Things To Do in The Distillery District

Hello and welcome to Weekend Coffee Share #21! I’m glad you’re here. Please come on in, help yourself to a cup of coffee, or tea, or hot chocolate at my coffee station and let’s chat.

The Distillery District is a favourite place to explore Victorian industrial architecture, heritage buildings, interesting art installations, delightful coffee shops, a distillery, a beer brewery, a sake brewery, delicious restaurants, unique art galleries, and specialty stores.

What began as the Gooderham and Worts Distillery in 1832 grew to become the largest distillery in the world. The Distillery District was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1988. Let me show you in pictures.

Heritage Buildings

The Distillery District itself is popular with locals and visitors alike. Upon entering the district, you’ll be greeted by hues of dark green and burnt orange. You can wander the ten pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets to see more than forty heritage buildings, the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America.

A good meeting place is at the clock in the main square where one can see the Gooderham & Worts Limited sign and the streets that branch out from there.

Clock and Gooderham & Worts Limited sign.

The Stone Distillery and fermenting cellar built in 1860, rebuilt 1870, takes up a long block on Distillery Lane. It’s the building with white-grey stone colour. Its original use: Gristmill and granary, mashing and distillation areas, and steam engine room.

The Stone Distillery building.

On Trinity Street, on display is the Millstone that was brought from England in 1832 and used for grinding grain. There’s history everywhere you look and I was interested in reading the Heritage Plaques indicating the original function of each building and its date of construction.

Green doors and windows are consistent throughout the Distillery District. However, their designs vary.

Spirit of York Distillery has taken up residence in what was once the Gooderham & Worts malting room. Spirit of York produce gin, vodka and whisky using locally sourced water from Springwater, considered some of the purest water in the world.

Spirit of York Distillery.

Art Installations

At the intersection of Trinity Street and Distillery Lane is the gigantic Still Dancing sculpture, a twisted and colourful depiction of the area’s past as a distillery, designed by artist Dennis Oppenheim.

Still Dancing by Dennis Oppenheim.

Along Gristmill Lane, there are three notable Love, Peace and Red Heart art installations by Toronto-born artist Mathew Rosenblatt. The Love sign is filled with love locks.

Love exhibit by Mathew Rosenblatt.

Also on Gristmill Lane, Michael Christian’s I.T. sculpture looks over the neighbourhood with a red eye alien stare from its post.

Aside from public art installations, the Distillery District is home to more than twenty art galleries, two theatres, and many specialty shops.

Art store.

Cafés and Eateries

The Distillery District is a wonderful place for wanderings with a stop for takeaway coffee and cake. Café Balzac’s is a local favourite. Inside this coffee shop, you’ll find exposed brick, vintage posters and chandeliers. The shelves are full of colourfully packaged coffee beans and tea, while the counter is lined with cookies, pastries and cakes.

Cafe Balzac's and an art truck.
Cafe Balzac’s and an art truck.

The Distillery District offers something for every taste bud. Examples: Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie, El Catrin Destileria, Izumi Sake Brewery, Mill St. Brew Beer Hall, and Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill.

In normal times, the Distillery District is packed with people. I appreciate the lack of crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic and Toronto’s lockdown.

Although I’ve been to the Distillery District on many occasions, I’ve still only scratched the surface. You could easily spend an entire day here. My walk began and ended at Cherry and Mill Streets. It was a fantastic outing.

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98 thoughts on “Things To Do in The Distillery District

  1. Denyse Whelan Blogs May 28, 2021 / 8:15 am

    Natalie, i read that your city has had the longest period of lockdown than any the world?! That’s huge. I hope over time, things are improving and that with the vaccinations happening you and your fellow citizens can experience summer more easily. In Australia one major city has gone into a 7 day lockdown. It seems, despite the stringent rules about coming back to Australia and quarantine, the virus spreads…and hotels where people are in quarantine are a common source. Anyway back to your photos. I particularly love that green. Sometimes called British Racing Green and back in the 1990s lots of us in Australia building new homes used that green as outside and inside decor calling it Federation Green. Enough from me. Thanks for the linkup. I have shared a woman of courage today whose relationship to me is very special! Denyse


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 1:15 pm

      Denyse, Yes, with the ramped up vaccinations, things are improving here in May and looking good for this summer. Toronto’s lockdown impacts indoor non-essential services but many of them have been available online or take-out/ curbside pickups, and home delivery channels. There has never been any curfew and people have been encouraged to go outside to exercise or for essential reasons.

      Thanks for letting me know about the names of the green colour and for linking up with #WeekendCoffeeShare.


      • Denyse Whelan Blogs June 2, 2021 / 5:20 am

        Thanks so much for being part of the Life This Week Community by linking up. I always appreciate my blogging friends comments on my post too. Have a great first week of June. See you next Monday I hope. The optional prompt is: Motivate. Denyse.


