Yonge Street (pronounced "Young") is main street of Toronto, Canada. It divides the city into east and west street numbering for east-west streets begins at Yonge Street and increases in either direction.
Begun in 1794, it is one of the oldest streets in the city, but few of its current buildings date back to much before 1900.
Within the City of Toronto, Yonge Street is roughly 15 km (9.3 mi) long.
Under Yonge Street runs the eastern branch of Line 1 Yonge–University, serving nearly the entire length of the street in Toronto. You can drive along this street if you want (give up trying to find parking), but the smart way to explore Yonge is on foot, with a TTC day pass to whisk you between the spots you want to see.
Until 1999, the Guinness Book of World Records repeated the urban myth that Yonge Street was the longest main street in the world, running from Toronto's harbour to Lake Superior, a distance of 1,896 km (1,178 mi). It was erroneously assumed that Yonge Street ran the full length of provincial highway 11 (actually, it only runs a distance of 88 km (55 mi) to Barrie, Ontario on Lake Simcoe). Nonetheless, the myth is enshrined by a bronze map set into the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets.
Yonge Street was fundamental in the original planning and settlement of western Upper Canada (now Ontario) in the 1790s, forming the basis of the concession roads in Ontario today.
The street was named by Upper Canada's first colonial administrator, John Graves Simcoe, for his friend Sir George Yonge, an expert on ancient Roman roads.
Yonge was a member of the British Parliament, and acted as Governor of the Cape Colony (South Africa) for a short period from 1799 to 1801. He never visited Toronto or Canada.
Here is a brief description of Yonge Street as it passes each district from south to north:
- Harbourfront: Yonge Street starts at the water's edge at Harbourfront. A long sidewalk plaque at the foot of Yonge Street promotes the myth that Yonge Street is the world's longest street.
- Financial District: The section of Yonge between Front and Queen Streets passes through the Financial District typified by large office buildings, most of them built in the 1970s or later, but with several beautiful older exceptions. If you want to have a good look at the skyscrapers of the Financial District, walk west from King Subway Station to the corner of King and Bay Streets.
- Yonge-Dundas: The area between Queen and Dundas Streets is dominated by the Eaton Centre shopping mall and, at Dundas Street, by the flashy Yonge-Dundas Square. The east side has two historic performance venues, the Ed Mirvish Theatre and the stacked Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres. In addition, Massey Hall is located just to the east on Shuter Street. From College Street north to Bloor Street, Yonge Street serves smaller street-level retail, mostly in two- to three-storey buildings of a hundred years' vintage. The businesses here, unlike the large chains which dominate south of Gerrard Street, are mostly small independent shops and serve a dense residential community on either side of Yonge Street with amenities such as convenience stores.
- Yorkville: Yonge Street crosses the "Mink Mile" at Bloor Street, a strip of very expensive stores near the equally upscale Yorkville district.
- Midtown: Toronto's Midtown is characterized by multiple local shopping/restaurant strips consisting mostly within two-storey buildings with apartments on the second floor. In the strip along Rosedale, Summerhill and St. Clair subway stations, you will see a few sights such as the architecture of the former North Toronto Railway Station and Balmoral Fire Hall built in 1911. The intersection at Eglinton Avenue has become a focal point, serving as a high-density residential, commercial and transit hub.
- North York: At Hoggs Hollow, a steep ravine beside parkland, Yonge Street crosses into North York. After passing Highway 401, shops again line Yonge Street. However, north of Finch Avenue, Yonge Street starts to look more suburban with retail strip malls until it leaves Toronto at Steeles Avenue.