You’ll find hundreds of Tourist Guides for the wonderful city of Toronto suggesting that you visit those obvious destinations like the unmissable CN Tower and the Eaton Centre, where you can shop all day long and encounter crowds of other tourists. But why not try a few destinations in Toronto that aren’t as mainstream but are, nonetheless, very unique? You should definitely visit these amazing locations if you want to experience a real taste of Toronto.
1. The Distillery District
The Distilery District is a National Historic Site tied with the Gooderham & Worts Distillery opened in 1832. It is just east of downtown and covers a large area of almost 13 acres. It was once the largest distillery in the British Empire and produced millions of gallons of whisky and spirits in the 1800’s. After closing in 1990, it became a popular filming location. Nowadays, it’s a pedestrian-only village dedicated to arts, culture and entertainment with its historical heritage still intact. It boasts a great mixture of restaurants and cafes and a unique shopping district — not to mention the many galleries, artists’ studios and performing arts venues. Forget about Starbucks and McDonald’s! The Distillery District offers the most interesting and original stores, featuring one-of-a-kind goods ranging from designer jewellery, award-wining purses, fabulous footwear, and world-class cosmetics to state-of-the-art home accessories and the world’s best mattress for $60,000!
2. The St. Lawrence Market
The St. Lawrence Market is the name of a whole neighbourhood in old-town downtown Toronto, known for its colourful architecture and its famous market, which has come to describe the area. If you stay in Toronto on a weekend, try to stroll through the market, viewing and sampling the local produce in the unique atmosphere of the thriving historical market that was developed in the early 1800’s. It is even ranked as one of the 25 best markets in the world, and is a popular destination for shoppers from all over the city. People delight in the market’s character. You’ll hear music and 120 specialty vendors calling out to the crowds inside one of the three buildings: St. Lawrence Hall, the South Market and the North Market. The South Market is also famous for its Market Gallery on the third floor, which was the original council chamber of Toronto’s City Hall until 1899.
3. “Time and a Clock” Installation in Riverside
If you happen to be near the Riverside neighbourhood in Toronto, be sure to check out the Queen & Broadview area, with the Queen Street East bridge over the Don River and the three-piece public art installation located in this area. Created by Eldon Garnet, a famous Toronto-based public sculptor, in 1996, the installation examines the essence of time, its substance and ambiguity. “Time and a Clock” is a sculpture located at three different places. The first part is the decoration of the historic Queen Street East bridge with a clock and an inscription above that reads: “This river I step in is not the river I stand in.” The second part is located at the intersection of Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue, where the author embedded a time-related phrase into the sidewalk. The third part consists of four slim poles with stainless-steel pennants on Queen Street beside the Jimmy Simpson Park. There are four descriptors of time on each of the pennants, creating a lyrical poem: “COURSING, DISAPPEARING, TREMBLING, RETURNING.”
4. High Park
The largest and most popular park in Toronto, High Park also lent its name to the neighbourhood surrounding it. The area that is now High Park was given to the city in 1873 by John Howard, a great benefactor who even donated his home, Colborne Lodge, to the city. This estate is a historical museum now. If you want to escape the city for a while, the largest green space in Toronto offers manicured ornamental gardens, picnic grounds, playgrounds, flower gardens, animal paddocks, quiet spots with native vegetation, a whimsical zoo, sport facilities and much more. It also naturally hosts a black oak savanna — a rare and endangered forest ecosystem.
5. Gerrard India Bazaar
The commercial centre of Toronto’s East-Indian community and the largest ethnic market of Indian goods in North America is located along Gerrard Street East between Greenwood Avenue and Coxwell Avenue. The India Bazaar, or “Little India,” as it is unofficially referred to, is a popular destination for all sorts of shoppers, especially those who want to add some unique pieces to their jewellery box. Earrings, necklaces, rings and bangles fashioned from 22-carat gold imported from all over the world or custom-made jewellery from talented goldsmiths and gemologists are among the many goods available at the bazaar. Shopping in the bazaar for wonderful silks, embroideries and ornately sequined pieces of cloth is a really amazing experience. The bazaar also gives you a chance to taste a wide variety of Subcontinental cuisines, which differ from chef to chef — so don’t miss this lovely Toronto spot!
Prepared by Toronto real estate professional Heather Hadden. For more information about areas in Toronto, check the Toronto neighbourhoods section!