        • Natalie June 2, 2021 / 8:55 am

          Thank you, Denyse. See you at the link-up.


  2. leannelc May 28, 2021 / 8:19 am

    Hi Natalie – it certainly looks like something out of Victorian England – and then those art sculptures appear and it changes the flavour completely! Thanks for another interesting tour of a local Canadian area. And thanks for the link party – have a great weekend.


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 1:17 pm

      Hi Leanne, I think the contemporary artworks bring the Distillery District to the 21st century and give it a youthful vibe. The combination of old and new appeals to a wide audience. Thank you for linking up with #weekendcoffeeshare. Have a great week!


  3. Jill Weatherholt May 28, 2021 / 8:31 am

    What a fantastic tour, Natalie! I love the sculptures and the love sign. Thank you for taking us along with you. Your photographs are wonderful. Enjoy the weekend!


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 1:18 pm

      Thank you, Jill, for joining me. I greatly appreciate your ongoing support. I’m glad you liked the artworks and my photos. Have a wonderful week!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Toonsarah May 28, 2021 / 9:09 am

    This looks like exactly my sort of place – old buildings with lots of interesting details, modern art installations, lots of galleries to explore and cool places to eat. Thanks so much for telling us all about it 🙂


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 1:21 pm

      Thank you, Sarah, for stopping by. The Distillery District has many appeals and it’s a photographer’s dream. I hope you visit it some day 🙂


  5. Erica/Erika May 28, 2021 / 9:15 am

    Distilleries are popular in recent discussions, Natalie. Possibly because people are slowly heading out of their homes and this is where they go to first? ☺️

    I have driven by the Distillery District in Toronto, yet never stopped there. Your photos of the buildings are fascinating. Interesting about the Springwater. I hear how water makes a difference, even when baking bagels. An exceptional post as always, Natalie.😀 The first place I will head to when visiting Toronto next is Cafe Balzac. Yum!


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 1:29 pm

      Erica/ Erika, Cafe Balzac’s is one of my favourite coffee shops. Can I meet or take you there next time you’re in Toronto? 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Lizl Bennefeld May 28, 2021 / 9:42 am

    Luscious! Love the tour! The old buildings remind me of remaining older buildings in the town where I now live, and of the old school building in the town in which I lived for my first 17 years. Both of the towns were founded in 1871, and there are similarities in architecture. I have been sorry to see so many of the older buildings torn down to make way for the new.

    Thank you, Natalie!


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 1:32 pm

      Thank you, Lizl, for your comment. It’s wonderful to see architecture from the 1800’s. I’m glad to hear about the architectural similarities in your towns and Toronto.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Gary A Wilson May 28, 2021 / 10:18 am

    Yum – this looks like a day trip to Toronto is in order.


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 1:33 pm

      Yes, the Distillery District would make a wonderful day trip.


  8. Bear May 28, 2021 / 2:36 pm

    Wow! You’re posts always fill my mind and imagination with such inspirations. I look at these buildings and I see a world of stories that they could tell. Oh, it’s so good to be feeling a bit better today…. my mind is engaged, even if I can’t fight this exhausted feeling physically. Shalom, Bear


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 5:34 pm

      Bear, Yes, there are more than 40 buildings in the Distillery District. Each served certain functions and their history is interesting. Hope you’re feeling better. Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. smkelly8 May 28, 2021 / 3:50 pm

    What a fun district! Especially on a sunny day.


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 5:35 pm

      It was a sunny and wonderful day to walk around the Distillery District.


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 5:36 pm

      Thank you, Donna, for joining me virtually. Have a wonderful weekend!


  10. Laurie May 28, 2021 / 5:42 pm

    I wonder what the significance of the green doors is. Love the “love” art. It reminds me of the iconic “love” sculpture in Philly! 🙂


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 6:05 pm

      The green colour was popular at the time and was chosen to give all the buildings a consistent look. Each of the 40+ buildings served specific functions at the Distillery. These were industrial buildings that worked together like a well-oiled machine. Their main purpose was utilitarian. The red heart does remind me of the one in Philly.


  11. Debbie May 28, 2021 / 6:07 pm

    I loved your tour of this area Natalie, those green doors, the art works the history, the sunshine – just fabulous! Thanks so much for sharing 🙂 I’m home this weekend so am able to join your #weekendcoffeeshare


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 6:28 pm

      Hi Debbie, I’m glad that you enjoyed my virtual tour of the Distillery District and you could join my Coffee Share link up. Your thoughts on blogging would be of great interest to bloggers and link-up participants. Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 6:55 pm

      Janis, The Distillery District is a wonderful place to wander and discover, or sit in the square and watch the world go by.


