In Canada, Toronto is often called “the center of the universe,” and even though that is normally meant to deflate Torontonians’ pride in their home city, there is something to that nickname. After all, the largest city in the country is not only the center for culture, finance and media in the country, but as a true global city makes for a world-class travel destination. And that experience goes far beyond the well-worn tourist destinations like the CN Tower, the Rogers Center, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto may seem like an obscure destination to visit, but it’s only because the city offers so many diverse pleasures that one traveler’s experience of the city is sure to differ from another’s. On any street, on any day of the week, Toronto could truly be anywhere you want it to be.
As the “city of neighborhoods,” Toronto offers a unique experience on almost every corner. To wander Toronto is to drift from one charming block to the next. Conceptual building design melds with stately Victorian and Gothic architecture, all in the shadows of a conventional glass-and-steel downtown skyline, sometime all in one place as in the case of the ROM.
The city grew up, from its origins as a British colonial outpost, to become the bona fide most multicultural city in the world. It hosts enclaves of a wide variety of nationalities and cultures: from a sprawling Chinatown centered on Spadina, to its famed Greektown on the Danforth, from the nightlife of Little Italy to Roncesvale’s Little Poland. Each of these neighborhoods provides a thriving microcosm of its originator, encouraged by the city’s welcoming attitude towards newcomers. Each of the city’s corners brings its own flavours to visitors, stitched together with a closeness that provides a true exchange of culture, not a division.
How could a city of 2.5 million be anything less than the country’s Food Capital? Toronto’s whole vibe, where Canada’s historical origins as British and French colonies meets newcomers of diverse origins, is reflected in the roster of its finest restaurants: from the French cuisine of Auberge du Pommier (a tiny cottage tucked amongst skyscrapers) and the Old Mill Hotel restaurant, to Canada’s only Kaiseki-stlye restaurant, Kaiseki Yu-Zen Hashimoto, serving an eight-course meal comprised of 400-year-old Japanese recipes and served with elegant choreography, and David Chang’s acclaimed Momofuku Noodle Bar. Here, too, one senses the city’s drive to innovate but also honour the past.
Torontonians are an innovative and interesting bunch, and when all that eating is done, you can get a true sampling of young Toronto at its finest at Kensington Market, a truly independent enclave of urban arts, fashions, foods and styles. Not far away is Toronto’s Theatre district, the third largest in the world (after Broadway and London’s West End – stiff competition!) But in Toronto, one is not far from the Niagara Shaw Festival or the Stratfod Shakespeare festival, or renowned Second City theater.
And for those looking to get away from it all, Toronto is riddled with nature trails and parks to explore: Colonel Danforth Park alone features nine unique trails to lose yourself for an afternoon, and the Toronto Islands – little-known outside the region – is the world’s largest car-free urban community. Walking along its beaches, you can feel like you’re a million miles away from civilization while just being a short ferry ride from the bustling downtown city center.
The best reason to visit Toronto, of course, is just to be in Toronto: a true global village.