Hugging the north shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto is Canada’s business capital and, with around 2.6 million inhabitants, its largest city. If the ctiy’s thrusting skyline is designed to dazzle, its street scene, played out in vividly nicknamed neighbourhoods like “Greektown”, “Little Italy” and “Schnitzel Row”, is chock full of charm. Toronto’s diversity (around half the population was born abroad) is predictably good news for shoppers and diners, while one glance at the roster of annual festivals will tell you that Torontonians love culture in all its guises.
Criss-crossed by deep, forested ravines, Toronto has aptly been nicknamed the “City within a Park” – idyllic retreats within the city limits include Toronto Islands and High Park (www.toronto.ca/parks). Kids of all ages will enjoy Toronto Zoo (www.torontozoo.com), home to more than 460 species, and the Ontario Science Center (www.ontariosciencecenter.ca) which offers hundreds of activities and screenings of the best new IMAX movies. See these and more from one of the viewing platforms on the CN Tower (www.cntower.ca), the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere. The vertiginous may prefer to explore the Distillery District (www.thedistillerydistrict.com), whose Victorian-era heritage buildings house restaurants and shops.
The average Torontonian has an appetite for life and an appetite period, eating out more frequently than the average New Yorker or Chicagoan. If you’re craving it, somewhere’s serving it, whether it be dim sum and sloppy noodles at Asian Legend (www.asianlegend.ca), modern Canadian cuisine (plus stunning views) at Canoe atop the TD Bank Tower (www.oliverbonacini.com), pork belly tacos and key lime pie at Grand Electric (www.grandelectricbar.com) or steamed clams and Portuguese tapas at Chiado (www.chiadorestaurant.com). For diet-be-damned luxury rooted in classic French cuisine, book a table at Scaramouche (www.scaramoucherestaurant.com).
After supper, catch a show at one of Toronto’s many superb concert venues such as Massey Hall (www.masseyhall.com), the Opera House (www.theoperahousetoronto.com) or the Horseshoe Tavern (www.horseshoetavern.com). Beerbistro (www.beerbistro.com) wants to “change the way people think about beer”; with local draught ales like Amsterdam Boneshaker, it may do just that. Swap the hops for cocktails and champagne and dance the night away at MUZIK (www.muzikclubs.com) or Club V (www.vclubv.com).
A day’s shopping in Toronto will help you understand why so many people want to live here. You’ll find everything from vegan chocolate to live lobsters at St Lawrence Market (www.stlawrencemarket.com), recently named the world’s best food market by National Geographic. Browse the fashion boutiques and homeware stores that line Queen St West, Toronto’s answer to SoHo. Prefer everything under one roof? Then head for the Eaton Center (www.torontoeatoncentre.com) or Square One (www.shopsquareone.com).
The city’s line-up of annual festivals and events is stellar. Leading the pack is September’s Toronto International Film Festival (http://tiff.net), which draws a quarter of a million attendees and is second only to Cannes in terms of influence and prestige. Doors Open Toronto (www.toronto.ca/doorsopen2012), for which around 135 heritage buildings open their doors to the public for special cultural events, takes place on the last weekend of May. Prefer to watch grown men knock each other around while ostensibly skating after a puck? Then ice hockey is your sport, and catching a game involving the Toronto Maple Leafs (http://mapleleafs.nhl.com) a must.