King West: A Profile of Toronto Neighborhoods [2021]

 

Overview: a comprehensive guide to King West and Toronto’s Entertainment District—updated for 2021.

King West: Then

Named after George the 3rd, King St was one of first roads to be laid in 1793 when Toronto was still called York.

It soon became Toronto’s primary commercial thoroughfare, only to be destroyed and rebuilt following the Great Fire of 1849.

Historic Westinghouse Building in King West.

King West was once full of factories like the historic Westinghouse Building (Jim Cagney, Flickr).

The neighbourhood remained an industrial area for the next 100 years, but that began to change in the 1970s.

As manufacturing businesses left, the former Garment District refashioned itself into a tourism and entertainment hot-spot.

Upper portion of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.

For example: 1976 saw the completion of the CN Tower, which brought visitors from all over the world (Pixabay).

In 1982 Roy Thompson Hall was built, offering classical music to the masses.

But the biggest influence was the arrival of nightclubs in the 1980s, which attracted a younger crowd to King West.

Vacant warehouses were repurposed into dance clubs, while a host of bars and restaurants sprang up to serve them.

disco ball bright lights

By the mid-90s, King West had one of the highest concentrations of nightclubs in North America.

Several prominent theatres, such as the Princess of Wales, were also established in the 90s.

In 1998, Canada’s Walk of Fame was created to show off our home-grown talent.

Music, movies, theatres and nightlife—King West had transformed from The Garment District into Toronto’s Entertainment District.

King West: Now

View of King West Toronto from rooftop of building.

The 2000s marked another big shift for King West: from commercial area to residential neighbourhood (Flickr).

The cause? A real estate boom.

Abandoned warehouses were either turned into industrial-chic lofts or torn down and replaced with condos.

Amazingly, the Entertainment District only had 750 residents in 1996, shooting up to 7,500 a decade later.

Today, its population stands at 30,000 and growing.

People getting on red streetcar on King St W, Toronto.

The transformation of King West into a residential neighbourhood has only sped up with time (wyliepoon, Flickr).

It’s currently home to several hotel and condo developments.

For example: PlazaCorp, Great Gulf, Pemberton and Empire are just some of the developers with projects in the works.

The neighborhood is also catering to a new crowd: young professionals.

As a result of this shift, King West is seeing a surge of trendy restaurants, nightclubs, art galleries and independent retailers.

Best Shopping Destinations in King West

As part of Toronto’s Fashion District, it’s no surprise that King West is full of amazing shops.

Here are some of the best:

First Canadian Place (100 King St W)

Exterior First Canadian Place skyscraper with new cladding.

This landmark skyscraper flaunts a shopping mall with over 120 stores, 6 restaurants and a medical centre (haljackey, Flickr).

Big-name brands include Aldo, Deceim, Harry Rosen, New Balance, Baby Gap, Swarovski and many more.

Maska (100 King St W)

Store display with mannequins on King West with female fashions.

Maska specializes in luxury designer-wear for women—with a twist (Pixabay).

All their items are imported directly from Italy, including dresses, skirts, blouses, coats, jackets, shoes, handbags and scarves.

Davido Afnani (766 King St W)

Male mannequins in fancy suits on King West.

This high-end luxury boutique caters exclusively to men (Pixabay).

According to blogTO, “David Afnani specializes in chic, luxury fashion for men….it’s all about men. Men’s fragrances. Bags. Clothes.”

Patagonia (500 King St W)

blue and black Patagonia store sign.

Patagonia sells rugged outdoor clothing and gear for men, women and children (Dave Dugdale, Flickr).

Their product line includes everything from jeans and hoodies to fishing gear, snowboarding apparel and camping equipment.

Cynthia Findlay (284 King St W)

antique pocket watch silver 1

Want to get your hands on some 19th-century jewelry? (Pixabay)

You’ll find it at Cynthia’s, along with vintage furniture, silverware, mirrors, vases, sculptures, picture frames and so much more!

Best Services in King West

King West also has a wealth of services to help you feel fresh, fit and happy.

