Toronto's Graffiti Alley: The Complete Guide

graffiti-alley

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Rush Lane just south of Queen West, better known as Graffiti Alley, is home to a massive swath of vibrant street art. Though relatively well-known by city-dwellers, if you’re new to Toronto or just visiting, you’re likely to walk right by it if you’re not paying attention or don’t know where to look. But Graffiti Alley is always worth checking out. Much of the art has stayed the same, but there’s often something new popping up so you never know what you’re going to see.  

Whether you just want to experience something new in the city, or you’re looking for some colorful inspiration for your next Instagram post, this is one of the most unique attractions in Toronto. Read of for everything you need to know about visiting Toronto’s Graffiti Alley. 

History

While Graffiti Alley may be one of Toronto’s most beloved attractions, street art wasn’t always accepted in Toronto. The issue came down to street art versus vandalism, with the lines blurred in the eyes of city officials and authorities. The debate about graffiti in the city still exists, but the current view is one of more open acceptance of street art having the power to beautify a neighborhood. StreetARToronto (StART) is an initiative started by the City of Toronto in 2012 as a way to reduce graffiti vandalism by replacing it with creative murals and street art that engage the community and make a positive impact on the city, much like Graffiti Alley has done.

The program has helped immensely in shifting the city’s perspective of what graffiti can be.  

Graffiti Alley is a prime example of just how engaging street is. Just look at all the people holding up their phones to take photos and videos of the long stretch of murals and quirky characters that seem to leap off the walls of Graffiti Alley.

What to Expect 

Bring your camera—you're going to want to take a lot of photos on a visit to Graffiti Alley. The narrow stretch runs for over a half-mile and every nook and cranny is covered in street art. Think of Graffiti Alley as an open-air gallery or living museum that encapsulates the vibrancy and diversity of Toronto. 

Here you’ll find art by some of the most renowned street artists in Toronto, including Uber5000, Elicser, Poser, Skam, Spud, and many more. But do keep in mind that while one mural or art piece that exists one year, could be gone the next time you visit. Artists are regularly painting over old works and replacing them with new creations.

Location & When to Visit

Located within Toronto’s Fashion District, Graffiti Alley runs south of Queen Street from Spadina Avenue to Portland Avenue in an alleyway known as Rush Lane. The beginning of Graffiti Alley starts at the corner of Rush Lane and Portland Street. Then walk east. The colorful, street art-filled stretch runs for nearly three blocks. 

You can visit Graffiti Alley any time, but Toronto does get cold in the winter so warmer months (May through October) might be your best bet if you don’t feel like bundling up. 

What to Do Nearby

A visit to Graffiti Alley puts you right in the heart of Toronto’s Queen West neighborhood, meaning you’re in close proximity to make other things to do in the city. Queen Street West is lined with bars, cafes, restaurants and stores selling everything from clothing and accessories, to housewares, beauty and skincare products and music. In addition, Graffiti Alley puts you walking distance from epic shopping at the Toronto Eaton Centre, the Toronto sign at Nathan Philips Square (which offers outdoor ice skating in the winter), Old City Hall, Yonge-Dundas Square where there’s often something going in during the summer months (live music, outdoor movies, cultural festivals), the iconic Horseshoe Tavern for live music and much more.

  

Other Street Art Spots in Toronto

Love street art? If you’ve been to Graffiti Alley and you’re in search of a few more spots to check out, Toronto is full of them. But, like the art found in Graffiti Alley, things to tend to change year to year, so keep that in mind on your street art search. 

  • At the corner of Bloor and Shaw Streets you’ll find the Make Good Mural on the wall of Studio 835, created by 416Gallery Owner and artist Jimmy Chiale.   
  • Everywhere you look in Kensington Market you’re likely to be treated to some form of street art (so keep your eyes peeled).  
  • The laneway located north of Dundas St. West between McCaul and Beverly Street is home to some colorful street art. 
  • Reclamation Wall is located on the Metrolinx along Joe Shuster Way, stretches for about 1000 feet, and features murals from 65 artists across Canada.  
  • Just west of the corner of Queen and Ossington, dubbed Ossington Laneway, is another spate of Toronto street art to check out. 
  • Underpass Park is also home to extensive street art. The park is located under the Eastern Avenue, Richmond and Adelaide overpasses.