Toronto

About Toronto

YOUTUBE VIDEO

 

SKYLINES AND VIEWS:

       
   

Skylines and views

Downtown, Financial District, Harbourfront, CN Tower, North York, Mississauga, Hamilton

 

CN Tower and its views

CN Tower, Skyline views, Ripley's Aquarium

 

Big Bus Tour

Yonge Street, Financial district, Dundas Square, Distillery district, St Lawrence, Casa Loma, Old Toronto, Bloor St


DOWNTOWN:
       
   
Yonge Street  

Dundas Square

  Eaton Centre
Brookfield Place

Comfort Hotel, Number One Bloor, Reference Library

  Yonge St, Dundas St, Hard Rock Café   Allen Lambert Galleria
Hockey Hall of Fame
   
Financial District

  Nathan Phillips Square   Harbourfront
Toronto Islands

Union Station, Royal York Hotel, CN Tower, Rogers Centre, First Canadian Place, Scotia Place
Yonge St, Front St, King St, Bay St, Adelaide St

 

New City Hall
Old City Hall
Toronto sign

 

CN Tower, Rogers Centre
Toronto Island ferry
Toronto City Airport

   
Queens Park
Queen Street
University Avenue
Kensington Market
  Yorkville

University of Toronto
Ontario Legislative Bldg

 


  Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Four Seasons, Yorkville Ave
Hazelton Ave, Davenport Rd

 

OLD TORONTO:

       
   
St Lawrence
Front Street
Gooderham Bldg
  Distillery District   St Lawrence Market

 

ETHNIC NEIGHBOURHOODS:

       
   

Chinatown

Spadina Ave, Dundas St W

  Little Italy  

Dundas Street
Little Portugal

Art Gallery of Ontario,
Sharp Centre for Design


CASA LOMA:

       

     
Casa Loma        

 

TORONTO BY NIGHT:

       
   
Toronto by night        
         
MISSISSAUGA:   GREATER TORONTO:   SPECIALS:
   
Toronto Pearson International Airport   Outskirts, highways
HAMILTON
MISSISSAUGA
SUBURBS

  Subway and public transportation

 

ABOUT Toronto:

Population: 2 615 000 (metro 5 583 000)
Tallest building: First Canadian Place (298m, 71 floors, built 1975)
Tallest structure: CN Tower (553m, built 1976)
Language:
English (French, Spanish, Chinese etc)
Founded:
1834
Province:
Ontario
Area: 639 km² (metro 5 906 km²)
Year visited: 2016

 

Toronto is not only Ontario's provincial capital, it is also Canada's largest city, the 5th largest metropolis in North America (4th largest in USA & Canada). It is known for business, finance, arts and culture, and is situated at the shores of Lake Ontario in southern Ontario. Toronto is a very modern city with skyscrapers, a large Financial District, and a heritage from the British colonial times. It is a highly multi cultural city with ethnic neighourhoods like Chinatown, Little Italy, Greektown, Little India and Little Portugal. English, Chinese and Canadians are the largest population groups, followed by Irish, Scottish, East Indians, Italians and Filipinos. Considering it is in Canada you might think you will hear a lot of French spoken, but that's not true; a language commonly spoken, however, is Spanish, much from Mexican immigrants. In the financial district you will find business men in suits and enthusiastic tourists, only some blocks away you will find hipsters and teenagers eating and drinking at hip pubs. Toronto is definately a vibrant city!

In 1787 the British settlers established the Town of York, in an area populated for thousands of years by aboriginals. In 1834 the city was incorporated as Toronto, due to name problems with a now very wellknown American metropolis with a similar name...So York became Toronto, and not Old York or New York.

In 1998, six municipalities, then functioning as suburbs, where incorporated into the city of Toronto. Thus the city population increased from about 600 000 to 2.7 million inhabitants in just one year!

