City Guide: West Queen West, Toronto
By Karen MacKenna / Published by Dwell
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Twenty years ago, Toronto's West Queen West was a working class neighborhood on the rundown periphery of Toronto’s urban core. Gentrification began slowly, with young families moving in, but when the newly renovated Drake Boutique Hotel re-opened its doors in 2004, it set in motion the change that would come to define the area. Art galleries, clothing stores, yoga studios, bars, and restaurants transformed West Queen West into one of Toronto’s most vibrant communities, now known as the city's Art and Design District.

Nadège Patisserie

This gem lies at the southeast corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park. Owner and chef Nadege Nourian takes the art of French pastry making and spins it to perfection. Her creations are known as much for their beauty as they are for their taste. Be prepared for lineups out the door on weekends.

To take the pulse of the neighborhood, one need only go to Trinity Bellwoods Park on a sunny weekend, where hundreds of young people gather to picnic, play music, walk tightropes, and make art. The crowd is a well-spring of creativity that feeds the constant re-imagining of West Queen West.

Article 27

Camilia Nicoara's concept shop specializes in natural beauty products, alongside women's clothing and accessories. The heart of the store's philosophy lies in its name itself—Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads "to enjoy the arts and to share scientific advancement and its benefits."

White Squirrel Coffee Shop

Named after the legendary albino squirrels that roam Trinity Bellwoods, this coffee establishment at the entrance of the park is a hub of activity, receiving heavy foot traffic. The coffee is good, fair-trade, and organic.

Horses Atelier

Best friends Heidi Sopinka and Claudia Dey took a leap of faith in 2012 when they set their writing careers aside to make a line of dresses. After two years, the Toronto designers now have a roster of boutiques from Toronto to Tokyo featuring their deceptively simple pieces.

Union Restaurant

Chef/owner Teo Paul has an impeccable pedigree and an artful eye. The food is local and organic, and the setting is charming. Large murals of barnyard animals provide the backdrop for indoor dining, and there's also an intimate patio out back. Up the street, Union's offspring, Cote de Boeuf, resembles a Parisian butcher shop circa 1890.


Transplanted from the original Vancouver location, this designer clothing boutique brings with it an air of sophistication to the Ossington strip. Local designers like Horses Atelier share space with international labels such as Isabel Marant, Helmut Lang, and Rag & Bone.

Bellwoods Brewery

For craft beer and a buzzing crowd, this is the place to go. The patio is lit up at night with strings of tiny lights, and the cantilever design by Unit A Architects make this an inviting space to while away an afternoon or evening. There is even a bottle shop next door if you want to take home a local brew.

The Drake Hotel

If the Design District of Toronto is your destination, then The Drake is your hotel. Each room is unique and art events, live music, food make it a worthy stopping point.


Karen MacKenna


Karen MacKenna is a Toronto-based writer and photographer with a background in documentary film. Her love of design has been inspired by time spent in Finland, which she calls her second home.

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