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Toronto’s Downtown Core is where the city's inhabitants gather to perform their daily rituals. Whether that’s hustling to work in the city’s Financial District, going shopping or entertainment-seeking at the ever-expanding Yonge-Dundas Square, or meeting a friend at City Hall before dinner, the Downtown Core is an eventful neighbourhood bursting with opportunity.
Located entirely within the historic district of Old Toronto, The Core makes up a geographically small, yet highly dense and vertical part of the city. This area has been built and rebuilt repeatedly, and its buildings contribute greatly to Toronto’s skyline spectacle. You’re likely to spot historical plaques and preserved buildings all over this area, hiding in plain sight.
Anyone seeking housing in the Downtown Core will be shown dozens of options in both Victorian-townhouses and skyrise-condos. Some of the tallest buildings in Toronto line this part of the city, and that number is growing as new projects are completed each and every year.
Meanwhile, commercial and entertainment venues line the roads, serving these bustling and vibrant communities.
Who lives in The Core?
The Core has a diverse range of residents from young and established professionals, to students and seniors. The concentration of employment, education, entertainment and housing options makes the Downtown Core a desirable abode for anyone seeking the convenience of the country's grandest metropolis.
The following data was obtained from the 2016 Bay Street Corridor and Church-Yonge Corridor neighbourhood census profiles, and the City of Toronto Ward 27 profile. Average prices are determined by the realestatecondos.ca listings.
Population growth: 19.8%
Rent/Own: 63% / 37%
Median Age: 35
Average household income: 145,614
Average condo sale price: $1,094,330.4
Average condo rent price: $3,429.63
Average family size: 2
Population density: 18,571 people per square km
The Core benefits from a swarm of subway stops that help residents and visitors get around quickly. The bus is rarely the best option in this area, since traffic is thick, and Line 1 will get you anywhere on Yonge, University or Spadina streets post-haste.
Because the Downtown Core has the convenience of over 10 subway stops and three separate streetcars running east/west at Dundas, Queen and King streets, Walk and Transit Scores come in between 98/100 and 100/100 for all parts of The Core.
In addition to the intra-city travel options, residents in The Core have imminent access to the Toronto Coach Terminal at Dundas and Bay streets, which lets you catch the Greyhound to your next city escape in a hurry. Altneratively, Union Station, the central hub of Toronto travel, is also nearby, so you can catch the UP Express or Go Train without difficulty.
If you own a car, you'll be able to get onto the Gardiner Express quickly, though long weekends and rush hour are greatly slowed by traffic. The greater challenge is likely to be finding a parking spot.
The Core amenities
Big-brand corporations know that folks can head to the Downtown Core to accomplish anything, and often, you’ll see oodles of commercial and promotional offerings catering to the popularity of the area, especially at its epicentre, Yonge-Dundas Square.
Downtown Toronto is, of course, a tourist attraction that encompasses the Entertainment and governmental districts. There is no way we can list all the amazing things to do in Toronto’s Core, but some of the most famous and popular options (out of thousands) are listed below.
The Core is saturated with shopping options, and when you combine the retail choices on the main streets with the behemoth that is the Eaton Centre, you’re able to find anything you could want or need in this area; both in style, and in stock.
Up and down Yonge Street, south of College, you’ll start seeing flagship stores from all the famous brands, plus any local strongholds that can afford the increasing rent on this strip.
As you pass the Eaton Centre (if you can pass the Eaton Centre without going in), you’ll see the downtown locations of Jordan Brand, Forever 21, adidas, H&M, Roots Canada, Urban Outfitters, Uniqlo, Nordstrom, Club Monaco, Saks Fifth Avenue and Hudson’s Bay Company.
Make a right on Queen West and you’ll be headed towards even more shops from both local designers and big-name retailers once you pass University.
Well-known restaurants and cafes
There are a zillion restaurants and cafes catering to the business and student crowd who seek out food and happy hour in droves after work or midterms.
There is a small Chinatown for quick, affordable, innovative eats around Dundas West and Elizabeth Street, plus a smorgasbord of big and local fast food chains taking over space wherever they can.
Apart from the regular chain-restos, these are some of the must-eats, listed in no particular order, you'll find around The Core.
The Carbon Bar
Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
Sud Forno (Yonge)
The Senator Diner & Winebar
Brownstone Bistro and Bar
Fran’s Restaurant and Bar
North of Brooklyn Pizzeria (Church)
Hair of the Dog Pub
Banh Mi Boys
Kinka Izakaya (Church)
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Head to the area and you'll see just how many lifetimes it would take you to try them all.
The Downtown Core is Toronto’s main entertainment destination. It’s also a popular tourist spot, playing host to a number of luxury hotels. There are some secrets of downtown you’ll have to discover yourself, but below we’ll describe some of the most popular hotspots.
Yonge-Dundas Square contains a large plaza featuring a Cineplex Cinema on its northern end, a free concert venue on its south-east corner that maintains a schedule all summer, and a swath of street buskers carving out a little part of the sidewalk wherever they can to perform for passers-by.
Toronto’s Core is where you’ll go to watch a concert, play, or musical at venues like the Phoenix Concert Theatre, The Elgin, Massey Hall, Ed Mirvish Theatre, or Roy Thomson Hall.
It’s where you’ll find Toronto’s City Hall for ice-skating in the winter or an ice cream in the summer. It’s where everyone descends for overnight artwork during Nuit Blanche in the fall.
It has the waterfront at its southern border, and the Art Gallery of Ontario at its west. Major city venues such as Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) and the Rogers Centre are not far strolls either!
Schools in The Core
The Core wouldn’t be The Core without its Ryerson University Campus. It completely surrounds one of the busiest intersections in all of Toronto: Yonge and Dundas.
The University of Toronto and Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) students need just a short commute west by foot, bike, or streetcar to reach their classes. Toronto Film School also has its Dundas campus here.
For the younger ones living downtown, there is Church Street Junior Public School, Contact Alternative, Jarvis Collegiate and Le Collège Français.
Parks in The Core
Though the Downtown Core is a dense, urban portion of Toronto, there are great opportunities to take a natural reprieve and soak up some scenery right in the heart of downtown.
Queen’s Park is an urban retreat, fit for royalty, in the middle of the city.
Surrounded by the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus, another area of preserved and historic greenspace, University and Queen’s Park avenues are green destinations you can spend hours exploring (none of the students or politicians will mind).
Another historic park in The Core comes by way of Allan Gardens. Here you’ll find a pristine conservatory on the western edge of the park, complete with six greenhouses full of tropical plants, botanical gardens, and an indoor waterfall. With seasonal events and free admission any day of the year, Allan Gardens is a classic Toronto destination for nature lovers in the heart of our urban expanse.