Canada’s most populous and arguably most financially successful city
Has been warmly welcoming visitors throughout its 180 years, giving it a uniquely cosmopolitan (and ultra-modern) feel today. Many have liked it so much they’ve stayed - half its inhabitants were born outside Canada – drawn, perhaps to its glass peaks, urban beaches, astonishing natural hinterland and easygoing nature.
Unusually for a large North American city, Toronto has managed to retain a largely mall-free downtown environment. Aside from the Eaton Centre (22 Yonge Street) – a hand-picked collection of chains and designer outlets presided over by that famous flying geese sculpture – the supersized arcades are all located in the suburbs. Instead, locals get their retail therapy at bustling gourmet markets such as St Lawrence Market (92 Front Street East) and at independent boutiques. Higher-end shoppers head to Yorkville for Prada (131 Bloor Street West), Chanel (131 Bloor Street West) and of course the ‘Harrods of Toronto’ Holt Renfrew (50 Bloor Street West). Queen and College Streets draw a younger, more alternative crowd.
Food & Drink
Toronto is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, and the diversity of its population is reflected in the food scene. Whether your preference runs to Tibetan sha momos, Scandinavian smørrebrød or simply good, homely pub food, you’ll find something to tickle those taste buds here. Some of the best restaurants Toronto has to offer are brand-spanking new – check out Shōtō (190 University Avenue) for the ultimate in contemporary gourmet extravagance, or the old-school Edulis (169 Niagara Street), which is still a secret known only to savvy locals. Terroni’s Bucatini all’Amatriciana (720 Queen Street West) is a Toronto institution, and serves up lip-smacking Italian dishes at decent prices.
Over a million people of every race, gender and sexuality flock to Toronto in June for a week of colourful celebration. This is as much an arts festival as a pride event, with performances across 10 stages, a weekend street fair and a typically extravagant keynote parade.
Toronto Fringe Festival
With over 150 productions and a combined audience of around 90,000 people, this 12-day theatre festival is a lynchpin of Toronto’s arts calendar. Expect everything from musicals and cabaret shows to serious dramas and improvisation.
Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival
Formerly and still commonly called Caribana, the largest Caribbean festival in North America celebrates all that’s fabulous about Caribbean culture. Events centre around the showpiece parade that winds through the streets accompanied by steel bands, reggae and salsa music.
Toronto International Film Festival
Cannes aside, this is generally considered to be the most important film festival in the world. It attracts an international celebrity crowd, as well as a host of independent producers, directors and actors.
Cavalcade of Lights
Festive celebrations kick off early with this fireworks display and lights festival. It marks the opening of the skating rink at Nathan Philips Square and the lighting of Toronto’s ever-spectacular Christmas tree.
Toronto has one of the glitziest luxury hotel scenes in North America. In 2012 alone, four of the world’s most opulent brands opened branches here: Ritz-Carlton (181 Wellington Street West), Shangri-La (188 University Avenue), Trump (325 Bay Street) and Four Seasons (60 Yorkville Avenue). Canada’s capital also has plenty to offer outside the five-star market. From the 1930s-inspired Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen Street West) to the designer Hotel Ocho in Chinatown (195 Spadina Avenue), Toronto’s boutique accommodation is fast becoming legend among travellers. Budget visitors can get their trendy fix at The Rex (194 Queen Street West), a lively jazz bar with a small selection of rooms.