Front Street’s ground transportation hub is a worthwhile destination in its own right.
If you’re in the crowd at downtown’s Union Station, you’re probably just passing through. You’re headed out of the city, or else just arriving and keen to speed onward to your destination in town.
It would be forgivable to forget that Union Station can serve as a destination in itself.
But if you have time in your itinerary, remember to pause and explore this National Historic Site.
Union Station’s location & revitalization
Union Station (65 Front St. W.) is located right in the heart of the city, within the Financial District and South Core, on a central stretch of Front Street, and at the bottom of the “loop” of TTC subway Line 1 Yonge-University. Since 1927, it has served as Toronto’s key hub for rail (and some bus) travel—a jumping-off point to go anywhere from the suburbs (via the GO Transit commuter system) to the airport (using the UP Express train) or to other parts of North America (by VIA Rail or Amtrak train).
An ongoing revitalization has added 16,000 sq m (170,000 sq ft) of new space to roam and has brought Union Station’s total up to some 100 shops and places to eat. But what’s more impressive than the quantity is the quality: the refreshed Union offers travel-sized versions of some of the great little spots you’ll find around Toronto.
For the not-hurried traveller, here are five suggestions on how to spend some extra moments at Union Station.
Don’t-miss stop #1: Gawking in the Great Hall
Three hundred thousand people stream through Union Station on an ordinary workday, but how many of them stop to admire the Beaux-Arts architecture? How many look up at the vaulted ceiling with its coffered details? The soft glow of the Missouri Zumbro stone? Plenty, actually, judging by Instagram. But hey, you can too!
Don’t-miss stop #2: Having a bite at the Union Food Court
Among a number of tasty options, we note one at the lighter end of the spectrum, and one at the … opposite: the homegrown Middle Eastern chain Paramount Fine Foods (a pizza-like manakeesh makes a nice lunch to take aboard a train), and Sansotei Ramen, specializing in belly-filling tonkotsu broth with noodles.
Don’t-miss stop #3: Shopping a mini Toronto at the Front Street Promenade
Many of the tiny spots here function as outposts of great Toronto stores and restaurants—a preview of a larger main location somewhere else in the city. For example, you can choose among the crumbly Italian cookies and fluffy pastries at the Biscotteria Forno Cultura, which is a bite-sized version of its bigger sister locations. Or pick up a cocktail book and some tools at Cocktail Emporium, or beautiful Portuguese products from soap to tinned sardines at Saudade—both of which have their original locations in the west end.
Don’t-miss stop #4: Filling up at the York Street Promenade
The three restaurants here are more “full-size” than the food court offerings. Pull up a bench at Wvrst, which sports a long beer list, smooshy-soft pretzels, and interesting sausage varieties (from duck to kangaroo) for a casual catch-up with a friend.
Don’t-miss stop #5: Tapping into culture in the West Wing
Union Station also runs an exciting schedule of arts and cultural events. Sketch the West Wing with free drawing classes taught by OCAD University instructors. Or time your visit to coincide with performances by local dance groups or pop-up shows from the likes of the Canadian Opera Company.
Getting to Union Station:
- Take the TTC Line 1 Yonge-University subway to Union Station
- Or, take the UP Express from Toronto Pearson International Airport