Yorkville is a neighbourhood of influence, high fashion, glitz, and glamour and is certainly one of the must-visits when planning your visit to Toronto. From boutique shops to luxury brands, fine dining to cute cafes, and new architecture blended with the Victorian, there’s so much to explore.
Stay awhile with your visit to Yorkville by grabbing a meal, taking a walking tour, and perhaps pampering yourself in a 5-star hotel. Hey you never know, you might even spot a celebrity or two.
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The History of Yorkville
It’s hard to believe but Yorkville started off as an independent village and was officially named Yorkville Bloor. In an age of horse-drawn carriages, this part of Toronto was considered to be in the fringes of the city. While most of the commerce happened closer to the waterfront in the 1800’s, influential citizens opted to live in their Victorian homes “uptown” and soon a new form of transit was formed with carriages to allow for commuting into the city.
The historic village has certainly evolved over the past few century and continues to do so. As you walk through the neighbourhood, you’ll start noticing the fascinating juxtaposition of the old with the new.
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Must Visit Places in Yorkville
On The Town Tours does an excellent walking tour and I highly recommend it as you’re able to learn so much more than what’s on the surface. Jane is an expert in architecture and can tell you the firm involved in each project and the stories behind all of the significant buildings.
Here are the main sights that you’ll want to pay attention to as you walk through that give you a glimpse into what is Yorkville’s past, present, and future.
The Village of Yorkville Park
Originally a parking lot, this is now an urban park that was designed to reflect the Canadian landscape coast to coast. That explains why there’s such an eclectic mix of conifers, deciduous trees, marsh lands, giant rock boulders, strings of water, and prairie fields.
Million dollar homes are featured here and is a fun street to walk through if not just to peek into the different homes here that are modernized versions of the Victorian houses that once stood here.
Inspired by Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Paris and designed by Gerald Robinson, this is a perfect example of one of the first mixed-use building in Toronto. This tower represented a new type of architecture in the city at the time where post-war downtown development only consisted of single-use towers that were abandoned at night. Head to 131 Bloor Street West to take a look around.
The Helconian Club
In the carpenter gothic revival style, this is home to the Helconian Club which supports women in the arts and is also a great music venue and art gallery. Built in 1875, it was originally opened as the Olivet Congregational Church.
Hidden behind Hazelton are the Mira Godard Gallery and Ingram Gallery and if you take a secret small alleyway between James Perse and Mira Godard Gallery, you’ll discover a number of metal sculptures on display that normal passerby’s won’t be able to see. The path leads into the Yorkville Village mall.
The Oldest Library
This is Toronto Public Library’s oldest library. It dates back to June of 1907 when it was then the northern end of Toronto. It was made possible thanks to a $350,000 grant made by Andrew Carnegie. It features a pair of columns and
The Four Seasons
An impressive hotel and luxury condominium rental that features a stunning lobby, award-worthy restaurant in Café Boulud, and one of the few 5-star spas in the city.
The Impressive Sassafraz
Newly re-opened in 2018, this Yorkville institution received a complete SoHo-inspired facelift to bring back to life. Located at the intersection of Cumberland and Bellair Streets, Sassafraz has been a mainstay in Yorkville for 20 years and features the creations of executive Chef Geoff Webb.
The reinvention of restaurant allowed Chef Geoff to fully overhaul the menu with a few favourites coming back. With a focus on healthier options, what’s impressive is that all dishes are created using local fresh ingredients where possible. When it comes to things like butters and oils, care is taken to make sure the health conscious decision is made which you don’t hear too much from top tier restaurants.
I want you to feel good after you eat here. – Chef Geoff
Sassafraz is a restaurant where you leave it feeling great about the food you just ate and not overly bloated. It’s the right amount of amazing.
Chef Profile: Geoff Webb
It’s rare in this industry but Geoff started as a cook and apprentice 13 years ago. Through that time he learned under the chefs and sous chefs above him until he was offered the opportunity to become the executive chef at Sassafraz. He’s been in this role for 6 years. His passion is to delight guests with his personal stamp on creativity, plating, and focus on local ingredients and that is what’s translated into the incredible fusion of cuisines on the menu.
Here’s a sample of the food that you can look forward to whether you’re coming here for lunch or dinner. It pairs well with the walking tour as it’s smack in the middle of Yorkville.
Appetizer – Tuna & shrimp cerviche
My favourite item on the menu. Not overpoweringly sour, and is delicately balanced with the coconut sauce, crispy plantains, and corn nuts.
Salad – Warm maitake mushroom salad
A unique take on salad that’s refreshingly light and earthy with the intertwined mushrooms.
Main – Cape D’or salmon
Topped with chilled soba noodle, ginger ponzu dressing, and pickled enoki, the salmon was incredibly fresh and tender.
Main – Fogo Island cod n chips
Straight from the famed island in Newfoundland, these were crisped to perfection.
Drink – Kale, apple, and passionfruit juice
Freshly made, refreshing, and very healthy.
Dessert – Caramelized banana
Deceptively simple but the combination of the banana, pastry triangle crisps, coconut cream, pineapple, and home-made passion fruit sorbet is simply divine.
On The Town Tours
From private tours to large groups, On The Town Tours offers walking and driving tours of Toronto to give visitors a close look at the city’s history, culture, architecture, and vibrant neighbourhoods. Founder, Jane, is extremely knowledgeable and it’s her knowledge, enthusiasm, and personal attention that makes these tours truly memorable.
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