Toronto Through My Lens

A Walk Down Roncesvalles Avenue

I love Roncesvalles (aka Little Poland) – it has such a welcoming village-feel to it and exudes a laid-back yet slightly hip vibe. Roncesvalles Avenue itself stretches for 1.8 km, and is filled with gardens and charming, independent shops along the way. About 15,000 people live in Roncesvalles Village’s vintage buildings.

Known as “Roncy” to the locals, Roncesvalles consists of the stretch of Roncesvalles Avenue from Bloor Street south to Queen Street West.

“They Came From Roncesvalles”
The mural wall which greets visitors. The artists who painted this mural are Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz.
More of the Mural
Artists: Spud1, Wales, Random & Cruz

A Very Brief History of Roncesvalles

Roncesvalles Avenue was originally owned by Colonel Walter O’Hara who named the street after the Roncesvalles gorge in Spain, where he had won a battle against Napolean’s army circa 1813. British settlers began to arrive in the early 1900’s as residential homes appeared. After WWII large numbers of Polish immigrants arrived and set up all sorts of businesses; that is why this neighbourhood celebrates the Roncesvalles Village Polish Festival every year.

Little Poland

Culturally, the area is known as the centre of the Polish community in Toronto with prominent Polish institutions, businesses and St. Casimir’s Catholic Church located on Roncesvalles Avenue. The businesses along Roncesvalles have formed the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area and hold the largest Polish Festival in North America, which takes place every September.

Mural Outside “Jimmy’s Coffee”
2210 Dundas Street West. You know the area is urban-hip when there’s a Jimmy’s Coffee in the ‘hood.
The Revue Cinema, 400 Roncesvalles Avenue
Built between late-1911 and early-1912, the theatre is a designated heritage site and is Toronto’s oldest standing movie theatre in use for showing movies. When news of its closure became public, a grass-roots community movement sprang up in order to save the cinema. After a great deal of effort, the movement was ultimately successful and the Revue reopened in October 2007. It is now operated by the not-for-profit “Revue Film Society”.

Roncesvalles is very well known for the large number of small restaurants, cafés and specialty food shops of various cuisines. There are several bakeries and delicatessens found along the full length of Roncesvalles.

Patios along Roncesvalles Avenue
One of the many fruit and veg shops along Roncesvalles Avenue
Sweetpea’s Floral & Gift Boutique
This is a floral studio located at 294 Roncesvalles Avenue. It’s widely recognized as Toronto’s Best Florist (Toronto Life, BlogTO).
Another shot of Sweetpea’s
Sweetpea’s was just so colourful and inspiring I had to take yet another shot…
Neighbourhood garage doors, Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
263 Roncesvalles Avenue
St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church
Pope John Paul II Monument
The piece was created in 1984 by Alexander von Svoboda. The bronze statue sits outside St. Casimir’s Polish Parishes Credit Union Limited at 220 Roncesvalles Avenue.
The Chopin Restaurant
Polish cuisine, 165 Roncesvalles Avenue
More fruit & veg shops
Old-style barber’s pole on Roncesvalles
In window of Roncesvalles restaurant. Plenty of restaurants in Roncesvalles.
Grafton Community Garden
In Grafton Avenue Park, 23 Roncesvalles Avenue. Resident Walter Ruston painted the mural (on wall behind the garden) of the Sunnyside Amusement Park. This area used to be a neglected scrap of land but was turned into a thing of beauty by local gardening committees.

I’ll leave you with a couple of sites to explore it you’d like to learn more about Roncesvalles:

From Destination Toronto:
An excellent post on their website

Roncesvalles BIA:
Local info found here

2 Comments

  1. David

    I love this street. Nicely done Marv.

  2. Despina Kyraleos

    Roncesvalles is indeed a charming area. Time for another visit!

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