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Urban gems around Charles Street, for Toronto's curious minds


WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU? This walk includes a 24/7 restaurant + a giant donkey + one postcard from an English village.


On our way to visiting the Gardiner Museum, one of my friends wanted to introduce us to 7 West Café, which I didn't know. It turns out to be unique in Toronto, one of the few restaurants open 24 hours a day, every day of the year!


Here’s a 2.14 km circuit offering many hidden gems around this restaurant. It's the perfect destination after the latest movie at Cineplex Varsity in the Manulife Centre (its entrance being a one-minute walk from the café, on Balmuto Street).


This 30-minute walk is an excellent complement to an outing before or after the visit of the ROM or the Gardiner Museum.


Since my loop also passes right by the ROM and the Gardiner Museum, it is an excellent complement to an outing before or after the visit of any of these museums, to get some fresh air, and to discover the Bay-Cloverhill neighbourhood.


A restaurant in a house

The 7 West Café occupies the three floors of the old Victorian house at 7 Charles Street West. The menu is varied, with decent food and good portions. It was more expensive than I would expect for this kind of pub food, but that's the price to pay for a 24-hour restaurant. Their $13 cocktails are a good deal and on weekdays from 7am to 10am, they offer a breakfast special for $12 (normally listed at $21).


I'll definitely go back to get a piece of their delicious chocolate-banana cake (a big hit with our small group!) with a good coffee.





Discovering the Bay-Cloverhill neighbourhood


At the exit of the restaurant, turn left (west) on Charles Street, then left on St Nicholas Street. The fun begins at one of the last remaining row cottages in Toronto. The ten historic houses date from 1884 and are a fine example of the bay-n-gable style.



Walk to Irwin Avenue. Around the corner, you'll notice Robert Bowers' work. Is it made of metal or wood? Continue to the Bay Street & Irwin intersection to see another work by the same sculptor.



Across Bay Street, at the edge of Clover Hill Park, you’ll see a giant donkey... with both front legs in plaster! This would be Myfanwy MacLeod's representation of a real prematurely born English donkey called Primrose (the cutie can be seen in this clip).


In my village


For a picture-perfect English village scene, continue on the path to the left of the church, then turn around to admire the view.


A bit further into the U of T campus, you will end up in an open space. Look for the two figures in conversation on the lawn, not far from Queens Park Street. They’re from Joe Rosenthal.


From there, walk up the paved road to Burwash Hall, built in 1913 in the spirit of Oxford and Cambridge, in an extravagant Gothic Revival style with turrets and gargoyles. The residences were reserved for male students until 2003 and the place has had its share of toga parties!


From the paved path, we get a great view over the impressive Victoria College Building, built in 1891, an example of Richardsonian Romanesque architectural style.



On Charles Street, turn left to see another iconic residence, Annesley Hall, built in 1903 in the Queen Anne style. To this day, the elegant building accepts only female students. Residences in these two halls cost between $10,000 and $12,000 per year.


A right turn on Queens Park brings you to the Gardiner Museum, where you can still enjoy the unique exhibition of small worlds by Quebec artist Karine Giboulo until May 7, 2023 (free admission on Wednesdays from 4 to 9 pm). The ROM museum is just across the street.


On Charles Street, turn left to see another iconic residence, Annesley Hall, built in 1903 in the Queen Anne style. To this day, the elegant building accepts only female students. Residences in these two halls cost between $10,000 and $12,000 per year.


A right turn on Queens Park brings you to the Gardiner Museum, where you can still enjoy the unique exhibition of small worlds by Quebec artist Karine Giboulo until May 7, 2023 (free admission on Wednesdays from 4 to 9 pm). The ROM museum is just across the street.


On the way back


Continue to Bloor Street West, turn right , then right again onto St. Thomas Street. You will pass the historic Windsor Arms (still serving high tea).


Further along, on your left, look for the unique entrance of the elegant One St Thomas Residence. Follow it to discover its hidden carriage porch and its beautiful fabric drape carved in white marble, the work of Canadian sculptor Carl Taçon. I was not surprised to find out that one unit at this exclusive address was recently listed at $8 million. At the turn, the entrance leads to Charles Street.




Finally, before returning to your starting point, look up at the corner of Bay and Charles to see Colette Whiten and Paul Kipps' nine women climbing an imaginary staircase. The installation is aptly named La Scala (Italian for staircase), after a now disappeared restaurant of the same name at this location, well known to business people with fat expense accounts from the 1960’s to 1993.


Fun fact: No glass ceiling for Colette's women...



This post is a complement to local author Nathalie Prézeau's walking guide: Toronto BEST Urban Strolls. You already own this book? Check Nathalie's WEEKLY WALKS calendar available on her site www.torontourbangems.com/calendar. It's free, easily printable by season, and it includes page references which should help you enjoy urban walks year-round.


Nathalie's guides are available in Toronto’s major bookstores, on torontourbangems.com/shop and amazon.ca or indigo.ca. We also deliver or contact the author directly at nathalie@torontourbangems.com to arrange for a pick up with a discount at 299 Booth Avenue, in Leslieville.



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