doops open toronto

The top 15 buildings to see at Doors Open Toronto 2023

Doors Open Toronto 2023 is set to take over the city from May 27 through May 28 and will offer visitors access to over 140 of the city's most fascinating buildings and architectural features.

Many of the Doors Open sites are completely off-limits to the public outside of the annual event, so this weekend will be a unique opportunity to explore the city.

Deciding which of the many sites to visit is probably the biggest challenge, so I've compiled a list of the 15 must-see stops for your Doors Open itinerary to help make your planning easy, and the weekend memorable.

The Destructor on Symes/Junction Craft Brewery

While the name sounds like a new supervillain or cape-waving WWE wrestler, it's actually a very literal descriptor. 

The historic Destructor on Symes Road was formerly a City of Toronto garbage incinerator and now, after much revamping and restoring, it's one of Toronto's best known craft breweries, Junction Craft Brewery.

The building, originally commissioned by R. C. Harris, was designed in 1933 and masterfully restored 83 years later.

Aga Khan Museum

If you've been curious to visit the infinitely photogenic Aga Khan Museum, this weekend you'll also be treated to free tours of the museum, gardens, and Ismaili Centre (also worth the trip itself).

doors open toronto 2023

While you can normally get access to the Aga Khan Museum, during Doors Open you can visit for free with special programming for the event. Photo by Andrew Williamson.

The museum also plans to have live music and family activities especially for the weekend.

The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre 

Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the JCCC continues to grow and serves as the gathering point for the Japanese Canadian community and for those of non-Japanese ancestry who have an interest in things Japanese.

The building houses a museum, a library, art gallery, tea ceremony room, a performance hall, and a state-of-the-art martial arts dojo. 

Taiko drumming and hula dance performances will be offered, as well as artist demonstrations of ink wash (sumi-e) painting and flower arrangements.

R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant

No Doors Open Toronto list would be complete without this one. The R.C. Harris is a majestic Art Deco sight to behold.

Dubbed "The Palace of Purification," it is the largest of the city's four water treatment plants and provides an average of 400 million litres of safe drinking water each day.

doors open toronto

The R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant is normally off limits to the public. Photo by Hector Vasquez.

Self-guided tours will be allowed this weekend with staff on hand to answer questions. There will also be music and performances on the grounds both days.

The ZoomerPlex

In the heart of Liberty Village, the ZoomerPlex is a 2.6-acre media, event and production complex which is also home to blogTO!

Visitors will be able to see TV and radio studios, plus owner, Moses Znaimer's own MZTV Museum of Television which contains the world's largest collection of vintage TV sets.

Artscape Youngplace

Artscape Youngplace is a community art space and cultural hub in a historic converted school building on Shaw Street. They will be wide open for self-guided tours of artist studios and organizations in the building.

While there, you will also be able to see Gallery 44's exhibition Spectra, which spans the hallway as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

City of Toronto Archives

The City of Toronto Archives is home to our city's communal history.

Documents, photographs, artifacts and more are stored in this modern and temperature-controlled building which also doubles as a study space, education centre and exhibition venue.

doors open toronto 2023

The inside of the City of Toronto Archives is fascinating. Photo by blogTO.

Visitors will be able to see current exhibits, take in miles of files, and get an up-close view of original archive documents. Staff are on-hand all day.

Spadina Museum

This national historic site offers you a slice of life from the Toronto of the early 20th century. All three floors will be open, with staff on hand to answer questions.

doors open toronto 2023

The Spadina Museum is just steps from the more famous Casa Loma. Photo by The City of Toronto.

You can also catch Dis/Mantle, their current exhibition which was inspired by the efforts of Black abolitionists. The exhibit re-imagines the Spadina Museum using an Afrofuturism narrative. 

Coach House Books

Coach House is a living museum of printing history. The local press is still actively printing books for Coach House Books as well as independent clients.

Visitors will be able to see how a book is traditionally made as well as explore the space. A former coach house, the quirky building now houses all kinds of defunct technology like Linotype, a Challenge Gordon press, and an active Heidelberg printing press and binding equipment.

Toronto-Dominion Centre

The iconic Toronto-Dominion Centre is considered one of the best examples of the modern movement style in Canada.

This year visitors can get an exciting, behind-the-scenes look at the historic 54th floor. This executive only floor is a perfectly preserved mid-century modern space straight out of Mad Men and the views go for miles.

McCowan Carhouse

Built in 1983, the McCowan Carhouse is home to the Scarborough RT, which at the time was the world's first intermediate capacity transit system. This is another great time-capsule of a space that will see massive changes in the coming years.

Visitors will be able to go behind-the-scenes on a self-guided tour of the facility and see the Line 3 trains and everything involved in keeping them going. TTC staff will be available to answer questions.

The El Mocambo

The El Mocambo is a true piece of Toronto's music history, and its recent restoration is well worth checking out.

Visitors can go on a rock history tour of the legendary venue and see the backstage area, memorabilia from the biggest acts of the 20th century, the new recording studios that are taking the El Mo into the 21st century, and even see the original palm tree neon sign, now housed indoors, while a fresh repro shines bright on Spadina.

doors open toronto 2023The El Mocambo has one of the most famous signs in Chinatown. Photo by The City of Toronto.

This site will close early at 3:45 p.m. to get set for the evening shows, so arrive early.

The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres

This former vaudeville house is a unique double-decker theatre. Fewer than a dozen of these double-deckers were ever built, and the Toronto complex is now the last one operating in the world.

The lower house, the Elgin, has gilded plaster details, faux marble finishes and damask wall fabrics.

The upper Winter Garden Theatre, on the other hand, is decorated to resemble a rooftop garden in full bloom. Its columns are disguised as tree trunks and its ceiling and balcony completely strung with a combination of real beech leaves, cotton blossoms and garden lanterns.

Toronto City Hall

Last but not least, the home base of Toronto's municipal government and internationally recognized architectural masterpiece, Toronto City Hall. 

Almost always cast in movies as some kind of city of the future, the 1965 building is still turning heads. This year visitors will be able to see views from the 27th Floor Observation Deck, City Council Chambers, and the Hall of Memory.  There will also be music and demos in the Rotunda.

You can find the full list of participating sites on the Doors Open site.

Lead photo by

Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr

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