  12. Jo May 28, 2021 / 7:47 pm

    You had me at Distillery District. I reckon I would go there and never leave! My type of district for sure – art, whisky and great places to eat.


    • Natalie May 28, 2021 / 8:01 pm

      Yes, the Distillery District is lovely, lots to see and do with laid back vibe. There are also interesting and informative (tasting) tours in the distillery and breweries.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jo May 28, 2021 / 8:17 pm

        I’m there!


  13. Kirstin May 28, 2021 / 8:56 pm

    oooooo…I think I’d love this area. That stone distillary building is gorgeous. I think this would be a favorite area of mine.


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 8:50 am

      Yes, the Distillery District is popular with locals and visitors alike. Lots of interesting things to explore and discover there.


  14. Deborah Drucker May 28, 2021 / 8:57 pm

    Looks like an interesting area. The old distillery building is great looking.


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 8:51 am

      Yes, the Stone Distillery is a beautiful and well-kept heritage building.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. midlifestylist May 28, 2021 / 9:49 pm

    Hi Natalie, what a wonderful historic area, full of beautiful old buildings. Your posts always make me want to visit your part of the world. Regards, Christina


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 8:52 am

      Hi Christina, I hope you get to visit Toronto one day and let me know when you come.


  16. Jennifer Jones May 29, 2021 / 2:41 am

    You live in what looms to be a very interesting city Natalie. I do hope I’m able to get there for a visit one day. As much as I’d love to, I haven’t been able to join in with #weekend coffee share as I’m working weekends. This will all change at the end of June so hope to be able to participate again in July.


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 8:54 am

      Jennifer, I hope you get to visit Toronto and let me know when you come. I look forward to your participation with Weekend Coffee Share when your schedule allows.


  17. Moumita De Sarkar May 29, 2021 / 5:37 am

    I am usually the kind of person who loves to sit at home with a book or watch some interesting shows on the OTT platforms with a packet of crispy potato wafers. Spending time outside had never been my thing. But with this pandemic and all, I am longing for a day out these days. And your short trip pictures only make my urge stronger 🙂


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 8:56 am

      Yes, a change of scenery from time to time is good. It can be something light and close to home but not the four walls at home 🙂


  18. Jackie May 29, 2021 / 9:49 am

    I especially love going to plays at Soulpepper!!!


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 10:53 am

      Yes, they have good plays there.


  19. trentpmcd May 29, 2021 / 12:46 pm

    Looks like a fascinating area. Although it is sad that Covid has made it a ghost town for now, it is cool in a way that you are able to capture it with so few people. I’m sure in the not too distant future it will be jammed with people most nights.


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 12:54 pm

      Yes, I like that I have photos of what the district looks like during lockdown. I have some photos of the same place full of people before the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Alice DeForest May 29, 2021 / 6:16 pm

    I love this place, I don’t remember it from my old days of “night life” in Toronto


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 7:13 pm

      The Distillery District was redeveloped in 2001 and opened to the public the way it is in 2003 so it has undergone some good changes. The original buildings are designated heritage buildings.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Sue from Women Living Well After 50 May 29, 2021 / 7:28 pm

    Hi Natalie, I love the historical buildings that you have shown us and also that The Distillery District is now used for public enjoyment as well as keeping the heritage buildings. Have a great week and thanks for #weekendcoffeeshare


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 8:26 pm

      Hi Sue, The Distillery District is certainly an enjoyable space. Thank you for joining me. Have a wonderful week!


  22. Dan Antion May 29, 2021 / 7:41 pm

    I totally enjoyed this tour, Natalie. I’d love to walk around here in person. I love the details in the brick work of the old buildings the best.


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 8:35 pm

      Dan, You’d have so much fun visiting this district. There are more than 40 buildings and many artifacts, each with specific functions for distillery. The brick work is beautiful.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. csuhpat1 May 29, 2021 / 9:02 pm

    I would so love to see that district in person. Thanks for sharing it. What a cool place. Thanks for hosting and I hope that you have a wonderful week.


    • Natalie May 29, 2021 / 9:07 pm

      Patrick, You’d enjoy the Distillery District. Lots to see, learn, and photograph, or just relax. Thank you for stopping by. Have a great long weekend!


  24. Antoinette Truglio Martin May 29, 2021 / 11:40 pm

    Very cool tour, Natalie. You certainly know your city. Have a great week.


    • Natalie May 30, 2021 / 8:15 am

      Thank you Antoinette for your kind comment. I greatly appreciate it.


  25. Sanch @ Sanch Writes May 30, 2021 / 2:26 am

    When I was in Toronto in 2015, we were meant to go to the Distillery District but for some reason, didn’t end up going and I’m now even more bummed about that after seeing your post. This looks awesome! So much to do and explore.


