City stopover: Toronto
A city whose motto is ‘Diversity Our Strength’, a quick trip to Toronto offers a glimpse of Canada’s cultural mosaic.
Ranked as one of the world’s most multicultural cities, a trip to Toronto takes you on a journey around the world. Stroll through Chinatown to grab Mexican in Kensington Market or Little Italy before feasting on Spanish pintxos on College Street. Things to eat, see and do are endless in this city; one stopover won’t be enough.
Where to eat
If Momofuku is in the name, you know it’s going to be good. The famous culinary brand’s newest Canadian establishment boasts a fusion of Colombian-Canadian flavours, thanks to Colombian native chef Paula Navarette. Named after the Japanese god of fire, the hearth and the kitchen, Momofuku Kōjin appropriately boasts a wood-fire grill in the middle of its kitchen, with a menu that highlights local meats and produce cooked over an open flame.
If you’re looking for a quick, casual lunch, head to this little spot in Kensington Market for some of the best tacos in town. Exciting offerings like the blackened mahi-mahi and octopus with pumpkin seed mole tacos are generous in size and flavour. This Baja-style restaurant is small and popular among locals, so prepare to order your food to-go and have a wander in the markets – it’s worth it though.
For Italian fine-dining, head to Don Alfonso 1890 located in Old Toronto. The first North American location of Chefs Alfonso and Ernesto Iaccarino’s Michelin-star Don Alfonso 1890 of Italy’s Amalfi Coast is elegant and creative. The tasting menus – classic meat or contemporary vegetarian – offer an eight-course culinary experience deliciously moreish and utterly artistic in execution.
When Gaudiesque interiors come to dance with Spanish dishes like shishito peppers, jamon croquetas or chistorra sausage, the result will transport you to the vibrant Barcelona neighbourhood Raval – exactly what they’re going for at Toronto’s top tapas and pintxos bar.
The name’s a play on the law enforcement stereotype, but there may be no truer Canadian staple than coffee and doughnuts. Kick this pastime up a notch and head to Adelaide Street West to get your specialty filter coffee fix and made-from-scratch, melt-in-your-mouth mini doughnuts. The hot, doughy, deep-fried pastries are so tasty it’s a crime.
Where to shop
Make your way north to the upscale neighbourhood of Yorkville to survey designer stores like Tiffany, Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Hermès as well as an array of independent shops. Browse the ‘Mink Mile’ on Bloor Street, named the 22nd most expensive shopping street in the world.
Voted by Vogue as the world’s second-coolest neighbourhood, there’s never a dull moment on Queen Street West. One of the trendiest shopping scenes in the city, you’ll find anything from boutique clothing shops and funky patisseries to vintage stores and secret galleries.
Where to stay
The Drake Hotel located on Queen Street West is more than a place to stay. It’s the “Toronto destination for unbeatable hospitality experience fused with art, culture and community”. Ranging from XS Nooks to XL Suites, the 19 rooms are unique, comfortable and quirky. On-site are three dining venues – lounge, café and rooftop terrace – so there’s an option regardless of time or mood. It may not have a spa or gym, but hotel guests can take free yoga or spin classes at local studios.
Toronto’s first luxury boutique hotel sits in the expensive shopping and dining district of Yorkville. Modern opulence at its finest, interiors are care of Canadian design firm Yabu Pushelberg – the team behind the W and St. Regis New York. No stranger to celebrities, the sophisticated hotel offers a range of extravagant features like a luxury private screening room, spa and fine dining restaurant.
See & drink
Have you even been to Toronto if you haven’t scaled the CN Tower? Head to the bar at the award-winning 360 Restaurant to see the city from 351 metres (1,151 feet) above. If the mere thought makes you feel like a drink, you’re in luck; there are more than 550 international and Canadian wine options available at this cellar in the sky.
This intimate cocktail bar in Queen Street West is the perfect place for a unique drinking experience. The logic behind the name is soon apparent; cocktail elements come candied, caramelised, toasted and baked, among other cheffy treatments. Try concoctions like the Coconut and Absinthe Sour, Toasted Old Fashioned or the Black Truffle.
If you have enough time, the Toronto Islands are worth venturing to. It’s only a 15-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto to the oasis archipelago on Lake Ontario. Journey to a beautiful beach, stroll along a boardwalk, explore a lighthouse, and see a spectacular view of the city skyline.
This historic distillery district east of downtown is the largest collection of Victorian-era industrial architecture in North America. Boasting 19th century buildings, the pedestrian area has been converted into a year-round hub for food, drink, art, live music and, in December, Toronto’s famous Christmas market.
Credit: Ashton Kobler