Toronto is famous for its film industry and the international film festival. Actually many American movies that takes place in New York or Chicago, are actually filmed in Toronto. If people just knew that, Toronto would probably be a more popular tourist destination, now the "Big Apple" gets all the cred, a bit unfair! Especially the financial district is resembling New York, but the trams reveal that it is Toronto.
Toronto is also famous for hockey, you find the Hockey Hall of Fame and Air Canada Centre, home arena for Toronto Maple Leafs, here. Toronto's music scene is famous (Rush, Neil Young) and so is the art scene, with large museums (Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario), street art and art galleries.
As the commercial capital of Canada, you find the Stock Exchange, headquarters of Canada's 5 largest banks and several headquarters of multinational companies in Toronto.

In Toronto you will probably not notice that you are in Canada and not USA, since it is so similar to an American city. The only things that reveals that you are in Canada are the flags, most signs that are written on both English and French (even though you will hardly here in French here) and the different store brands. There are also many more British styled buildings and gardens then you would find in an American city. Many parts look more similar to London then New York.

Toronto is not only a business city, it is also a 24 hour party city, at least when you walk in the entertainment district at Yonge St, you will hardly notice if you are there on a weekday or a holiday! It is sometimes hard to believe that Toronto is a city situated so far North, especially summertime (we visited in June) when it often has clear skies and temperatures above 30 degrees C, and a very cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Toronto has huge highways, only Los Angeles can compare to it. For example, when we departed the city, heading to Niagara Falls there were massive traffic jams; traffic stood still for about 20km towards the city, then keep in mind that there is 3-6 lanes in each direction!

The public transportation is a bit dated, but effective and fairly cheap. In Toronto you will find a lot of trams, buses and a subway system. Some lines are missing, for example you can't go to the beach without a car. The red trams are significant for Toronto, they drive both downtown and in the outskirts. Some of them may look a bit outdated, but very modern new trams have started to replace them. It is the largest and busiest lighrail system in North America!There is a strange system when you pay at the subway, that is a bit hard to figure out for visitors. When you pay for a ticket at the counter, you sometimes have to put the rest of the coins in a box, if you do it wrong you will loose it!

PATH is an extensive tunnel system with restaurants, stores and other services that connect the subway with malls, departments stores and other sights underground. Here you can escape the winter cold and the summer heat of Toronto. With 27km of tunnels it is the largest underground shopping complex in the world! The project started already in the early 1900s, but the biggest extension was made in the 1970s. Today PATH has 1200 stores and 5000 workers, and there are many maps and signs in the whole system, making it more easy to navigate. CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame and Eaton Centre, as well as 5 subway stations are just some of the attractions that can be reached through its 125 access points.

CN Tower, built in 1976, was the world's tallest freestanding structure in the world for 34 years, still without competition dominating the skyline. It is, at a height of 553m to the top of the mast, still the tallest TV tower in North America, and the tallest tower in the western hemisphere, second tallest tower in the world (Canton Tower in China is now somewhat taller). The observation deck is a very popular attraction, it features both an indoor and an outdoor section, a glass floor and a revolving restaurant. Even higher up, at the 147th floor, you can visit the Skypod. It is also possible to take a walk on the edge and hang out from the building. Super fast glass enclosed elevators take you to the observation deck, while you take the ride up the city down below you appears smaller and smaller! Right next to CN Tower is the Rogers Centre, a huge sports arena that is famous for its roof that can be opened and closed according to the weather. It was built in 1989 and is 95m high to the top of the dome. In 2013, the large Ripley's Aquarium opened just next to CN Tower.

