Toronto is full of eye-catching architecture and public art, some more public than others, (we see you TORONTO sign!) and chasing down both the iconic shots and quirky hidden gems can be a fun way to sightsee. So bring some purpose to your wanderings and see how many of these you can snap.
Some would say it’s harder not to have the CN Tower in every photo you take--you’ll swear it follows you around--but getting it framed dramatically between buildings or reflected in a glass high rise is the money shot.
Stumbling across bronze cows lounging in the grass in the heart of the Financial District is fun enough but seeing all the office workers eating lunch with them is even better. Find sculptor Joe Fafard’s “The Pasture” in the courtyard of the TD Centre at King & Bay. The Mies Van der Rohe buildings that surround it are photo-worthy too. Bonus points if you get the CN Tower and Canadian flag in the shot too.
Speaking of cows, the twisty gates in the fence that surrounds the spacious grounds of the historic building that’s part courthouse and part home to the Law Society of Ontario, were originally designed to prevent the cows that used to roam these parts from getting into the grounds. Some would joke that they keep the less skilled lawyers from getting out too. Find Osgoode and its gates at Queen & University.
Right next door to Osgoode is City Hall, a mid-century modern gem designed by Finnish architect Viljo Revell and opened in 1965. Front and centre in Nathan Philip Square is a relatively new addition, the TORONTO sign. Installed when the city hosted the Pan Am Games in 2015, it was such a hit, we decided to keep it. The original 3D illuminated sign has gone through changes and now includes an Indigenous medicine wheel and a maple leaf and continues to draw admirers and selfie-takers in droves.
Next door to City Hall is the city’s premier shopping destination, the Eaton Centre. The soaring glass atrium is photo-worthy in and of itself, but as you near the south end of the expansive mall you’ll find artist Michael Snow’s “Flight Stop,” a striking (and very Canadian) installation which depicts a flock of Canada geese in flight.
Michael Snow is also responsible for "The Audience" sculptures at the Rogers Centre (still affectionately known as the SkyDome to some vintage Torontonians) the home of the Blue Jays baseball team. The pieces, on the northeast and northwest corners of the building at Front & Blue Jays Way (next door to the CN Tower), depict larger-than-life enthusiastic fans which seem to burst out of the building.
Another atrium of note is a few blocks south of the Eaton Centre in the heart of the financial district in Brookfield Place. Designed by Spanish architect Calatrava the soaring steel supports are reminiscent of a forest canopy. The stunning light-filled space is often home to photo exhibitions and special art installations. Around Christmas time the atrium gets an extra boost of sparkle.
Brookfield Place is also home to the Hockey Hall of Fame, and just outside on the southeast corner is a sculptural tribute to the most Canadian of sports, "Our Game," that hockey fans will want to catch a selfie with.
A short block east, overlooking Berczy Park, is the wedge-shaped Gooderham Building AKA, the Flatiron Building. The striking “trompe-l’oeil” mural on the back of the building is a must-shoot as well as the whimsical dog fountain in the middle of the park. And for the best shot of the Flatiron, stand on the boulevard opposite and face west to get the contrast of old and new.
It's pretty hard to miss the giant red canoe looming over Spadina and Lakeshore Boulevard. Named after the Group of Seven artist, "Tom Thomson’s Canoe" (often simply called the Red Canoe) is the work of artist and author, Douglas Coupland. Landlocked in the middle of an 8-acre urban park, the canoe is big enough for people to stand in and is well worth a visit for art enthusiasts.
Deep in the heart of hipsterville--Queen St., West of Spadina--is a three-block long mecca for Snapchatters. Officially named Rush Lane, Graffiti Alley has evolved over the years to become a canvas for a variety of street artists and muralists.