St. Lawrence Market


The St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood, best-known for the world-famous food market located in its midst, is one of Toronto’s most historic areas. Located in the heart of downtown — bordered by Yonge Street and steps from the financial district on Bay Street — the area combines its history with convenience, artistic flair and upscale living. The St. Lawrence area is bordered roughly by Yonge Street on the west, King Street on the north, Parliament Street on the east and Front Street on the south.

The original town of York, the predecessor to Toronto, was located in the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood was also home to the first parliament of Upper Canada, built in 1793 at the corner of Parliament and Front Streets. The site was actually lost until it was accidentally excavated during construction on the site in 2000.

Toronto’s first city hall was built on the south-west corner of King and Jarvis Streets in 1834 — when the city of Toronto officially came into being — and functioned as the civic heart of the city until 1844. The original building burnt down in 1849 and was replaced with what is today the St. Lawrence Hall — a national historic site, the building hosted speeches by John A. Macdonald and George Brown, was the home of the National Ballet of Canada and continues to host weddings and conferences — and the north building of the St. Lawrence Market, which hosts farmers’ markets on Saturdays.

The City Hall was rebuilt one block south at Front and Jarvis, opening in 1845. Today only the original council chamber remains intact, while the structure became the south building of the St. Lawrence Market. The market – which originally began as a Saturday farmer’s market in 1803 and was named the world’s best food market by National Geographic in 2012 — is a must-visit destination for thousands of Torontonians looking for an extraordinarily wide range of fresh and sometimes exotic meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, baked goods, or just a good place for lunch.

The St. Lawrence neighbourhood is also home to the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. Over the years, since its opening in 1960, the centre has hosted performers such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Ross, Anne Murray, Tom Jones, Danny Kaye, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis, Jr., Bill Cosby, Jack Benny, Liza Minnelli and Liberace. It was the long-time home of the Canadian Opera Company and has also been the venue of choice for many of the world’s great ballet companies. It was, in fact, from the Centre that Mikhail Baryshnikov defected in 1974. The St. Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts is next door to the Sony Centre, and still hosts many acclaimed musical and theatrical performances.

The area is also home to some of the city’s most unusual architecture, especially the Flatiron Building at Wellington and Front. Built in 1892, the building’s wedge shape was, at the time, completely unique. It was subsequently used as the inspiration for building designs throughout North America. The neighbourhood also contains such notable buildings as St. James’ Cathedral, St. Michael’s Cathedral, St. Paul’s Basilica, the Enoch Turner School House, the Bank of Upper Canada and the renowned King Edward Hotel, affectionately known as the King Eddie.

The main campus of George Brown College is also in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood. The college is renowned for its various programs, especially its nursing and cooking programs. The results of the cooking program are available at George Brown for local residents to sample.

History and Social Profile

Apart from its history as the seat of Toronto government, the St. Lawrence neighbourhood was also once the home of much of the city’s shipping and rail activity. With the waterfront artificially built up through infill of dirt, the harbour — combined with rail lines running through the area — turned into the centre of commercial activity in the city of Toronto.

But by the 1960s, the area had fallen into disuse, as industrial buildings were increasingly abandoned and shipping and rail usage declined sharply. David Crombie, the mayor of Toronto in the 1970s, masterminded a plan to turn the area into a new residential neighbourhood, one that that made a point of mixed usage, with commercial and residential development existing in a cohesive neighbourhood. Since then, the area has continued to develop, with warehouses and old businesses being turned into condos and lofts. There are ongoing plans for more residential developments, as the neighbourhood has become more and more desirable for those looking for a part of Toronto with both history and a self-contained neighbourhood feel.

Acclaimed Restaurants/Cafés

  • C’est What
  • Jamie Kennedy Kitchens
  • Biagio
  • Bombay Palace
  • Le Petit Dejeuner
  • Tom Jones Steakhouse

Public Transportation

  • Subway stops at King St. and Union Station are both only blocks away from the St. Lawrence Market
  • King Streetcar. The 504 King car runs all the way through the St. Lawrence Market area
  • Parliament 65A bus. Leaves from Castle Frank station on the Bloor line, and runs up and down Parliament St. on the eastern edge of the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood.
  • Sherbourne 75 bus. Leaves from Sherbourne station on the Bloor line, runs up and down Sherbourne St., including through the Market neighbourhood.

Public Schools

  • Downtown Alternative School, 85 Lower Jarvis Street, 416-393-1882
  • Market Lane Junior and Senior Public School, 246 Esplanade, 416-393-1300
  • Jarvis Collegiate Institute, 495 Jarvis Street, 416-393-0140