The tallest building in Canada (TV towers are not counted as buildings) is the 71-storey First Canadian Place (298m to the roof) from 1971, followed by Trump Tower from 2012 (277m to the spire) and the significant posmodern 68-storey red granite Scotia Place from 1988. In contrary to most other North American cities, a large number of skyscrapers downtown are not offices or hotels, but residential buildings. Currently (2016) Toronto is undergoing a huge building boom, the largest in North America right now; 137 highrises are under construction, of which 6 will have more then 60 floors. The tallest, Number One Bloor, a sleek glass scraper that was almost finished during our visit, will have 75 floors, with a roof height of 257m. It is situated at the intersection of Yonge/Bloor Sts. 22 of these skyscrapers will have 50 floors or more, thus completely changing the skyline of Toronto. And if you go just 5 years back in time, some of the tallest buildings today were not there!
A 96-storey skyscraper, one 92-storey, 6 skyscrapers with more then 80 floors, 8 with more then 70 floors are proposed for the future. At least 50 skyscrapers with 50 floors or more are planned to start construction in the future, rivaling New York! Most of these are residential or mixed use. Most skyscrapers are situated downtown, in the financial district or along Yonge St, but there is also a growing number of skyscrapers rising in the outskirts, for example in North York and Midtown (both north of Downtown and Uptown) along Yonge St, and in the neighbouring city Mississauga, that borders the airport and has about 900 000 inhabitants so it can hardly be called a suburb. The odd, curvy Absolute Towers are the landmarks of Mississauga, and the city, that is a dull city compared to Toronto (still with a very suburban feeling and lots of grey highrise blocks), has an impressive skyline of its own. Etobicoke is another western suburb with a small skyline. Hamilton and Brampton are large nearby cities, and Niagara Falls is only one and a half hour from Toronto by car.

Yonge Street is the leading street of Toronto, going from the financial district and harbour in the south to the northernmost suburbs. The most central part, where we stayed (at Comfort Hotel), is a hip entertainment district with somewhat neglect townhouses, cheap restaurants, drug stores (cannabis etc!), fastfood chains, hotels, department stores and super luxurious residential skyscrapers (in the middle of that!).
A bit further to the South you will find fancy brand stores, and to the North it is more residential in its character (actually Yonge St changes character lots of times). Even further south, it is an ultramodern shopping and business district with some of Toronto's tallest skyscrapers.Yonge St was the world's longest road according to Guiness Book of Records, but was a conflation; it's extension is not counted part of Yonge St so it is 86km long and not 1896km, but still enough to pass through the whole Toronto including suburbs, in South-North direction.

Dundas Square, at the intersection of Dundas and Yonge, is an ultramodern square with neon lights, ads, crowded restaurants, department stores, entertainment - the closest you come to Times Square in New York, or Shibuya in Tokyo. Especially after dark, this place look impressive with neon lights, huge billboards with TV screens, heavy traffic and surrounding skyscrapers. Hard Rock Café with its signicant neon guitar sign is situated here. Public events such as concerts and performances are often held here, even on common weekdays. Yonge-Dundas Square was completed in 2002, as part of a revitalizing project, designed by Brown and Storey Architects.
Here you find the main entrance to Eaton Centre, Toronto's leading shopping mall and most popular tourist attraction, with 235 stores. It is very bright and modern, so it is hard to believe that the first phase opened already in 1977. Eaton Centre was founded by the Canadian depertment store chain Eaton's, now bankrupt, but the name is kept. Further south you the financial complex Brookfield Place near the station, with landmark skyscrapers, restaurants and the cathedral like Allen Lambert Galleria designed by Santiago Calatrava. Here you also find the popular Hockey Hall of Fame, a museum about ice hockey and a hall of fame. The building is a beautiful historical former bank building.

The City Hall of Toronto is situated in one historic building, and two modern ones. The new part consist of two futuristic curved highrise buildings, designed by the Finnish architect Viljo Revell and completed in 1965. Nathan Phillips Square, is a large square between the new and the old city hall, that is Canada's largest, at a size of 4.85 hectares. In the middle of this square you find fountains, ponds, trees and a very large Toronto sign, popular for photographs. Opposite the modern City Hall stands the Old City Hall, also a Toronto landmark, but completely different in style. The Old City Hall was built in 1899 in a beautiful romanesque revival style, with its landmark clock tower. The historic, 98m tall, Canada Life Bldg from 1931, can be seen from the square.

