Talking about Toronto

Canada’s largest city boasts art, culture and lovely locals

Talking about Toronto

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Set on the shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto blends all the attractions of a big, cosmopolitan city with stunning natural scenery. An eight-hour flight from the UK, it’s doable in a long weekend – but there’s so much to see, we recommend staying longer to soak it all up.

Culture hub

Talking about Toronto

Over half of Toronto’s population were born outside of Canada, which is something the locals celebrate. “It’s like a big picnic,” explains one. “Everyone’s invited and they all bring something to the table.” With over 200 languages spoken here, Toronto is a melting pot of cultures, and the tolerance and respect for differences is something that’s really striking.

To get a feel for the city’s evolving identity, go to Chinatown and Kensington Market. This area by Spadina (pronounced “spad-eye-na”) Avenue was once a thriving Jewish garment district when Chinese settlers established businesses here, and the two groups lived and worked side-by-side. These days, stand on the corner of Dundas Street West and Spadina and you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in Hong Kong. It’s a vibrant neighbourhood with plenty of good Chinese restaurants – we recommend King’s Noodle.

A couple of streets back lies Kensington Market – a maze of narrow streets and alleys lined with colourful Victorian houses. With a distinct hippie vibe, it’s home to iconic vintage stores and is a great place to find second-hand clothes. Head to Bellevue Square Park, where the locals congregate at weekends, and enjoy a beer and seafood pit-stop at Amadeu’s Restaurant on the corner.

Get more with a tour

For an overview of the city’s key attractions, we recommend taking the City Sightseeing Tour (Citysightseeingtoronto.com). Stopping at all the major points of interest, this hop-on-hop-off tour is an easy way to get around. The whole trip takes two-and-a-half hours, but tickets are valid for 48 hours and include a free harbour cruise, so you can pace yourself.

One of the stops is the historic Distillery District. With a fascinating and, at times, tragic past, this area has been sensitively regenerated and is now regarded as Canada’s premier arts, culture and entertainment destination. Blending old and new, it’s full of one-of-a-kind stores, galleries, studios, restaurants, cafés and theatres. It has also been known as “the Hollywood of the north”, as many famous films were made here – including Three Men And A Baby, RoboCop and Chicago. A guided walk with Go Canada Tours can give you more insight.

Thrills & spills

Talking about Toronto

For something totally different, try the Edgewalk at the CN Tower – one of the world’s tallest buildings (Edgewalkcntower.ca). Remove your jewellery, tighten your shoelaces, put on a boilersuit and safety harness, and head outside Toronto’s iconic landmark – 116 storeys above street level. With ropes attaching you to the guide rails, you can go hands-free and pose for the souvenir photos. The views are incredible, and it’s a real adrenalin rush. If that’s not for you, the views from inside the tower are spectacular, too.

For more active relaxation, try the Escape the City Paddle and Dining Adventure. Departing from the Harbourfront Canoe & Kayak Centre, climb onboard a heritage voyager canoe and enjoy a group paddle across Lake Ontario to the beautiful Toronto Islands, where you explore while your crew sets up an alfresco dinner. Showcasing local produce, this is a charming way to sample island life before paddling back to the mainland to witness the city’s skyline at sunset.

Museums & more

Culture vultures should head to the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), home to temporary and permanent exhibitions. Wander at your leisure and enjoy a refreshment break in the light and airy Galleria Italia.

In the evening, we recommend heading out to watch a show once performances resume. Prior to the pandemic and the abrupt shutdown of theatres, Toronto had emerged as the world’s third-largest centre for English language theatre – behind only London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. With plenty of theatres scattered around the downtown Entertainment District, there should be plenty of shows to choose from and support. For inspiration, go to Mirvish.com.

Eat & drink

Toronto has very cold winters and hot summers, so when the warmer months finally arrive, the locals embrace the city’s patio culture. We recommend Baro Rooftop and Patio (Barotoronto.com) for modern Latin cuisine and great cocktails– try the Baro Sour – and Gusto 101 Upper Patio for a sun-drenched brunch (Gusto101.com). If you’re after award-winning Eastern Mediterranean food, head to Byblos (Byblosdowntown.com). With a cool industrial setting, this restaurant has a delicious mix of sharing dishes to sample, particularly the Ora King Salmon and Creamed Spinach Pide.

For a caffeine fix, look out for your nearest Jimmy’s Coffee shop (Jimmyscoffee.ca). Popular with locals, this independent chain has several locations on Toronto’s west side. Or, if you’re in Yorkville, head to insiders’ favourite Goldstruck for a fantastic flat white and a delicious muffin (Goldstruck.ca).

We also recommend trying the soft-serve ice cream at iHalo Krunch (Ihalokrunch.com). This Instagram-friendly parlour serves up some surprising flavours, like their signature “Ubenut” – a swirl of purple yam and black coconut-charcoal served in a charcoal cone.

Need to know

• The Gladstone Hotel, set in the heart of the city’s Art & Design District on vibrant Queen Street West, is Toronto’s oldest continually operating hotel. Lovingly established as a boutique art hotel, each room has been individually designed by a different artist. There’s freshly brewed coffee to wake up to, comfortable lounge areas and plenty of entertainment on offer at the bar downstairs. Double rooms start from £152 per night (Gladstonehotel.com).

• A Toronto CityPass (Citypass.com/toronto) provides access to key attractions across the city, including the CN Tower, Casa Loma, Royal Ontario Museum, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada, Toronto Zoo and Ontario Science Centre. The pass costs £57.25 for adults and £38.99 for children (plus taxes). Getting around Toronto costs just £7.80 per day with a TTC (Toronto Transport Commission) day pass (Ttc.ca).

• For more information and ideas, visit Tourism Toronto at[ Seetorontonow.com ](http:// Seetorontonow.com )

Please check Gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus for travelling advice following the outbreak of the coronavirus

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