Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Turning 13 acres of abandoned industrial brick buildings into a hip and lively center of dining, shopping and cultural events might require a bit of vision. In Toronto, the vision turned into a reality.

Toronto's Distillery District, a pedestrian-only village of brick-lined streets and dozens of vibrantly restored Victorian industrial buildings, became the largest historic restoration project in Canada when it opened in 2003.

The district is the former site of the Gooderham & Worts whisky distillery, which dates back to the 1830s and was Canada's largest distillery.

Cityscape Developments bought the property and harnessed the talent of hundreds of tradesmen and craftsmen skilled in working with 19th century timber, planks, stone and brick. They hauled in more than half a million bricks to pave the streets, and repurposed many original materials.

Today, the popular tourist spot has more than 40 heritage buildings and 10 streets, and is the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America.

Take a look at this hip blend of old and new urban design:

Photo: Bob Noah/Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Trinity Street is the widest street in the district and serves as a public square for events.

Photo: Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The developers didn't lease to large chains, so visitors can explore one-of-a-kind stores, shops, galleries, studios, restaurants, cafes, theaters and more.

Photo: Thane Lucas/lucasdigitalart.com

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Since 1990, the site has served as a location for over 800 film and television productions, including "Cinderella Man" starring Russell Crowe, and "Chicago" starring Renee Zellweger.

Photo: Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The Gooderham and Wort's distillery was built on the waterfront, with easy access to shipping as well as Toronto's main train lines.

Photo: Wikipedia

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

According to the distillery's site, the developers' vision was to "combine the romance and relaxing atmosphere of European walking and patio districts with the hip, cool dynamic of an area like New York City's SoHo or Chelsea."

Photo: Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Visitors enjoy outdoor dining in the district.

Photo: Gilberto Mesquita / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

A latte becomes art at Balzac's cafe, which transformed the circa 1895 Pump House into a two-story grand Parisian style cafe, complete with a giant Vaudeville chandelier.

Photo: Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie on Tank House Lane in the district.

Photo: Thane Lucas/lucasdigitalart.com

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The short stack served at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie.

Photo: Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill, where diners can admire the industrial architecture.

Photo: Thane Lucas/lucasdigitalart.com

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Kumamoto oysters served at Pure Spirits on Tank House Lane.

Photo: Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

El Catrin Destilleria, a popular Mexican restaurant in the district.

Photo: Thane Lucas/lucasdigitalart.com

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The district is a haven of public art. Each year there is a light festival where artists are invited to create installations. 

Photo: John Simpson Photography / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The light festival is a visual adventure which has become a popular tourist attraction. Above, "Guardians of Time," a 2018 installation by Manfred Kielnhofer. 

Photo: BobNoah / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

At the light festival, above, "HYBYCOZO," part of the Hyperspace Bypass Construction Zone, a series of large scale polyhedral installations and artworks that investigate geometry through light, shadow, and perception, by Serge Beaulieu and Yelena Filipchu.

Photo: BobNoah / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The next light festival is held from Jan. 18-March 3, 2019.

Photo: kylauf / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

"Still Dancing" by American sculptor Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011.)

Photo: Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

A gallery shows off art among brick walls.

Photo: Thane Lucas/lucasdigitalart.com

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

"Koilos" by Michael Christian, an American artist often seen at Burning Man.

Photo: five-two/Wikipedia

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

"Love Locks" was installed in 2014 for couples to "lock in their love" by hanging a padlock. It was also to deter people from doing the same thing on a Toronto bridge, where city staff had to keep cutting them off, according to the Toronto Star.

Photo: Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

"Love Locks" is filling up fast.

Photo: Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Each year Toronto's Christmas market is held in the Distillery District. The market is ranked by many as one of the world's best Christmas markets.

Photo: AnjelikaGr / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The Christmas market features beer gardens, walking tours, a St. Nicolas celebration, and entertainment including singers, brass bands, cultural dancers, and carolers.

Photo: Thane Lucas/lucasdigitalart.com

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

This year's Christmas market is Nov. 15 - Dec. 23.

Photo: Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Above, a vendor sells treats at the Christmas market.

Photo: Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The Boiler House on Tank House Lane.

Photo: Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

The district was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1988.

Photo: Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

A shop in the district sells vintage items.

Photo: Inspired By Maps / Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

You can spend hours here eating, drinking, or just enjoying the art, architecture and artifacts.

Photo: Shutterstock

Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District
Take a Tour of Toronto's Hip and Historic Distillery District

Above, the Stonehouse. Learn more about Toronto's historic Distillery District and how to get there at the district's home page or at Toronto's tourism site.

Photo: Benson Kua/Wikipedia

Advertisement