The capital city of the Canadian province of Ontario is the main city of a sprawling metropolis that surrounds the western end of Lake Ontario.
While the Greater Toronto Area has nearly 6.5 million inhabitants, the entire metropolis is home to over 9.2 million people, the largest in Canada.
The city is considered one of the most multicultural cities globally, something emphasized by the fact that over 50% of the city’s population belongs to a visible minority group and over 160 languages are spoken here.
This immensely diverse group of people live in a city full of interesting places to visit for tourists.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most famous buildings in Toronto, structures that you simply have to visit when you make it to the most populous city in Canada.
1. CN Tower
The CN Tower in Toronto isn’t just one of the most famous buildings in Toronto, it’s also one of the most iconic structures that were ever built.
It was named after the railway company that commissioned its construction, “Canadian National,” but the tower has been privatized since 1995. The American Society of Civil Engineers listed it as one of their 7 Wonders of the World in the 1990s.
It’s still the 9th-tallest in the world, a remarkable achievement since it was completed way back in 1976.
Today, it’s one of Toronto’s most popular tourist attractions and offers multiple entertainment options, including an observation deck and an “Edgewalk” for daredevils.
Official website: CN Tower
2. Art Gallery of Ontario
The city of Toronto is home to a large number of art museums, but the one that sticks out in terms of the quality of its collection if you’re into fine art is the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The museum was established in 1900 as the “Art Museum of Toronto” and was renamed in 1966. It has been located in its present location, a complex called “The Grange,” which has been expanded multiple times in its history.
Today, the museum welcomes about a million visitors every year and has over 98,000 items in its collection, ranging from the 1st century to modern times.
It features some of the best works from renowned Canadian and European artists, as well as work from modern and contemporary artists from all around the world, making it a must-visit museum when you’re in the city.
Official website: Art Gallery of Ontario
3. Casa Loma
Right in the heart of Midtown Toronto, we can find one of the most fascinating structures in the city.
Casa Loma, which translates from Spanish to “House on the Hill,” is a Gothic Revival style mansion that was constructed between 1911 and 1914 for a rich Canadian financer named Sir Henry Pellatt (1859-1939).
It’s located on a little hill at an elevation of 140 meters (460 feet) above sea level, making it a prominent landmark in the city.
The building features a distinctive architectural design which has resulted in it being featured in multiple movies, including X-Men (2000) and Chicago (2002), to name just a few.
During the day, this mansion serves its purpose as a historic house museum, and it can be transformed into an event location when the museum closes at night.
Weddings are one of the most popular events held here, and what an amazing location to get married it is, don’t you think?
Official website: Casa Loma
4. Nathan Phillips Square
Nathan Phillips Square is the most famous square in the city of Toronto and is located right in the heart of the city.
It’s the largest urban square in Canada with an area of 4.85 hectares (12.0 acres) and it forms the forecourt to Toronto City Hall, the official seat of the government of the city.
This structure is known as “New City Hall” because the Old City Hall is located on the other side of this fascinating square.
The square was named after the mayor of Toronto Between 1955 and 1962 named Nathan Phillips (1892-1976), a man who was the city’s first Jewish mayor.
It opened in 1965 and has become one of the most popular places in the city. It’s the location of concerts, art exhibitions, and a reflecting pool which is transformed into an ice rink during the cold winter months.
Official website: Nathan Phillips Square
5. Toronto Old City Hall
Just to the southeast of the fascinating modern structure known as the “New City Hall” we can find the Old City Hall, an equally fascinating historic building in the center of the city.
As the name implies, it was the seat of the Council of Toronto between 1899 and the completion of the new building in 1962.
One of the most distinctive features of this fascinating building is the bell tower.
Even though it’s overshadowed by the numerous skyscrapers surrounding it today, it was one of the most imposing landmarks in the city for multiple centuries as it stands 103.64 meters (340.0 feet) tall.
Today, this Romanesque Revival-style building serves as a courthouse and plans are being made to turn it into a museum in the future.
Official website: Old City Hall
6. Gooderham Building
It’s located on the eastern edge of the Financial District and owes its nickname to its remarkable shape. The building transforms the area into a triangular intersection in Downtown Toronto.
It’s a relatively low building with a height of just 16.70 meters (54.8 feet) and just 5 floors. This means that it looks more similar to the Columbus Tower in San Francisco.
The distinctive red-brick building was completed in 1892 and was commissioned by a distiller named George Gooderham Sr. (1830–1905). It was one of the first examples of a flatiron building in the world.
It served as the headquarters of Gooderham’s company until 1952 and has been bought and sold many times since, including for $10.1 million in 2005.
7. Massey Hall
Massey Hall is the most famous concert venue in the city and is located in the Garden District of Downtown Toronto.
It’s another one of the famous historic buildings in Toronto because the venue opened its doors for the first time after the original building was completed in 1894.
Back then, the seating capacity was 3,500 but this has since been reduced to just 2,765 after the completion of a thorough renovation project in the 1940s.
The concert hall was named after Hart Massey, a Canadian businessman who came up with the idea. It features a Neoclassical façade and an overall Palladian architectural design.
The interior of the building was designed in the Moorish Revival style, exemplified by the arches that span the entire concert hall.
8. Cathedral Church of St. James
The Cathedral Church of St. James is an amazing Anglican Gothic Cathedral located on the location of the oldest congregation of Toronto.
This Anglican congregation was originally established in 1797, a time that the city of Toronto was still the town of York. The first church on this location was completed in 1807 and was completely made of wood.
The wooden structure was initially replaced with a Neoclassical building but this church was destroyed in the first Great Fire of Toronto of 1849.
The current design of the church was chosen in an international architectural competition that was won by Frederick William Cumberland and Thomas Ridout.
The church was completed in just 3 years between 1850 and 1853, although this didn’t include the spires yet. These were only added between 1873 and 1874.
Today, the Cathedral Church of St. James is one of the most famous buildings in Toronto and one of the most remarkable Gothic Revival structures in the country.
9. First Canadian Place
First Canadian Place is not only one of the most famous skyscrapers in Toronto, it’s also the tallest skyscraper in Canada.
The tower stands 298 meters (978 feet) tall, a height that also makes it one of the tallest skyscrapers in North America.
The building is located in the Financial District of the city on the corner of King and Bay streets and serves as the global operational headquarters of the Bank of Montreal.
The building features 72 floors and has been dominating the skyline of Toronto since its completion in 1975. Back then, it was the 6th-tallest building in the world but has since been knocked out of the top 100 in this list.
10. Toronto Union Station
Union Station in Toronto is the main train station in the city and is located on Front Street West, between York and Bay Streets, in Downtown Toronto.
The original building on this location was completed in 1927 and has been rebuilt in the 1970s and again recently between 2009 and 2021.
With a length of 221 meters (752 feet), it’s an incredibly long building as well. It features an amazing Beaux-Arts design and is described as being the “finest example of Beaux-Arts railway station design in Canada.”
It’s also a very busy station, accommodating approximately 72 million passengers every year. This makes it the second-busiest train station in North America after New York’s Penn Station.