Toronto, Canada's largest city, is an easy city to like. It is an economic and social powerhouse with a vibrant art and culinary scene as a result of a mix of 200-plus distinct ethnicities that have melted together to form one of North America's most diverse cities. With shopping that rivals New York and Paris, culture that makes London look savage and nightlife that would make Ibiza green with envy, Toronto is a city with a lot to enjoy for every sort of traveller.
Shopping in Toronto is about so much more than buying maple leaf-emblazoned goods and heaps of pure maple syrup, although there are plenty of places to get those traditional Canadian souvenirs. Toronto is a city where visitors can get pretty much anything they desire while specializing in nothing in particular.
The famous Eaton Centre has everything under the sun when it comes to brand name fashion. Gucci, Prada and Armani are all present, but those can be found anywhere. Instead, fans of haute couture should look out for the boutiques hosting Canadian labels like Lida Baday, Ross Mayer, Crystal Siemens and Linda Lundstrom.
However, for visitors interested in the wide array of local arts and crafts, the St.Lawrence Market where they can find the finest quality selection. Each building holds a different specialty, whether it is art from local artists, antiques from all over the world or all manner of handmade goods. Interestingly enough, this market was also named the world's best food market by National Geographic. While the art at St Lawerence Market is great, the discerning visitor looking for local artwork should visit Queen St West for all the small, independent art galleries.
Sport Fishing & Sailing
Toronto sits right up on the shores of Lake Ontario, which offers a wide selection of maritime activities.
For the sailors, tour operators like Gone Sailing Adventures and Cerulean Adventures can give visitors the sailing adventure they always wanted. Their luxury sailboats and yachts travel all around Lake Ontario on a variety of tours. Visitors can choose to spend the day cruising around the lake or book a tour for a few hours to see the harbour area. However, the most popular tours from the water take place during the sunset. Sailboats and yachts take off into the harbour or dock themselves on one of the smaller islands so that private parties can revel as the glowing city night sets in.
For those that fall in love with sailboats in Toronto, tour operators like Gone Sailing Adventures also provide sailing classes. They teach how to sail and maintain a sailboat in such detail many leave feeling comfortable enough to rig one on their own.
While yachts and modern sailboats are excellent, for a more classic sailing experience, visitors should highly consider taking a harbour tour aboard the Tall Ship Kajama. This thee-masted schooner holds tours of the Toronto harbour and Lake Ontario from May to September that provide a wonderful taste of sailing from the Age of Discovery.
While seeing the sights from the water and relaxing is nice for some, others need a little more activity in their vacation. Luckily, sailing isn't the only nautical activity that visitors enjoy in Toronto. Lake Ontario is also a popular hotspot for sport fishers. It is certainly not as vast as the ocean, but it is just as plentiful with fish. The lake doesn't have any giant marlin or tuna, but it does host some sizeable trout and salmon within its waters. Tour operators like Epic Sportfishing allow visitors to charter boats for hours or even days to head out on the lake and do some fishing. The boat captain always know the best spots on the lake to catch some of the biggest fish, which assures that visitors never leave disappointed. For those that do catch a monster, the captain will clean it and cook it onboard or visitors can choose to dock at one of the beautiful islands to have a beach cook-out.
Enjoy A Fine Cup Of Coffee
Residents of Toronto do love their coffee. However, while the seats at Tim Horton's are still eternally packed, the city seems to be growing above and beyond the cookie-cutter coffee house chains and is in the middle of a full-on barista movement. It seems like every week some new coffee house is opening up. So now Toronto is a city where a great cafe is usually just around the corner and it is not run by a crew that is passionate about the brew.
The Dark Horse Espresso Bar on Queen Street East is just one example of the hip new coffee scene. It hosts a friendly atmosphere, provides excellent fresh, handmade pastries and offers free WiFi, newspapers and magazines. Of course, it also hosts consistently great Fair Trade coffee too.
Another wonderful cafe is the Sam James Coffee Bar on Harbour Street. Some claim that this little shop, named after the award-winning owner and barista, serves up the best brew in town. However, that is a matter of opinion - visitors will just have to judge for themselves. The siphon coffee that they serve up at Sam James is a work of art with beans supplied by Toi, Moi e Cafe in Montreal and the pastries are baked by top chef J.P Challet so there is definitely no want for quality here.
Toronto's ethnic diversity truly shines when it comes to food within the city. While the kitchens have consistently great food, that is not enough for the talented chefs in this city. These chefs are pushing the boundaries when it comes to both cuisine and creativity.
The hip Cafe Boulud nestled inside the Four Seasons Hotel in the fabulous Yorkville District was spear-headed by the world-renowned restaurateur Daniel Boulud. Everyone can find something to enjoy in the cafe aside from the food. Art lovers can relish in the Andy Warhol-esque painting on the walls by Mr Brainwash and music lovers can enjoy the wide selection of pianists, trios and quartets that play there regularly. The menu is split into four sections that invite exploration from visitors. They host classic French dishes on their Traditional menu, decadent duck eggs on their Seasonal menu, dishes like Korean beef tartare on the eclectic Asian portion and a lovely sweet corn risotto brings their Garden section to life.
While Cafe Boulud is the choose your own adventure equivalent of a fine dining restaurant, places like Canoe have a different, more traditional take on kitchen artistry. Located on the 54th floor of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, Canoe teases the palate with classic Canadian dishes. While the view from the tower is inspiring, once the food arrives, visitors will not be able to remove their attention from their plate. Dishes likes Wellington County beef tartare with applewood smoked bacon and pretzel toast or smoked duck with mushrooms and foie gras command the attention of diners.
When it comes to hotels, visitors will find most of them located in the downtown district. Given that over 100 different languages and dialects are spoken within Toronto, most hotels cater to international business types. However, these successful business travellers demand a certain standard of quality within their hotels, so there are plenty of luxury stays within the city.
The Hazelton Hotel is a place for those that value privacy and silence in their hotel stay. After entering through a discreet check-in area, guests are ushered through plush hallways to beautiful guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, sumptuous furnishings and wonderful amenities like individual doorbells and electronic housekeeping controls. The rooms themselves are set apart from the main hallways to assure absolute silence for their guests and come equipped with plunge tubs, enough marble to please a monarch and soundproof French doors for extra measure.
For those that want a luxury stay with a more artistic twist, Shangri-La offers a stylish stay with its art-focused decor alongside its East-meets-West aesthetic. The hotel is filled with natural woods, delicate accents and sweeping views of the city itself. However, the lobby and the rooms each come with original artwork from the eclectic artists from around Toronto. This assures that no stay at the Shangri-La will be the same.