Toronto

Destination Location

  • 43.7, -79.4:primary
  • 43.6772003174, -79.6305999756:secondary
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3.5

Our guest rating from 2 reviews

Overview

Overview

Destination basics

Located in southern Ontario, Toronto boasts milder weather than most other regions of the province, with warm, humid summers and cool – yet comfortable – winters.

Summer temperatures are typically in the mid 20s Celsius, though it often feels warmer due to increased humidity.

Downtown, skyscrapers offer relief from the sun and cool breezes blowing off the lake often make an appearance in the afternoon. In the winter, Toronto does see some snowfall, but temperatures rarely drop below -10 C.

When travelling to Toronto, pack based on the season and be sure to check the forecast for approximate temperatures during your stay.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Toronto

From Little Italy to bustling Chinatown, the Annex Yonge Street and Eglinton, the Danforth to the Beaches, Torontonians rejoice in the multi-cultural mosaic they call home. And nowhere is this more evident than in the vast smorgasbord of culinary delights offered by the Greater Toronto area's more than 7000 restaurants, cafés, bistros, diners, pubs, resto-bars and other assorted eateries.

Toronto has everything from the delicious sawara butteryaki at the Rikishi Japanese Restaurant to the upscale French of Arlequin with its duck confit.

Little Italy
Lying west of Yonge, between College Street and Dundas, Little Italy is a natural place to start the gastronomic search. Host to countless classic Italian ristoranti Trattoria Giancarlo, this section of real estate is the piece of cannoli in a box of fudge. Although the days of the checkered tablecloth and candle in a Chianti bottle may be gone, the mouth-watering food and click-heel service remains. Ironically though, the best pizza does not reside here. We find it a couple of blocks east on Elm, where inside an old Victorian house sizzles Il Fornello. Lest we forget that most important meal of the day, the breakfast-brunch, Toronto offers a variety ranging from the simply solid, void-filling and all-day version at Mars Restaurant to sophisticated entrees, bubbly and jazz accompaniment at Sassafraz.

Chinatown
East of Spadina, from King up to College, sprawls one of Toronto's Chinatowns - the original. It is here among the proliferation of shops, jewelry stores and banks that we'll find some of the best Asian-influenced cuisine on the continent: the Thai Princess, with its eager-to-explain uniformed waiters; and the Pho Hung, a Vietnamese hot spot where people actually line up to get in—just like a night club!

Davisville
Those looking for upscale cuisine and a night cap or two outside the downtown core have only to keep on heading up Yonge towards Eglinton. Clustered around this uptown intersection are some of the city's very best wining and dining establishments—with a little star-gazing thrown in as icing on the cake. Among the group, North 44 and Grano stand out: North 44 for the inventive cookery of five-star chef Mark McEwan; Centro for its parade of celebrities and unusual combo of sushi bar and Italian cuisine; and Grano for the fresh bread, pick-your-own display-case antipasti and its feeling of old-style warmth and friendliness.

Downtown
Framed by Front to the South and Bloor to the North, Toronto's downtown core is at its busiest and most expressive during the lunch hour. Sandwiched between Bay and Jarvis, this area encompasses the business and entertainment district of the city. The Shopsy's Deli location at Front and Yonge is the place if you're looking to ease your hunger pangs without too much of a pain in your wallet. There's pastrami on rye, corned beef on a kaiser, roast beef on an onion roll or almost any other deli meat combination you can think of—all topped off with a kosher pickle.

Sports fans have little to complain about when searching for their favorite foods and ambience. There are plenty of places where you can put your foot on the rail, sip a cool lager and watch your team on a big-screen TV. A good starting point is the Hard Rock Café at the Rogers Centre where you can chew on a burger and take part in the seventh inning stretch at the same time. And, of course, there's Wayne Gretzky's itself at 99 Blue Jays Way. The Great One, who many argue is the best hockey player of all time, occasionally drops in to autograph a few sticks and napkins.

And we haven't mentioned Turkish (A La Turka), Serbian (Skadarlija), Middle Eastern (<Free Times Cafe), Spanish (Casa Barcelona) - the list goes on and on.

