toronto skyline

The top views of Toronto

The top views of Toronto aren't necessarily just for tourists and photographers. In fact, hunting down a previously unknown vantage point by which to gaze upon the city can be a pretty damn rewarding experience. It's easy for a particular version of the city's iconography to get implanted in our heads, and it's thus nice to disrupt and diversify our picture of the skyline once in a while. And, given the topographical make-up of Toronto, there's no shortage of angles by which one can get a panoramic glimpse of of the city.

The list that follows charts out many of the best views of the city, but a few qualifiers are necessary to explain the selection process.

  • All of the entries on this list are accessible to the public. Many of us have enjoyed stunning views of Toronto from private rooftops and balconies, but why share a list of places the average Torontonian can't get to?
  • For the most part, they're also free. Though one has to pay to get to the Island or if he/she drives into the parking structure mentioned, the idea of this post is to share "democratic" views of the city (rather than from expensive restaurants or the like).
  • There's a heavy bias toward shots that include the CN Tower. Great views of the city need not necessarily include the financial district and the downtown core, but for the sake of consistency, all of the below are skyline shots.
  • Most of these locations have been chosen because they allow for excellent photo opportunities (hence the exclusion of certain views from which it would be dangerous to shoot).

And now onto the list! Please feel free to suggest any hidden gems that I've missed in the comments section. Oh, and because the lead photo doesn't get its own site-specific write-up, let me note here that it's by Christoher Drost, n+s on Flickr.

Polson St. (across from the Sound Academy)

toronto skyline polson street


Photo by Chewie2008.

A quick perusal of the blogTO Flickr pool reveals that Polson St. is far and away the most popular location photographers select to shoot the Toronto skyline. But you don't need to take pictures to enjoy the view. I've seen people bring portable chairs to prolong their stay at this lookout on the edge of the lake. The coolest thing I've seen here is a bulk carrier ship quietly making its way through the harbour in the middle of the night. It looked so incredibly close! But when I threw a few small rocks to see if I could hit it, I was thoroughly emasculated by my failed attempts. Best time to shoot? Just before sunrise.

Chester Hill Lookout

Chester Hill Lookout


Photo by the author.

Judging by the dearth of photos from this vantage point on Flickr, it would seem that the Chester Hill lookout is still something of a secret. Offering a sweeping view of the Don Valley, the Bloor Viaduct, St. James Town and the downtown core, this is one of my favourites. Best time to shoot? Sunrise is best, but due to the fact that the view is southeast, late sunset also offers some excellent light.

Queens Quay parking garage (just east of York St.)

royal york hotel toronto skyline


Photo by the author.

This is also a lesser-known perch from which to view the city. But that's not to say that photography enthusiasts haven't been coming here for years. The location of this garage right above the Gardiner Expressway makes for excellent photo opportunities to the east, west and straight on. Once you've visited here, you might just notice that the location has been used in a number of commercials (often for cars). Best time to shoot? That depends on which direction your camera's pointed!

Toronto Island

toronto island skyline


Photo by c_pix.

To some degree, the Island is the most natural place to take in Toronto's skyline. Although the angle is pretty conventional, it's quite stunning to stare at the city from this direct perspective. And somehow the harbour always looks like it wouldn't be too hard to swim across. I still recall a camping trip that I took to Snake Island while attending a sailing school when I was about 12-years-old. My fellow campers and I stayed up half the night mesmerized by the big city in front of us.

Leslie St. Spit

skyline leslie st. spit


Photo by ~EvidencE~.

This view isn't altogether that different from what one sees from the Island aside from the fact that it's further away. Nevertheless, the appearance of the Island itself in the foreground can sometimes play interesting little tricks on the eyes, with the city seemingly rising out of this little patch of green. You don't have to walk to the end, though. A little exploration at Tommy Thompson park reveals numerous views of the skyline. Best time to shoot? I prefer early morning, but this is a location that rewards visits at dusk as well.

Richmond Street exit from the DVP

toronto skyline DVP


Photo by tomms.

Most people experience this view as the whiz off the DVP and into the city. But for those who'd like to dwell upon or photograph the scene (without the danger of doing so from a moving vehicle), there's a grassy area immediately to the north of the exit ramp where one can set up shop. Fans of light streaks will want to bring a tripod and shoot in the evening.

Dufferin St. Bridge over the Gardiner

toronto sunrise gardiner


Photo by the author.

Although the city doesn't look particularly dense from this vantage point, I love this view of traffic and trains entering the core. There's a certain energy given off by the expressway below and the looming buildings ahead. Best time to shoot? Although the above photo was taken at sunrise, the best bet is sunset, when the sun sometimes reflects a deep orange off the buildings of the financial district.

Broadview Ave. (over Riverdale Park)

toronto skyline riverdale


Photo by Jason Allies.

I've always loved checking out the skyline from Broadview Ave. across Riverdale Park. The angle is obviously quite different from what one gets at the waterfront, but what I like most is that fact that it's possible to make out the corridor of development in and around Yonge even in the absence of being able to see the street itself. Scanning from north to south (or vice-versa), one sees a bigger Toronto than the skyline shots that only feature the big bank buildings and CN Tower. Best time to shoot? Just before sunrise.

Humber Bay

humber toronto skyline


Photo by Proliphic.

There are multiple vantage points one can adopt around Humber Bay and the waterfront trails and parks in the area. Although less common than photographs from the east, the city is no less regal when the light is right. Not a photographer? Riding along the Martin Goodman trail from Park Lawn Ave. offers lengthy exposure to the skyline and some nice views of the Humber River and Lake Ontario.

Beamsville Bench (not on map below)

toronto skyline beamsville


Photo by ethervizion.

This last one takes us a little further afield. Nevertheless, the views of Toronto from the Beamsville Bench are very cool. Not only can you see the effect of the Earth's curvature, but the city just looks so tiny and far away. Best bet? The deck at Fielding Estate Winery offers a great elevated vantage point. And there's wine. Need I say more... Just remember to bring a telephoto lens.

Also worthy of mention

The view from the Island ferry, the Gardiner Expressway heading west from the DVP (awesome view, but tough to photograph), the bridge on Bathurst just south of Front, Coronation Park, Avenue Rd. south of St. Clair Ave. and the Millwood Bridge in Leaside.


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