There’s no question about it: Toronto is incredible. Canada’s largest city proudly claims the title of ‘most multicultural place on the planet’, and that might go some way to explaining how its rich, diverse and ever-changing cultural offering came to be. With so much to tick off the list in Toronto, you’re going to have to hit the ground running when you arrive. To help, here’s our quick and easy guide to help you get straight to the best of the city.
See the world in one city
Around half of Toronto’s residents weren’t born in Canada, and it’s thought that more than 140 languages are spoken in the city’s streets. Unsurprisingly, this means almost every corner of the globe is represented among Toronto’s diverse districts.
One minute you could be sampling street food in Chinatown, the next grabbing a cup from a Milanese coffeehouse in Little Italy. A short ride up the road and you’ll be singing til’ late at a karaoke bar in Koreatown, before finishing the day with a hearty curry in Little India.
Experience Toronto’s heritage in Old Town
You’ll find Old Town just east of Toronto’s main Downtown district. These blocks, set across six neighbourhoods, (St Lawrence, Corktown, King East Design District, Historic Queen East, Town of York and the Distillery District) lay claim to the city’s 19th century origins, and their streets are lined with stunning period architecture. That’s not to say they’re trapped in time though – Old Town is probably the most on-trend part of the city.
Take the Distillery District, for example. It’s become a mecca for small independent businesses and creative industry. Nearby, the King East Design District is famed for its cutting-edge interior design stores, while St Lawrence plays host to an incredible and historical market. The market’s been home to more than 120 merchants for over 200 years, offering an array of art, antiques, collectables, cooked food and fresh farm produce.
Get to know the real Toronto
If any single district sums up Toronto and all that’s great about it, it would have to be Kensington Market. This traditional working-class neighbourhood originally housed Scottish and Irish immigrants in the late 1880’s. It was soon populated by Eastern European Jews and Italians, followed by Caribbean and East Asian migrants, and then Central American and African groups in more recent times. And it shows.
You could probably find every cuisine of the world in Kensington Market’s streets. Street Art sprawls its way along walls, and music from bars and cafés spills out into the road. This is a suburb that’s not just alive; it’s thriving – so much so that it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada. Where others have fallen, it’s resisted gentrification. Head here for a true taste of Toronto.
Escape from it all
Exploring the jewel in Canada’s crown might get a little overwhelming. If you feel like you need to come up for air, Toronto offers some stunning environments to escape to. Toronto islands lie south of the city, out on Lake Ontario, and can be accessed by boat from the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal.
Once you arrive you’ll find pure tranquillity: floral gardens, winding woodland pathways, little cafes by the water, golden beaches, not to mention breathtaking views of the city skyline back over the water. There’s even a small theme park, farm and a maze if it’s entertainment you seek.
If the little rides on Toronto islands have wet your appetite for thrills, Canada’s wonderland promises the biggest and the best. Found in the North suburbs, this theme park and water park is by far the greatest in Canada, and even competes with the best the USA has to offer.
From a 94 metre, 80-degree plummet on the monster-sized Leviathan coaster, to a 40km/h spiral downwards from a drop capsule on the Muskoka Plunge waterslides, the adrenaline will be off the charts.
They may be a 90-minute drive across Lake Ontario, far out of the city, but to head to Toronto and miss this jaw-dropping natural wonder would be sacrilege. The falls are one of the most visited spots in the world and need no introduction.
The roar of 700,000 gallons of water per second spilling down the Niagara river into Lake Ontario is a sound which sticks with visitors forever. However you choose to experience the falls – exploring the area on foot; getting up close on a boat; or marvelling from the air in a helicopter – it’s the perfect natural accompaniment to the urban bustle when you visit Toronto.