Still can't decide? Maybe a short list is in order: for the view, 360 Degrees, the Restaurant at the CN Tower; for the sights, Crocodile Rock on Thursday; for a pint of Guinness or a stout ale Scotland Yard ; for a ball-busting-up game of pool, Milwaukee's Good Bites Beerateria; for the 5:01 blues, Joe Rockhead's Rock Bottom Club or the Jump Café.

Yes, Toronto has come a long way from its reputation as a steak and kidney pie kind of town. In fact, the culinary school at George Brown College is producing five-star chefs for the rest of the continent, and a person could probably spend decades testing every restaurant in town. But, hey, if you're really desperate to dig into that "eye," try the Elephant and Castle, Foster's On Elm, or Duke of Gloucester. The steak and kidney pie is still there. Only now it has a lot of culinary company.

People often ask: What makes a city great? What defines it, both for those who live there and for those who visit? Toronto could easily set itself apart by its cuisine, art, history, or sports. And, thanks to a world-class subway system, streetcars and buses, getting around Toronto is extraordinarily easy to do. Aside from the numerous cabs that swarm the city, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) runs. Wherever you end up, there's sure to be an easy way to get to your next destination. In order to fully appreciate all facets of the city, let's get to know some of Toronto's most interesting districts.

Downtown
Architecturally speaking, Toronto is an amalgam of different styles. In the early 19th Century, it took much of its architectural inspiration from the Georgian style. By the end of the 19th Century, the city opted for the heavier, bulkier lines of Richardsonian Romanesque. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Toronto City Council opted not to put a height restriction on downtown construction as many other cities had, thus giving rise to some of the tallest buildings in the British Commonwealth, most of which are found Downtown, including the 34-story Canadian Bank of Commerce, the Rogers Centre, the Royal Bank Plaza, and the TD Centre, to name a few. Of course, these buildings have been surpassed in recent years by the silhouettes that give Toronto its unique skyline: the CN Tower, the world's highest free-standing structure, with its rotating restaurant, gives diners a breath-taking view of the city, day or night.

The more than 7000 fine dining establishments, bars, cafes, bistros, clubs and dance halls (a large number of which can be found Downtown) suit every taste from bohemian to business.

The downtown area of the city also houses a number of stadiums and arenas where some of Canada's top-of-the-line professional sports teams—the Maple Leafs, the Raptors,the Blue Jays and the Argos—play. And race car fanatics will have no trouble picking up the roar of Molson Indy engines come summer.

Running into Downtown is Yonge Street, the longest thoroughfare in the world and the main north-south route. After all, Toronto is the biggest city in Canada and the fifth largest in North America. It is located on the northern shore of Lake Ontario and laid out in a rectangular grid, the city stretches for more than 100 square kilometers (38.5 square miles). Toronto is an important center of international commerce, and in the heart of Downtown houses the Toronto Stock Exchange, second only in North America to the New York Stock Exchange.

The Entertainment District
Overlapping Downtown, the entertainment districts is home to numerous world-class museums, art galleries, theaters, dance companies, festivals and parades that add creativity and culture to an already vibrant city. Any of these could serve to define Toronto. While the city may once have had a reputation as Toronto The Good, a nondescript place which shut down and rolled up the sidewalks at sundown, nothing could be further from the truth today. The city is alive with some of the best theaters, museums and galleries anywhere. For example, Toronto is the third largest center of English-speaking theater productions in the world (next to London and New York), with more than 200 professional theater companies and 10,000 performances a year.

One of the oldest theater spaces in the city, the Royal Alexandra dates back to the early 20th Century. Saved from demolition by bargain store king and impresario "Honest" Ed Mirvish, the theater was renovated at great expense and brought back to its original splendor, and is now home to some of Broadway and the West End's finest productions from Phantom of the Opera to Cats The Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario present spectacular exhibits for the entire family, while the National Ballet is a world-class dance troupe.

There's even a thriving film industry in the city. Often called "Hollywood North," Toronto is sought after for its diversity, locations, excellent production centers and local talent. The Toronto International Film Festival, which takes place annually in September, draws countless filmgoers.

But what the city is really all about is the people. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that the name "Toronto" comes from a Huron word meaning "Meeting Place." That's exactly what it is: a multicultural meeting place for more than 4.5 million, home to people of more than 70 different nationalities speaking some 100 languages.

