Have you ever been quite surprised by a city? Ever arrived somewhere and been immediately floored away with options for things to do or places to eat at in a city? Or overwhelmed with literally hundreds of options for bars and clubs worth visiting? For me, that was Toronto. I’d heard it was a cool city from many of the experts I’ve met abroad, but I just didn’t know until I saw it for myself. I’d heard Toronto called a cleaner version of New York City, and after visiting both cities in the span of a month, I’d probably have to agree. (Admittedly, Toronto is much smaller than NYC…) Toronto has much less graffiti than New york, I guess graffiti removal Toronto companies are working overtime. Anyhow, here is what I think about Toronto, the arts, nightlife and culture.
Toronto is cool. So cool, in fact, it’s quickly become one of my favorite cities. Toronto is a BIG city with a population over 2.5 million. It’s also a very international city. In fact, just over 50 per cent of Toronto’s residents weren’t even born in Canada! In a city with so many foreigners, it shouldn’t be surprising that Torontonians speak all together over 140 different languages. In a city as international as Toronto (rated one of the most multicultural in the world), it’s no surprise that there are plenty of hipsters and hipstery things to do. With art fairs, a growing food truck scene, three Chinatowns and a diverse and multicultural population, Toronto is one of the world’s most hipster cities. Here are my picks for some of the best things to do including tourist attractions, restaurants, bars, cafes and nightclubs.
Things to do, places to see…
Queen Street West is undoubtedly one of the most hip and trendy areas in Toronto today. The Trinity Bellwoods Park seems to be the hub of summertime activity for the neighborhood. Though Queen Street West was once more bohemian, gentrification has caused rents to go up, but it’s still full of hipstery cafes, bakeries and restaurants. On a side street just off Queen Street West is Graffiti Alley – Toronto’s only public space where graffiti is legal. You can even take a tour of Toronto’s graffiti scene which will give you insider tips on the scene. For art lovers, the Royal Ontario Museum is one of Canada’s most prominent art museums. Even if, you don’t go inside, the outside is spectacular enough!
Maybe because Toronto is so close to NYC, the city is one of Canada’s most fashion-savvy. There’s an entire museum dedicated to shoes!
If you’re looking for an awesome photo opportunity, shell out the big bucks and do the EdgeWalk at the CN Tower. It’s the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere (that’s HALF OF THE WORLD). Perhaps because Canadians are just so adventurous (or they have a strong desire to try to cheat death) they’ll let you walk around the tower at 116 floors up… with little more than a rope keeping you attached to the building. Get lost in Toronto’s Chinatown. You can find just about any fruit or vegetable at the fresh market stands, but tuck in between them and you’ll find the city’s best Chinese restaurants. Come for Dim Sum if you can! Go shopping near Kensington Market
Toronto, being one of Canada’s many epicenters of culture, is home to one of the world’s most important film festivals-lovingly abbreviated as the TIFF. The Toronto International Film Festival lasts 10 days and celebrates some of the best films and documentaries from around the world. They’ve got quite a reputation for selecting quality movies which end up as blockbusters or critical hits. More info: http://tiff.net Toronto’s Distillery district is home to art galleries, restaurants and beer gardens. The brick-lined streets are reminiscent of Victorian times, but hey, this is the now. You could do a Segway tour in the Distillery neighborhood, or you could pound back some beers. You decide.
Restaurants and cafes
Toronto’s culinary scene is as diverse and interesting as the city itself. Many restaurants have embraced current food trends-everything from vegan restaurants to cupcakes and even honeybees! There are plenty of ways to get associated with Toronto’s food scene. Personally, I took a chocolate and cheese food tour (with chowbellaTO on Twitter) which was a great introduction to the Queen Street West hipster neighborhood of Toronto.
Tealish – This little tea shop and café are a small delight on the trendy Queest Street West. Their loose leaf tea has become so popular over the years, it’s exported all over the world. They’ve even got a chocolate flavored tea! – tealish.com Dlish Cupcakes – Often rated as Toronto’s best cupcakery, Dlish has a rotating menu of cupcakes with a few constant regulars. Go for the classic (and their specialty) Red Velvet which is made from high-quality imported Belgian chocolate. – dlishcupcakes.com White Squirrel Coffee – Fair trade, organic coffee. Can’t get much more hipster than that. – whitesquirrelcoffee.com
Food trucks – Still a growing scene in Toronto, and they still need legal permits to park on the city’s curbs. But the city is beginning to catch on. This summer the city hosted the first annual Food Truck Awards. For a full list of the food trucks in Toronto, and alerts on their location, visit torontofoodtrucks.ca Charlie’s Burgers – This invite-only restaurant is too hip and too secret for me to have figured it out. Their website simply asks for an e-mail address, but there have been plenty of features and exposés on the pop-up (and top-secret) restaurant. Nadege – Gourmet French pastries and dessert shop. Try the macaroons (see photo above). – nadege-patisserie.com
Cheesewerks – A relative newcomer in Toronto’s restaurant scene, this restaurant focuses solely on one item: grilled cheese. You can get each sandwich (named after a travel destination relevant to the owner’s own personal history) as a mac & cheese dish, too, if you want to skip out on some of the carbs. Try the house-made soda and if you’re with a group, go for the fondue, too! All food at Cheesewerks is made from 100% Canadian products. Pizzeria Libretto – A super local neighborhood restaurant that serves a real Neapolitan pizza. Often considered a local favorite! pizzerialibretto.com
Bars and other nightlife This is just a small selection of the many Toronto bars and hipstery clubs in the city. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of great places to go out for a drink in the city.