Exploring Toronto’s PATH

My university had one – an extensive underground walkway that connected all the buildings on campus so there was little need to go outside on those bone-chilling cold days. We called ours the tunnel.

Toronto's Path

On a recent trip to Toronto, I discovered a similar underground walkway in the downtown area. Known as the Toronto PATH or simply the PATH, at 19 miles, this network of subterranean pathways vastly surpasses my former school’s tunnel.

Its main artery runs along Yonge and Bay Streets, as far north as the Toronto Coach Terminal on Dundas Street and south to Queen’s Quay. This conduit, through which 200,000 people pass daily, connects retail, business, entertainment and public transportation hubs. Add visitors and residents and the number rises.

The PATH’s impressive 4 million square feet of retail space earned it a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s largest underground shopping complex.

Toronto's PATH
The PATH, TD Centre Food Hall

Each letter in the PATH’s four color logo is a directional code pointing you south (red P), west (orange A), north (blue T) and east (yellow H). In addition, there are other signs to office buildings and major centers.

To me, the PATH is ambitious and intimidating — ambitious because of Matthew Lawson’s vision. Lawson, the 1960s city planner, was able to get a few developers to buy into the idea of including underground shopping in their complexes. This expanded the original and limited 1900s underground walkway that connected Eaton’s department stores, and the newer Union Station to the Royal York Hotel leg.

The PATH Map
The Map

Intimidating, because it is so extensive – I felt like I was walking a maze. Despite finding my way from my office to the hotel the first day, the next morning when I tried to reverse my route, I got turned around several times. I realized only when I found myself in the same spot I had been a few minutes earlier. After the third time, I gave up in frustration and headed to the closest exit, even though it was raining.

As soon as I got outside, I oriented myself by looking for a familiar building and was in my office a few minutes later. I’m not one to give up easily and felt a delightful sense of accomplishment the next morning when I didn’t get lost.  

Some PATH Stats:

  • 1 railway terminal
  • 2 major department stores
  • 2 major shopping centers
  • 5 subway stations
  • 6 major hotels
  • 20 parking garages
  • 50+ buildings and office towers

Have you explored Toronto’s PATH?

Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday that Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes.
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13 comments on “Exploring Toronto’s PATH

  1. This is a GREAT idea because I can imagine how cold it has to be in the winter time there! Yowzers! And great way to grab a quick dinner before your commute home for the night.

  2. Ah, memories of living there for a number of years, as well as finding ways to stay out of the cold in the winter!

  3. Ha ha, we spent a week there, admittedly in Spring and didn’t even know it existed. How shocking. Whereas we spent 5 days approx in Montreal and did visit theirs. How Crazy!

  4. That is a very savvy city planner to get so many property owners/developers to join in his plan. I’ve never been to Toronto above ground or underground, but this reminds me of the Houston tunnel system. Since it never gets very cold there, I think the Houston one was designed to escape either the humid summer weather or its frequent thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I thought it was the coolest thing ever built.

  5. Wow, how fascinating. I can imagine it must be great in the freezing cold. It gets really hot in Western Australia in summer – perhaps it would be a good idea for us to have one against the heat ;)j

  6. wow 19 miles, that huge. It reminds me of Singapore there you do not even have to go outside if you don’t want to. Nearly everything is under the ground.

  7. The Path sounds intriguing. I’ve been in underground malls a few places and I agree they can be disorienting. I love a good window!

  8. I explored a small portion of the PATH last year during TBEX. You’re right it was overwhelming and I got turned around a few times too. It was hot and humid then too so it provided a great escape from the early summer. What a great place to people watch though.

  9. I’ve used the PATH for years, Marcia, and still get lost. My favorite part is under the TD Centre, the cool towers by Mies van der Rohe. I had no idea that some of the other tunnels date back to 1900s. Whoever planned that was visionary. Going underground is a great way to avoid getting splashed by traffic in slushy weather AND avoid having to stop and wait at street corners. Fast and fun–that’s the PATH, if you know where you’re going:)

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