Chinatown
That multi-ethnic gathering has given the city an exciting and awesome energy. It has also created a place of wonderful neighborhoods, each with its defining character and local color. With a plethora of different cultures and neighborhoods bumping into one another like pieces of tectonic plates, the cuisine is as diverse as the population—and matching any taste and affordability, from the unlimited expense account to those counting their pennies. In fact, while there are plenty of upscale haute-cuisine restaurants where price is of no concern, some of the best food Toronto has to offer is tucked away in the small eateries of the city's original Chinatown. Here you will find Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian and Japanese dishes to satisfy both the timid and the adventurous. You can also spend a day shopping at the Dragon City Shopping Mall at Dundas and along Spadina Avenue where East meets West.

West Suburbs
Aside from the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre housing the city's pro sports teams, Toronto is also known for its Woodbine horse track, the largest racing property in North America and home to the Queen's Plate thoroughbred race held each August. This racetrack in located in the West Suburbs, an area not often visited by tourists, but charming nonetheless.

While there is so much to see and do, to experience and taste, it's the residents of Toronto who give the city its special cachet. More often than not, people are glad to stop and give you directions. And don't be surprised if they tarry and chat a while, recommending places to go or filling you in on pieces of their city's history. This is what Toronto is all about. Not just a vast, sprawling metropolis. Not just a collection of concrete and cars. But a meeting place. The Hurons gave them the name. They try to do it proud.

Museums & Galleries
Canada's largest museum is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), an all-round museum with adjoining planetarium, greeting you with four impressive Amerindian totem poles in the hall. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) boasts an extensive and well-presented collection of landscape paintings by Canada's famous Group of Seven. Don't miss the world's largest exhibit of Henry Moore sculptures, beautifully arranged by the artist. The AGO is also known for the skillfully simple Inuit stone carvings, as is the Toronto Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art. On a lighter note, the Bata Shoe Museum is unique; among their 10,000 shoes are Elvis' blue suede loafers. The Hockey Hall of Fame also has shoes, but only those with blades beneath them.

Theater & Performances
Busloads of Americans drive for ten hours to spend just three hours in Toronto. Why? With over 500 theater productions every year, the city on Lake Ontario is the second largest stage center in North America. You can see Kiefer Sutherland in a Tennessee Williams play or the metamorphosis of Kiss's hard-rocking lead singer to Phantom (of the Opera) in King Street's Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales theaters. It is also worth going a little off the beaten track to catch more adventurous offerings in places such as Front Street's Sony Centre.

The grassroots of theater are just as fresh and strong in Toronto. Community-centered theaters such as Tarragon and the Factory master challenges like Beckett, as well as drama from new and upcoming playwrights. Modern dance has found a home in the Premiere Dance Theatre, a multicultural venue for music and movement at the Harbourfront Center. More classical but nevertheless innovative performances can be seen at the National Ballet Company, considered the top dance troupe in the country. The Yuk Yuk is still defending its position as the major comedy spots, but recently Rivoli's backroom has established a reputation for edgy comedy.

Cinema
Not only is Toronto one of the most popular American film sets—watch out for huge white trucks and sealed-off streets - it is also a great movie theatre city, especially at fringe and second-run cinemas like the Bloor or the Fox. Apart from Hollywood fare at entertainment complexes, you can see theme retrospectives at the Cinematheque. Not to mention the Toronto International Film Festival, considered among the top in the world.

Nightclubs
No, those lines you see as you walk along Richmond Street are not for soup kitchens. You're in hot nightclub country, the places where only the coolest and hippest get in. Most clubs don't specialize in one style, but often change their playlist daily from retro to dub to techno in order to attract the most diverse dance crowd. College Street and environs is another good strip with the smoky Comfort Zone late-night hangout.

Live Music
For live music events, Horseshoe Tavern is the place to see a great young band before it fills the concert halls. Toronto is on the A-list for pretty much every major tour in North America, from the Three Tenors in the Rogers Centre multi-purpose stadium to the Buena Vista Social Club in old Massey Hall or Celine Dion at the Air Canada Centre. The repertoire of classical music offerings is too long to list, but Roy Thomson Hall is a safe starting point for excellent acoustics, be it for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir or the latest Philip Glass opera.

