Experiencing Toronto is more than climbing the CN Tower, watching a Blue Jays baseball game at the Rogers Centre, watching a Toronto Maple Leafs or Toronto Raptors game at the Air Canada Centre, visiting the Canadian Hockey Hall of Fame, or taking a trip to Niagara Falls. The best part of Toronto is its eclectic mix of culture, people, food, shops, music, events and festivals.
With all kinds of museums, art galleries, lounges and bars, it will take you months to explore Toronto in its entirety. Get a taste of Greece in the Greek city of Toronto on Danforth; try Little Italy or Chinatown for a different flavour; maybe pork bone soup in Koreatown or fine dining all over the city.
Toronto: Port to the World
Although Toronto, Canada is the 4th largest city in North America, it is one of the three most multicultural cities in the world, as stated by the United Nations. It is a port for every nation and ethnicity in the world – with about 50% of its population made up of non-Canadian born residents.
The best time to visit Toronto is during the summer from May to September when the city comes alive on summer nights from the Harbourfront to its street festivals. During winter from November to March, it’s great if you don’t mind snow – but there are plenty of opportunities for skating and events in the cold outside.
5 Toronto Highlights to Discover Art, Culture & Life
If it’s your first time to Toronto, be sure to check out the top attractions: CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame, Art Gallery of Ontario, Royal Ontario Museum and Science Center. If you want to really experience Toronto, then these places are for you!
1) Church & Wellesley.
This area of Toronto is considered to be Toronto’s LGBT-oriented community or “Gay Village.” Located in downtown Toronto and has been growing since the 1980’s. Today, many neighborhoods in Toronto are gay-friendly but because Church Street is the original, it remains a hub for a large part of the gay community. Many decent shops, bars, restaurants, sushi places and cafes line the streets of the area – and their terraces and open spaces are always packed during summer afternoons.
If you visit Toronto in June, you will be able to take part in Toronto Pride Week and Pride Parade, one of the biggest Gay Pride festivals in the world. This year it will be held from 20-29 June 2008.
2) Ride TTC.
One of the best ways to discover the culture and life of the city is to take public transit, and the Toronto Transit Commission or TTC: “The Better Way” in Toronto. Take the subway or one of the trams and you’ll catch a glimpse and appreciate the multicultural diversity that exists among Toronto residents.
Hop on the tram and jump on a daily or weekly pass. You will be able to pass through many different environments, each with their own tastes and quirks. You can observe how people work – and don’t work – with each other on their daily commute from place to place, but you will understand how Toronto residents negotiate through their diversity and differences. This is definitely a unique experience – and not to be missed.
3) Purification District.
Located just east of downtown Toronto, the Distillery District in Toronto is one of its own cobblestone streets. Originally built in 1832 as a Gooderham and Worts whiskey distillery, it was transformed into a trendy/artistic district in the 1990s.
The historic building has been preserved and redeveloped into a promenade filled with art galleries, restaurants, coffee shops, theaters and creative spaces as well as studios for actors, photographers, painters and more. Today, the Mill Street Brewery is found here, whose products are well known throughout Toronto’s bars and lounges.
Spend the afternoon here and don’t miss the coffee from the two-story coffee shop in Balzac and some chocolates from the Soma chocolate maker.
4) Yorkville & Bloor Street.
For upscale culture, chic fashion and dazzling couture in downtown Toronto, Yorkville and Bloor Street is the place to be. Here, you will find high-end stores such as William Sonoma, Prada, Gucci, Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Vera Wang, Ferrari, Harry Rosen, Hugo Boss, and others.
Just north of Bloor, you’ll find Cumberland Street and Yorkville – Toronto’s celebrity and wealthy haven. It’s also where you’ll find some of the best fine dining and fine dining in Toronto such as Sassafraz, Pangaea, Le Trou Normand, Truffles and Flow. To see Toronto’s high-end produce, specialty food and pastries, visit Pusateri’s at Bay and Yorkville Ave.
5) Chinatown & Kensington Market.
Although Toronto has about seven ‘Chinatowns’, its main Chinatowns are currently located at Dundas and Spadina in downtown Toronto. Small and large Chinese restaurants alike sit along the street along with food stalls selling fruit, long distance phone cards, and super cheap slippers. You will see barbeque meat in the window and cooking in their pan. Increasingly, the Vietnamese community has also become part of the Chinese city and has established many Vietnamese sandwich shops and Pho noodle restaurants.
Another of Toronto’s Chinatowns is located north in the Scarborough/Markham area of Kennedy and Steeles Ave.: Pacific Mall, Market Village Mall and Splendid China Tower. This cluster of complexes makes up North America’s largest Chinese mall – yet retains small, boutique Hong Kong-style shops. This is where you’ll find the best Chinese food in Toronto.
Kensington Market in Toronto is one of my favorite places in the world – and hidden just a block away, behind the bustle of busy Chinatown. During summer, roads are close by car and you can walk freely with a fair-trade coffee in your hand up and down the streets to the sound of reggae pumping and sights of dancing people, artworks, the smell of baked goods in the air and rows of fruits and vegetables colorful ones sold at roadside stalls. It is the home of the modern hippie, artist, musician and bohemian freak.
If you are looking for a large indoor market, visit St. Market. Lawrence on a Saturday morning and your senses will be filled with smells, sounds and tastes!