Here are some of our favourites:

John Steinberg & Associates (585 King St W)

Brick exterior of John Steinberg & Associates hair salon on King West, Toronto.

Need a trim? Head over to Steinberg’s for a haircut and some highlights.

Founded by celebrity stylist John Steinberg, the salon has been around since 1991 and has tons of 5-star Google Reviews.

Hammam Spa (602 King St W)

king west toronto hammam spa white sign brick exterior.

Time for a manicure, wax or facial?

Hammam Spa offers all that, plus hair cleanses, algae wraps, massage therapy, sunless tanning, clay wraps and Turkish baths.

Pure + simple (725 King St W)

Pink blue pure + simple spa sign window posters King St W.

Pure + simple was voted Toronto’s #1 Facial Spa.

Besides getting a peel or facial, you can also buy skin, hair and body care products from top brands.

6City Barbershop (842 King St W)

Close up of electric razor and brush in King West barbershop.

For men’s grooming products and services, check out 6City Barbershop (Pixabay).

blogTO reports: They do haircuts, beard work, custom hair designs and even kid cuts.

Totum (445 King St W)

Gym with empty treadmills and TV screens.

The 15,000 sq. ft. facility offers cutting-edge equipment and classes in Yoga, Spin and Pilates (Pixabay).

But what makes it different are unique programs like rhythm boxing, Muay Thai and strength healing.

Best Restaurants in King West

Few Toronto neighbourhoods serve up better food and drinks than King West.

Here are some of the best:

Buca (604 King St W)

Patio with chairs and tables outside Buca restaurant in King Street West, Toronto.

This Italian restaurant consistently ranks among Canada’s top restaurants.

Toronto.com says of Buca:

Guests are drawn to return time and again for the warm hospitality and artisanal fare, including famed house-cured meats, pizza and pasta, inspired by the classic traditions of Italy with a contemporary culinary touch.

Añejo (600 King St W)

Tacos on white plate in King West Mexican restaurant.

Añejo currently ranks second on Open Table’s “King West Diners’ Choice Winners” (Pixabay).

TasteToronto describes the Mexican eatery as:

In line with true King West fashion, the space is grandiose — with a large dining area, communal tables and an impressive bar…

The Keg Steakhouse + Bar (560 King St W)

Large black and white sign for The Keg Steakhouse + Bar.

Based on customer reviews, The Keg ranks #1 on Open Table’s list of best King West restaurants.

The Canadian restaurant chain is famous for its succulent steak, delicious appetizers, upscale bar, and family-friendly atmosphere.

Patria (478 King St W)

Paella in brown bowl with rice.

Patria (a Spanish eatery) takes top spot on TorontoLife’s best international brunch spots (Pixabay).

Here’s one critic’s review:

Patria attempts (and succeeds) to offer the most authentic Spanish cuisine by importing a majority of products from the motherland itself. Their dishes are both tasty and presented beautifully upon arrival.

Ascari (620 King St W)

Ascari restaurant with huge glass windows.

Named after a famous Italian racecar driver, Ascari’s menu includes pasta, grilled octopus and sea bass fillet.

USA Today places Ascari on its list of 10 Best Italian Restaurants in Toronto, stating:

Flawless food in reasonable portions; this is a neighborhood restaurant that shines.

The Burger’s Priest (579 King St W)

The Burger's Priest restaurant yellow sign on King St West.

For something more down-to-earth (yet still heavenly), there’s the Burger’s Priest.

According to its website, the classic cheeseburger joint believes in fresh ingredients, purity and simplicity.

The Parlour (642 King St W)

Chalkboard sign and address for The Parlour restaurant on 642 King West.

Besides melt-in-your-mouth pizza and an all-season patio, The Parlour also has a hidden beauty studio.

Narcity declares:

The hidden beauty parlour is definitely one of the defining features of the restaurant. Located through a velvet curtain, the glamorous powder room will make you feel like a movie star rushing off for touch-ups.

LOV (620 King St. W)

Vegetable skewer with paprika, tomatoes and other vegetable – King West vegan restaurant.