Sports
The Air Canada Centre is home to two of Toronto's big sports teams. Cheer the Raptors as they slam dunk against their NBA competitors and the popular blue-and-white Maple Leafs playing for ice hockey's Stanley Cup. They compete for spectators with the Blue Jays, who swing their baseball bats in the 53,000-seat Rogers Centre.

Outdoors
Over the last ten years, Toronto has discovered street life. In the summer, you will have trouble deciding whether to go to Nathan Phillips Square or to Harbourfront for free concerts and different festivals every weekend. East along the lakeshore, Ontario Place combines waterpark fun with massive open-air rock concerts and the first Imax Theatre in a family amusement park.

Toronto

Province: Ontario

Country: Canada

Toronto By The Numbers
Population: 2,731,600 (city); 5,928,000 (metropolitan)
Elevation: 76 meters / 249 feet 
Average Annual Precipitation: 79 centimeters / 31 inches
Average Annual Snowfall: 122 centimeters / 48 inches
Average January Temperature: -3°C / 27°F 
Average July Temperature: 21°C / 70°F

Quick Facts

Electricity: 120 volts, 60Hz, AC

Time Zone: GMT -5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 416; 647; 437

Did You Know?

Toronto is a vibrant city, and in many ways as American as some of its neighbors to the south, mainly in Michigan. Along with Michigan, Toronto has a thriving automobile and auto parts industry, allowing for a lot of exchange between American car manufacturers across the border.

The laws of Toronto, Canada are based on British law and the English parliamentary government.

Orientation

Toronto is the capital of Ontario, Canada and is close to the United States border. The city is 128 kilometers (80 miles) to Niagara Falls and 504 kilometers (313 miles) to Montreal.

If you think that Toronto, like so many other North American cities, is a relatively young center, think again. More than 8000 years ago, this spot on the northern shores of Lake Ontario was home to prehistoric humans hunting the dense woods for bears and elk. They were followed by a rich and diverse Iroquois culture spread across nearly 200 villages in the Toronto area alone.

British and French fur traders and explorers arriving in the late 16th century changed the power balance in the region. At first, Toronto was interesting for them only as the end of the canoe route from Quebec City. Etienne Brulé, the first European known to visit the canoe "carrying place" the Hurons called Toronto, had no idea he was standing on the site of Canada's largest city-to-be.

In 1751, the French erected Fort Rouillé where Toronto stands today, thus making the city's earliest European roots French rather than British. Destroyed only eight years later in the Seven Years' War, the fort lay burnt until hundreds of British loyalists, fleeing the newly formed United States following the War of Independence, populated the Lake Ontario area.

John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (now Ontario), set up a strategically well-positioned but swampy garrison town of 12 cottages on the lakeshore around the former French post and, in 1793, the town was named Fort York in honor of the Duke of York. Fort York (now an open-air museum) was soon made the capital of Upper Canada, and later of Ontario.

Ironically, Simcoe's family decided to leave "Muddy York" in 1796, thinking that the stagnating settlement didn't have much of a future. Nevertheless, by 1800, the rectangular grid-iron that still defines Toronto was laid out, largely ignoring the deep ravines, hills and small rivers that shaped the landscape.

The 700 inhabitants of York came under American occupation for a few days during the British-American War of 1812. But the Americans quickly retreated when the war started to go badly for them. In 1834, it took another influential politician to switch the city's name back to Toronto. However, it wasn't all clear sailing for William Lyon Mackenzie, the first mayor of the 9000-population city under its new (old) name. In 1837, the fiery Scot was forced to flee to the United States after leading a failed rebellion to achieve political reform against the so-called "Family Compact," a group of British nobles who ran the city at their discretion without any checks or balances. The group was finally brought down thanks to public outcry, and Mackenzie returned to Canada 12 years later following a pardon.

