Toronto is the capital of Ontario and the largest city in Canada. Its name was derived from the word tkaronto, meaning “place where trees stand in water” from the Iroquois, who inhabited the area before European arrival. It was established by the English as the town of York in 1793. York was sacked by the Americans during the war of 1812, which led to the Burning of Washington. Karma sucks, doesn’t it? In 1834, the town of York became the City of Toronto.
Today, the City of Toronto is a multicultural mosaic. There are several significant, distinct, and easily recognisable ethnic enclaves scattered around the city. Chinatown is located around Spadina and Dundas West. There are many restaurants, markets, and shops that add to the atmosphere of a unique blend of Chinese and Canadian cultures. Little India, on Gerrard Street East houses the Gerrard India Bazaar, the largest South Asian market in North America, selling a variety of imports like textiles and ingredients. Greektown, situated along Danforth Avenue, boasts a wide variety of Greek food from a selection of restaurants, cafes, and bakeries. Little Italy, between Euclid Avenue and Shaw Street along College, used to be all about Italian food, but now is a major center of bars and nightclubs as well. Koreatown, along Bloor Street, is mostly famed for its small eateries selling Korean specialties.
Toronto also plays host to a bunch of neighbourhoods that aren’t ethnically divided. The Annex, for example, is the student neighbourhood in and around the University of Toronto, with character, many cheap eats, and stores that sell used clothes, books, and bongs. Really, though, there’s a store that sells bongs. The Distillery District farther downtown was once the site of the largest distillery in the British Empire. Today, the neighbourhood showcases industrial architecture from the Victorian era. If you miss this neighbourhood, you’re missing out on a lot. The Beaches in East Toronto, as you can tell from its name, boasts four beaches: Balmy, Scarboro, Kew, and Woodbine, and the water is actually clean enough for you to swim in! Harbourfront, located along the shores of Lake Ontario, hosts many festivals and outdoor markets, especially in the summer. If you’re looking for dance performances, concerts, or readings, this is the place for you. Looking for vintage and unique? Look no farther than Kensington Market, which is not actually a market. Looking for an actual market? The St Lawrence Market, a Toronto landmark and the largest indoor market in the city, boasts 2 full floors of food and crafts.
Many famous landmarks in Toronto are also great for visiting. The CN Tower, standing at 553 meters, once the tallest building in the world, offers great views and great dining. If you’re feeling bold, try standing on the glass floor, or going on the EdgeWalk, the world’s highest full-circle, hands-free walk. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), half traditional and half modern, is seen as an eyesore by some, but is the largest world culture and natural history museum in Canada. It does look pretty nice inside. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), is another exhibit that people are sure to enjoy. It’s warm and cozy inside, and though it doesn’t house artworks of the same magnitude as those in the Louvre, or in the Pablo Picasso museum, it makes for a pleasant viewing experience. Casa Loma, the childhood dream of Sir Henry Pellatt, sits atop a hill along Spadina. After his bankruptcy during WWI, the city turned the castle into a tourist attraction. Despite being the epitome of excess, the castle boasts majesty, charm, and mystery in the secret passageways and rumoured ghost sightings. Centre Island, by and far, is the nicest patch of almost green area near Toronto. A short ferry ride away, it has beaches, a splash pad, and a small amusement park. Exhibition Place is known for hosting the Ex every summer and less known for hosting smaller exhibitions, like the Home Show and the Flower Show year-round. Nathan Phillips Square, located in front of City Hall, is the site of many happenings, like Nuit Blanche exhibits, the Cavalcade of Lights at Christmas, and the outdoor skating rink in the winter.
Toronto also hosts many events around the year, which include the Cavalcade of Lights, Santa Claus Parade, and Christmas Market in the winter, Hot Docs, Doors Open, and the Pride Festival in the spring, Caribana, Luminato, and the Ex in the summer, and Nuit Blanche and TIFF in the fall. This year, you can even catch the Pan Am and Para Pan Am games in the summer!
It’s a common misconception that there’s nothing to see in Toronto. However, you would be missing out on so much if you thought that was true. Toronto is a world class cultural, business, and arts center that you definitely should visit in your lifetime.