10 Places And Neighbourhoods To Visit On Your Next Trip To Toronto

Tatiana Czuchnowsky

Things to do, people to see (or watch) and hipster hangouts in Toronto Toronto is a great city with a lot more to offer than …

Things to do, people to see (or watch) and hipster hangouts in Toronto

Toronto city skyline, Canada.Toronto is a great city with a lot more to offer than simply being recent fodder for late night comedy acts. It’s a city that prides itself on its multiculturalism, great neighbourhoods and kick-ass restaurants, certainly not on its Mayor.  Politics aside, Toronto is constantly shifting, growing and adding to its already impressive arsenal of things to do and places to visit. Here are my top destinations (in no particular order) to check out on your first or next visit to our fair city.

St. Lawrence Market – a Foodie’s paradise since 1803 and voted World’s best food market in 2012 by National Geographic Magazine. Even if you don’t plan on cooking your next meal, it’s worth a look at the specialty food stalls, market vendors, meat merchants, cheese mongers and colourful buskers. Comprised of the North and South (original location) Markets, you’ll find practically any food item you can think of from hard to find grains, spices, specialty and local meats, cheeses and organics, to crafts, jewellery and clothing. No trip to the market is complete without a visit to their lower level stalls for a Mustachio’s veal or chicken sandwich loaded with hot peppers, mushrooms and onions!

Hockey Hall of Fame – what more can I say? Hockey is the national, cultural and much beloved icon of what is quintessentially Canadian. If you’re a hockey lover, you have to visit. Get up close and personal with the Stanley Cup (yes, it lives here) and explore the world’s largest hockey memorabilia collection. There are interactive activities – taking shots at real time goalies anyone? – or trying your hand as a sports broadcaster, calling the play by play of some of hockey’s most memorable goals. This is a family friendly destination and a must for the hockey enthusiast.

The CN Tower – this is an oldie but goodie. Once billed as the world’s largest free standing building, the tower’s height has been eclipsed yet continues to be a “must visit” in Toronto. The high speed elevator to the top of the tower is an ear popping, thrilling ride and a walk across, a jump on top of, or a look below at the city from the glass floor isn’t for the faint of heart. For daredevils, there is the Edge Walk – the world’s highest full circle, backwards hands-free walk on a 5 ft wide ledge encircling the top perimeter of the CN Tower’s main pod. That’s right, an exterior perimeter walk around one of the world’s tallest buildings, 116 storeys high in the sky.  If you were frightened about the glass floor…

If heights aren’t your thing, remain grounded at the base of the tower and enjoy the visitor centre and catch a 3D movie. And finally, even though it may seem very 70’s, there is a revolving restaurant at the top of the tower, the food is good and the view is spectacular! What better way to see city lights?

Ripley’s Aquarium – this is a new addition to Toronto, recently opened in October 2013. Big fish, little fish, jelly fish and more. Guests can view over 16,000 animals including sharks, turtles and stingrays. The aquarium features exhibits highlighting marine life found in Canadian waters and worldwide. Enjoy touch tanks and underwater viewing tunnels to get up close and personal with the wonders of the oceans. Wait times tend to be quite long over the weekend, a visit here is best planned during the week.

The Distillery Historic District – once home to the Gooderham and Wort’s Distillery, this historical enclave in the east end of downtown Toronto offers a great way to spend an afternoon. Cobblestoned roadways guide you through a maze of shops, residences, restaurants and galleries. Local brewpubs chocolatiers (Soma is a must) and bistros (they’re all nice) are featured alongside artist workshops and various retailers selling anything from clothing and jewellery, to sunglasses to furniture.

ROM & AGO – if you’re looking for some culture, look no further than the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Architecture – check (enjoy the Daniel Libeskind designed Crystal addition at the ROM or the Frank Gehry re-designed AGO). Egyptian Mummies – check. Dinosaurs – check. Masterpiece artwork and films – check. Both institutions feature world class exhibits and are located in interesting areas. The AGO is downtown (near Chinatown) and the ROM is in Bloor Yorkville, taking me to my next point…

Bloor Yorkville – high-end boutiques, galleries, people watching and restaurants. Bloor Yorkville is a see and be seen destination. With time and money to burn you can do a lot of damage or retail therapy, depending on how you look at it. If posturing on patios, high heels, small dogs and even smaller hemlines aren’t your speed, then eschew this destination completely and head over to…

West Queen West/Parkdale – two words – Hipster Hangouts. These two neighbourhoods blend into one another, essentially running along Queen St. West from Trinity Bellwoods Park to Dufferin (West Queen West) and from Dufferin to Roncesvalles (Parkdale). Both areas are filled with galleries, musicians, vintage stores, artists, small, one off original retailers and great, au courant restaurants. There is an interesting, gritty element and dynamic to the neighbourhoods, however gentrification has been steadily and stealthily invading, creating a blend of young families, artisans, dreamers, young advertising professionals beginning their careers and colourful, vagrant vagabonds. Think of it as a modern day Greenwich Village/Soho in Canada.

Ossington Strip – See above, although located in a highly concentrated area with many more restaurants, watering holes and an even more vibrant nightlife with bars like The Painted Lady, Reposado Tequila Bar and Sweaty Betty’s. Try Yours Truly, Delux, Foxley, Pizza Libretto, Salt Wine Bar and Fishbar, to name just a few of the restaurants dotting this strip between Little Portugal’s Dundas St. West and Queen St. West. Great galleries and clothing stores.

Theatre District (King West) – This is the world’s third largest English speaking theatre district, after London’s West End and New York’s Broadway. If you like drama, song and dance, this is the area for you. In addition to theatre, the area boasts a mix of professional, residential and retail, creating a dynamic and vibrant neighbourhood at all hours and all seasons. A variety of restaurants, hotels, and venues/destinations unto themselves such as the TIFF Bell Lightbox (Toronto International Film Festival headquarters) and CN Tower are within an arm’s reach.

The above offers just a small sampling of some of the places to see and neighbourhoods to visit when travelling to Toronto. I hope you enjoy your stay!


Have you ever been to Toronto?  What is your favourite place to visit? Feel free to leave a comment below or shout out to us on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, you could always write your own blog post on the subject and share it with us… We’d love to read it!

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Tatiana Czuchnowsky was an associate at CornerStone Dynamics Inc. In all her blogs efficiency was the name of the game.

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