Yorkville was once a well-frayed hippie haven in the ’60s and early ’70s (Joni Mitchell often performed in local coffeehouses). Now the city’s premier upscale shopping neighborhood is a platinum card’s paradise of designer boutiques and blue-chip art galleries. Chase your materialistic visit with a more high-minded trot through the University of Toronto’s leafy coils.
Start at the corner of Yorkville and Hazelton Avenues, where presides the brand-new (1) Hazelton Hotel (118 Yorkville Avenue; www.hazeltonhotel.com), the city’s grandest luxury pile courtesy of local interior design darlings George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg. Walk a few steps north on Hazelton until the (2) Mira Godard Gallery (22 Hazleton Avenue; www.godardgallery.com)—one of Canada’s largest commercial art galleries, home to the work of such foremost Canadian artists as Edward Burtynsky, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Alex Colville. Keep walking straight until Scollard Avenue, a posh lane lined with art galleries: visit the luminous (3) Drabinsky Gallery (122 Scollard Street; www.drabinskygallery.com), which recently hosted the world premiere of Leonard Cohen’s works on paper.
Walk back toward Yorkville Avenue, heading south down Old York Lane: a narrow pathway glutted with fancy boutiques. Check out gemmy boutique (4) Augustina (Five Old York Lane; www.augustinaboutiques.com), a carefully curated jewel-box boutique, abounding with designer cashmere, shoes, and handbags du jour. Keep walking toward Cumberland Avenue, hang a right, then a left at Avenue Road. Walk south until you hit the corner of Bloor Street and Avenue Road. Continue south toward the newly renovated (5) Gardiner Museum (111 Queen’s Park; www.gardinermuseum.on.ca/). Then walk back to Bloor Street, head west, and behold Daniel Libeskind’s provocative new addition to the (6) ROM (100 Queen’s Park; www.rom.on.ca)—a collection of sharp-edged glassy pyramids that looks like the diamond knuckle-duster of a giantess. Tuck into the newly opened restaurant c5—arguably the most glamorous reservation in town—for lunch or a cocktail.
Keep walking west along Bloor Street to the (7) Royal Conservatory of Music (273 Bloor Street) and turn left into (8) Philosopher’s Walk, a picturesque, leafy footpath in the University of Toronto’s downtown campus where scholars read Puffin classics under ancient trees. The hidden byway curls its way past (9) Trinity College’s (Six Hoskin Avenue) stone-and-ivy stateliness. Musicians practicing in the nearby Conservatory and U of T’s Faculty of Music provide a classical soundtrack. Reach Hoskin Avenue and cross the street south, walking along Tower Road toward (10) Hart House (Seven Hart House Circle)—the grand 1919 building is a creaking manse of stained glass, timbered ceilings, and stone corbels; its famous theater has seen performances from (and launched the careers of) such Canadian luminaries as Donald Sutherland, William Hurt, Norman Jewison, and Lorne Michaels. Wander around creaking halls and into (11) The Gallery Grill for a nibble or a tea: The terrifically civilized (and well-hidden) restaurant is located in a clerestory and features vaulted ceilings, hand-painted stained-glass windows, and views into Hart House’s Great Hall. Walk along Hart House Circle past (12) University College—U of T’s architectural centerpiece and among the country’s historic treasures. Loll about on the lawn at (13) King’s Circle.
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