last decade, Toronto has come of age. No longer the quiet Canadian town it once
was, the city is now a sparkling, bustling metropolis of 2.8 million people
that feels more like Dubai or Shanghai.
these two rapidly expanding cities where the skylines are often peppered with
cranes, high rises are being built here at a rapid rate. In January 2011, there
were 97 high-rise buildings under construction in Toronto and by June 2012 that
number nearly doubled to 189.
In the last
two years, four luxury high-rise hotels have also opened, welcoming the increasing
number of upscale business travellers that are drawn to Toronto’s — and
Canada’s — impressive economic expansion and stability in recent years.
arrivals at the city’s Pearson International Airport were up 6% in the first half of
2012 compared to a year earlier. Currently, there is no rail connection between
the airport and the city, and taxi fares are high – 50 to 60 Canadian dollars each
way. However, a new Air Rail Link should be operational by
“Traw-no” by locals) is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. The
city’s central business district generally runs along an east-west axis, and the
commercial core – including much of the new high-rise development and Bay Street, the heart of Canada’s financial industry, is
located along the southern edge of the city. On the northern edge of downtown is the
upscale Yorkville district, home to many of the city’s high-end hotels and
restaurants. To the west of downtown is the massive suburb of Mississauga, with
its own central core of skyscrapers and a population approaching 800,000.
with the massive development and in spite of its position as an emerging global
capital of commerce, Toronto still feels comfortable, courteous and convenient
for both visitors and locals.
Since the 267-room
Ritz-Carlton, Toronto opened in the city’s central
business district near the famous CN Tower in
2011, a parade of other luxury hotels have rushed in to capitalise on the surge
of upscale visitors from across Canada and around the world. At the Ritz, every
room offers dramatic city or lake views through floor-to-ceiling windows; from
south-facing rooms, the CN Tower seems close enough to touch. Busy travellers
who lack the time to soak up Toronto’s dynamic dining scene can instead enjoy the
generous hospitality of its club level rooms, which come with access to a
complimentary buffet of food and beverages throughout the day, as well as free
It is Manhattan-meets-Toronto
at the chic, spire-capped, 261-room Trump International Hotel and Tower which opened in February 2012
on Bay Street near the head offices of Canada’s largest banks such as the Bank
of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada. There is a small reception area and a
bar on the ground level, but the action takes place on the higher floors; its
Quartz Crystal spa on the 31st and 32nd floors sports a 20m saltwater lap pool
and a big, bright fully-equipped fitness centre with expansive skyline views. Thoughtfully,
when accessing the hotel’s fast and free in-room wi-fi, the connection is good
for a week, even if the stay is for only a few days, which eliminates the irritating
exercise of having to sign in each day.
Shangri-La Toronto opened in August 2012, just in time to host the
stars and starlets in town for the annual Toronto International Film Festival, which takes over the city each September. The
modern-with-hints-of-Asia hotel/condo tower is a perfect example of
Vancouverism, the glassy see-in, see-out architectural style of most of the
city’s new high rises, inspired by similar architecture found in Vancouver. If
you need some comfort food after a long day of meetings, dive into the ramen
and pork buns at the brand new Momofuku Noodle Bar just off the hotel lobby.
north in the tony Yorkville neighbourhood, Four Seasons Hotels, which is
headquartered in Toronto, opened a new flagship in October 2012. The all-glass,
super-luxe 259-room Four Seasons Toronto is home to Michelin-starred
chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud’s new Café Boulud , offering a contemporary, local take on French
If you are worried
that the Four Seasons might still be working out its grand opening kinks, check
out the uber-cool 77-room Hazelton Hotel down the street. This popular
five-star hotel has had five years to perfect its product, and attracts a crowd
of insiders who appreciate its discreet, cosy feel, with extras like a plush
private screening room and see-and-be-seen patio.
the yoga studio or by the rooftop pool and lounge at the trendy 102-room Thompson Toronto, which fits in nicely in the artsy
and eclectic King West Village, home to the city’s gallery and
Montréal-based Groupe Germain, which pioneered the boutique hotel concept in
Canada, opened its second location in Toronto, the contemporary 167-room Hôtel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square downtown. Its location near many of
Toronto’s popular sporting venues is reflected in oversized black-and-white
prints of athletes hanging in each room.
Out at Pearson
airport, the new 153-room ALT Hotel offers simple, stylish, colourful,
“no-frills-chic” rooms, a grab-and-go restaurant stocked with organic snacks and
meals, and a quick and easy intra-airport rail link to terminals. Interestingly,
this year, the hotel is experimenting with a flat, year-round $149 per night
rate, unlike most other hotels that base rates on demand.
tasteful taste of Canada, make a reservation at Canoe, one of the country’s best restaurants, which
turns out dishes such as maple-torched salmon from British Columbia, pan seared
Québec foie gras, Alberta lamb or New Brunswick sturgeon, all from a
unique location high atop the TD Bank tower downtown.
To wow your
team or your client, book the chef’s table inside the kitchen at TOCA in the Ritz-Carlton. The fantastic meal (such
as beer-battered Nova Scotia lobster and Kennebec fries) includes meeting chef
Bruno Lopez, who will help plan your meal and lead you through the restaurant’s
unusual glassed-in cheese cave.
Off the clock
winter, when the wet or icy winds blow in and even a day trip to nearby Niagara Falls
is out of the question, follow Torontonians underground to PATH, one of the world’s largest underground walkway
and shopping complexes with 28km of retail space offering everything from
cocktails to shoe repair. This vast warren of clean, bright underground
passageways connects the entire downtown area (subways, department stores,
office buildings, parking garages, hotels), and you can walk almost anywhere in
warm, weatherproof comfort.
weather is nice, take a stroll through the pedestrian-only Distillery district on the eastern edge of downtown. During the 1800s the area
was home to the Gooderham and Worts distillery — at that time, the largest in
the world. Today, the remaining 44 historic buildings (restored and re-opened
in 2006) constitute the largest collection of Victorian industrial architecture
in North America, now inhabited by a colourful mix of galleries, restaurants,
theatres, cafes and shops.
with the locals at the St Lawrence Market, Toronto’s first permanent farmer’s
market dating back to 1803. Saved from demolition in 1974, the vibrant market
reflects the city’s rich ethnic and cultural diversity, offering hundreds of
varieties of cheese, rice, olive oil, bread, mustard and sausage, plus a wide
selection of fruits, vegetables and flowers. For a truly Canadian experience,
order the famous fried pea-meal bacon sandwich,
dusted with cornmeal and served with
cheddar cheese and spicy mustard.
Don’t do this!
think that suburban Pearson International is your only air travel option. Porter
out of the tiny Billy Bishop Airport on a small island just off
the shore of downtown Toronto, is hugely popular with business travellers for
short, less-than-two-hour hops to cities such as Montréal, Ottawa, Boston, New
York, Washington DC or Chicago. The airline draws in the business travel set
with leather seats, lots
of leg room, free beer and wine, plus fun and friendly flight attendants who
wear locally designed Pink Tartan duds like pencil skirts and pillbox