Graffiti and street art are legal in Toronto and have been since 2011.
I did not know this until three of our Toronto Airbnb guests on different occasions asked us where Toronto’s graffiti and street art, specifically Toronto Graffiti Alley was. I thought I knew enough about Toronto to answer most tourist questions, but Toronto 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.
Toronto’s Street Art Thoroughfare
How to get to Graffiti Alley, Toronto?
Well, I’m sort of ashamed to answer that question. The East entrance to Graffiti Alley, which is in the Fashion District, is 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 where street artists are legally allowed to draw on the walls. Eventually, I chalked it up to being new to this part of Toronto (after recently moving here from the Greektown neighborhood) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 HourToronto 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.
Short Trips, Mini Breaks, Weekend Getaways & Stopovers
Using the latest travel apps, technology, and gear, I take a city; see the sights, taste the food, smell the roses, hear the stories and feel the love. All in 48 hours. Then, using videography & editing, photography and writing I retell and share those stories with my readers and viewers.
I'm Christopher Rudder and welcome to Rudderless.
Read more about me here: Being Rudderless With Christopher Rudder
ad here: Rudderless Travel gets nominated for the Leibster Award
Read more about my full-time profession here: A Consultant for Special Needs Students, AND a Travel Blogger!
and here: Special Needs Resource Educator - Children's Services
Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase a product, I may earn a commission. This commission comes at no extra cost to you. Please remember that I never recommend a product just for the commission — I only recommend something I genuinely believe in, trust and/or use personally. The small income I make here will help in maintaining this blog. Thanks for your support!