Nathan Phillips Square is the largest public square in Canada and is named after the city’s first Jewish mayor, Nathan Phillips. Philips, who ran the office from 1955–1962, is celebrated for transforming Toronto from a city under decades of staunch Protestant political control and advantage into the multicultural metropolis that it has become today. Although some younger Torontonians question his aggressive demolition of heritage buildings, he was the driving force behind the avant-garde architecture of the city.
The square is very active. Throughout the year, you’ll find concerts, art exhibits, farmers’ markets, and other public events. It’s also the location of the annual Cavalcade Lights Festival and the city’s New Year's Eve party. In the winter, the reflecting pool is transformed into a skating rink, so lace up and practice your best Biellmann spin.
The three concrete arches above the reflecting pool were constructed as architectural supports for lighting but now symbolize a more profound meaning—international solidarity. In 1989, they were rededicated as Freedom Arches to honor those who had fought and died for independence. Fittingly, a piece of the Berlin Wall sits at the southern base of the central arch.
The large “Toronto” sign provides the most obvious backdrop for your pic, and it’s popular with both travelers and locals. The sign was installed during the 2015 Pan American Games. City officials had planned to relocate it at the end of that year but announced it would remain as a feature of Nathan Phillips Square after seeing its popularity. It’s now a piece of permanent art and is as much a part of Toronto as the Hollywood sign is to Los Angeles.
Cover image by Vincent Albos is made available on Pexels.