    • Natalie May 30, 2021 / 8:22 am

      Now you have a good ‘thing to do’ for your next visit to Toronto. I’m confident you’ll enjoy the Distillery District.


  26. Ju-Lyn May 30, 2021 / 8:12 am

    Thank you for this satisfying tour of the Distillery District! The art here is wow-able! I am particularly taken by the IT sculpture …

    I hear you about the streets being less crowded. It is the same here – so it make my outings to the grocery store so much more pleasant! Small mercies!

    Have a good week, Natalie! Stay safe & well … enjoy your lovely outings!


    • Natalie May 30, 2021 / 8:27 am

      Thank you Ju-Lyn. The Distillery District is an artistic community. Lots of public art installations and galleries to explore. Agreed with you about the small mercies. I heard about the lockdown in Singapore. Stay safe and well.


      • Ju-Lyn June 1, 2021 / 3:26 am

        Ah! There are no longer any functional distilleries then? What a great idea to convert the area to indoor & outdoor art spaces!


        • Natalie June 1, 2021 / 7:29 am

          Yes, Spirit of York Distillery produces gin, vodka and whisky. Izumi brewery makes sake, and Mill Street brewery makes beer.


          • Ju-Lyn June 3, 2021 / 7:20 am

            Ooooh, working distilleries and an art district!


  27. Tessa May 30, 2021 / 12:57 pm

    I love the pictures of the doors. So many different styles.


    • Natalie May 30, 2021 / 1:08 pm

      Thank you, Tessa, for your comment. I also like the variety of green doors at the Distillery District.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Lydia C. Lee May 30, 2021 / 4:57 pm

    That looks great! I wonder if the love locks work will topple over like the bridges do when people add too many?!


    • Natalie May 30, 2021 / 5:21 pm

      I think the artist or the District will find a way to reinforce the Love artwork.


  29. sixlittlehearts May 30, 2021 / 9:22 pm

    Fab place! The doors images are superb. I am quite obsessed with old doors.


    • Natalie May 31, 2021 / 8:10 am

      Thank you, Jody, for your comment. There are many green doors in different designs at the district. You’d have fun here. I enjoyed examining them up close and taking photographs.


  30. Julie May 31, 2021 / 1:52 am

    I enjoyed the public art at the Distillery District. Thank you for the tour!


    • Natalie May 31, 2021 / 8:10 am

      Thank you, Julie, for joining me virtually. I’m glad you liked the public art installations.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Marsha May 31, 2021 / 3:40 pm

    Hi Natalie, I always love a good history lesson, and one with pictures and brick can’t go wrong. Everything is so clean, and it does look strange without people. In fact, it looks like a professional photographer’s shots for a business. I love how you have the post organized by objects.


    • Natalie May 31, 2021 / 4:55 pm

      Hi Marsha, You made me blush re: professional photographer’s shots, hehe. This District is well-maintained. I was glad to spend some time there to look at things closely and took photos with my phone camera.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Marsha May 31, 2021 / 10:38 pm

        Very great shots. It was funny, I went to the link to post my Wednesday Quotes and it said the link party was over. I though, “Over? It’s not midnight.” It took me a minute longer to realize it wasn’t Sunday. 🙂 Where does the time fly?


          • Marsha June 1, 2021 / 10:14 am

            I am. We’ve just started playing pickle ball. We took three days of lessons and now we are flying on our own. A bunch of people in our neighborhood are playing as well, so we are getting acquainted, having fun, and getting in shape. (I hope) 🙂


            • Natalie June 1, 2021 / 11:08 am

              That’s fantastic, Marsha. Fitness, Friendships and Fun, You’re doing it right.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Marsha June 2, 2021 / 9:07 am

                It’s a great new hobby. We have been going every morning. So far I’m the number one worst of any of the two couples we play with, but it is still loads of fun.


                • Natalie June 2, 2021 / 9:12 am

                  As long as you enjoy playing, with regular play, you’ll improve big time. Have fun today!

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Marsha June 2, 2021 / 1:28 pm

                    Thanks, Natalie. I won my first two games – EVER! So I feel good now. 🙂


                    • Natalie June 2, 2021 / 2:35 pm

                      Well done, Marsha! PB World, watch out. A new talent emerged.

                      Liked by 1 person

  32. dprastka June 1, 2021 / 12:52 pm

    I enjoyed having coffee with you last night when I returned from my trip up north to help my daughter pack up her apartment for her new house she is leasing. I’ve been so incredibly busy lately but am enjoying every minute. You share the best photos! Have a great week! ❤️ ~Diana


    • Natalie June 1, 2021 / 12:57 pm

      Thank you, Diana, for stopping by in spite of your busy schedule. I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying every minute. Packing and moving are always a lot of work. I hope your daughter’s move goes well. Look forward to your blog post whenever you have time to blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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