Toronto skyline ()Toronto skyline () © Copyright

Toronto City Guide

Toronto is the archetypal urban melting pot. Its upward-looking downtown rivals any, shimmering above the glass waters of Lake Ontario. Half its 6.5m residents were born outside of the city, which sprawls from dramatic centre to laidback, lowrise neighbourhoods. Offering a colourful public arts and events programme, Toronto has cultural and culinary diversity like few other metropolises in North America.

SEE

A tour of the Steam Whistle Brewery, in former train yard the John Street Roundhouse, makes for a grownup alternative to Ripley's Aquarium over the road. Go at the Eden Centre, get your photo taken in the square next to City Hall, or squint and think about what to think about at the Art Gallery of Ontario, on Dundas and Beverley.

OUTOUT

They make and serve beer at the Amsterdam Brewhouse, set on the waterfront with great views of planes landing at Billy Bishop Airport. Further out, lively boozer the Brazen Head, on East Liberty Street, is popular with Toronto’s soccer and rugby fans.

Get a taxi to College Street for independent bars that serve cocktails in jam jars. Start in Track and Field bar for shuffleboard, a bar game like indoor curling, then continue to Pray Tell and Birreria Volo for more sugared liquor.

Toronto ham ()

 

EAT

St Lawrence Market sells raw and cooked fare for all pallets. Try a peameal bacon sandwich – a somehow chunkier, juicier take on the classic and a local breakfast institution. Good for lunch is O&B Café Grill on Yonge and Front; it’s also a popular evening drinks spot.

Trendy Bar Isabel (on College Street) serves octopus and king crab as good as anything on either side of the Atlantic, while 360 The Restaurant has classic dishes and dizzying (/foggy) views from its rotating spot at the summit of the CN Tower.

ESCAPE

Time was when the arguments seemed settled. Yet as the fallout from 2012’s seismic conference rumbles on, the identity of the world’s most famous collection of waterfalls remains disputed. What you can’t contest is that a GO Train from Toronto’s Union Station will take you to Niagara’s celebrated falls in less than two hours. That means a day trip is possible, but your haste will cost you experiencing the wine, nature and hunting that constitute the offering of a more leisurely stay on Lake Ontario’s southern shore.

Toronto skyline in the evening ()

 

ARTS

Torontonians are treated to free concerts and festivals in warmer months. Live music is common at the Harbourfront Centre, as well as in Nathan Phillips Square (which also screens sports fixtures and has a winter skating rink).

The Toronto Film Festival has taken place every September since 1976. It’s great for previews and also for talks and screenings hosted by industry players. Events are held in a range of downtown venues.

Music lovers should time their visit to coincide with Canadian Music Week. Alongside bigwig conferences, there’s a new music festival and comedy events, for which you can buy an all-in wristband.

LUMBERWHACK

Not far from the Distillery District – stop at El Catrin for hefty burritos and sharp margaritas – are Toronto’s industrial docklands. In a former cigarette factory on Villiers Street you can throw axes at wood in the name of competition.

A founding member of the National Axe Throwing Federation, the boys at BATL (Backward Axe Throwing League) deliver gallant spiel while they train you in this primal skill.

Baseball in Toronto ()

 

SPORTS

In keeping with its love of public events, Toronto hosted the 2016 PanAmerican Games and will stage the 2017 Invictus Games.

The range of pro sports teams in the city reflects the diversity of the people. The Maple Leafs (hockey) and Raptors (basketball) play in the Air Canada Centre. Tickets are hot and expensive property, but you can watch the action outside on Canada’s biggest screen. Cheaper is a night at the Blue Jays (baseball), who play under the sometime roof of the Rogers Centre. Tickets start from as low as $12.

Toronto FC have a rep as one of the best-supported teams in MLS and play at BMO Field. The latest addition to the roster of teams is rugby league outfit Toronto Wolfpack, who play in the third tier of the English set-up. Pitchside at Lamport Stadium – AKA The Den – you’ll find independent beers, cocktails in plastic cups, hotdogs in cannons and a suitably jaunty atmosphere.

If it’s too cold to man the bleachers, head to Real Sports in Maple Leaf Square. The onslaught of televised action makes it like living inside Sky Sports News HQ with added chicken wings.

SLEEP

Le Germain at Maple Leaf Square can’t be beaten for location. From its stylish doorstep you can see the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Canada Centre and are less than 15 minutes’ walk from any corner of downtown.

SUPERTIP

Downtown is walkable above ground, but if the weather turns hit the PATH, a 30km network of marble clad subterranean passages that connect commerce with condos across the city centre.

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