A Beginner’s Guide To Toronto
Toronto – Canada’s largest city, and the fourth-largest in North America – is in the spotlight at the moment for various reasons: Prince Harry’s new girlfriend hails from there, and the prince’s Invictus Games will take place in the city in 2017. Here’s what to see and do in Canada’s capital of cool.
Tamara Hinson is a Surrey-based freelance travel journalist who writes for newspapers such as the Telegraph and Guardian, along with in-flight publications and travel websites. She’s especially interested in getting off the beaten track and some of the more unusual destinations she’s visited include North Korea and Benin.
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Where To Eat And Drink
Toronto has one of the world’s most diverse food scenes – you’ll find award-winning chefs whipping up delicious dishes at celebrity hotspots like University Avenue’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, as well as street food stalls and enormous markets selling fresh, local produce. For dinner with a view, head to the rooftop Lavelle restaurant on King Street West, where you’ll enjoy stunning views of the CN Tower, one of the tallest buildings in North America.
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If you love Asian food, you’ll love Bay Street’s Miku Toronto, which is famous for its sushi (we recommend the salmon oshi, made with wild sockeye salmon, garnished with jalapeño and cracked black pepper). For a caffeine hit, mingle with the locals at Quantum Coffee on King Street West, which specialises in single origin coffees. “My current favourite is our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe,” reveals the café’s Jo Vos. “It’s a beautiful, medium-bodied coffee with a delicate acidity and an incredible aroma of berries and honey. It’s even more delicious paired with a salted caramel scone!”
Where To Get A Culture Fix
Toronto is jam-packed with museums. The Royal Ontario Museum, in Queen’s Park, has a huge number of galleries, including ones dedicated to Canada’s First Peoples, the world’s mammals and geological treasures. At the Art Gallery of Ontario, you can admire work by Canadian artists, along with masterpieces by Constable, van Gogh and Michelangelo.
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But the city’s smaller museums are some of the most fascinating. At the Gibson House Museum on Beacon Street, you’ll be able to learn about Scottish immigrant David Gibson, who helped plan the layout of early Toronto, and at Montgomery’s Inn, you can step inside a nineteenth-century tavern.
Local’s Tip: “My personal favourite is the Art Gallery of Ontario,” says Niall McCotter, owner of Chabrol, a Toronto restaurant specialising in French cuisine. “It’s a world-class institute which is constantly adding and changing spectacular exhibits.”
Where To Chill Out
Once you’ve scared yourself silly by clambering to the top of the CN Tower (where you can also walk around its rim, 356 metres above the ground), take some time to discover the city’s green spaces. Mississauga is an area to the south of Toronto. Easily accessible by train, it’s popular with those keen to explore the great outdoors.
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The Credit River – a popular canoeing and fishing spot – runs through Mississauga’s beautiful Erindale Park, which has a network of walking trails for all abilities. The Allan Gardens Conservatory, in the downtown area, is just as beautiful, and contains six greenhouses filled with seasonal plants. The gardens are close to Ashbridges Bay Park, a wonderful natural habitat and fantastic people-watching spot.
Local’s Tip: “People think of the Toronto Islands as a summer destination but there are trails and walks that are great all year round, and the view from the ferry is incredible,” says Laura Robb, an assistant interpretive planner at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Where To Rock Out
Toronto has two enormous stadiums: the Rogers Centre (which has recently hosted Beyoncé and Taylor Swift) and the Air Canada Centre. But working out where to go for a live music fix depends on your preferences. Queen West neighbourhood is a great place to check out some indie bands. Cameron House is one of the most popular spots – this intimate venue is a regular haunt of Toronto’s biggest alternative acts.
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For Latin vibes, head to Dundas Street West for Lula’s Salsa Saturdays. The Reservoir Lounge in downtown Toronto is a mecca for jazz fans, and it’s also known as the training ground of Canadian crooner Michael Bublé.
Local’s Tip: “My two favourite music venues in the city are Massey Hall and the Dakota Tavern,” says Jo Vos at Quantum Coffee. “Massey Hall is such a legendary space, with amazing acoustics, and Dakota is just a great place to listen to some bluegrass.”
Where To Shop
Toronto is one of Canada’s biggest shopping destinations. In 2016, Nordstrom opened two new stores in the city. Bloor-Yorkville, known as Toronto’s Fifth Avenue, is where you’ll find the high end designer boutiques like Tiffany and Chanel, while bargain hunters will love the city’s many flea markets – Leslieville flea market attracts bargain hunters from all over Toronto.
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If you’re a fan of shopping malls, head to the Toronto Eaton Centre, on Yonge Street. It’s also one of the world’s most beautiful shopping centres, with a spectacular glass galleria and a sculpture depicting Canada’s famous geese in flight.
Local’s Tip: “After sampling some of the must-eats of St Lawrence Market, roll yourself along to the charming shops along Front Street,” suggests Lisa Ng, Toronto local and editor-in-chief of The Hip + Urban Girl’s Guide. “If you’re visiting on a Saturday, head north to the North Market. Inside you’ll find a once-a-week farmer’s market. On Sundays, there’s an antique market, too.”