King Street, Front Street, Dundas Street and Bay Street are mayor streets downtown. Queen Street is a very nice street with pubs, restaurants and nightclubs, situated in charming townhouses. Union Station is a large historic railway station that you find downtown, opened in 1927. It was built in beaux arts style and has a grand hall. Much of the station was under redevelopment and everything was messy during our visit. Opposite it is the legendary Royal York Hotel, the tallest building in Canada from the 1929-31, and the tallest building in the British Empire upon completion. This 28-storey building was built by the Canadian Pacific, the national railroad company, now it is a Fairmont hotel. With 1600 rooms it was the largest hotel in Canada for a time. Dominating several blocks downtown is a complex caleld Toronto Dominion Centre (TD Centre), designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. It consists of black box shaped skyscrapers (Manhattan style) from the 1960s, the tallest one 223m high. There are also nearly 100 stores and restaurants, and the Gallery of Inuit Art can be found here.

In the East part of downtown is Toronto's Old Town. Here you find some beautiful colonial buildings in British style; town houses and churches, but the majority of the buildings are even here modern ones. One of the world's first flatiron shaped buildings (before NY), Gooderham Building, can be found here. It was built in 1892, and has murqals on its back wall. It is iconic because if its thin shape and because of the ideal location between Front St and Wellington St, in the St Lawrence neighbourhood. St James Cathedral and the Church of the Holy Trinity, both neo-gothic from the 19th century, are the most signiciant churches.

Distillery District, in the Old Town, is a former distillery filled with restaurants, craft stores, upscale boutiques, artist galleries and entertainment. It is the only historic district in Toronto, and a car free zone, made for pedestrians on brick-paved roads. Before it became a cultural district in 2003, many famous movies where set there, such as Chicago, X-Men and the Hurricane. It is the best collection of preserved Victorian era industrial architecture in North America. The Gooderham and Worts distillery, that the complex was built for, was in the largest distillery in the world in the late 1860s. Two tall condominium towers were built at the property in the 1990s.

St Lawrence Market is the center of the St Lawrence neighbourhood. The market has existed over a century but the current markethall is the 3rd markethall building after fires and destruction, the current one was built in 1968. There are totally four buildings, the 3-storey South Market building was Toronto's City Hall (and market) until 1899 Meat, fruit, vegetables, food, drinks and souvenirs can all be found here so the markethall is a popular place to visit for both locals and tourists.

Yorkville is a posh neighbourhood with some of the most expensive townhouses, condo skyscrapers and brand stores in the country. Here you find the Four Seasons Hotel and Residencess, where Canada's most expensive penthouse recently was sold, and lots of speciality boutiques. This is the area were most celebrities like to go and shop. Yorkville is situated just next to downtown, a couple of blocks from our hotel. Yorkville Park is a small park that features a rock, planted trees and a rain curtain. To the Northeast of downtown, not far from Yorkville, you find Rosedale, a very green area with parks and residential villas. Cabbagetown is a gentrified former poor area in the East, known for its attractive Victorian townhouses.

To the North of central Toronto you find Casa Loma. This is Toronto's own castle, formerly a mansion in gothic revival style, built by Sir Henry Pellatt in 1914. After Pellatt went bankrupt, the city of Toronto bought it in 1937. The grandiose interior is open to public (Grand Hall, bedrooms, bathrooms, garage, gardens etc), and can be visit. The exterior is quirky and features towers that look like they come from a medieval German castle. There is an exhibition about Toronto's past dark side in the somewhat creepy basement corridors. Casa Loma is very beautiful and a must visit when in Toronto.

