4 Best Sights in Queen's Park, Toronto

Hart House

Queen's Park

Looking for all the world like a setting from one of the Harry Potter novels, this neo-Gothic student center opened its doors in 1919. Originally restricted to male students, Hart House has been open to women since 1972. Keep your eyes peeled for the nearly 200 pieces of artwork scattered throughout the building, including a revolving collection of works by famed Canadian artists like the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. Each year, new pieces are carefully curated by committee, with a focus on living Canadian artists, particularly those of First Nations and culturally diverse backgrounds. The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery comprises two rooms of mixed-media art showcasing both student talent and traveling exhibitions. The stained-glass windows and vaulted ceiling in the Great Hall are impressive, but so is the cuisine at the on-site Gallery Grill, which offers a menu of grilled seafood, house-made pastas, and creative veggie options from September through June.

Lillian H. Smith Branch of the Toronto Public Library

Queen's Park

Honoring the memory of the city's first children's librarian, this branch houses the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books, which contains over 80,000 items ranging from the 14th century to the present. In addition, the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy includes another 80,000-plus items covering everything from parapsychology to UFOs.

Ontario Legislative Building

Queen's Park

This 1893 Romanesque revival building is often referred to simply as "Queen's Park," after the surrounding grounds. The detail-rich exterior is made of pink Ontario sandstone; inside, the huge, lovely halls echo half a millennium of English architecture. The long hallways are hung with hundreds of oils by Canadian artists, and a permanent space is devoted to rotating works by Indigenous artists. Take a 30-minute-long tour from the lobby (advance registration required) to see the chamber where the 124 MPPs, or members of provincial parliament, meet. It is also possible to watch parliament in session from the public gallery. Statues dot the lawn in front of the building, including one of Queen Victoria and one of Canada's first prime ministers, Sir John A. Macdonald.

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University of Toronto

Queen's Park

Almost a city unto itself, the University of Toronto's student and staff population numbers well over 100,000. The institution dates to 1827, when King George IV signed a charter for a "King's College in the Town of York, Capital of Upper Canada." The Church of England had control then, but by 1850 the college was proclaimed nondenominational, renamed the University of Toronto, and put under the control of the province. Then, in a spirit of Christian competition, the Anglicans started Trinity College, the Methodists began Victoria, and the Roman Catholics began St. Michael's; by the time the Presbyterians founded Knox College, the University was changing at a great rate. Now the 12 schools and faculties are united and accept students from all over the world. The architecture is interesting, if uneven, as one might expect on a campus that's been built in bits and pieces over 150 years.