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For my first trip to Canada I flew to Toronto to visit my best friend Alex, who was living there for two years on a work visa. It was summertime, and I really loved the city at this time of year – the city was alive with sidewalk patios and rooftop bars overflowing with people. There were so many neighbourhoods and eateries to explore, that I felt I could never really have seen it all.
Here are just some of the awesome things you can do in Toronto:
1. Admire the view from The One Eighty
I’d seen a views in Toronto – including the views from the Thompson Hotel and the CN Tower – but I enjoyed the view from ‘The One Eighty’ the most. Located on the 51st floor Manulife Centre in Yorkville, this restaurant and bar offers beautiful views from the roof terrace. I went there to catch up with an old friend I’d met travelling in Portugal, and it was a lovely setting for cocktails and snacks just before sundown.
2. Have a beer in the Distillery District
The historic Distillery District of Toronto is filled with designer boutiques, artisan shops, cafes, brew pubs and restaurants. All the outlets in this pedestrian-only village are housed in the restored red brick, Victorian-era buildings of the renowned Gooderham & Worts whiskey distillery, so it’s a really nice setting to stroll around and watch the world go by. I sat on the patio of the Mill Street Brew Pub for some lunch and a pint of craft beer, then stumbled across the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company, where the owner told me all about the sake-making process, while I tasted various different types of sake.
3. Stroll through Kensington Market
Kensington Market is a vibrant, quirky, multicultural neighbourhood with an outdoor market, vintage shops, cafes and eateries. The street is so colourful that it makes for some great photographs, so take your camera, stop for some street food and shop for some fresh fruit and veg. There are so many cuisines here you’re spoilt for choice, but I particularly liked Seven Lives tacos and Cheese Magic, which houses every kind of cheese you can imagine.
4. Casa Loma
If you enjoy visiting historic homes and museums, then you’ll enjoy seeing Casa Loma – a Gothic Revival style house and gardens in midtown Toronto. It was built by Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt to fulfill his childhood wish for a castle, taking hime three years and $3.5 million to complete. When you enter the house you are given an audio guide and watch a short documentary, then you are free to explore the house and gardens at your own leisure.
5. Bellwoods Brewery
Located in the hipster area of Ossington, Bellwoods Brewery is a brilliant craft brew pub serving tapas-style dishes and tasty beers. My friend and I ordered a beer flight and fries topped with toscano cheese, fine herbs and garlic mayo – seriously the best fries I’ve ever tasted. Best of all there’s an outdoor seating area, which is perfect for those summer months.
6. Go shopping in Yorkville
Yorkville is Toronto’s exclusive, up-market neighbourhood, full of designer shops and upscale restaurants. I loved sitting in sidewalk cafes, admiring the incredibly fashionable outfits of passers by. In 2008, the Mink Mile was named the seventh most expensive shopping street in the world by Fortune Magazine, claiming tenants can pull in $1,500 to $4,500 per square foot in sales. If you need a break from shopping, stop for a drink at The Pilot or Hemingway’s, both of which have outdoor roof terraces.
7. CN Tower
The CN Tower is a 553.33 m-high (1,815.4 ft) concrete communications tower located in Downtown Toronto, and at the time it was built, it was the world’s tallest tower. Although it is now the third tallest in the world, it still offers incredible views of the city. A general admission ticket will grant you access to spectacular views from the LookOut Level at 346 m and the world famous Glass Floor at 342m. Adding SkyPod to your ticket will allow you to go one step further to an observation platform 447m above the city, featuring a unique 360° perspective looking down over Toronto, Lake Ontario and beyond. Under ideal conditions you can see all the way to Niagara Falls and New York State.
However if you book a prix fixe meal in the 360 restaurant, you get automatic entry to the LookOut and Glass Floor levels, so that’s well worth doing. Or if you’re feeling particularly daring, try the EdgeWalk – the world’s highest full circle hands-free walk. Visitors walk around a 5ft wide ledge encircling the top of the Tower’s main pod, while attached to an overhead safety rail via a trolley and harness system.
8. Toronto Film Festival
I had no idea the Toronto Film Festival was happening when I landed in Toronto, but it turned out my trip coincided with it perfectly. It was really incredible to see the city buzzing with red carpet events, celebrities, fast cars and paparazzi! If you plan in advance you can get tickets to the screenings, or you can queue for last minute tickets at the box office. Plus you never know who you’ll meet – I literally bumped into Jennifer Garner in the street, saw Scarlett Johansson exiting a restaurant, went to a charity event hosted by David Arquette and found myself at a rooftop party at the Thompson hotel!