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Everything we love in Toronto
Explore the city by district:
Bloor, Yorkville & Midtown
Downtown, Harbourfront & Old Town
Kensington Market & Chinatown
King West & Queen West
Ask people what they know about Toronto and the conversation will likely falter after the ‘CN Tower’. Stand in Britain and use the term ‘over the pond’ and most will assume you mean the States. To many, Canada means skiing, fishing and the Rockies - but that’s in the West, so why does Toronto elude us? Why so under-explored? What does the city with recurring Os have to offer?
Let’s start with the glamour. Welcome to ‘Hollywood North’. Its shiny skyscrapers, picturesque Old Town, bravely futuristic architecture and massive Pinewood Studios have made Toronto a film location magnet. This is a thriving cultural hub: it hosts a renowned International Film Festival, has the third largest theatre district in the world and is lousy with fabulous art galleries. It’s also the birthplace of literary legends Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, comedians John Candy and Mike Myers, actor Christopher Plummer and musician Neil Young (not to mention BlackBerry, which was invented an hour away).
Now for the geography. Stretching out across the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, Canada’s most densely-populated city is superhero-stone-skimming distance from New York State (comic-nerd fact: Joe Shuster - co-creator of Superman - was born in Toronto and based Metropolis on the cityscape of his hometown). While not the capital of the country, this is Canada’s financial powerhouse, and how that came to be was a bit of fluke…
Banking headquarters were largely based in Montreal, but when the Party Quebecois swept into power in 1976 - seeking total independence for Quebec from Canada - the English-speaking businesses hotfooted it to Toronto. What they found was a puritanical backwater, a sober place of beige food and early nights, with the nauseating nickname: ‘Toronto the Good’. Montreal’s loss was Toronto’s gain and the city’s been piling on cultural weight ever since. Hedonism had found a new home.
British colonialists founded the city as the Town of York in 1793 and officially named it the City of Toronto in 1834 (the name originates from Mohawk phrase ‘tkaronto’, meaning ‘where there are trees standing in the water’). After 1945 numerous waves of immigrants arrived, and they continue to do so, rendering this one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world.
One in every two people living in Toronto were born outside of Canada, so this city is effervescent with the babble of over 140 languages and dialects. Toronto encourages and celebrates ethnic differences, particularly during its many festivals (… largely centred around food). As a result, distinct cultural neighbourhoods have emerged - such as Greektown, Koreatown, Little Italy and Little Portugal - making this no cultural melting pot, but a mosaic. So lastly, good news gourmands: Toronto is your global buffet.
Still evolving and fostering its identity, this outpost of the British Empire hovers between being seriously conservative and wildly liberal (you can’t drink on the street, but both men and women can walk about topless; and many here are fiercely ardent about smoking pot). Toronto is cosmopolitan yet unpretentious, both diverse and unique. It’s time for the much under-hyped ‘T.O.’ to demand the world’s attention.
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