Toronto Harbour, facing Toronto Bay in Lake Ontario, is the natural harbour where you take the ferry to the City Islands (that offers the best views of the skyline), or the tours around the islands like we did. Along the harbourfront you find restaurants, like the large and popular Amsterdam BrewHouse where we dined, luxury hotels (like Westin Harbour Castle with its significant revovling restaurant), residential skyscrapers and small boat marinas. Amsterdam BrewHouse was named after the futuristic pedestrian bridge Amsterdam Bridge, that in turn is named after the Dutch capital, a city that has a similar bridge, but this one is named Toronto Bridge! CN Tower and Rogers Centre are very close to the harbour. Several small parks, like the Music Garden, are also situated along the harbourfront.
In the East part of Toronto, and some of the West, there are popular beaches, promenades and parks along Lake Ontario. The most popular beach is Woodbine Beach, just East of central Toronto.

Toronto is also a student city, with a large university, University of Toronto. The university features lots of historic and modern buildings, mostly spread out around Queens Park. Queens Park is one of the few parks in central Toronto, situated next to the university campus. This neighbourhood has a somewhat British character, with old stone buildings. Queens Park is quite small and is surrounded by trafficated roads. Here you find the Ontario Legislative Building, a beautiful historical building from 1893 that is home to Ontario's provincial government. After a fire in 1909 the west and the east wing looks completely different. In 1981, the entrance to the building was featured on the front cover to the Torontonian progressive rock band Rush's Moving Pictures album.

Chinatown is very authentic and one of the largest in North America. It was well established already in 1935. Here you find Chinese stores and restaurants, all with typical chinese signs. It is situated around the intersection Spadina/W Dundas, just northwest of downtown. Little Italy may not look especially Italian, but it is bigger then the one in New York. There is also two additional chinatowns, and one additional Italian neighbourhood, Corso Italia.

Kensington Market is a very nice neighbourhood, perhaps the nicest in Toronto. It is sitauated on one street near Chinatown. Here you find colourful townhouses filled with hippie stores, hippie cars, markets where you find many rare second hand stuff, fruits, hipster restaurants, cafés and vibrant street life - mostly concentrated to just one small street, Kensington Avenue, Bellevue Square, Augusta Ave and a few side streets. Victorian townhouses surround it. In 2006 it became a National Historic Site of Canada.

Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is Canada's largest art museum, and is situated at Bloor St, between Yorkville and Queens Park. It is a museum of art, world culture and natural history, established in 1912. In 2007, Daniel Liebeskind designed a significant addition to the museum, the Crystal, that has became a landmark with its sharp angles and deconstructivist style. This odd, cool, futuristic building is a sharp contrast to the adjancent heritage buildings of the museum, and that is where the main entrance is. The facade consists of glass and a special fabricated aluminium.

Another odd, interesting, futuristic building can be found further south towards downtown; Sharp Centre for Design. A playful black and white box hangs above an ordinary red brick building next to McCaul Steet. Colourful diagonal pillars, 25m high, support the structure. This eye-catching building was designed by the British architect Will Alsop, that nearly won the competition to design Centre Pompidou in Paris. It was built in 2004 as an addition to the Ontario College of Art.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) is also one of the largest art museums in Canada, It has a collection of more then 80 000 works of art. It was founded in 1900. The famous architect Frank Gehry designed the 2008 renovation, that expanded the space, and added futuristic curved glass sections to its exterior.

The largest amusement park is Wonderland in the Northern suburb of Vaughan. This is the closest you come to Disneyland in Canada. There is also a small entertainment park at the harbourfront, Ontario Place, situated on some small artificial islands just west of downtown. Here you find an IMAX theatre (in a globe shape), a waterpark the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, a semi-closed concert venue for rock, pop and jazz. There are plans to completely redevelop Ontario Place.

