Destination Insight: Toronto City Guide
Canada's economic powerhouse is also North America's fourth biggest city. Cosmopolitan and globally connected, Toronto is a dynamic hub for culture, creativity and innovation. It also offers a tonne of exciting attractions for all kinds of business or leisure traveller.
Here are a handful of our top picks for the city.
Climb the CN Tower
Standing at some 1815 feet tall, the CN Tower has dominated the city’s downtown skyline ever since it was opened in 1976. For some years it was the world’s tallest building, but in recent years it’s been toppled by a host of middle eastern and Asian structures.
Take an extremely fast lift to the viewing gallery and peer through the glass floor to the dizzying view below, or if that doesn’t get the adrenaline pumping fast enough, try the EdgeWalk for size.
This hair-raising experience lets you take the world’s highest hands-free walk, as you edge along the perimetre’s ledge while strapped in with a series of robust fixings.
Toronto lays a convincing claim to being Canada’s most multi-cultural city, which is represented vividly by the huge variety of tempting national cuisine on offer.
Your senses will be sorely tempted by a wander around the city’s Chinatown and while you’re there you’ll probably want to stroll to nearby Kensington Market neighbourhood. Once the epicentre of Toronto’s Jewish community, nowadays its packed with shops and stalls proffering goods from all corners of the earth, especially from the Caribbean, the Middle East and South America. It’s pedestrianised in the summer months which draws loads of street performers and quirky locals out on the tiles.
The vast 3 floored barn of St Lawrence Market gives it a run for its money in ‘the hunger games’, especially since it was voted the world’s top food market by National Geographic Magazine. It’s also the unofficial home of that Canadian culinary staple, the peameal bacon sandwich from the legendary Carousel Bakery.
Dip into the Historic Distillery District
The city’s oldest distillery (the Gooderham and Worts Brewery, built in 1871) was re-purposed in 2003 into the city’s latest arts, shopping and entertainment area. The handsome, Victorian red brick structure (a designated National Historic Site) with its maze of cobbled alleyways and courtyards, provides the perfect buzzy setting for a host of designer boutiques, funky art galleries and indie cafes and restaurants. There are some impressive public art pieces dotted around too.
Art & Culture
When you need to escape the elements, or when you simply fancy getting your culture fix, there is no shortage of fine cultural institutions to shelter in.
The Royal Ontario Museum is famous for its Bat Cave, dinosaurs and antiquities, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) has 80,000 works drawn down from the centuries in its striking Frank Gehry extension and one of the newest is the Aga Khan Museum which charts 11 centuries of Islamic art.
One of the quirkiest is the Bata Shoe Museum and there’s also the Hockey Hall of Fame which promises to demystify the national sport (true Canucks never call it ‘ice hockey’, just plain old ‘hockey’!) with a raft of paraphernalia and gives you a prized selfie opp with the game’s biggest prize, the Stanley Cup.
The Life Aquatic
Toronto sits on the lip of mighty 19km square Lake Ontario so you owe it yourself to get out on the water. For the most authentically Canadian experience head to the Cherry Beach Park area to the east of Downtown and go for a gentle paddle in a kayak.
Most of the Lake is reserved for experienced kayakers only, but this is an easy-going seven-mile loop, where you can stop off and visit one of the islands such as Algonquin, Snake, and Olympic to sample a slower pace of life with perhaps a glass or two of ice wine or ice cider.
The waterfront parks of the white-cliffed Scarborough Bluffs also make for a spectacular day’s biking, and of course if you get time you can easily squeeze in a day trip to Niagara Falls while you’re here.
Getting to Toronto
Toronto’s main Airport, Pearson International (YYZ) is 17 miles out from the centre. You can easily reach the downtown by taking the new Union Pearson (UP) Express train service which departs every 15 minutes from 5.30am to 1am. The 25 minute journey costs 9 CAD one way.
Streetcars, affectionately known as ‘red rockets’ for their distinctive design, ply the city, alongside a reliable Subway (serving 69 stations, single journey adult tickets cost CAD 3.25. Both are great ways of getting around the fairly compact centre. There’s a public Bike Share programme for the city’s core too.
If you’re coming during the winter months you’ll probably want to get familiar with PATH, the vast underground walkway system which is very safe and well populated with food and drink pit stops. Ferries will whisk you around the Toronto Islands parkland area.
Need to Know
Visitors travelling to Canada by air are now expected to get an electronic travel authorisation (eTA) to enter Canada.
If you’re visiting Canada you’ll need an eTA to board your flight unless you’re otherwise exempted (for example, if you have a valid Canadian visa or a permanent resident card). If you have British-Canadian dual nationality you won’t be able to apply for an eTA and you’ll need to present a valid Canadian passport to board your flight to Canada.
If you’re travelling by land or sea, you won’t need an eTA when you enter Canada. However, you must travel with acceptable travel documents and identification.
For more information about the eTA system, and to apply online, visit the official Canadian government website.
For more info on Toronto, just visit www.seetorontonow.com