Toronto: See Canada’s biggest city

With its diverse culture and thriving art and food scene, here's why Toronto should be on top of your holiday destination list

Travel 23 Dec 2019

Toronto from the Distillery District at night
The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
Queen Street West, Toronto

Get cultured

There’s never been a better time to enjoy the variety of sports that Toronto has to offer. Catch the Toronto Raptors fresh from this year’s groundbreaking NBA Championship win – the first team outside the United States to take the coveted basketball title. Meanwhile, tradition dictates a visit to the Scotiabank Arena to see local favourites the Toronto Maple Leafs demonstrate some of the finest ice hockey Canada has to offer.

For an afternoon of museum-hopping, head to Bloor Street, where you will find some of the city’s landmark cultural institutions, as well as some unique and more specialist museums. Here, you’ll find the Royal Ontario Museum, which despite its breathtaking modern exterior houses an expansive collection of natural history artefacts, alongside a revolving schedule of visiting exhibitions and events. Cross the street and you’ll find the Gardiner Museum, bringing together historic examples of ceramic art, as well as offering drop-in workshops to try your hand at making your own masterpiece. Meanwhile, just down the road is the Bata Shoe Museum, offering an insightful whistle-stop history of this fashion item, including famous examples from Elton John’s monogrammed silver platform boots to John Lennon’s Beatle boot.

Gardiner Museum, Toronto
Gardiner Museum, Toronto

Bon appétit

Beyond maple syrup and poutine (national chain Smoke’s Poutinerie is always a reliable option for this cheesy chips delicacy), Canada is not widely renowned for its cuisine. However, its food culture is where Toronto really comes into its own. One of the most multicultural urban areas in the world, the city is home to distinct pockets where you can find some of the finest authentic dishes from almost any country you can think of, mixed in with larger, acclaimed names.

Making a big buzz this year is the arrival of Eataly, following its success across the pond in the US. If you can brave the queues, inside you’ll find a bustling food hall highlighting some of Italy’s best specialities, which can be enjoyed at both sit-down restaurants and takeaway stalls. It’s a favourite with local workers at lunchtime. Reserve time after eating to shop the extensive range of fresh produce and Italian delicacies available at the vibrant market-style shops. For a more relaxed experience, head to the popular Gusto 101 for generous, home-style Italian cooking in a contemporary setting; look out for the upcoming opening of its sister site Gusto 501 in Toronto’s East End, an ambitious-sounding five-story dining concept.

Toronto's Museum of Contemporary Art
Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Art

It’s this kind of modern, relaxed dining that the city does particularly well. It’s worth the slight detour from the central downtown area to visit Drake Commissary. Just a stone’s throw away from the Museum of Contemporary Art, it brings a similarly cool, creative atmosphere, alongside its restaurant and bakery offering culinary workshops and acting as a hub for the local arty community.

If the options seem overwhelming, or you’re making a whistle-stop tour of the city, book onto one of the many themed food tours offered by local experts Eating Through TO. Run by foodies for foodies, try out the best spots in a particular neighbourhood or, instead, narrow it down to your favourite cuisine, from dumplings to the best patisseries.

Shop around

If premium brands and designer labels are your bag, head to Yorkdale Shopping Centre, which brings together some of the best global names under one roof. However, if you’re on the hunt for a unique vintage piece or a hidden gem, pay a visit to Queen Street West. Here you’ll find a plethora of upscale independent boutiques, vintage shops, trendy eateries and contemporary galleries. Similarly, Toronto’s Distillery District offers ample inspiration for interesting gifts and artisanal discoveries, bringing together one-of-kind shops and craftspeople along more mainstream companies.

Here to stay

For those looking to be centrally located, but slightly removed from the main hustle and bustle, the Yorkville neighbourhood ticks all the boxes. Home to the Mink Mile, one of the most prestigious shopping streets in North America, the area also has a host of interesting boutique shops and galleries. The Intercontinental Toronto Yorkville is conveniently located opposite the University of Toronto; take a stroll through its beautiful campus before a trip to one of the many nearby museums.

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