One of Toronto’s top tourist attractions, Union Station is a jewel of Beaux-Arts architecture located in the heart of downtown.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Toronto, Union Station has things going on all year long. Located near many of Toronto’s most popular destinations including Scotiabank Arena, Rogers Centre, Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the CN Tower, Union Station is the ideal starting point for a day of sightseeing.
Union Station is Canada’s busiest transport hub and the second-busiest railway station in North America, serving over 72 million visitors per year. The preserved original 1927 storefronts of the Front Street Promenade offer a glimpse into the city of Toronto’s past: the Front Street façade, constructed from Indiana and Queenston limestone and marked by soaring columns at the entrance, as well as the opulent Great Hall, provide a backdrop for some of the city’s best photo ops. Union Station was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1975 and a Heritage Railway Station in 1989, both indications of the station’s importance to Canada’s history.
The station has been the site of many historical events since it opened its doors. In 1944, with the war raging in Europe, the station welcomed, at a reception centre operated by the Red Cross, returning Canadian soldiers who had married abroad. “Operation Daddy,” as it was dubbed by the media, brought 45,000 immigrant women and 21,000 children into Canada.
The station has also acted as an entertainment hub, offering shopping, dining and live performances throughout its history, as well as a shooting range on the top floor from 1927 to 2008.
Events and Activities
Following extensive renovations over the past several years that have revitalized and restored the space, Union Station has become, more than ever, one of the city’s top public destinations.
Multidisciplinary programming offers free public events throughout the year (check out the full event calendar here) including the TD Music Presents series, pop-up performances by the Canadian Opera Company, and the Open Studio dance studio where guests can get a behind-the-scenes view as renowned dancers and choreographers rehearse for upcoming performances. Shopping and dining options abound, including the Union Food Court that showcases the diverse flavours of Toronto cuisine. From coffee to fresh-pressed juices to casual fine dining, you’ll find options to satisfy every taste (some Toronto favourites include Biscotteria – Forno Cultura, Pilot Coffee Roasters, Uncle Tetsu’s Cheescake and Union Mercado). In total, over 100 shops and food vendors can send you home with great memories and some souvenirs of your visit.
If you’re catching a train, get to the station early so you’ll have time to window shop. Use Google Indoor Street View to conveniently navigate your way around the interior.
Major renovations in the past decade, including the addition of an airport link to Toronto Pearson, have made Union Station into a world-class transportation and cultural hub. Make it a part of your plan for your next visit to Toronto!