Looking at a map of Toronto in the late 19th Century, you can see an urban area reflecting its puritanical roots in the conservative layout. It also lived up to its nickname of "The Big Smoke" with a New World version of industrial London: a busy, polluting harbor, factory chimneys spewing untreated soot into the air, coal-black railways chugging away and the obligatory slums as well as mansions, Victorian colleges and churches. The nickname took on a tragic significance in 1904 when a fire destroyed more than 100 buildings in the downtown core. Fifty years earlier, nature had actually helped create a part of Toronto: The Islands, a 15-minute ferry ride from the downtown Harbourfront, were formed by a heavy storm cutting off a spit of land from the mainland.

Toronto lost 10,000 lives when many of its British immigrant inhabitants volunteered to fight in World War I. Then came the Great Depression of the 1930s, bringing hunger, homelessness and an unemployment rate over 30 percent. World War II again meant Canadian men trooping off to fight in Europe, but also British children fleeing the bombings and European refugees coming to Canada, with many settling in Toronto.

Post-war Toronto, even though it claimed close to one million inhabitants, was nothing like the city of today: no skyscrapers, no large Chinese, Portuguese, Greek or Italian communities, no extensive subway system, no bars and closed and curtained shops on Sundays. The new council of Metro Toronto, joining the city and its suburbs in 1953, initiated an unparalleled construction boom in the 1960s.

Torontonians are proud of their superlatives and sometimes see life as an extension of the "Guinness Book of World Records," an attitude that helps puff up the city's collective chest but also lends some credence to its reputation for egocentricity (as in the long-standing joke in the newspaper headline, "Toronto Unscathed in World-Wide Nuclear Holocaust!"). The city lays claim to the tallest free-standing structure in the world (the CN Tower at 553 meters or 1814 feet), the first fully-retractable roofed stadium (Rogers Centre), the longest street (Yonge Street, more than 1,900 km), Canada's biggest museum (Royal Ontario Museum) and university (University of Toronto), the biggest castle in North America (Casa Loma), North America's second largest public transit system (the TTC), and an 11-kilometer (7-mile) maze of underground malls.

Peter Ustinov once called modern-day Toronto a "New York run by the Swiss." Now that New York seems itself to be run by the Swiss, that label might no longer be appropriate. Nevertheless, the city prides itself on its clean and safe streets and large, open green spaces. More importantly, it is the cultural and financial center of the country, an economic powerhouse with a budget bigger than that of the province of Saskatchewan, and home within a 160-km area to a full one-third of all Canadians.

The over 50 percent non-white population is shifting the city's ethnic neighborhoods around; old Victorian areas, once rundown or abandoned, are being gentrified; the skyline glitters from afar with bank towers and shopping skyscrapers like the 65-story Scotia Plaza; and urban development is about to radically change the lakeshore. Outdoor festivals, patios, a new openness and willingness to have fun and to partake in public life—this is the Toronto of today.

In Toronto, there is so much to see and do that it would take an entire book (possibly multiple books) to describe each attraction and event in detail. The good news for people visiting the city is that you're never far away from places to explore, dine, shop and relax no matter where you are in Toronto.

Toronto's five pro sports teams supply year-round excitement for sports fans of all types. The Rogers Centre is home ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) and home court for the Toronto Raptors (NBA) in the fall and winter. During the summer months, local Major League Baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays play and Canadian Football League team, the Toronto Argonauts play. You can also check out BMO Field at Exhibition Place, home to Toronto FC, one of Canada's two Major League Soccer teams.

If you're looking for even more sports action, stop by the Hockey Hall of Fame in the heart of downtown, or watch racecar drivers do laps at the Honda Indy Toronto. In the summer, you can also check out live tennis action at the Rogers Cup.

Prefer to sightsee? Take a walk among the skyscrapers in Toronto's business district or stroll through one of the city's numerous public parks. Check out the wildlife in High Park and swing by the playground and on-site children's organic education garden. Garden and music lovers will also love Toronto's Music Garden. The garden's design is based on the First Suite for the Unaccompanied Cello by J.S. Bach and features six distinct areas – each an interpretation of one of the suite's six movements.

From cosmopolitan chic to country charm, Toronto's diverse communities offer an extraordinary city experience, complete with delicious foods, attractions, eclectic shops, distinct architecture and endless possibilities for your vacation.

Points of interest in Toronto

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