Toronto is home to a number of hidden parks and courtyards that offer an undisturbed escape from highly developed city streets. These are great places for secluded lunch picnics or just stealing away a bit of serenity in the midst of the bustling metropolis.
Here are my picks for the top hidden parks and gardens in Toronto.
Eerie but beautiful, this lakeside park finally reopened last summer after four years of being fenced off. Tucked at the foot of Bathurst, it’s haunted by a collection of age-bitten sculptures that commemorate the 38,000 Irish famine victims who arrived here in the late 1800s, making it a spooky place to disappear for a few hours.
Just north of Bayview and Bloor is Craigleigh Gardens Park, a gem that’s often overlooked due to its proximity to the Brick Works (it’s only a kilometre away). A gothic-style entrance gives the park an air of secrecy, and once you’re inside there aren’t usually many people around, so the place feels all your own.
Across the street from St. James Cathedral and wedged between La Marquette restaurant and Aveda Institute Toronto, this tiny park (seriously, it’s only 25 by 30 metres) is a hidden outdoor showcase for some pretty fascinating artwork. The exhibits change over time, so every time you stop in, it’s a totally different vibe.
There’s an unexpected pocket of nature behind City Hall. Secluded in the middle of our concrete downtown core, the former parking lot is now a blooming community garden that symbolizes and promotes diversity. It’s a quiet and convenient oasis to escape to, and it’s never too crowded, save for the odd politician on their lunch break.
You might call this one hidden in plain sight given it’s location at Queen and York streets, but thanks to the tall trees and foreboding steel fence, this idyllic downtown space is often the picture of tranquility while the city bustles away in the background. It’s a great place for an outdoor lunch if you’re in the Financial District.
Lead photo by mooncall2012. With files from Amanda Storey.