Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is having a moment right now. More than just New York’s little sister and home of the Raptors, Maple Leafs and Blue Jays. It’s a diverse and thriving cultural hub that is more than just worth passing through. If you happen to find yourself in the city here is where to stay, eat and explore.
Where to Stay:
Located on the hip Queen West strip, it’s a great place to stay if you want a local and more downtown experience. Originally opened in 2004 in a restored heritage property, it was one of the first to start the coolification of the neighborhood. It’s very boutique with only 51 rooms and received a major upgrade in 2022. The new Modern Wing has more rooms, but also a living room style lobby. If the weather corporates, be sure to grab a drink in the Sky Yard, their rooftop patio.
It’s one of the newest hotels in the city and happens to be the first Canadian offshoot of the Seattle born brand. The property was designed by the powerhouse team at Toronto’s Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. You’ll find lots of wood finishings throughout and that classic Ace lobby that you can easily spend all day in. The food and beverage shine at the hotel. Book a reservation at Alder, their a food fired restaurant and have a cocktail at Evangeline, the 16th floor bar with views of the lake and city below.
Where to Eat:
You’ll find Parquet on a burgeoning stretch of Harbord street. The food is French, but not classically so. A little lighter with a focus on seasonal produce, Ontario strawberries in the summer and verdant green asparagus in the spring. The vibe pleasantly treads between friendly neighborhood bistro and celebratory restaurant. Don’t worry, you’ll still find steak frites on the menu.
Technically Chantecler has been open since 2012, but an unfortunate fire forced their original location to close. This spring it was reborn a little further uptown and in a much bigger, patio adorned space. The food comes from the Noma trained chef, Diego Reyes who has a very housemade and zero waste approach. The interior is well appointed, but still rustic and anything, but stuffy. Grab a seat at the long bar, order the steak tartare and a glass of Canadian biodynamic wine.
Where to Drink:
Toronto is now home to 4 of the 50 Best Bars in North America. This one happens to have been around the longest. Its menu is filled with riffs on classics like the Motherland, an Old Fashioned with coconut infused rye, bourbon, sweet potato, with notes of saffron, elderflower and bitters. Hours disappear in the buzzy dimly lit interior. The food goes beyond the typical charcuterie and olives to include things like tartare and jerk chicken.
A little further uptown and on the top of the Park Hyatt in Yorkville, you’ll find one of the city’s most iconic bars. In it’s 50 year history it’s been a gathering spot of many of Canada’s top writers including Margaret Atwood and Farley Mowat. Sip on the Bitter Relief made with roku gin, sweet vermouth and coffee bean campari, while you take in the sweeping view of the city.
Where to Visit:
Located only slightly off the beaten path in Toronto’s West End is the city’s largest park. Depending on the season, it’s home to everything from ice skating to swimming. With two thirds of the park unmanicured, it’s possible to feel like you’ve escaped from the city without leaving it. Great for kids with many playgrounds throughout and a zoo with deer, llamas and peacocks. It’s a great place to visit year round.
At over 600,000 square feet the AGO is one of the largest museums in North America. Home to over 120,000 works of art that range from contemporary to masterworks from Canadian and European artists. The building received an Frank Ghery designed update in 2008 and is now one of the city’s architectural gems. Spend an afternoon browsing in the galleries and grab lunch at the charming bistro.
Canada’s oldest operating food market is a place to get lost. With over 120 vendors that range from the iconic bagelry, St. Urbain to butcher’s shops to Carousel Bakery where you can find the “World Famous Peameal Bacon Sandwich”. Be sure to wander through both floors and on Saturday check out the farmer’s market across the street. You’ll be able to see all the fresh seasonal produce Ontario has to offer.
The city’s hippest strip is West Dundas West, an approximate mile long stretch of the street that runs from Ossington avenue in the east to Lansdowne in the west. Enjoy a cappuccino and Chat with locals at Cygnet before a leisurely brunch at the French bistro inspired Milou. If you’re looking to get some shopping in, browse the home goods store Easy Tiger or if it’s clothing you’re after check-out their sister shop, Ease across the street. In need of a sweet treat? Grab a cone of plant based ice cream at Honey’s or a croissant from the Tuck Shop. That’s just a taste of what the neighborhood has to offer.
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