Toronto Graffiti: Exploring The Best Concentration of Street Art – Graffiti Alley

by Aug 1, 2018Canada, Toronto22 comments

Graffiti Alley is a stone’s throw away from where I live – What The…?!?!

I honestly did not know this until my readers, who read some of my other Toronto & Canadian posts started asking about Toronto Graffiti and where Graffiti Alley was.
I thought I knew enough about Toronto to answer most tourist questions, but Toronto’s Graffiti Alley? I had no idea…
So, I googled it. Sure enough, there is a laneway in Toronto called Rush Ln infamously nicknamed Graffiti Alley.

How to get to Graffiti Alley?

Well, I’m sort of ashamed to answer that question. The East entrance to Graffiti Alley – which is in the Fashion District is on a street called Spadina between Richmond Street & Queen Street West. (It’s literally a 5-10 minute walk from our condo in the Entertainment District.) 

Since both districts are right beside each other, I immediately felt like I needed to create some excuse as to why I never heard of this place 😉

Eventually, I chalked it up to being new to this part of Toronto (after recently moving here from the Greektown neighbourhood) and went out to explore this Graffiti Alley to get a better sense of the vibrancy that is drawing people to Toronto from far and wide.

However, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t at least try to turn this into an itinerary of some kind… Close to the entrance of Graffiti Alley are two places that serve breakfast, brunch and lunch. Gordana and I frequent both on Saturday and Sunday’s. 

What A Bagel

What A Bagel has well…lots and lots of bagels – that’s a given but they also bake Challah, Bread, Buns, Croissants, Cinnamon Rolls, Cookies, Hamentashen, Pretzels, Rugelach & Strudel. You can grab a bagel and get them to load it up with your favourite stuff then take off or sit down and enjoy brunch. Loads of options to suit everyone but my favourite Challah French Toast and the prices are more than reasonable.
📍130 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5V 1X9
$$

TORONTO GRAFFITI & GRAFFITI ALLEY

A BEAUTIFUL TORONTO STREET ART THOROUGHFARE 

I decided to head out to Rush Ln. early the next morning and not only was the laneway empty, I immediately recognized some of the graffiti. I did a 360-degree turn in the middle of the alley and realized that I’ve crossed the laneway on intersecting side streets on my way to Kensington Market. I never realized that  I was actually walking through Graffiti Alley. (Phew) I felt much better. As I looked around I recognized, artwork that I’ve seen around other parts of Toronto by one Uber 5000. His unmistakable Octopus and yellow birds plus the Ikea Monkey and dart guy here immortalized on this downtown Toronto mural here in Graffiti Alley. Awesome. And as a bonus, since there were no tourists around, I had to rare pleasure of watching an artist work on a new addition to the laneway.
toronto graffiti

Is Graffiti And Street Art Legal in Ontario?

Toronto’s graffiti and street art are legal. (Sort of) More specifically, as a result of a long and bitter struggle between art, business, and the government, some streets like Graffiti Alley became legal. Art, which is already subjective and then add the concept of street art and it became confusing. Some business’ saw it as a menace or a threat and now some business sees it as a way to advertise. So this meant that the government should not go as far as destroying all the graffiti and street art in the Toronto but It also didn’t seem fair to charge a business a tax for decorating itself with art. Besides, the art community was very vocal and very tactical in keeping Toronto decorated no matter what.

However, once you get out and take a look at what these artists are actually creating you won’t see random tagging or scrawls. What you will see are drawings that are true art. The range of subjects is extraordinary. The colors run the gamut from muted to violently fluorescent. Even though beautiful graffiti can be found throughout the city, this street has become a famous tourist attraction.

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The Transitory Nature of Graffiti Alley

A part of the appeal of Toronto’s Graffiti Alley was its transience. The art had to be captured on film because it would be replaced by a new masterpiece when time eroded the old masterpiece. This indirectly made artists somewhat infamous and Graffiti Alley became a special venue for the craft. I now make a point of seeing it at least every other month just because it changes. I have to admit its fun walking through the alley and seeing what was recently added.

Graffiti Alley has become a business opportunity for the artists, local businesses, and Toronto. Features on Canadian television have spread the word about Graffiti Alley, graffiti and street art. Even better, other parts of Toronto where it is also legal, the artists have wasted no time making those walls come alive but a part of me can’t help but wonder. When Michelangelo came to draw on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1508, did people give him grief as he painted The Creation of Adam or The Last Judgement?

Graffiti and Street Art

If you’re looking for the perfect 48 Hour Toronto Itinerary I got you covered! As a local Torontonian, I’ve created the perfect blend of know sites, hidden gems (like and including Graffiti Alley), and foodie hot spots. Plus I put together a two-part, two-day video episode with tons of pictures. Check it out here.

graffiti and street art
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