bars, you can shop local and follow your 100-km diet. Who needs more?

Food & Refreshment:

It’s Yonge, so expect at least a coffee shop if not an actual restaurant or takeaway every few hundred meters pretty much the whole length of the street. You’ll find virtually every type of cuisine the city offers, and every type of establishment from bars to bistros. There are also countless food shops, butchers, cheese shops, fishmongers, grocery stores, and greengrocers, so you can do all your shopping along Yonge – bring a knapsack and some shopping bags.

Keep in mind that Yonge is an urban streetscape for most of its length, so a hot summer’s day can feel even hotter, just a cold winter’s blast of wind can freeze to the bone. The many shops and refreshments along the way will give you breaks from the weather.

Finally, while there are no public toilets or water fountains available on Yonge Street itself, there are many options available. Downtown, there are washrooms & water fountains in the malls off Yonge at the Eaton Centre, College Park, and Yonge-Bloor. At mid-town, there are washrooms in the mall on the north-east corner at Yonge & St. Clair, and on the north-west corner at Yonge & Eglinton. Uptown, there are malls on the north-east corner at Yonge & Sheppard and the south-west corner at Yonge & Steeles. Of course, there are tons of coffee shops along the way so you can always pop into one of those.


  1. Make a game of it – how many coffee shops can you find along Yonge? How many couples walking dogs will you spot? How many BMWs per block?
  2. You can also use Yonge as a corridor between wider neighbourhoods that are well worth exploring, like Yorkville, Rosedale, Deer Park, or Lawrence Park. In that case, pick a couple of neighbourhoods that are separated by a few km of Yonge, and use the street to walk between them.
  3. There’s much debate about what counts as “downtown”, “mid-town”, and “uptown”. If you want to break down Yonge by those labels, then I’d say downtown is Yonge from Bloor south to the Lake; midtown is Yonge between Bloor and Eg; and uptown is north of Eglinton. Of course, ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different definitions so try exploring what your friends suggest is downtown or midtown or whatever.
  4. Yonge is ever-changing and flows with the seasons, so exploring any part of it will be very different in December versus June.

Walk Journal – Feb 10, 2019

Where: Toronto – Lytton Park, Lawrence Park, Hoggs Hollow, Armour Heights, Upper Avenue

Duration – about 2 hours, about 9 km

Weather – cloudy and dry, about -3C

Today was a get-back-on-the-horse walk. I’ve been out of sorts the past couple of weeks, between lousy weather and demands of work. It’s put my walking out of kilter and as a result I’ve felt cooped up and restless.

Since there is still a fair amount of ice on sidewalks and trails, I decided to get a longish walk in by sticking to main roads. From our place near Avenue Road and Roselawn, I headed north and east through the Lytton Park neighbourhood to pick up Yonge Street at Glengrove. Then it was straight north along Yonge, through Lawrence Park, past Yonge Boulevard, and down into Hoggs Hollow to Wilson Avenue. There I turned west and climbed the Wilson Ave hill to Armour Heights at Avenue Road. Another left and it was south all the way down Avenue Road through Amour Heights and the Upper Ave, back to Roselawn.

North along Yonge – down the hill at Hoggs Hollow

For the most part, it was an easy walk. The sidewalks on the main roads are mostly clear of ice, and the weather wasn’t too bad compared to the past couple of weeks. The hill up Wilson to Armour Heights is not too steep – it’s a steady climb on a moderate slope though it does go on and on.

Looking west up the hill on Wilson to Armour Heights

In the other seasons it’s a more pleasant walk, particularly around Yonge & Wilson. The West Don River flows south-east under Wilson and across the south-west corner of Yonge & Wilson, then under Yonge and into Hoggs Hollow at the site of the historic York Mill, in what today is known as Jolly Miller Park. It’s named after a pub called the Jolly Miller that was a hang-out in my college days, though today it’s been renovated into a much swankier place called the Miller Tavern. There are some lovely trails here and Hoggs Hollow is a bit of a fancy neighbourhood, so house-snooping as you wander the streets is good fun.

In winter, with mounds of grey snow/frozen slush along the streets and park trails closed by ice, the trees bare and the grass brown, with traffic sounds magnified by the lack of vegetation, the area is not at its best. Today it was just hills to climb.

Still, walking up Yonge and down Avenue Road always offers people watching opportunities. I passed a young couple who were so perfectly matched – beautiful faces, slim, petite build, similar features, similar hair – that it made me think, how often do you see couples like that? There’s the old saw about partners growing more alike as they age, but these two were young. Even then, most of us don’t look that much like our partners, and let’s face it, most of us are pretty ordinary. It reminded me of the convention that in a typical couple, one partner has settled up and the other has settled down. You know what I mean – one partner is usually the looker compared to the other. Not these two – they were walking examples of another old saw, that like attracts like. More power to them, whomever they are. It’s pleasing to know that the world has beauty in our collective gene pool.

There is also the retail landscape – having lived near these neighbourhoods for more than 30 years, I’m always watching out for familiar places. There is a grocery store at Yonge & Bedford just north of Lawrence, and it’s been there for decades – it was the nearest one to Glendon College when I was there in the early 1980’s, and it was also open 24 yours a day. I’d often walk over and late-night-shop for cheap eats to eke out my food money. Then there’s Gamberoni’s restaurant on Yonge – I haven’t been there in probably 20 years, but early in our marriage we celebrated birthdays and anniversaries there with close friends over several consecutive years, and seeing it still thriving brought a smile and memories of laughter – cheers Paul. I bet the pasta is still the same.

On Avenue Road in the Amour Heights/Upper Ave neighbourhood it was more of the same – there’s been a lot of change and turnover amongst the old standbys. The old Lobster Trap restaurant is gone now, renovated into a steak place. The old Steak Pit restaurant is gone too, with a condo is going up in its place. But the Copper Chimney is still there where we order our Indian takeaway, and the Safari Bar & Grill where I’ve played many a game of pool with the lads. It’s like finding new clothes in the closet amongst well-worn favourites.

A walk in February reinforces that sense of change – winter is mid-way, soon to surrender to spring. Pristine fresh white snow changes to dirty ice and then to meltwater & slush. Cold grey skies change to sunny blue. And neighbourhoods change as homes are sold and families move. I passed at least a half-dozen real estate open house signs, and a dozen more for-sale signs. February now marks the start of the spring home-sale period, an earlier harbinger than the return of robins or the start of spring training baseball. Just a couple of weeks from now we should get our first spring thaw and a blast of warm air, and that’s always something to look forward to.

Walking is visceral that way – you get a good look at your neighbours and passers-by, at their homes and shops, and at the parks, gardens, and streets of your community. It triggers memories and the free association of ideas, past mingling with present and plans for the future. John Lennon once said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. For me, walking is what happens when living my life.