Toronto's neighborhoods for the first-timer
When walking through the streets of Toronto, Canada, you can’t help but notice the unique characteristics of each neighborhood. From the East End’s Beaches and Studio District producing Hollywood blockbusters like X-Men, to the beautiful High Park in Bloor West Village, you’ll discover many different neighborhoods, each sporting its own distinct flare. Toronto is our hometown. We love all the different neighborhoods scattered throughout the city that each offer something unique. For the first-time visitor to Toronto, these are our recommendations of which neighborhoods you should visit.
In the heart of uptown at Bay and Bloor, Yorkville is Toronto’s most stylish district. It is the place to stargaze, people-watch, and shop for designer clothes or fashionable jewelry. During the Toronto International Film Festival, it’s not uncommon to see celebrities having a meal at one of the many fine restaurants in the area. Taking an afternoon to peek into its designer boutiques, luxury hotels, and galleries will give you a taste of decadence but with a Canadian vibe that never makes you feel out of place. One of our favorite patios is at Hemmingway’s rooftop. It’s the perfect spot for a cool drink on a hot day in a relaxed atmosphere that feels completely removed from the trendy street scene outside.
Kensington Market, Toronto
Heading to the opposite end of the shopping spectrum, no visit to Toronto would be complete without a stop at Kensington Market. Filled with vintage clothing stores and cheap eats, it is in Kensington Market where you’ll see some of Toronto’s most flamboyant and colorful people. Unique street art lines the lawns of Augusta and Belleview Avenues as mannequins dressed in secondhand clothes show off bohemian fashions and off-the-wall digs. A walk through the market on a Saturday morning will offer you photo opportunities galore as people park their vintage cars and motorbikes on the street while they shop for fresh fruits and vegetables, in addition to cheese from one of the most well-regarded cheese shops in all of Toronto.
Kensington Market just so happens to be in the heart of Chinatown and it’s only a short walk to this little slice of Asia. Spanning along the famous Spadina Avenue, exotic fruits and vegetables are sold at street stands, while Chinese goods can be bought at the many shops that line the street. Don’t be afraid to venture into one of the fish markets to view live lobsters and fish waiting for patrons. Chinatown just so happens to be a late-night haunt for locals to munch on their favorite dish after a night of bar hopping in the Entertainment District.
Speaking of Toronto’s club district, all the hottest nightclubs can be found in the Entertainment District, which is just a short walk south from Chinatown. If you’re not into drinking and dancing, no worries, the Entertainment District will keep you busy. It is filled with live theatres showing the latest Broadway productions and movie theatre multiplexes featuring the latest blockbusters. It’s here that you’ll find year-round sports stadiums housing the Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, and Canadian favorite, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Food choices include fine dining, street food, pubs, and bistros.
Viewfinder Tip: Pack a picnic and catch the ferry to Toronto Island.
Heading down from here will take you to the waters of Lake Ontario to the district of Harbourfront. Take in the energetic atmosphere of Queens Quay and stroll along the waterfront before catching a ferry to Toronto Island for a picnic. If you’re daring, you can try out Toronto’s nude beach, a secluded area on the island, or you can simply rent a bike to explore Centre Island. Dave and I had one of our first dates on Toronto Island. I packed my first picnic lunch ever and we threw frisbee on the grass in between sipping wine and eating cheese and pâté.
If picnics aren’t your style, but cafés and local artisans are, then the Distillery District is for you. This neighborhood has transformed over the years. Once it was a popular spot to shoot movies in abandoned warehouses, while it’s now filled with luxury lofts and condos, independent artists, brewpubs, and chocolate makers set up in beautifully preserved and restored historic buildings. During the summer months you’ll often find outdoor exhibits and performances going on.
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