The world may be coming to Canada’s largest city this month, but Toronto, ON’s urban neighborhoods are already a kaleidoscope of cultures (more than 100, in fact). Plan to avoid the city’s clogged traffic arteries during the G20 Summit and instead enjoy an easy stroll through Toronto’s real heart—a network of distinctive “villages” that include:
Queen Street East & Leslie Street: Leslieville – Used to be if you were looking for grassroots bands and a funky eclectic mix of clothing made by Toronto’s fashionable up-and-comers, you’d head to Queen West. But when big box stores moved in, the funk headed east to Leslieville. Now amid the reclaimed garages and general stores you can find chic coffee spots, co-operative artist collectives and a brunch so delicious people smile while standing in line to eat it. Don’t forget: your artsy leanings.
Church Street & Wellesley Street: Church Wellesley Village – In a country renowned for gay-friendly tourism, and a city that was the first in North America to offer same-sex marriages, Church Street is a must-see. With coffee shops for the perfect people-watching and everything from cheese shops and chocolatiers to yoga classes and nightclubs, the village is a draw for gays, straights and everyone in-between. Visit during the Gay Pride Week (which coincidently overlaps dates with the G20) and join families of all stripes in support of the community. Don’t forget: your sense of humour.
Bloor Street & Avenue Road: Bloor-Yorkville – These streets were made for walking—and watching. Toronto trendies head for the cute cafés and sun-drenched patios of Bloor-Yorkville for designer duds and waited-months-for-it hair appointments. Jeans, jewels and Jags are all yours to ogle or purchase in this part of town bordered by Bloor Street’s aptly named Mink Mile. Watch for the brand-name bags that celebrities tote around the area when they’re in town on a shoot for a hint of what’s next on Tinseltown’s hip list. Don’t forget: your oversized sunglasses (and your wallet).
Gerrard Street East & Greenwood Avenue: Little India – East (Asia) meets East (Toronto) so convincingly in the half dozen blocks that make up Little India that you’ll find yourself wondering if you made a wrong turn. There’s no downside to this area where Bollywood posters and gorgeous sari-bound silks meet among the rich scents, sounds and tastes (restaurants and supermarkets) of India and Pakistan. In July, locals take to the streets for the annual TD Canada Trust Festival of South Asia and if you weren’t shaking your hips before, just try and resist then. Don’t forget: your willingness to try something new.
Bloor St. West & Runnymede Road: Bloor West Village –The Eastern European immigrant roots of this 12-block neighbourhood on the western edges of the city lend a cultural authenticity to the borscht and pastries on restaurant menus. But you’ll also find everything from Middle Eastern falafels to a pint of ale at a locally owned neighbourhood pub. The area has also become the ditch-the-wheels/use-your-heels area of choice for those looking to browse or buy local and international fashions. When you’re done, follow the family wagons and dog owners east to High Park for acres of green space and the key to the city’s fast-beating heart. Don’t forget: your comfortable shoes and love of good food.
Read more Toronto neighbourhoods.