Toronto has a large modern airport, Pearson International Airport, situated in Mississauga, 22.5km west of downtown Toronto. The airport handles more then 40 million passengers a year. Pearson (IATA code: YYZ) is the largest and busiest airport in Canada, as well as the main hub for Air Canada. The first flight landed there in 1939, the airport was then called Malton, changed name to Toronto International Airport in 1958, but changed again name to Pearson in 1984, after Lester B Pearson, the 14th Canadian prime minister. The airport has fast train connections to Union Station, GO Transit (takes about 40 minutes). There is a futuristic elevated train that connects the terminals with the nearby hotels. The airport has two active terminals. In Terminal 1 you find the world's fastest moving walkway. The other terminal is called Terminal 3.
There are also several smaller airports in the metro area, the most important one is the Toronto City Airport, also called Billy Bishop, that is situated on the Toronto Islands, right opposite downtown. Due to its location it is served only by propeller planes, but is much closer to downtown then Pearson Airport, that was built at the same time.

MY EXPERIENCE:

I visited Toronto for 3 and a half day, before taking the plane to Chicago. These two cities are about the same in size. I also made a day trip to Niagara Falls. We flew to Copenhagen to Toronto Pearson with Air Canada, via London Heathrow. A couple of days later we flew to Chicago O'Hare with United, and when it was time to fly home from Chicago, we have to go back to Toronto again to switch planes!
We stayed at the Comfort Hotel Downtown, a 3-star highrise hotel at Yonge Street. It was simple in modernist 9-storey brown brick building with 70s interior (that was under refurbishment during our visit, the restaurant was also closed for renovation) but it has an excellent location, large rooms with wonderful beds and nice views, AC, nice staff, and nice free breakfast with waffels. The largest con was the size of the breakfast room; there was not enough seats for all the guests!

Toronto is one of my favourite cities in the whole world, if not the one. That is simply because it has everything: diversity, skyscrapers, nice townhouses, old churches, a castle, a nice harbour, nightclubs, entertainment districts, great restaurants, good roads, tranquil islands just opposite downtown, beaches, trams, huge highways to drive on, it is comparatively safe for such a big city, it is close to Niagara Falls and it is developing all the time with new building projects, unlike many other North American cities. And it is just about a one hour flight from New York and Chicago!
The things that really needs to be improved is that there are too few biking lanes (the number can be counted on one hand), no pedestrian streets, there are too many homeless people and drug addicts, and I don't like the fact that they sell drugs openly in stores just like in Amsterdam. The worst disadvantage is probably the weather; you can probably stand the heat in the summer, but it is said that the winters in Toronto are extremely cold, snowy and last too long!
There are not that many parks in the city, Queens Park is the only one in downtown, and it is quite small and surrounded by busy roads. On the other hand Roseland is a huge park area, just a few blocks from downtown, and there are some smaller parks along the lakfront.

The first and second day we took the Big Bus tour with the double decker that gave us a good introduction to the city. Included in the price was a ferry tour to Toronto Islands, the green tranquil islands opposite downtown where there are almost no cars. The ticket lasted for two days and was really good value for money compared to bus tours in other big cities. The bus took us to all big sights; like CN Tower and Casa Loma that is a bit away from the city center. Yonge-Dundas Square was really impressive with all the lights and billboard screens, we visited it several times, it looked the best after dark with all the neon lights, and there was a small pop rock concert righ then. Yonge St was also impressive, so it was great to stay right next to it.

When the big bus ticket was out, we used the subway a bit but mostly walked by foot. We never had use of the many trams unfortunately.

We visited the observation deck of CN Tower, Casa Loma, Chinatown, Yonge Street, Dundas Square, the library, Yorkville, the harbour, Little Italy, Little Portugal, Queens Park, Eaton Centre, Brookfieled Place, Nathan Phillips Square, Old and New City Hall, Distillery District. The weather was so good and there was so much to see on just 3 days, so we skipped the museums (except for Casa Loma), even if there are some great ones.
To visit CN Tower has been a dream since I was little, when I learned it was the world's tallest free standing structure. Canton Tower in Guangzhou is the only TV tower that is taller, and this one we had already visited. Taking the fast glass elevator along the exterior, walkling on the glass floor, go outside and look at the impressive ever changing skyline of Toronto was really a dream come true!

After we went to Toronto, we visited Chicago. We also made a daytrip to Niagara Falls and Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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