Toronto, a cosmopolitan city on the shores of Lake Ontario, has world-class culture, shopping, restaurants and nightlife, and its citizens have a deeply-ingrained sense of courtesy. People immigrate here from all over the world (one of every two residents was born outside of Canada), creating a truly multicultural town. Living here means having the advantages of urban life at your fingertips, in a safe, eminently liveable package.

What is it known for?
Toronto may be one of the most southerly Canadian cities, just across the lake from New York state, but it is proud of its pole position in the Great White North. The largest city in Canada, with six million residents in the greater metropolitan area, it is the country’s financial and commercial capital. It is also known as Hollywood North (a title it shares with Vancouver) and is a frequent, lower-cost stand-in for New York City in movies and television shows. The Toronto International Film Festival is on the top rung of festivals for the industry, attracting the cream of the yearly crop.

Consistently ranked high on all the quality of living indexes, Torontonians are rightly proud of their city’s amenities, from the sheer number of neighbourhoods, to the hundreds of art galleries, from sports teams to summer festivals. “As soon as the warm weather hits, the city comes alive and people are out and about,” said lifelong resident Sarah Alexander, a mortgage broker. “There are so many wonderful festivals, like the Beaches International Jazz Festival, Caribana (the largest Caribbean festival in North America) and the Taste of the Danforth.” Toronto will host the 2015 Pan American Games and is rumoured to be considering a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Where do you want to live?
Toronto has around 240 distinct neighbourhoods, split up into different regions of the city. “Old” Toronto is divided into the Downtown core, North End, West End and East End, and was expanded in 1998 to include suburbs of York, East York, North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough. Each of these regions contain dozens of different neighbourhoods.

The most popular neighbourhoods remain those close to the Downtown core, including the Annex, Davisville, Bloor West Village, Riverdale, High Park and Rosedale, plus any areas close to Lake Ontario. “Farther east along the shore, the Beaches are very sought after,” said Richard Silver, president of the Toronto Real Estate Board. It has a good inventory of Victorian and Edwardian housing stock.

Since Toronto is known for its traffic congestion, people often want to live near public transport, and the city’s subway system essentially has an east-west and a north-south line. “There are 147 condo projects in the Downtown core being built right now,” said Silver. “And the areas that lie between the southern parts of the city like the Beaches and very high-end suburbs like Bridle Path in North York are getting attention.” Among the up-and-coming areas are East End Danforth, Christie Pits and Brockton Village, while along the lakeshore, a new waterfront park opened in Mimico, revitalizing its high street.

Side trips
In summer, many Torontonians head two hours north to Ontario’s “cottage country”, the towns and lakes that make up the Muskoka District, Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton County. Sauble Beach is a popular beach destination for families on the eastern shore of Lake Huron. On Lake Ontario, Niagara Falls is a popular weekend getaway and Niagara-on-the-Lake is a historic village filled with sites from the War of 1812. “There are so many quaint little towns,” said Alexander. “You are always finding out about neat little places that you never knew existed, but have always been there.”

Toronto has great access to other major cities, as it is just an hour’s flight from Chicago and Montreal and 90 minutes to New York. Los Angeles is about five hours by air and London seven hours.

Practical info
Due to Canada’s more sober mortgage lending practices, Toronto escaped the United States’ housing crisis, and the city’s housing market is on the rise.

Housing stock runs from apartments to semi-detached houses to bay-and-gable detached homes and the average sale price across Toronto is just more than 500,000 Canadian dollars. But prices are on the rise. “It used to be that a first-time buyer could purchase a single-family house, but so many of those cost one million [Canadian dollars] or more, that those buyers are purchasing condos,” said Silver. “Baby Boomers are also selling their houses and buying condos.” A typical two-bed condo runs from 1,000 to 1,400 Canadian dollars per square foot. “You can spend anywhere from 600,000 to 1.2 million [Canadian dollars],” said Silver. “A two- or three-storey renovated house costs upwards of one million [Canadian dollars].”

Further information
Toronto Life
: lifestyle magazine devoted to culture, reviews and blogs
The Grid TO: alternative city magazine covering news, entertainment and neighbourhoods
Torontoist: blog featuring city news, politics, culture, entertainment and more