When your friend tells you she is wearing a very simple saree to her henna party, you really shouldn’t believe her.
My good friend Smriti was getting married in Toronto, so off we went for another trip. I didn’t do much research in advance, so I didn’t really know what to expect. What I learned is that local knowledge is key: you may well miss lots of cool places if you’re not looking for them, so ask around to make the most of your visit.
Downtown, Old Town and Distillery District
We started off our first day in Toronto by getting the subway to Dundas. There you will find the Eaton Center, a shopping centre which looks like they all do. But we managed to find a vegan fast food place there, called Urban Herbivore, which offered lots of great salads and hot dishes.
We then walked down Yonge St, which is one of the main thoroughfares in Toronto, then reaching the Financial District. I was starting to think Toronto didn’t have much to offer, but I was wrong! They key there is knowing where to go.
We reached the Old Town to find nice cafes and bars, as well as the amazing St Lawrence Market. This indoor food market is really great: lots of fresh produce and also free samples!
We continued onto the Distillery District, a quirky, pedestrianised area which is a great area for bars and beer tasting. By the end of our first day in the city we had covered lots of ground and also discovered some cool places.
Chinatown and Kensington
Knowing that the key to enjoying Toronto lies in finding the right neighbourhoods to visit, we headed to Chinatown on our second day in the city. We didn’t eat there, but I heard the dumplings are really good.
After walking around for a while, we walked up Spadina Avenue to reach Kensington (the Hoxton of Toronto). This is a nice area full of cool bars, shops and cafes. We ended this sunny day at the terrace of the hilariously-named Bovine Sex Club, a great place for drinks.
The CN tower is Toronto’s most famous highlight, and visiting when it was sunny definitely made it better. You get great views across the city and over lake Ontario, with areas full of skyscrapers contrasting with the little houses outside downtown.
It really is amazingly high, and you get a chance to look right down through a glass floor – an experience which makes everyone quite uneasy. Tickets are a bit expensive at $49 (including the Skypod, the highest level you can visit), but it’s a good thing to do if you’re in Toronto.
Many people recommended that we visited the Islands, so on our last day in the city we hopped on a ferry and off we went (return tickets cost $7.50).
This is a great place to visit on a sunny day: only 20 minutes off the city centre there are beaches and parks in a relaxed setting.
We stopped for a beer in a beach hut that looked straight off 90s films, Spin Doctors soundtrack and slush puppies included. The waitress helpfully overheard our conversation and suggested other good spots for drinks.
This is also where you get one of the best views of the Toronto skyline, with the CN Tower high above everything else.
The rest of our time we spent attending the many beautiful wedding celebrations, a wonderful Nepalese-Canadian-French affair.
HOW TO DO IT:
- Go: We booked Air Transat flights which were relatively cheap at £500. The flight takes about 7h and flying during the day is definitely the way to do it (our return flight was overnight and we really didn’t sleep much).
- Stay: We stayed at this nice Airbnb place which was located in a quiet neighbourhood and felt like a real home. Toronto is really big, so stay around downtown or anywhere close to the Subway.
- Transportation: Public transportation is pretty good in downtown Toronto, but further afield it’s likely that you will need to rely on (very expensive) taxis. Traffic can be a real nightmare, so ask locals how long it takes to get to your destination.
- Money: Canada is not very cheap. Although prices look okay at first sight, like in America taxes are added to any bill and tips are expected and high.