Mini guide to Toronto, Canada
The Toronto skyline reflects against Lake Ontario. (Sean Caffrey/LPI)
Characterised by a mish-mash of ethnic communities, Canada’s biggest city can lay claim to world-class museums and gastronomy, North America’s tallest tower and year-round festivals and cultural events.
The star of Toronto’s skyline since 1976, the CN Tower is primarily a radio and TV tower, but it has a sideline in transporting visitors up to the skies. A glass elevator whizzes up to a lofty observation deck, where there’s a wallet-busting revolving restaurant (301 Front St West; admission from £6).
A 10-acre cultural complex on the redeveloped waterfront, the Harbourfront Centre includes an alfresco concert stage and guerilla gardening spaces. Its Power Plant gallery displays contemporary Canadian art (231 Queen’s Quay West; gallery admission £4).
Built by the British in 1793, Fort York represents something akin to a birthplace for Toronto. There’s a handful of buildings, all restored after US troops destroyed much of the fortress in the 19th century (250 Fort York Blvd; admission £5).
The Royal Ontario Museum has been expanded in recent years, with a crystal-shaped structure making for a controversial new centre piece. Collections include dinosaur fossils and Egyptian mummies (100 Queen’s Pk; admission £10).
Toronto’s 12-acre Distillery District sees clusters of galleries, design shops, coffee houses and restaurants springing phoenix-like from a 19th-century distillery. In summer, its red-brick streets play host to jazz concerts and food events (55 Mill St).
Eat and drink
More than a dozen types of beer are brewed at Mill Street Brew Pub, an artisan microbrewery in the Distillery District. Order a sample platter so you can try everything from pale ale to organic lager. Typical pub food, such as burgers and sandwiches, is in on hand to provide ballast (55 Mill St; beers from £4.50).
Something of a local institution, the Queen Mother Café is much-loved for its cosy wooden-booth seating and an accomplished pan-Asian menu. It also does a fine line in Canadian comfort food, with steaks and burgers in support (208 Queen St West; lunch mains from £7).
Counter service meets haute cuisine at the Gilead Café in East Toronto, with an ambitious menu scribbled up daily on its chalkboard. The kitchen serves up the likes of poutine – fries with cheese curds, braised beef and gravy (4 Gilead Pl; lunch mains from £7).
A sleek destination diner situated in downtown Toronto, Bymark has a creative kitchen that mixes and matches local ingredients in some unlikely combinations – such as wild truffles, quail and soft-shell crab (66 Wellington St West; from £17).
Harbour Sixty Steakhouse serves up a formidable range of steaks and seafood in an opulent Baroque dining room. For those who can’t choose between field or ocean, there’s a ‘surf and turf’ option. Book ahead (60 Harbour St; mains from £35).
Les Amis Bed & Breakfast is a 19th-century townhouse with colourful rooms decorated by the Parisian owner’s artwork. In the finest French tradition, gourmet vegetarian breakfasts include omelettes and croissants, and the leafy decking area round the back makes a pleasant place to relax (31 Granby St; from £75).
Au Petit Paris Bed & Breakfast occupies an exquisite Victorian bay-and-gable building in East Toronto, with some skylit guestrooms looking out onto the garden. Breakfasting on the roof patio is a good way to start the day (3 Selby St; from £80).
A 1900-era hotel with a grand red-brick façade, The Hotel Victoria is one of Toronto’s best downtown hotels and has benefited from a refurbishment in recent times. The stately marble lobby harks back to turn-of-the century glamour, while its comfy rooms have hardwood floors and contemporary décor (56 Yonge St; from £90).
The century-old, recently revamped Drake Hotel is a bohemian favourite. Idiosyncratic rooms feature vintage furniture, rugs and bare-brick walls. There’s a rooftop patio and a basement bar that regularly hosts live music (1150 Queen St West; from £120).
One of Toronto’s longest serving hotels, The Gladstone Hotel has 37 individually designed rooms, with themes ranging from Canadian forests to motorbikes. One floor is dedicated to exhibitions, and local sourcing applies to everything from the food to the bathroom products (1214 Queen St West; from £165).
The Toronto Transit Commission operates the subway, tram and bus networks. Single fares (£2), day passes (£7) and weekly passes (£24) are available. Trams tend to be slower than subway services, but they do stop every block or two.
How to go
Air Canada flies from Heathrow to Toronto Pearson International airport (from £410), while Air Transat flies from Glasgow and Manchester (from £400). Airport Express operates a bus service connecting Pearson International to downtown Toronto (returns £25).