It’s not very often that visitors can find a fun and informative walking tour… for FREE! But that is exactly what Tour Guys offers; they provide multiple free walking tours throughout Toronto and other Canadian cities.
During our recent visit to Toronto, Tour Guys invited us to join their free Downtown Toronto tour: Power, Politics, & The PATH. This tour focuses on architecture, current events (both political and financial), and Toronto’s underground city (aka “the PATH”).
The starting point for the tour was inside Toronto’s Union Station. We got there a little early and used the time to wander around a bit. When we headed back over to the clock inside the Great Hall, Julian was already there waiting. We chatted a bit while we waited for everyone else to arrive. It was obvious that he loved Toronto and loved giving these tours.
Once everyone was there, Julian began the tour by telling us about Union Station. Considered the most important building in Toronto’s history, he explained that had the station not been built, the city of Toronto would probably not exist. He also went on to tell us interesting tidbits, like the fact that there are misspellings carved into the stone!
We headed out and started learning more about Toronto’s history. Julian was funny and knew so many quirky facts!
Our next stop was the Fairmont Royal York. Did you know this hotel is the official royal residence of Queen Elizabeth when she’s in Toronto??
Next we headed down into “the PATH” which is a labyrinth of hallways and corridors that spans over 30 km. It has shops, restaurants, and access to public transit. According to the Guinness World Records, it’s the largest underground shopping complex in the world! The PATH is perfect for pedestrians to get around during Toronto’s cold winters and humid summers. During the week, the PATH sees over 200,000 commuters a day!
As a lover of architecture, we loved hearing about Toronto’s continuous effort to create cutting-edge and innovative designs. The Royal Bank Plaza even has windows covered with a thin coating of 24-carat gold leaf.
During our tour, we were even taken inside an underground vault. This vault was built right into the bedrock and has a 4 foot thick steel door that weighs 40 tons. Getting to sit inside of it was a really interesting experience!
We also stopped by the Old City Hall building, which had a really crazy history. Talk about some drama!! We won’t spoil it for you, but we will say this… don’t ever piss off an architect or you will be immortalized in a very bad way!
The tour ended at Nathan Phillips Square, home of the iconic Toronto sign as well as the new City Hall. Inside the lobby of City Hall is a really great mural called Metropolis and it is composed of over 100,000 nails. Its center is composed of massed copper nails which represent the heart of the city and surrounding that mass are expanding circles that represent suburban areas and neighborhoods.
In total the tour ran just under two hours which we thought was the perfect length of time considering we were walking. And even though the weather was a bit cold, we were never outside for very long.
What we loved most about this tour was that it wasn’t at all what we expected. Yes, we learned about the history of Toronto. But not the way you would from a textbook. We were told weird and funny stories. Stories that had us saying, “Oh my God, are you serious??” And the fact that you could tell Julian was having fun made it that much better.
This is by far the best free walking tour we’ve ever been on; don’t for a second think that because it’s free that the quality will be any less. These guys love what they do and are proud of what they offer their guests (although we do suggest tipping what you feel their work was worth to you). So if you are planning a visit to Toronto and want to get to know the city by foot and for free, make sure to book a tour with Tour Guys!
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**We’d like to thank Tour Guys for inviting us to join along on this great tour. As always, however, all opinions are our own.**