LOV—a vegan joint—ranks 6th on Open Table’s list of top King West restaurants (Pixabay).

According to SavvyMom.ca:

With a focus on “Local Organic Vegan,” menus cover a range of popular dishes from around the world. Comfort classics like burgers, dumplings and kimchi fries star alongside feel-good fuel including coconut curry and poke bowls.

DASHA (620 King St W)

Chinese noodles with red pepper in white bowl.

DASHA comes in at #4 on Open Table’s King West Diners’ Choice Winners (Pixabay).

blogTO sums it up nicely:

Dasha is a Chinese restaurant on King West offering contemporary takes on Asian cuisine and second-floor karaoke.

The Kitchen Table (705 King St W)

Exterior of The kitchen Table grocery store and flower pots outside King St W Toronto.

Prefer a home-cooked meal? The Kitchen Table has all the ingredients you need.

With a never-ending focus on freshness, The Kitchen Table sells fruits, vegetables and meats from all over the world.

Best Cafes & Dessert Shops In King West

Need your daily dose of caffeine? King West has so many great options.

Here are some of the most popular:

Jimmy’s Coffee (107 Portland St)

Jimmy's Coffee sign next to Sara's Restaurant in Toronto.

Jimmy’s is right next door to Sara’s, an Asian eatery that made TorontoLife’s best restaurant list.

blogTO describes Jimmy’s Coffee as a “refreshing hideaway from the more trendy joints found on King West.”

Oretta Caffé (633 King St W)

Black coffee mug in foreground and man with laptop in background.

Oretta is #1 on DreamCityLiving’s list of 10 Coolest Coffee Shops In King West (Pixabay).

The website declares:

Not only is its airy space with soaring high ceilings an ideal spot to pull out your laptop and work in, it also serves up a mean Italian-style espresso, baked goods, pizzette, and focaccia…

Thor Espresso (180 John St)

Sign for Thor Espresso on King West Toronto.

This indie coffee shop is famous for its silky-smooth lattes, organic desserts and baked goods.

In addition to making coffee, Thor Espresso also sells coffee blends from around the world, including Costa Rica, Columbia and Tanzania.

Quantum Coffee (460 King St W)

Quantum Coffee window sign on 460 King West, Toronto.

Quantum commands a stellar view of the CN Tower and Rogers Centre (GoToVan, Flickr).

According to Daily Hive:

…Quantum offers a curated selection of single-origin beans from some of the most renowned coffee makers around the world; think carefully crafted lattes, flaky pastries, and crumbly scones.

Maman (100 King St W)

French cafe with large wood table and croissant on white plate.

Maman is a sweet little cafe with a French influence (Pixabay).

TasteToronto places Maman 9th on its list of 20 Cutest Cafes in Toronto, saying:

The Parisian themed spot features large wooden tables, plants hanging from the ceiling and pastries lining the counters. It transports guests into a state of perpetual calm – all while enjoying a hot cup of joe.

Brioche Doree (648 King St W)

Brioche Doree cafe king st w toronto exterior.

In the mood for dessert?

Brioche Doree specializes in European pastries, such as almond croissants, lemon tartlets, chocolate eclairs, flans and macaroons.

SOMA Chocolate (443 King St W)

Chocolate cupcakes with white powder.

Sweet-tooth still not satisfied? (Pixabay)

Then head over to SOMA, which sells everything from caramel truffles and almond toffee clusters to burnt honey Gelatoes!

Best Bars & Nightlife in King West

People dancing at nightclub with bright lights.

King West was once known as The Club District (Pixabay).

While the name has changed, The Entertainment District is still home to the most nightclubs in downtown Toronto.

SeeTorontoNow reports:

When night falls the clubs in the district come alive with partiers from all over the Toronto area and beyond coming in to dance, see, be seen and just take in the scene.

The following are some of the best bars and clubs in The Entertainment District.

Belfast Love (548 King St W)

Belfast Bar with crowded patio. in Toronto's Entertainment District.

This classic Irish pub has 40 different beers, a 400-seat interior, and a 100-seat patio.

