Nathan Phillips Square and the New City Hall

After passing in front of the Eaton Centre and the Church of the Holy Trinity, keep going south on Bay Street and a big curve structure will start to reveal on the right side. This is the New City Hall of the city of Toronto. Go to side of the street where this building is located and keep going south so you can arrive to Nathan Phillips Square and take the best picture of the New City Hall which is in front of the Toronto Sign.  

The name Nathan Phillips comes from an actual mayor of the city of Toronto which was given to the square in order to honor him. He was the mayor from 1955 to 1962, and the New City Hall and the square were both inaugurated in September 1965. The architects of the New City Hall and Nathan Phillips Square are Viljo Revell and Richard Strong. One of the most important characteristics that you will notice once you enter the square is the way they design it as an open space and there is a reason for that. The square is used as a site for concerts, festivals, arts displays, parades and other types of public events.

Due to all the activity present at the square, this place has become one of the biggest touristic attractions in Canada. It is estimated that every year an approximate of 1.5 million tourists visit this site. Congratulations, you have arrived to one of the biggest landmarks of the city of Toronto!

Inside the square there are some important things that most of the visitors ignore and we will bring them to your attention in this book. Please check the following landmarks inside the square so you can the make the most out of your visit to this place:

  • The Archer:

In front of the New City Hall you will find a sculpture named the Archer which was created by the English artist Henry Moore, and its is a type of sculpture that fits with the architectonic style of the New City Hall. If you like the work of Moore, in Toronto you will find more pieces at the AGO or Art Gallery of Ontario.

  • The Peace Garden:

At the far-left side of the square, facing the New City Hall, and behind the concert platform. there is a less known area named the Peace Garden of Toronto. It represents the commitment of the city to the world peace, and it also commemorates the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima acting as a memorial. That is why the little structure inside the garden looks like if it was destroyed by war (no it is not under construction).

Another interesting item in this area is the flame which was lit originally by the pope John Paul II and it is also there to represent the peace. Some travelers come to the garden and see the flame, but they don’t know what it is about, but now you know next time you walk into this area.

Depending on the time of the year that you visit Toronto, the Peace Garden may look different due to the change of the seasons. It is worth to see it any time of the year, but the best time is during spring and summer since you will be able to enjoy the plants that are here in the Garden of Peace.

  • Toronto Sign:

One of the most famous items at Nathan Phillips Square is the Toronto sign that is located in front of the New City Hall. Despite it seems that it has been there for a long time like any other important city sign it is actually relatively new. This sign was created for the Pan-American Games of 2015 when Toronto was the Host city of the games. The idea was to have a temporary sign and to remove it at the end of 2016. However, by June 2016 the sign appeared in a considerable number of pictures in social media, approximately 120 MM pictures, making it clear that it became one of the major landmarks in the city, almost as relevant as the CN Tower.

Due to the popularity of the sign, the city decided to keep it as a permanent exhibition, and they created the new sign that we can see today. One of the best features about the sign is that it can change its colours since it has LED lights inside that can be controlled by Wi-Fi.  The combinations of colours that can be done with the sign is almost unlimited, since it can capture the colours that are recognize by the human eye (an approximate of 228 MM). Due to the changing nature of the sign, the best time to take the famous picture with the sign and the New City Hall behind is at night, and the best thing is that every time the picture will be different.

The sign has been upgraded, and nowadays it shows more than just the Toronto letters. Facing the New City Hall and at the right part o the sign you will notice a Maple Leaf. This was added in December 2016 to commemorate the 150 years of the Canadian Confederation and to make the sign even more outstanding. On the left side of the sign, you will notice a Healing Wheel which was added in June 2018 in order to commemorate the National Indigenous People Day. Thanks to these new items, the Toronto sign is a unique piece in the world. We strongly recommend taking a picture in front of the sign and the New City Hall behind since it is one of the most popular places in the city.

  • Berlin Wall Slab and Freedom Arches:

There is a piece of the Berlin Wall right here at Nathan Phillips Square. The location of the slab is in the middle arch under the fountain/skating rink (depending on the time of the year you visit this place). The arches including the slab of the Berlin Wall is a tribute to freedom and to the people of suffer due to the lack of it.

  • Diverse Flagpole:

From all the flag poles at Nathan Phillips Square, there is one that draw visitor’s attention due to the different flags that can be put at this pole. The pole is the one on the top right corner when you face the New City Hall and depending on the day it might have a different flag, even if its not a Canada related flag. In this pole you could see international flags according to the world events that are happening that day. For example, it is common to see a flag from another country to commemorate its Independence Day during the calendar day of that event. Take a closer look and if you are lucky you might see the flag of your own country if you are not Canadian.

  • Ice Skating Rink or Fountain (Depending on the season):

At the middle of Nathan Phillips Square, depending on the season you will see either a fountain or an ice-skating rink. If you are enjoying the city during a warm summer day then the fountain will add an extra charm to your picture of the square and the New City Hall. However, if you are visiting during winter, the area where is the fountain will be most likely frozen and this can be also good news since it becomes an ice-skating rink. At the square you also can rent skates for the rink which will give you the chance to use it. However, for the purposes of this tour we will need to leave the ice skating for later and continue through Bay Street.

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