Toronto doesn’t call itself the greatest city in the world – but it might just be
Alexia Santamaria celebrates Canada’s coolest metropolis.
Toronto doesn’t always spring to mind when thinking of the world’s coolest cities. New York, London, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo, Sydney and others bustle themselves confidently onto those ‘top city’ lists – but Toronto isn’t into brashness. And that’s part of the charm of one of the world’s most multicultural cities – it’s big, fun and vibrant – but it doesn’t need to tell you that.
Toronto has had a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Innovative restaurants serving outstanding modern cuisine have slid in among iconic places which have delighted locals for years; the nightlife is pumping, there are incredible festivals, a growing craft beer scene and stimulating galleries and museums. And all of this perched right on the shores of stunning Lake Ontario, only 90 minutes drive from Niagara Falls – one of the most impressive bodies of water in the world.
Here’s some suggestions if you’re headed to Toronto on your next holiday.
Take good shoes and discover this city by foot. The Distillery District is perfect for meandering – stop for a beer or a coffee, nosey through shops, sample Sake made in Ontario and check out chocolate production at the gorgeous Soma. Head down towards the water and walk along the edge of the Lake – they’ve even thrown some sand, chairs and umbrellas down to create a place called ‘Sugar Beach’. Or you can go to ‘The Beaches’ for some actual seaside action – a cab ride to get there, but plenty of walking opportunity once you arrive.
The Distillery District
Toronto's ethnic neighbourhoods are also worth a look. You’ll find all manner of things you’ve never seen before in Chinatown’s shops, and if you wind your way towards Little Italy, you can park yourself in a bar for an Aperol Spritz or gelato. If these take your fancy, Little Portugal, Koreatown and Little India should be on your list too.
If shopping is your sport of choice, you’re well catered for in Toronto; the incredibly popular Eaton Centre has long prided itself as North America’s busiest mall, and when you enter you won’t question that. Make sure you drop by Yonge Dundas Square on your way in or out; it’s the centre of Toronto and has a very Times Square feel to it. A ten minute subway ride will take you to Bloor Yorkville for high end fashion in Toronto’s chicest neighbourhood.
Downtown Toronto feels like Canada’s version of Times Square
With over 230 different nationalities represented, you can find anything you want to eat in Toronto. There are plenty of excellent high-end restaurants doing sensational cuisine, but one of the biggest joys is sampling food from Ma and Pa shops run by the people who have made Toronto the most diverse city in the world.
Visit the St Lawrence Market for delicious local food
One of the best places to do this is Kensington Market. Not a market so much as a neighbourhood, you can poke round Ethiopian spice shops, eat golden empanadas fresh from giant ovens and gorge yourself on Jamaican patties and doubles (a Toronto must-eat). St Lawrence market is an actual market, overflowing with beautiful olives, cheeses, cured meats, sweets, seafood, condiments, fruit, pastries and anything else your culinary heart desires. Join the queue for lobster rolls with the office dwellers who are lucky enough to work nearby.
The beautiful produce at the St Lawrence Market
None of us want to be the typical tourist but CN Tower and Niagara Falls are famous Canadian landmarks for a reason. Head up the big needle for a great view that will give you an idea of the scale of this city and, if time permits, it’s only an hour and half to the famous falls. All three sets of waterfalls (the Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil) are truly breathtaking, and certainly make you contemplate your relative importance in the face of Mother Nature.
Canada’s famous waterfalls are worth the hype and a must see
If you enjoy museums and galleries make sure you visit the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Toronto and the very recently reopened Museum of Contemporary Art.
Even if you’ve only got a few days it won’t take long for Toronto to charm you. And you’ll be back again for sure.