It also ranks 1st on DrinkToronto’s list of Best Pubs In Downtown Toronto.

As one reviewer points out: Belfast Love honours its heritage with an astounding selection of drinks.

King Taps (100 King St W)

Fancy bar with posh furniture and modern lighting.

Looking for something a bit more upscale? Look no further than this royal venue (Pixabay).

2nd on its list of 16 Best Places To Grab After-Work Drinks In Toronto, The Curious Creature declares:

Despite its moving and shaking clientele, this spot is relatively affordable, with daily food and drink specials.

Banknote Bar (663 King St W)

banknote bar gold black sign american flag king st w toronto

Old meets new in this turn-of-the-century bar with modern lighting and décor.

Besides amazing food and drink, the Banknote Bar also flaunts a dozen big-screen TVs for sporting and entertainment events.

Escobar (485 King St W)

Women in suits at bar counter.

Narcity includes Escobar on its list of 9 Hidden Bars people need to check out (Pixabay).

The venue is “hidden” inside Baro (another fantastic bar and restaurant) and caters almost exclusively to young professionals.

Bar Wellington (520 Wellington St W)

king west toronto wellington bar exterior patio orange umbrellas people

The Welly’s motto is “resist the ordinary.”

It does so by ranking 6th on DrinkToronto’s Best Pubs In Downtown Toronto.

With more than a dozen beers on tap, delicious cuisine, and its Victorian setting, the Welly is anything but ordinary.

Regulars (668 King St W)

exterior of Regulars Bar with beige columns - King West Toronto.

The venue’s design is inspired by 1920s gambling halls and Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Drinks include draft beer, wine and $15 cocktails, while its menu is rich in deep-fried favourites such as wings and jalapeno poppers.

The Thompson Hotel (550 Wellington St W)

Thompson Hotel sign front entrance.

In addition to bars, King West is also teeming with clubs and lounges.

Club Crawlers describes The Thompson as:

The premiere Downtown Toronto rooftop lounge with breathtaking 360° views of the downtown Toronto skyline and Lake Ontario. With creative cocktails and a full bottle menu, the roof caters to all your needs both day and night.

Lost and Found (577 King St W)

People dancing at nightclub on King St West.

Lost and Found ranks first on SeeTorontoNow’s list of Top 10 Toronto Nightclubs (Pixabay).

In the website’s words:

Housed in the lower level of a hundred-year-old building in the heart of King West, Lost and Found presents a unique space for discovery. …Come lose yourself in the music.

Lavelle (627 King St W)

Front entrance of Lavelle bar and lounge in King West, Toronto.

Lavelle is a rooftop patio, bar, lounge and restaurant all in one (Lavelle, Wikimedia).

Located on the 16th floor:

…the luxurious space features a picture-perfect lounge bar, dining room, outdoor pool and cabanas, all with breathtakingly unobstructed, 360-degree views of the city skyline.

Top 10 Things To Do In The Entertainment District

Whether you’re into music, movies, the arts, science or sports, you’ll find them here.

Residents can enjoy a wide variety of entertainment options, such as:

The TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King S W)

Colourful exterior of TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto's Entertainment District.

Love movies? You can see the best local and international films at this iconic venue (Viv Lynch, Flickr).

As travel website Fodor’s explains:

…visitors can attend film-related lectures, watch screenings, and enjoy smaller film festivals, including TIFF.kids, a celebration of children’s film that takes place each April.

Princess of Wales Theatre (300 King St W)

Princess of Wales Theatre Dress Circle level seats – Entertainment District.

If you prefer live entertainment, then be sure to check out this modern theatre (Can Pac Swire, Flickr).

The cultural landmark has shows for all people and ages, including mega-hits such as Hamilton, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, and Come From Away.

Roy Thompson Hall (60 Simcoe St)

Glassy exterior of Roy Thompson Hall in King West, Toronto.

Home of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Hall is only 4-minutes from the Princess of Wales (Benson Kua).

Although the venue is famous for classical music, it also plays modern and international hits, kid’s concerts, and hosts seminars.

