Why Toronto should be top of your 2017 travel list
CN Tower, Toronto credit: OceanFishing
Toronto is back on the travel map, partly due to Prince Harry (everyone's favourite royal has been spending a lot of time in Toronto where his girlfriend, actress Meghan Markle – best known for her role as Rachel Zane in US legal drama Suits - is based). And partly because the city’s calendar is creaking with exciting events and festivals in 2017, as Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary of confederation....
Here’s 10 reasons why you should consider Toronto - with its beautiful waterfront and mix of cultures, concert halls and clubs - for a city break says Kaye Holland
Ascending the CN Tower
Visiting Toronto and not scaling the 553m CN Tower is akin to visiting Paris and passing up the Eiffel Tower or heading to New York and leaving out the Statue of Liberty… you get the gist. Sure entry, at around $30 a pop, is expensive but experiencing the CN Tower is the one thing you just have to do while in Toronto. If lady luck is on your side and the skies are clear, expect to look down over Toronto, Lake Ontario and beyond.
Mad about museums? You’re in the right town...Toronto boasts some of the world’s greatest galleries and museums but if you only have time for one, make for The Royal Ontario Museum whose collections cover natural science, art exhibits and ancient civilisation. Volunteers from the Royal Ontario Museum offer one to two hour historical and architectural walking tours on Wednesday and Sunday evenings between May and September.
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto credit: SolomonCrowe
The fantastic food scene
Toronto is truly a foodie’s paradise. Every year, 55,000 people leave their native lands to call Canada’s largest city home and that steady stream of fresh faces means you can get stuck into every cuisine imaginable, from Chinese to Thai, Korean and yes, Canadian comfort food. What’s more, you don’t have to spend a small fortune to eat well at places like St Lawrence Market - ranked by National Geographic as the world’s best food market.
Shop up a storm
Good retail therapy is another one of Toronto’s many attractions. Shopping in areas such as Kensington Market (www.kensington-market.ca), aka Toronto at its most multicultural, is a blast owing to the multitude of kitsch boutiques, staffed by hip, young things. In the market for music and vintage shops? Check out Queen West and West Queen West, while if you just want to pick up all your favourite American brands for a fraction of the price you’d pay back home, head to the enormous Eaton Centre (www.cfshops.com) - a veritable temple to consumerism.
St Lawrence Market, Toronto credit: Francesco Cantone
Queen St West. Toronto credit: PaulMcKinnon
Toronto is heaven for ice hockey lovers and if you’re a fan of the speedy sport, chances are you’ll want to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs (www.nhl.com/mapleleafs) - who have won the prestigious Stanley Cup no fewer than 13 times - a National Hockey League game over at the Air Canada Centre.
Even if you aren’t a Toronto Maple Leafs devotee, do head to the Hockey Hall of Fame (www.hhof.com) for an insight into the game that defines Canada. Much more than a sports museum, the Hall of Fame offers something for everyone: the finest collection of hockey artefacts, state-of-the-art games, themed exhibits dedicated to the game’s greatest players, teams and achievements, larger-than-life statues; a replica NHL dressing room; and an unrivalled selection of hockey-related merchandise and memorabilia.
Toronto’s jewel like islands – there are nearly two dozen islands covering 240 hectares – is where locals head when they want to relax, especially during the summer. Islands like Algonquin Island and Ward’s Island are only a short 15 minute ferry ride away from downtown Toronto, but feel like another world and are the perfect place for those who want to experience the great outdoors - or simply escape the hustle and bustle of the big smoke for a bit.
It would be criminal to venture to Ontario - the Canadian province of which Toronto is a part - without making time to admire the sheer grace and power of one of Canada’s most magnificent waterfalls. Yes there's plenty of taller waterfalls in the world (Niagara is ranked at 50th) but make no mistake: the volume of the Falls invariably wows first time and veteran visitors alike. One caveat: get used to hearing Niagara Falls referred to as Viagra Falls (somewhat bizarre the Falls are a popular honeymoon destination).
Walk this way
Never heard of the Toronto PATH? Allow TNT to enlighten you….it’s a 28km network of underground connections between buildings in Toronto’s downtown that acts as a weather-proof way to get around. (If you’re in town during Toronto’s scorching summer or freezing winter, then trust TNT when we say that you’ll be spending a lot of time in Toronto’s subterranean corridors keeping cool/warm respectively.) The underground walkway - which connects downtown sights, skyscrapers, subway stations and shops - is however confusing to navigate so expect to get lost (a rite of passage for visitors and residents alike) at least once.
Niagara Falls credit: pelooyen
Discovering the Distillery Historic District
Recognised as a National Historic Site, the Distillery Historic District is arguably one of Toronto’s most picturesque sites owing to its cobblestone laneways and Victorian era buildings. It was Toronto’s first distillery – which produced almost half of Ontario’s total spirit production in 1871 – and is now home to high-end boutiques, buzzy restaurants and art galleries. It’s easy to while away a morning or afternoon, strolling the lanes and courtyards and getting a feel for Toronto’s history and heritage.
Look to Lake Ontario
Lovely Lake Ontario often gets overlooked by Torontonians which is a shame, because the lake - whose name derives from Skanadario, an Iroquois word meaning ‘sparkling water’ - is surprisingly beautiful. It’s also impressively large being the 14th largest lake in the world.
However for all of the aforementioned, Toronto’s true charms – its tolerance and the characters you meet daily – are subtler and best experienced in its street life.