City guide: Toronto

The largest city in Canada is urban chic with a multicultural heritage.

Toronto is a buzzing financial, commercial and cultural center. Here you’ll find soaring contemporary architecture alongside Victorian and Edwardian gems. The city is dotted with museums, performing-arts companies, fine restaurants and relaxed cafés in neighborhoods, trendy shopping complexes and along a people-friendly waterfront. Dedicated to natural beauty, Toronto boasts more than 3 million trees with canopies that act as portals to green spaces.

Business is boosted by the Toronto Stock Exchange and a large film and TV industry. But this metropolis certainly makes time for leisure. Sports fans love Blue Jays baseball and Maple Leafs hockey. Although English is the main language, French is widely spoken and is among the more than 100 languages you will hear in this cosmopolitan city.

Getting to and from the airport

Toronto Pearson International Airport lies 40 km (25 miles) northwest of the city center. Getting downtown is easy with the Toronto Airport Express shuttle, which runs every 30 minutes and costs Can$26.95 one-way or Can$40 for a round-trip. The journey takes 30 to 60 minutes depending on traffic. One Canadian dollar is approximately equal to US$1.

Taxi fares to downtown cost about Can$45-55. Only taxis with TIA on their license plates are authorized to pick up passengers from Toronto Pearson International Airport.

A budget-friendly but more time-consuming option is to use the city’s public transportation. For Can$3, hop on a bus operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) between the airport and various downtown locations. Drivers only accept exact cash or tokens.

Getting around Toronto

With easy-to-navigate subways, buses and streetcars, getting around the city is a snap. You can transfer between subway, streetcar and bus, but make sure you obtain a transfer when you pay your fare. On buses and streetcars, you’ll need exact change. You can purchase a single fare of Can$3 or opt for a day pass costing Can$10.50.

To reach outlying areas, a car or taxi is preferable; however, be warned: Major roads are heavily congested from 7:30-9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.

Where to stay

For luxury accommodation try the Park Hyatt Toronto (4 Avenue Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2E8; Ph: (416) 925 1234), or, opening at the end of the 2012, the Shangri-La Hotel on University Avenue at Adelaide Street.

Upscale options include the Fairmont Royal York (100 Front St. W, Toronto, ON M5J 1E3; Ph: (416) 368 2511); Hilton Garden Inn Toronto City Centre (200 Dundas St. E, Toronto, ON M5A 4R6; Ph: (416) 362 7700); and the Courtyard Toronto Downtown (475 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4Y 1X7; Ph: (416) 924 0611).

For midscale options try the Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre (30 Carlton St., Toronto, ON M5B 2E9; Ph: (416) 977 6655); Novotel Toronto Centre (45 The Esplande, Toronto, ON M5E 1W2; Ph: (416) 367 8900); and Best Western Plus Executive Inn (38 Estate Drive, Toronto, ON M1H 2Z1; Ph: (416) 430 0444).

Things to see and do

Visit the CN Tower — the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere — for a Royal Ontario Museumreal bird’s-eye view of the city. A basic observation package costs Can$23.99. Optional extras include a 3-D movie, motion ride or access to the SkyPod, another observation deck 33 floors above the main observation area.

The Royal Ontario Museum is worth a stop. Here you’ll find everything from natural history to human culture. For something different, pay a visit to the Bata Shoe Museum, which displays traditional slippers, celebrity pumps and nearly every shoe in between.

Stroll through trendy Yorkville, the funky Kensington Market (close to Chinatown) or the 200-year-old St. Lawrence Market (three blocks east of Union Station on Front Street). In addition to a variety of restaurants, specialty food items and a farmers’ market, you’ll find antiques, retro furniture, vintage clothing, crafts and more.

Kensington MarketTake a streetcar to the Beaches neighborhood, boasting a long stretch of Lake Ontario waterfront. Hang out at the beach, stroll the boardwalk or visit the shops and eateries on Queen Street East.

Check out the many multicultural neighborhoods the city is famed for, including Little Italy, Little Poland, Little Portugal, Greektown, Little India, Chinatown and Korea Town.

If you have time, a visit to the magnificent Niagara Falls, straddling the Canadian and U.S. border, and the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is well worth it. Day trips start at around Can$69 and include bus pick up/drop-off to and from most hotels in Toronto. Alternatively, you can rent a car and be there in less than two hours.

Where to eat

With more than 7,000 restaurants, Toronto’s kitchens are as multicultural as its population. A famed French-Canadian street dish is poutine. This calorie-ridden delight is a huge plate of fries, smothered in gravy and topped with plenty of cheese curds. Grab your fill at Smokes Poutinerie, a local chain specializing in seemingly endless riffs on the classic dish. There are several chains around, including one at 218 Adelaide St. W, M5H 1W7; Ph: (416) 599 2873;

For a fresh, handmade classic burger, join the regular devotees at The Burger’s Priest. It’s at 1636 Queen St. E, M4L 1G3; Ph: (647) 346 0617;

Northern Chinese delights abound at the popular Asian Legend restaurant. You’ll find it hard to limit your selection among mouthwatering options from dumplings, appetizers and soups to noodles, meat, seafood and desserts. The downtown branch is at 418 Dundas St. W; Ph: (416) 977 3909;

Canoe RestaurantIf you want to impress, then head for one of Toronto’s best restaurants, Canoe. Executive chef Antony Walsh shows off his talent using top Canadian ingredients, such as Albertan beef, Nova Scotian lobster, Quebec cheeses and seasonal local produce. Try the exciting tasting menu at Can$100 per person (without wine). You’ll find it on the 54th Floor of the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower, 66 Wellington St. W at Bay Street; Ph: (416) 364 0054;

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