Canada’s Walk of Fame (68-66 Simcoe St)

Celine Dion's Canada's Walk of Fame Star in Toronto's Entertainment District.

The walk of fame pays tribute to Canada’s greatest actors, athletes, musicians, scientists and entertainers (Wikimedia).

According to the official Toronto Entertainment District website:

Canada’s Walk of Fame acknowledges the achievements and accomplishments of successful Canadians. It consists of a series of maple leaf-like stars embedded in 13 designated blocks’ worth of sidewalks in the Entertainment District…

Scotiabank Arena (40 Bay St)

Toronto Raptors poster outside Scotiabank Arena.

The stadium also hosts concerts, conventions and video-game competitions (wyliepoon, Flickr).

However, as SeeTorontoNow informs, it’s all about sports:

When the big game is on – whether it’s the Maple Leafs [or Raptors]…the atmosphere around Scotiabank Arena (formerly Air Canada Centre)…is supercharged.

Rogers Centre (1 Blue Jays Way)

Photo of Rogers Centre with dome open.

The Rogers Centre is almost as iconic as the CN Tower (udo.d, Flickr).

Home of the Jays, this beloved venue also houses conventions, trade fairs, concerts, carnivals, circuses, and monster truck rallies.

The CN Tower (290 Bremner Blvd)

Looking up at CN Tower and Canada flag.

The CN Tower is probably Toronto’s (and Canada’s) most recognizable landmark (Bernard Spragg, Flickr).

Besides glass floors, observation decks, and a revolving restaurant, the CN Tower contains the EdgeWalk.

Condé Nast Traveler calls it “a thrilling attraction that lets visitors walk outside the structure at 1,168 feet above street level.”

Ripley’s Aquarium (288 Bremner Blvd)

Ripley's Aquarium kid's play area with games and large skeleton.

The Entertainment District also has tons of family-friendly attractions (Dennis Jarvis, Flickr).

According to Forbes:

Canada’s largest indoor aquarium, you’ll encounter more than 16,000 marine creatures, the biggest shark collection in North America, one of the world’s most extensive jelly fish exhibits and a bamboo shark touch pool.

SPIN (461 King St W)

Man playing ping pong at SPIN on 461 King West.

Tired of the same date-night locales? Try SPIN, a ping pong bar and social club (Pixabay).

SPIN claims top spot on SeeTorontoNow’s list of 10 Unique Toronto Date Ideas.

For a change from the tired and true bar scene, head to King West and challenge your partner to a friendly game at SPIN Toronto’s ping pong bar. After your match, grab a drink while soaking up some live music…

 

Other Location Highlights:

Green grass and trees of Stanley Park Toronto with buildings in background.

King West may be in the heart of Toronto, but it has some lovely green-spaces.

  • Fantastic parks, including Stanley Park, Massey Harris Park and Joseph Workman Park
  • Minutes from Liberty Village, West Queen West and the Financial District
  • Nearby landmarks include the Railway Museum and historic King Edward Hotel
  • Wide selection of grocery stores, including Rabba and Independent City Market
  • 100 Walk Score, Transit Score and easy access to Bike Share programs

King West: Conclusion

Royal Alexandria Theatre and Kim's Convenience poster in Toronto's Entertainment District.

Youthful, vibrant, entertaining and exciting—King embodies all these qualities (Vlad Porvorny, Flickr).

From the Garment District to the Club District to the Entertainment District, King West is constantly changing and reinventing itself.

The neighborhood also offers one of the richest and most exhilarating lifestyles anywhere in Canada.

The best restaurants, the coolest clubs, the most celebrated artistic institutions, and Toronto’s greatest landmarks are all here.

Want to know more about King West? Check out my video above or contact me below for details.

Wins Lai
Real Estate Broker
Living Realty Inc., Brokerage

m: 416.903.7032 p: 416.975.9889
f: 416.975.0220
a: 7 Hayden Street Toronto, M4Y 2P2
w: www.winslai.com e: [email protected]
*Top Producer (Yonge and Bloor Branch) – 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020

 

(Visited 879 times, 874 visits today)
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap