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Toronto is the most populous city in Canada, the provincial capital of Ontario, and the centre of the Greater Toronto Area, the most populous metropolitan area in Canada. In the 2011 census, Toronto had a population of 2,615,060, making it the fifth largest city in North America. A population estimate from a city report released in 2013 shows the city is now the fourth most populous city in North America, after Mexico City, New York City, and Los Angeles. A global city, Toronto is an international centre of business, finance, arts, and culture, and is widely recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Aboriginal peoples have inhabited the area now known as Toronto for thousands of years. The urban history of the city dates back to 1787, when British officials negotiated the Toronto Purchase with the Mississaugas of the New Credit. They established the Town of York, and later designated it as the capital of Upper Canada. During the War of 1812, the town was the site of the Battle of York and suffered heavy damage by U.S. troops. York was renamed and incorporated as the City of Toronto in 1834, and became the capital of the province of Ontario in 1867. The original borders of Toronto were expanded through amalgamation with surrounding municipalities at various times in its history, the results of which can be seen in the 140 independently unique and clearly defined official neighbourhoods that make up the city.
Located in Southern Ontario on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto is situated on a broad sloping plateau intersected by an extensive network of rivers, deep ravines, and urban forest. It anchors the Golden Horseshoe, a densely populated region surrounding the western end of Lake Ontario that is home to 8.7 million people, or around 26% of the entire population of Canada. The demographics of Toronto make it one of the world's most diverse cities, with about 50% of residents having been born in a country other than Canada, and over 200 distinct ethnic origins represented among its inhabitants. The vastly international population of the city reflects its current and historical role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada. While English is the primary language spoken by the majority of Torontonians, there are over 160 different languages spoken in the city.
Toronto is a prominent centre for music, theatre, motion picture production, and television production, and is home to the headquarters of Canada's major national broadcast networks and media outlets. Its varied cultural institutions, which include numerous museums and galleries, festivals and public events, entertainment districts,national historic sites, and sports activities, are key attractions to the over 25 million tourists that visit the city each year. Toronto is well known for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, in particular the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere, the CN Tower. As Canada's commercial capital, the city is home to the Toronto Stock Exchange, the headquarters of Canada's five largest banks, and the headquarters of many large Canadian and multinational corporations. Its economy is highly diversified with strengths in technology, design, financial services, life sciences, education, arts, fashion, business services, environmental innovation, food services, and tourism.
|POPULATION :||• City (single-tier) 2,615,060 |
• Urban 5,132,794
• Metro 5,583,064
|FOUNDED :||Settled 1750 (as Fort Rouillé) |
Established August 27, 1793 (as York)
Incorporated March 6, 1834 (as Toronto)
Amalgamated January 20, 1953 (as Metropolitan Toronto)
Amalgamated January 1, 1998 (as City of Toronto)
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone EST (UTC-5)|
• Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
|LANGUAGE :||English (official) , French (official)|
|RELIGION :||Catholic 28.2%, Protestants 11.9% ,Christian Orthodox (4.3%), other Christian denominations (9.7%) Islam (8.2%), Hinduism (5.6%), Judaism (3.8%), Buddhism (2.7%), and Sikhism (0.8%).|
|AREA :||• City (single-tier) 630.21 km2 (243.33 sq mi)|
• Urban 1,751.49 km2 (676.25 sq mi)
• Metro 5,905.71 km2
|ELEVATION :||76 m (249 ft)|
|COORDINATES :||43°42′N 79°24′W|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 49.63%|
• Female: 50.37%
|ETHNIC :||50.2% White|
12.7% East Asian; 10.8% Chinese, 1.4% Korean, 0.5% Japanese
12.3% South Asian
7.0% Southeast Asian; 5.1% Filipino
2.8% Latin American
2.0% West Asian
1.5% Multiracial; 1.7% including Métis
|AREA CODE :||416, 647, 437|
|POSTAL CODE :||M|
|DIALING CODE :||+1 416|
Toronto is one of Canada's leading tourism destinations. In 2009, Toronto region received 9.62 million overnight visitors, of which 6.42 million were domestic visitors and 1.99 million were from the United States. Toronto has an array of tourist attractions, and a rich cultural life.
The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a museum of world culture and natural history. The Toronto Zoo, is home to over 5,000 animals representing over 460 distinct species. The Art Gallery of Ontario contains a large collection of Canadian, European, African and contemporary artwork, and also plays host to exhibits from museums and galleries all over the world. The Gardiner Museum of ceramic art is the only museum in Canada entirely devoted to ceramics, and the Museum's collection contains more than 2,900 ceramic works from Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The city also hosts the Ontario Science Centre, the Bata Shoe Museum, and Textile Museum of Canada. Other prominent art galleries and museums include the Design Exchange, the Museum of Inuit Art, the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the Institute for Contemporary Culture, the Toronto Sculpture Garden, the CBC Museum, the Redpath Sugar Museum, theUniversity of Toronto Art Centre, Hart House, the TD Gallery of Inuit Art and the Aga Khan Museum. The city also runs its own museums, which include the Spadina House.
The Don Valley Brick Works is a former industrial site that opened in 1889, and was partly restored as a park and heritage site in 1996, with further restoration and reuse being completed in stages since then. The Canadian National Exhibition ("The Ex") is held annually at Exhibition Place, and it is the oldest annual fair in the world. The Ex has an average attendance of 1.25 million.
City shopping areas include the Yorkville neighbourhood, Queen West, Harbourfront, the Entertainment District, the Financial District, and the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood. The Eaton Centre is Toronto's most popular tourist attraction with over 52 million visitors annually.
Greektown on the Danforth is home to the annual "Taste of the Danforth" festival which attracts over one million people in 2½ days. Toronto is also home to Casa Loma, the former estate of Sir Henry Pellatt, a prominent Toronto financier, industrialist and military man. Other notable neighbourhoods and attractions include The Beaches, the Toronto Islands, Kensington Market, Fort York, and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
When Europeans first arrived at the site of present-day Toronto, the vicinity was inhabited by the Iroquois, who by then had displaced the Wyandot people who had occupied the region for centuries before c. 1500. The name Toronto is likely derived from the Iroquois word tkaronto, meaning "place where trees stand in the water". This refers to the northern end of what is now Lake Simcoe, where the Huron had planted tree saplings to corral fish. A portage route from Lake Ontario to Lake Huron running through this point, the Toronto Carrying-Place Trail, led to widespread use of the name. In the 1660s, the Iroquois established two villages within what is today Toronto, Ganatsekwyagon on the banks of the Rouge River and Teiaiagonon the banks of the Humber River. By 1701, the Mississauga had displaced the Iroquois, who abandoned the Toronto area at the end of the Beaver Wars.
French traders founded Fort Rouillé on the current Exhibition grounds in 1750, but abandoned it in 1759. During the American Revolutionary War, the region saw an influx of British settlers as United Empire Loyalists fled for the unsettled lands north of Lake Ontario. In 1787, the British negotiated the Toronto Purchase with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, thereby securing more than a quarter of a million acres (1000 km2) of land in the Toronto area.
In 1793, Governor John Graves Simcoe established the town of York on the existing settlement, naming it after Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. Simcoe chose the town to replace Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake) as the capital of Upper Canada, believing that the new site would be less vulnerable to attack by the United States. The York garrison was constructed at the entrance of the town's natural harbour, sheltered by a long sandbar peninsula. The town's settlement formed at the eastern end of the harbour behind the peninsula, near the present-day intersection of Parliament Street and Front Street (in the "Old Town" area).
In 1813, as part of the War of 1812, the Battle of York ended in the town's capture and plunder by US forces. The surrender of the town was negotiated by John Strachan. US soldiers destroyed much of the garrison and set fire to the parliament buildings during their five-day occupation. The sacking of York was a primary motivation for the Burning of Washington by British troops later in the war. York was incorporated as the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834, reverting to its original native name.
The population of only 9,000 included escaped African American slaves, some of whom were brought by the Loyalists, including Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. Torontonians integrated people of colour into their society. In the 1840s an eating house at Frederick and King Streets, a place of mercantile prosperity in early Toronto, was operated by a man of colour named Bloxom. Slavery was banned outright in Upper Canada in 1834. Reformist politician William Lyon Mackenzie became the first Mayor of Toronto and led the unsuccessful Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 against the British colonial government. As a major destination for immigrants to Canada, the city grew rapidly through the remainder of the 19th century. The first significant population influx occurred when the Great Irish Famine brought a large number of Irish to the city, some of them transient, and most of them Catholic. By 1851, the Irish-born population had become the largest single ethnic group in the city. Smaller numbers of Protestant Irish immigrants were welcomed by the existing Scottish and English population, giving the Orange Order significant and long-lasting influence over Toronto society.
For brief periods Toronto was twice the capital of the united Province of Canada: first from 1849 to 1852, following unrest in Montreal, and later 1856–1858, after which Quebec became the capital until 1866 (one year before Confederation). Since then, the capital of Canada has remained Ottawa. Toronto became the capital of the province of Ontario after its official creation in 1867, the seat of government located at the Ontario Legislature located at Queen's Park. Because of its provincial capital status, the city was also the location of Government House, the residence of the viceregal representative of the Crown in right of Ontario.
Long before the Royal Military College of Canada was established in 1876, there were proposals for military colleges in Canada. Staffed by British Regulars, adult male students underwent a three-month long military course at the School of Military Instruction in Toronto. Established by Militia General Order in 1864, the school enabled officers of militia or candidates for commission or promotion in the Militia to learn military duties, drill and discipline, to command a company at Battalion Drill, to drill a company at Company Drill, the internal economy of a company, and the duties of a company's officer. The school was retained at Confederation, in 1867. In 1868, Schools of cavalry and artillery instruction were formed in Toronto.
In the 19th century, an extensive sewage system was built, and streets became illuminated with gas lighting as a regular service. Long-distance railway lines were constructed, including a route completed in 1854 linking Toronto with the Upper Great Lakes. The Grand Trunk Railway and the Northern Railway of Canada joined in the building of the first Union Station in downtown. The advent of the railway dramatically increased the numbers of immigrants arriving, commerce and industry, as had the Lake Ontario steamers and schooners entering port before. These enabled Toronto to become a major gateway linking the world to the interior of the North American continent.
Toronto became the largest alcohol distillation (in particular, spirits) centre in North America; the Gooderham and Worts Distillery operations became the world's largest whiskey factory by the 1860s. A preserved section of this once dominant local industry remains in the Distillery District. The harbour allowed for sure access to grain and sugar imports used in processing. Expanding port and rail facilities brought in northern timber for export and imported Pennsylvania coal. Industry dominated the waterfront for the next 100 years.
Horse-drawn streetcars gave way to electric streetcars in 1891, when the city granted the operation of the transit franchise to the Toronto Railway Company. The public transit system passed into public ownership in 1921 as the Toronto Transportation Commission, later renamed the Toronto Transit Commission. The system now has the third-highest ridership of any city public transportation system in North America.
The Great Toronto Fire of 1904 destroyed a large section of downtown Toronto, but the city was quickly rebuilt. The fire caused more than $10 million in damage, and resulted in more stringent fire safety laws and expansion of the city's fire department.
The city received new immigrant groups beginning in the late 19th century into the early 20th century, particularly Germans, French, Italians, and Jews from various parts of Eastern Europe. They were soon followed by Chinese, Russians, Poles, and immigrants from other Eastern European nations. As the Irish before them, many of these new migrants lived in overcrowded shanty-type slums, such as "the Ward" which was centred on Bay Street, now the heart of the country's financial district. Despite its fast-paced growth, by the 1920s, Toronto's population and economic importance in Canada remained second to the much longer established Montreal. However, by 1934, the Toronto Stock Exchange had become the largest in the country.
Following the Second World War, refugees from war-torn Europe and Chinese job-seekers arrived, as well as construction labourers, particularly from Italy and Portugal. Following the elimination of racially based immigration policies by the late 1960s, immigration began from all parts of the world. Toronto's population grew to more than one million in 1951 when large-scale suburbanization began, and doubled to two million by 1971. By the 1980s, Toronto had surpassed Montreal as Canada's most populous city and the chief economic hub. During this time, in part owing to the political uncertainty raised by the resurgence of the Quebec sovereignty movement, many national and multinational corporations moved their head offices from Montreal to Toronto and Western Canadian cities.
In 1954, the City of Toronto and 12 surrounding municipalities were federated into a regional government known as Metropolitan Toronto. The postwar boom had resulted in rapid suburban development and it was believed that a coordinated land use strategy and shared services would provide greater efficiency for the region. The metropolitan government began to manage services that crossed municipal boundaries, including highways, police services, water and public transit. In that year, a half-century after the Great Fire of 1904, disaster struck the city again when Hurricane Hazel brought intense winds and flash flooding. In the Toronto area, 81 people were killed, nearly 1,900 families were left homeless, and the hurricane caused more than $25 million in damage.
In 1967, the seven smallest municipalities of Metropolitan Toronto were merged into their larger neighbours, resulting in a six-municipality configuration that included the old City of Toronto and the surrounding municipalities of East York, Etobicoke, North York,Scarborough, and York. In 1998, the Conservative provincial government led by Mike Harris dissolved the metropolitan government despite vigorous opposition from the component municipalities and overwhelming rejection in a municipal plebiscite. All six municipalities were amalgamated into a single municipality, creating the current City of Toronto, successor of the old City of Toronto. North York mayor Mel Lastman became the first "megacity" mayor and the 62nd Mayor of Toronto. John Tory is the current mayor.
On March 6, 2009, the city celebrated the 175th anniversary of its inception as the City of Toronto in 1834. Toronto hosted the 4th G20 summit during June 26–27, 2010. This included the largest security operation in Canadian history and, following large-scale protests and rioting, resulted in the largest mass arrest (more than a thousand people) in Canadian history.
On July 8, 2013, severe flash flooding hit Toronto after an afternoon of slow moving, intense thunderstorms. Toronto Hydro estimated that 450,000 people were without power after the storm and Toronto Pearson International Airport reported that 126 mm (5 in) of rain had fallen over five hours, more than during Hurricane Hazel. Within six months, December 20, 2013, Toronto was brought to a halt by the worst ice storm in the city's history rivaling the severity of the 1998 Ice Storm. Toronto went on to host WorldPride in June 2014 and the Pan American Games in 2015.
Toronto's climate is on the whole on the cool side and variable conditions can be expected. Temperatures average -3.8°C (25°F) in January downtown, however the type of extreme cold experienced in parts of Canada further north do not hold a tight grip for usually more than a couple of days at a time. Despite this come prepared: winters are still cold, mostly cloudy, at times snowy and uncomfortably windy. The city experiences warm and humid summers with an average high of 27°C (80°F) and a low of 18°C (65°F) in July/August with many muggy evenings but rarely extreme heat, with an average of only 12 days where the temperature exceeds 30°C (86°F) but hotter airmasses often arrive with moderately high humidity levels. Late spring/early summer and early fall are generally considered to be the best times to visit for weather and less crowds, mid-summer is the peak tourist season, but visitors will find that Toronto's vibrancy extends through the winter with outdoor skating rinks and bundled up clubgoers, etc. Toronto's public buildings are nearly all air-conditioned and fully heated.
Sometimes during the winter, severe storms can slow down transportation and activities in the city for a day or two. In the summer, thunderstorms occur from time to time, most lasting less than an hour.
Climate data for Toronto
|Average high °C (°F)||−0.2|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−3.4|
|Average low °C (°F)||−6.5|
|Source #1: Environment Canada.|
Toronto covers an area of 630 square kilometres (243 sq mi), with a maximum north-south distance of 21 kilometres (13 mi) and a maximum east-west distance of 43 km (27 mi). It has a 46-kilometre (29 mi) long waterfront shoreline, on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. The Toronto Islands and Port Lands extend out into the lake, allowing for a somewhat sheltered Toronto Harbour south of the downtown core. The city's borders are formed by Lake Ontario to the south, Etobicoke Creek and Highway 427 to the west, Steeles Avenue to the north and the Rouge River and the Scarborough-Pickering Townline to the east.
The city is mostly flat or gentle hills and the land gently slopes upward away from the lake. The flat land is interrupted by numerous ravines cut by numerous creeks and the valleys of the three rivers in Toronto: the Humber River in the west end and the Don River east of downtown at opposite ends of the Toronto Harbour, and the Rouge River at the city's eastern limits. Most of the ravines and valley lands in Toronto today are park lands, and recreational trails are laid out along the ravines and valleys. The original town was laid out in a grid plan on the flat plain north of the harbour, and this plan was extended outwards as the city grew. The width and depth of several of the ravines and valleys are such that several grid streets such as Finch Avenue, Leslie Street, Lawrence Avenue, and St. Clair Avenue, terminate on one side of a ravine or valley and continue on the other side. Toronto has many bridges spanning the ravines. Large bridges such as the Prince Edward Viaduct were built to span wide river valleys.
Despite its deep ravines, Toronto is not remarkably hilly, but its elevation does increase steadily away from the lake. Elevation differences range from 75 metres (246 ft) above sea level at the Lake Ontario shore to 209 m (686 ft) ASL near the York Universitygrounds in the city's north end at the intersection of Keele Street and Steeles Avenue. There are occasional hilly areas; in particular, midtown Toronto has a number of sharply sloping hills. Lake Ontario remains occasionally visible from the peaks of these ridges as far north as Eglinton Avenue, 7 to 8 kilometres (4.3 to 5.0 mi) inland.
The other major geographical feature of Toronto is its escarpments. During the last ice age, the lower part of Toronto was beneath Glacial Lake Iroquois. Today, a series of escarpments mark the lake's former boundary, known as the "Iroquois Shoreline". The escarpments are most prominent from Victoria Park Avenue to the mouth of Highland Creek where they form the Scarborough Bluffs. Other observable sections include the area near St. Clair Avenue West between Bathurst Street and the Don River, and north of Davenport Road from Caledonia to Spadina Road; the Casa Loma grounds sit above this escarpment.
The geography of the lake shore is greatly changed since the first settlement of Toronto. Much of the land on the north shore of the harbour is landfill, filled in during the late 19th century. Until then, the lakefront docks (then known as wharves) were set back farther inland than today. Much of the adjacent Port Lands on the east side of the harbour was a wetland filled in early in the 20th century. The shoreline from the harbour west to the Humber River has been extended into the lake. Further west, landfill has created extensions of land such as Humber Bay Park.
The Toronto Islands were a natural peninsula until a storm in 1858 severed their connection to the mainland, creating a channel to the harbour. The peninsula was formed by longshore drift taking the sediments deposited along the Scarborough Bluffs shore and transporting them to the Islands area. The other source of sediment for the Port Lands wetland and the peninsula was the deposition of the Don River, which carved a wide valley through the sedimentary land of Toronto and deposited it in the harbour, which is quite shallow. The harbour and the channel of the Don River have been dredged numerous times for shipping. The lower section of the Don River was straightened and channelled in the 19th century. The former mouth drained into a wetland; today the Don drains into the harbour through a concrete waterway, the Keating Channel.
Toronto is an international centre for business and finance. Generally considered the financial capital of Canada, Toronto has a high concentration of banks and brokerage firms on Bay Street, in the Financial District. The Toronto Stock Exchange is the world's seventh-largest stock exchange by market capitalization. The five largest financial institutions of Canada, collectively known as the Big Five, have national offices in Toronto.
The city is an important centre for the media, publishing, telecommunication, information technology and film production industries; it is home to Bell Media, Rogers Communications, and Torstar. Other prominent Canadian corporations in the Greater Toronto Area include Magna International, Celestica, Manulife Financial, Sun Life Financial, the Hudson's Bay Company, and major hotel companies and operators, such as Four Seasons Hotels and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.
Although much of the region's manufacturing activities take place outside the city limits, Toronto continues to be a wholesale and distribution point for the industrial sector. The city's strategic position along the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor and its road and rail connections help support the nearby production of motor vehicles, iron, steel, food, machinery, chemicals and paper. The completion of the Saint Lawrence Seaway in 1959 gave ships access to the Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean.
Toronto's unemployment rate was 6.7% as of July 2016. According to the website Nimbeo Toronto's cost of living index ranked it tenth in Canada in 2016.
When Metropolitan Toronto was amalgamated in 1998, its six former municipalities became one new "mega-city". Toronto is made up of varied and unique neighbourhoods. Covering more than 600 square kilometres, Toronto stretches some 32 kilometres along the shores of Lake Ontario. The city is laid out on a very straightforward grid pattern and streets rarely deviate from the grid, except in cases where topography interferes such as the indented, curved Don River Valley and to a lesser degree the Humber and Rouge valleys at opposite ends of the city. Some main thoroughfares intersect the grid at angles. For travel purposes, we have divided Toronto into twelve districts:
The dense urban core of Toronto. It includes many of the city's attractions and hotels.
The heart of downtown Toronto with Yonge St, the Eaton Centre, theatres and City Hall.
|Entertainment and Financial Districts|
The entertainment and financial heart of the city, including some the city's most prominent tourist attractions: the CN Tower, Rogers Centre (formerly SkyDome), Union Station and the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Diverse neighbourhoods with lots of little shops, markets and restaurants, and some of the city's best known bars for live music. Includes Queen West and the Fashion District to the south.
|Yorkville and the Annex|
The boutiques of Yorkville and the museums and student energy of the Annex and University neighbourhoods.
The Harbourfront area south of Downtown is popular for its parks and recreational activities. Walk along the water's edge, take a harbour tour by boat, have some family fun at various events at Exhibition Place ("the Ex"; including the Canadian National Exhibition ("the CNE") in August) or take in a Major League Soccer game at BMO Field.
Take the ferry to the Toronto Islands. Stroll through the parkland, enjoy the beaches, see the petting zoo, have fun in the amusement park, see the quaint cottages and front-yard gardens of the permanent island community.
Older neighbourhoods between Church St and the Don Valley. Includes Church & Wellesley (Toronto's gay village), Cabbagetown, the St Lawrence Market, Old Town Toronto, and the Distillery District.
Outside Central Toronto
These are the older suburbs that ring the downtown followed by an outer ring of post-war suburbs. There are fewer attractions here, but if you have the time, some of the neighbourhoods are well worth visiting.
|Midtown(Yonge & Eglinton, Davisville Village, Forest Hill)|
Upscale neighbourhoods with grand old mansions housing the city's moneyed and elite, beautiful parks and ravines that extend for kilometres. The area around Yonge & Eglinton is in the midst of a rapid transformation into an urban core of its own.
|West End (Little Italy, West Queen West, Parkdale, Roncesvalles, High Park)|
Ethnic enclaves, dive bars, and hipsters abound in this rapidly gentrifying part of town. High Park preserves a slice of green space from Humber Bay all the way north to Bloor Street, providing an escape from noisy city life.
|East End (Greektown, Leslieville and The Beaches)|
The West End's quainter, quieter alternative, with low-key neighbourhoods and nice beaches. This area hosts multiple ethnic and cultural festivals throughout the summer months. The Beach, centred along Queen Street east of Kingston Road, is alive with weekend foot traffic year-round, out to take in the refreshingly small, local businesses, and the lake breezes in the summer.
An economically diverse suburb with some undiscovered gems along Bloor Street and near the lake in Mimico, New Toronto and Long Branch.
This district is largely suburban but has something to offer the casual tourist. The centre of this district is more densely urban in makeup as it was designed to serve as the downtown of the former City of North York.
Begun in 1794, Yonge Street is one of the oldest streets in Toronto, but few of its current buildings date back to much before 1900. It divides the city into east and west resulting in street numbering for east-west streets to be reckoned from one both east and west of Yonge Street. Within the City of Toronto, Yonge Street is roughly 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) long.
Under Yonge Street runs the eastern branch of Line 1 Yonge–University serving nearly the entire length of the street in Toronto. You can drive along this street if you want (give up trying to find parking), but the smart way to explore Yonge is on foot, with a TTC day pass to whisk you between the spots you want to see.
Until 1999, the Guinness Book of World Records repeated what became an urban myth that Yonge Street was the longest main street in the world, running from Toronto's harbour to Lake Superior, a distance of 1,896 kilometres (1,178 mi). It was erroneously assumed that Yonge Street ran the full length of provincial highway 11 when in actual fact it runs only only a distance of 88 kilometres (55 mi) to Barrie, Ontario on Lake Simcoe. Nonetheless, the myth is enshrined by a bronze map set into the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Yonge and Dundas Streets.
Here is a brief description of Yonge Street as it passes each district from south to north:
- Harbourfront: Yonge Street starts at the water's edge at Harbourfront. A long sidewalk plaque at the foot of Yonge Street promotes the myth that Yonge Street is the world's longest street.
- Financial District: The section of Yonge between Front and Queen Streets passes through the Financial District typified by large office buildings, most of them built in the 1970s or later, but with several beautiful older exceptions. If you want to have a good look at the skyscrapers of the Financial District, walk west from King Subway Station to the corner of King and Bay Streets.
- Yonge-Dundas: The area between Queen and Dundas Streets is dominated by the Eaton Centre shopping mall and, at Dundas Street, by the flashy Yonge-Dundas Square. The east side has two historic performance venues, the Ed Mirvish Theatre and the stacked Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres. In addition, Massey Hall is located just to the east on Shuter Street. From College Street north to Bloor Street, Yonge Street serves smaller street-level retail, mostly in two- to three-storey buildings of a hundred years' vintage. The businesses here, unlike the large chains which dominate south of Gerrard Street, are mostly small independent shops and serve a dense residential community on either side of Yonge Street with amenities such as convenience stores.
- Yorkville: Yonge Street crosses the "Mink Mile" at Bloor Street, a strip of very expensive stores near the equally upscale Yorkville district.
- Midtown: Toronto's Midtown is characterized by multiple local shopping/restaurant strips consisting mostly within two-storey buildings with apartments on the second floor. In the strip along Rosedale, Summerhill and St. Clair Subway Stations, you will see a few sights such as the architecture of the former North Toronto Railway Station and Balmoral Fire Hall built in 1911. The intersection at Eglinton Avenue has become a focal point, serving as a high-density residential, commercial and transit hub.
- North York: At Hoggs Hollow, a steep ravine beside parkland, Yonge Street crosses into North York. After passing Highway 401, shops again line Yonge Street. However, north of Finch Avenue, Yonge Street starts to look more suburban with retail strip malls until it leaves Toronto at Steeles Avenue.
For life-threatening emergencies or crime in progress, dial 9-1-1 on any landline, mobile or pay phone (toll-free).
Local calls at pay phones cost 50 cents. Toronto's local calling area extends roughly from Oakville to Ajax; Oshawa, Hamilton and their adjacent suburbs are long-distance. Local calls are not metered, so you can talk as long as you want. Due to the popularity of cellphones, there are fewer pay phone booths than in previous years, so they can be difficult to locate. Most large public facilities still have ample pay phones to use. In malls, pay phones are usually located between the inner and outer doors at the entrances. Payphones are also routinely provided in TTC subway stations, including on the platforms, as a safety feature. Cellular service is generally unavailable in the subway, except in outdoor or above-ground areas. In other underground areas, such as the lower levels of malls and in the PATH, reception is generally available, if somewhat weaker.
In addition, many public facilities (such as shopping malls) now also have phones which provide free local calls, which are funded by advertisements run on colour LCD screens. Watch for large, wall-mounted ovals in high-traffic areas.
Toronto has three area codes: 416, 647, and 437. These area codes are all associated with the same geographic area. The suburban areas outside of the city have three overlapping area codes: 905, 289, and 365. As a result, Toronto has 10-digit local dialling. You must always dial the area code as part of the number you are trying to reach.
International calling cards are widely available to many countries for reasonable rates. As coin-paid long distance calls are overpriced (Bell payphones charge nearly $5 in the first minute and a lower rate thereafter, competitors are $1 for three minutes), if you must place toll calls from telephone booths, it's best to buy prepaid cards.
Toronto has many Internet cafés, especially on Yonge Street around Bloor and also Bloor Street between Spadina and Bathurst, although their numbers are declining. Most major hotels offer high-speed Internet in their rooms and in their business centres. Most coffee shops, a few hamburger joints and many food courts and restaurants in the city offer wireless Internet (more often free, sometimes not). On repeat visits to the city, the Internet café one used last time often will have disappeared, a casualty of widespread high-speed Internet availability elsewhere. Once one finds a place to call home, costs are normally around $3 for 30 minutes.
A number of TTC subway stations, mostly in the downtown area, have free wi-fi; the ad-based service uses network name TCONNECT. Check the TTC website for an up-to-date list of stations supporting wi-fi. As of December, 2015, wi-fi is available along subway line 1 between Bloor-Yonge and St George stations and along subway line 2 between Castle Frank and Christie stations.
Generally stamps are purchased and parcels are weighed and shipped, at a postal outlet located in a retail store such as a variety store or a drug store. It seems that most Shoppers Drug Mart stores have a postal outlet located at a special counter often at the back of the store. Postal outlets may sell philatelic items (recent issues only).
- The Toronto Star, a broadsheet daily newspaper, politically left of centre, covering local, national, and world news. Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, who once delivered this paper, used the Old Toronto Star Building (no longer extant) as inspiration for "The Daily Planet" newspaper.
- The Toronto Sun, a tabloid daily newspaper, politically conservative, covering local, national, and world news.
- The Globe and Mail, a broadsheet national daily with local edition, published in Toronto. Extensive business and stock market coverage, politically centrist.
- The National Post, a broadsheet national daily, moderately conservative.
- Metro, a free daily, with brief articles covering local, national, and world news, distributed on the street especially at bus and streetcar stops and outside of subway stations.
- 24 Hours, a free daily, with brief articles covering local, national, and world news, distributed on the street especially at bus and streetcar stops and within subway stations.
Free weekly newspapers, distributed from boxes on street corners and in racks in stores and restaurants are good sources of information on cinema, dining, music, theatre, and other events as well as local news:
- Now alternative news and comprehensive listings; published on Thursdays.
Xtra!, which provides gay and lesbian news and listings, had stopped publishing a print edition, but continues online.
Depending on where you go in Toronto, you will be able to find locally printed newspapers in a variety of languages. For example, in Chinatown, you will find Chinese newspapers. In "Little Italy", you'll find Italian newspapers. You'll also find newspapers in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, Tagalog, Greek, Urdu and more.
Prices in Toronto
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$1.90|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$11.50|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$33.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$55.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$85.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$6.90|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$5.40|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$4.60|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$8.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$15.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$0.23|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$9.30|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$1.90|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$50.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$34.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$77.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$2.30|
56 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
227 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Toronto Pearson International Airport (IATA:YYZ) in Mississauga is about 30-50 minutes by car from downtown Toronto (depending on traffic) and is served by most major international carriers. There are two terminals: Terminal 1 hosts all Air Canada flights and a few other international (mostly Star Alliance) carriers while Terminal 3 hosts all other airlines. When travelling from Toronto International (and other major Canadian airports) to the United States, travellers will go through United States immigration and customs pre-clearance in Toronto, and should leave some extra time to account for this. The airport has free WiFi internet access.
- Union Pearson Express, an express rail link between the airport and Union Station in downtown Toronto, opened on June 6, 2015; its costs $12/person one-way fare (airport to downtown), or $9 with a Presto smartcard. Tickets (and the non-refundable $6 Presto card) are available at the airport. A good option for those whose main concerns are comfort and convenience, connections to the Toronto subway can be made at Bloor Station (short walk to Line 2 Dundas West Station) and Union Station (direct link to Line 1 Union Station). You will need to pay the appropriate fare to board the subway, as UP Express is not part of the regular public transit network. If you have a Presto card, you can use it to pay your fare at these two stations, but be sure to pick up a transfer from the red machine once you pass the faregates, regardless of the payment method you use. The Toronto Transit Commission does not yet accept Presto cards in all stations and vehicles (list of locations can be found on the TTC website), so be careful not to load too much money onto the card, as it is a hassle to get the money back.
- TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) operates bus service from the subway to Pearson airport at standard fare ($3.25 (no change is provided), get a transfer from the driver to make connections to other TTC vehicles). The quickest TTC option is the 192 Airport Rocket that runs every 9–20 minutes to/from Kipling Station on Line 2 (the closest subway station), making the journey in 20–25 minutes. Another option is the 52 Lawrence West running east-west between the airport and Lawrence/Lawrence West stations on Line 1, but this is a local bus route with frequent stops. When the subways stop running at around 1:30AM, the 300A Bloor-Danforth night bus provides service along Line 2 of the subway and goes directly to the airport. In Terminal 1, there are two TTC ticket vending machines selling single fare tickets, located at the Public Transit area of the Ground Transportation Level, just inside from where the TTC buses stop (curbside, at column "R"). In Terminal 3, you can purchase single fare tickets at the Currency Exchange counter located on the arrivals level. The TTC is the best option for those whose main concerns are connectivity and value. The 192 bus supports fare payment by the Presto card but, until December 2016, the 52, 300 and most other TTC buses do not.
- GO Transit Route 34 – (Brampton/Pearson Airport/North York) express buses stop at Yorkdale and York Mills subway stations, which are near Highway 401 in Toronto/North York. One-way adult fare is $5.70; most GO Buses have under-floor compartments for luggage. The fare is also payable by Presto, with a slight discount. Yorkdale/York Mills are 35–45 minutes from Pearson by freeway, and 20 minutes by subway to downtown Toronto (TTC does not accept GO or any other system's transfers as fare media.)
- Taxis from downtown Toronto to the airport usually cost over $50, one-way, on the meter. As the airport is not in Toronto, a Toronto-licensed cab can drop off (but not pick up) passengers at the terminals. Be careful of drivers offering unlicensed taxi rides trying to pick up passengers at the airport.
- The Pacific Western Airport Express bus service to downtown ended on October 31, 2014.
Billy Bishop Airport
Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport, (IATA: YTZ), (commonly known as "The Island Airport" by locals), handles short-haul flights only. Its main tenant is Porter Airlines, a short-haul carrier that operates turboprop planes to many cities in eastern Canada (Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec City, Halifax and St. John's) and parts of the United States (Boston, Chicago, New York/Newark and Myrtle Beach). Air Canada provides service to Montreal. Porter is aggressively fighting for market share and you can take advantage of it by getting really low fares (often lower than Westjet - if booked 2 weeks or more in advance) combined with complimentary drinks and a waiting lounge with amenities.
One of the main benefits of flying into Billy Bishop is its proximity to the downtown core. Upon landing, you can be downtown within ten minutes. A tunnel under the channel takes you to the city. A free ferry service also makes the short crossing: it is just 121 metres, the world's shortest regularly-scheduled ferry route. It operates between TCCA and the mainland every 15 minutes: see full schedule. Once on the mainland, a free shuttle bus connects the terminal with the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union Station.
TTC streetcars are available a short walk north from the mainland ferry terminal. Route 511 Bathurst provides service north along Bathurst, to Bathurst subway station. Route 509 Harbourfront travels east along the waterfront (Queens Quay) to Union Station. Both routes end a short distance to the west at Exhibition Place. However, the most convenient connection to TTC subway and GO Transit services are via the free shuttle to Union Station.
Hamilton International Airport, (IATA: YHM), [www], located about 80 km from downtown Toronto and Niagara Falls, is served by WestJet and CanJet. This airport is served by the Hamilton Street Railway from the Hamilton GO Station (36 Hunter Street East) where you can catch a GO commuter bus to Union Station in downtown Toronto ($9.50 one-way). Buses run every 30 minutes. A taxi from downtown Hamilton to the airport is about $25.
For frugal travellers coming from the United States, Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, (IATA: BUF), [www], is another option. Flights to Buffalo tend to be significantly cheaper than to Pearson, but then you still have to get to Toronto. Megabus, the airline-type coach service with varying prices and required early booking, runs a daily bus that takes 3 hours, including the border crossing. Several private livery agencies will drive you there for a fee (usually in the $200 range, give or take), or rental cars are available at the airport if you prefer to do the drive yourself.
All scheduled passenger trains in Toronto run in and out of Union Station, which is located at 65 Front Street, between Bay and York Streets. Opened in 1927, Toronto's Union Station is generally considered to be one of the grandest, most impressive train stations in North America; with an enormous great hall, the ceiling rising to a height equivalent to seven stories. Despite this impressive hall, most of the activity in the station takes place in the underground concourses which link the commuter rail platforms with the subway station. The great hall is still used for purchasing intercity rail tickets with a row of ticket booths and several ticket machines. The train station is served by a subway station with the same name, accessible from the GO concourse. The main intercity concourse is accessed from the great hall, but all commuter rail platforms are accessed from the underground GO Transit concourse, as is the Union Station Bus Terminal across the street. The GO Transit concourse is accessed by taking any one of the three large staircases in the great hall or directly from the subway.
Most intercity rail travel in Canada is provided by Via Rail. Union Station is one of Via Rail's main hubs and connects several of their lines. Railway lines operated by Via Rail out of Union Station include:
- Corridor—This is VIA's busiest line running from Windsor and Sarnia in the southwest to Quebec City in the northeast. Regular trains run from Toronto directly to Montreal, Ottawa, London, Kingston, Windsor, and Sarnia as well as stations in between. The lines between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal are VIA's busiest and most frequent; they also have the largest discounts if booked well in advance. There are multiple classes of service, including business and economy. All cost more than the same trip by bus or private motorcar. Business class includes meals and alcoholic beverages.
- Maple Leaf—This service is run jointly by VIA and U.S. passenger rail company,Amtrak, [www]. Trains on this line run between Toronto and New York City once a day in each direction stopping at Albany and Buffalo as well as many smaller stations. Trains between Toronto and New York are extremely slow and very expensive, the coach services listed above generally take several hours less and cost several times less than the train. There are also more frequent trains that run on this line from Toronto to Niagara Falls.
- The Canadian—Trains on this line run the transcontinental route from Toronto to Vancouver three times a week each way, stopping at a large number of smaller stations on the way. Cities that this train passes through include: Winnipeg,Saskatoon, Edmonton, Jasper and Kamloops. The full journey takes about three days. This is one of the most expensive rail journeys in North America and is many times more expensive than flying. However, Via Rail runs 'express deals' 2–3 weeks before travel that can reduce the price on this route by 75 percent. The trains contain both sleeper berths and cabins, as well as reclining economy seating. Three meals per day are cooked in the train's dining car. These are included in sleeper fares and are available for purchase for economy passengers.
- GO Transit commuter trains serving the Greater Toronto Area all converge on Union Station from the sprawling suburbs around the city. Most of the train lines run only during weekday rush hour; at other times of the day, they are replaced by bus services which primarily originate from Union Station Bus Terminal across Bay Street from the railway station. There is an overhead walkway from the GO Train concourse to the bus terminal. The main "Lakeshore" east/west line (Oshawa-Toronto-Hamilton) runs seven days a week.
- Ontario Northland used to run passenger trains from Toronto to Cochrane, Ontario six times a week; this was discontinued in 2012, replacing trains on the "Northlander" route with buses.
Travel times by intercity rail:
- Montreal 4hrs 37min
- Ottawa 3hrs 57min
- Winnipeg 34hrs
- Saskatoon 46hrs
- Edmonton 56hrs
- Vancouver 83hrs
The main bus terminal in Toronto, the Toronto Coach Terminal (also known as Bay Street Terminal or the Metro Toronto Coach Terminal), is used for intercity coach travel and is served by Greyhound, Coach Canada, New York Trailways, and Ontario Northland.
The bus terminal's main entrance is on Bay Street immediately north of Dundas and the terminal's departures building takes up the northern half of the block bounded by Bay Street, Dundas Street, Edward Street, and Elizabeth Street; the arrivals building is located immediately across Elizabeth Street from the departures building. The departures building is connected by the underground PATH walkway system to Dundas subway station on the Yonge line via the Atrium on Bay shopping centre. The terminal is also several blocks east of St Patrick subway station on the University-Spadina line. Unlike Union Station, the bus terminal has lockers in which people may store luggage. The cost is $5 for 24 hours and you must get a token from one of the token machines located next to the lockers. The lockers are located in the hallway connecting the departures building with the arrivals building. Storing items in lockers overnight is not advisable as break-ins are common at night. Certain items too large to fit in a locker may be stored in the information booth at an extra cost.
The bus terminal in Toronto is very poorly designed, forcing passengers to queue in a space that is little more than a shed with walls on two sides, as a result passengers queueing are forced to inhale the diesel exhaust fumes from the coaches as well as endure the cold winters and hot summers. In addition, there are often queues so long for the commuter coaches that they block other coaches from reaching their platforms. Platforms are also poorly marked, and it is not difficult to queue up for the wrong bus.Do not hesitate to ask anyone for help. Most people in the terminal have plenty of experience with it and understand how difficult it is to navigate. Arrive at the terminal at least 30 minutes before your coach is scheduled to depart. You can avoid the hassle of having to purchase tickets at the terminal; it is generally faster to buy tickets online if possible. If you must purchase tickets at the terminal, be wary of peak travel periods, as the line can take up to 20 minutes. But be aware that Greyhound tickets purchased at the terminal can be used at any time (although they may have blackout periods) while tickets purchased online force you to reserve on a certain bus.
- Greyhound provides a large number of intercity services, their primary routes from Toronto include: New York City via Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse; Ottawa; and Chicago via London, Windsor and Detroit.
- Greyhound Quicklink is a subsidiary of Greyhound that provides commuter services between Toronto and cities immediately outside the range of GO transit. Services run to Kitchener, Guelph, Barrie, Peterborough, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls.
- Ontario Northland provides service from the northern parts of Ontario.
- Shuttle transports groups of people throughout all Ontario as well as Buffalo and Montreal.
- Coach Canada runs buses from Toronto to Montreal (7hrs, $10–$55) via Kingston (3hrs); and New York City (10.5hrs) via Niagara Falls (1.5hrs, $25.15) and Buffalo (2.5hrs, $27.20).
Coach Canada buses to Montreal and Greyhound buses to Peterborough and Ottawa also stop at the Scarborough Centre bus station to the east of central Toronto, this station lies on the Scarborough RT mass transit line. Greyhound buses to Kitchener, Guelph, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and New York City and Coach Canada buses to Buffalo and New York also stop near Union Station, either in front of the York Street entrance to the Royal York Hotel or on University Avenue north of Wellington Street.
Two new, heavily-discounted services between Toronto and New York City operate from the sidewalk in front of the Royal York Hotel, across the street from Union Station. Both advertise electrical connections at each seat, wi-fi, movies, and more legroom than traditional buses. If purchased far enough in advance, tickets can be found for $1 although in reality, most seats range from $15 to $50.
- Megabus provides service from New York City, Buffalo, Buffalo-Niagara Airport,Philadelphia, Syracuse and Rochester to the sidewalk in front of the Royal York Hotel. Megabus runs two buses a day from the Royal York, and two buses a day from the bus terminal. Buses from the bus terminal run to the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York, while buses from the Royal York run to Penn Station in New York. Megabus also provides service twice daily from Washington, D.C.
- Ne-On is a service operated jointly by Greyhound USA and New York Trailways that runs two buses a day from the Royal York Hotel to the New Yorker Hotel in New York.
GO Transit runs the commuter transit network in the Greater Toronto Area. Its bus services are designed to supplement their commuter trains, most of which run only during rush hour. When the trains are not running, GO runs buses on the same route. Most GO buses run to the Union Station Bus Terminal, adjacent to Union Railway Station. GO Transit also operates services to bus stations at several subway stations, including: Yorkdale Mall, Finch, York Mills and Scarborough Centre.
Major highways leading into Toronto are the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), the 404, the 401, the 400, and the 427. Toronto is in the enviable position of being the largest city in Canada, so it's relatively easy to find a sign pointing you in the right direction. Traffic on incoming highways can be extremely heavy. In the downtown core there are many turn restrictions, particularly from main thoroughfares to other main thoroughfares (e.g., Yonge to Dundas Streets).
The main streets in Toronto are laid out in a grid pattern that makes it one of the easiest cities to get around in by car. Getting from point to point anywhere in the city can be achieved with only a few turns. Parking in the downtown core can be expensive and hard to find, but is plentiful and inexpensive or free throughout the rest of the city.
- Canada drives on the right.
Toronto follows some bylaws related to the transit system that often confuse or surprise visiting drivers:
- If a bus is signalling intent to merge into traffic from a stop, you must yield to the bus.
- Streetcars (Trams) - several rules and customs are observed; these rules are more familiar to European drivers, where trams are common, but generally unknown to drivers from elsewhere in North America:
- If a streetcar in front of you and travelling in your direction has its doors open, by law you may not pass the open doors, because of the risk to passengers exiting and boarding. Often (especially during rush hour when large crowds are to be expected), passengers will step out into the road before the streetcar has come to a complete stop, in anticipation of the doors opening. In this situation, it is customary to stop, as crowds of passengers can overwhelm the road within seconds, and some can be quite brazen about stepping off the curb. If a streetcar pulls alongside your vehicle while you are stopped, and opens its doors, you must remain stationary until the doors have closed. Cyclists on the road frequently disregard the stopping rule, as they generally can fit around the crowd, but it is best practice to stop, out of consideration for passengers.
- However, if a traffic island (it'll look like a raised median with a transit shelter on top) separates the streetcar from your lane, you may pass with caution. Beware of jaywalkers who do not wait until the light has changed to cross the lane.
- When in mixed traffic, streetcar tracks are located in the centre lane of the road. Streetcars perform right turns from this lane; other vehicles are generally not permitted to do so (except oversized trucks), and it is important to give clearance so that turns can be made, whether travelling in the same direction as the streetcar or facing an oncoming one. These turns are marked by dotted white lines following the contour of the curve, indicating how far out a streetcar will swing.
- Occasionally the rightmost travel lane on certain streets (notably on Bay Street between Front and Bloor Sts. as well as on many of the core arteries outside the city core) is reserved from 7AM-7PM for transit vehicles, taxis and bicycles only; you can enter these lanes only to make a right turn at the next cross street. If you do decide to travel as through-traffic in these lanes, you may be liable for a fine.
Additionally, drivers are advised that Torontonians generally take their obligation to give a wide berth to emergency vehicles quite seriously: if you hear sirens or see lights, pull over to the side of the road safely but quickly.
As Toronto is the largest city in Canada, major highways run through the city, and it is quite easy to find a sign showing that you are in the right direction. However, traffic on the highways can be remarkably heavy, and in the downtown core, parking places are often quite expensive and hard to find. On the other hand, the main streets in Toronto have a grid pattern that makes driving quite easy.
Also, given the extent of the city, several areas are not enough served by the public transit system. In the Greater Toronto Area, almost everybody uses a car. This is why the highways suffer from traffic jams every day, almost all day, and it gets worse during rush hours: even the 401, with 9 lanes in each direction, is slow at those hours.
The trip to the Toronto Islands from the downtown core (Bay St and Queen's Quay) is a pleasant 15 minute ferry ride, with frequent summer service and the best views of the Toronto skyline.
There are also guided sailing vessels that take tours of the inner/outer harbour and circumvent Toronto Island.
Transportation - Get Around
Toronto is huge, and most roads run for very long distances. Streetcar rail, subway rail, and intercity rail services are clean and efficient, and it's entirely possible to get around Toronto without a car, especially downtown. You may find it quicker and easier to drive, but be aware that the highways regularly backup during rush hour (7AM-10AM and 4PM-7PM). Toronto has plentiful parking garages downtown, but they are very expensive.
Many in Toronto travel by bicycle (especially in the warmer months) and this mode is very convenient for getting around the downtown district. Visitors should be aware that not all motorists will consistently give way to cyclists and that not all cyclists are fully compliant with the rules of the road; caution is recommended for all who wish to share the road.
Toronto Transit Commission Toronto has a very large transit system, the third most heavily used in North America (after New York City and Mexico City). It consists of buses, streetcars, subway lines, and the quasi-subway Scarborough Rapid Transit line. The number for automated information are: +1 416-393-4636 (INFO), +1-866-642-9882. Operators are available 8AM-6PM daily except for holidays.
The subway is the fastest means to move across the city with train frequencies varying from 2 to 5 minutes. Each subway station has a booth at the primary station entrance where riders can buy tokens, tickets and passes. Most subway stations have platforms within the station area to provide a simple and convenient connection to adjacent bus and streetcar routes. Most streetcar lines serve the south, central part of the city. Some streetcar lines and one bus route (Downsview Station to York University) have dedicated lanes to avoid getting caught in Toronto's notorious rush-hour traffic, a problem that particularly affects long bus and streetcar routes in mixed traffic.
Cash fare is $3.25 (discounted to $2.90 for tokens/Presto). When using the subway, all manned booths sell tokens and there may be vending machines at unmanned entrances. Be aware that some token vending machines are out of service, but do not have signs on them to indicate that, otherwise making it safer to use manned ticket booths whenever possible.
Presto is a smartcard for public transit in Ontario, but it has not been fully implemented on the TTC. The TTC website has a list of locations where the card can be used. Only streetcars, a few bus routes (including 192 Airport Rocket) and less than half of the subway stations accept Presto. (However, the TTC intends to accept Presto at all subway stations and on all surface vehicles by the end of 2016.) Presto cannot be used to pay a fare on most TTC buses. Unless you are also using the Union Pearson Express and/or other Ontario transit agencies, Presto is probably more trouble than it is worth, as the card costs $6 and is non-refundable. Be careful not to load too much money onto the card, as it can be a hassle to get a refund.
Seniors, 65 years of age or over, are eligible for the senior fare of $2.00 cash per trip or 5 tickets for $9.75. Youthful looking seniors may be required to show a driver's licence, an Ontario Photo Card or a passport to serve as proof of age.
Children 12 years of age and under ride free of charge; however, be prepared to show proof-of-age for children who are tall for their age. Teenagers between 13 and 15 years old do not need identification to travel using student fares which are 5 tickets for $9.75. For proof of age, teenagers between 16 and 19 years old require a high school photo ID or government issued photo ID (e.g., driver's licence, Ontario Photo Card, passport) to use student fares. This requirement may be impractical for some visitors who must then pay the adult fare.
A day pass is available for $12.00. This pass allows unlimited travel on all TTC services within the City of Toronto, except for Downtown Express buses. For one person, it allows unlimited one-day travel on any day of the week, from the mid-morning (9:30AM) until 5:30AM the next morning. On Saturdays, Sundays, statutory holidays and the holiday period roughly from the Saturday before Christmas to the Sunday after New Year's Day, up to 6 people (maximum 2 adults over 19) can travel with one TTC Day Pass, from the start of daytime service until 5:30AM the next morning. The day pass does not have to be purchased on the day of use.
An adult weekly pass costs $42.25 a week. It allows unlimited travel from 5:30AM Monday morning, to 5:30AM the following Monday. The weekly pass is transferable, meaning it can be used by more than one person but only one person may be travelling under that pass at any given time.
An adult monthly pass, termed the Metropass, costs $141.50 per month. This pass is also transferable, under the same rules as the weekly pass.
Tickets, tokens and passes are available at subway stations, variety stores and news stands throughout the city. Most businesses that sell passes and tokens have a TTC logo sticker on their front door.
Subway station collector booths will accept debit and credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, or American Express) for purchases of $10.00 or more in fares.
Important tip: If you are paying your fare by cash, ticket, token or Presto, then as soon as you pay your fare, obtain a transfer as a receipt for proof of payment (POP). The rules for describing when or when not a transfer is required can be involved and are to change in the future especially on bus routes and at subway stations. If you have a pass, you never require a transfer as your pass is your proof of payment. See the section on Transfers and Proof of Payment for more details.
Transfers and Proof of Payment
This section applies only to those riders who pay the fare by cash, token, senior/student ticket or Presto card. These riders should always obtain a transfer as proof of payment (POP) immediately after paying the fare. (Presto cards cannot be used as proof of payment in many situations.)
Transfers are never required for daily/weekly/monthly pass holders as the pass itself is the proof of payment. Thus, this section does not pertain to pass holders.
Transfers have two purposes:
- To allow a rider to complete a trip on multiple TTC vehicles using a single fare. Thus, with a transfer, there is no need to pay a separate fare for each TTC vehicle used to complete a single trip.
- To serve as proof of payment to show a fare inspector. All streetcar lines require riders to have proof of payment.
Transfers are free, but should be obtained at the first vehicle or station you enter on your journey. If you start your journey at a subway station, look for a red machine just beyond the ticket booth with a digital time clock on its face. Press the gold button and collect your transfer. If your journey starts on a bus or on an older streetcar (top photo), pay your fare at the front door and ask for a transfer by saying "Transfer, please". (If you are paying by Presto on a streetcar, swipe your card at the front door and ask for a transfer.) If your journey starts on a new streetcar (bottom photo), you must use a payment machine to process your fare. If you pay by cash (coins only) or token, the machine will give you a transfer to be used as proof of payment. If you pay by senior/student ticket, use the TTC Ticket Validator to time stamp the ticket converting that ticket into a transfer. If you pay by Presto, swipe your card by the second or third streetcar door, and then swipe it a second time at the payment machine to get a transfer for proof of payment. Payment machines are available on board new streetcars and on the platform at most stops along the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina streetcar routes. The platform machines allow you to pay your fare by cash, token or senior/student ticket (but not by Presto) before boarding a streetcar.
The TTC has prepared a video describing payment, transfers and proof of payment on all forms of TTC vehicles.
Unlike other transit systems, a transfer is valid for one trip rather than a specific duration of time (i.e., you cannot use a transfer obtained going on a northbound bus to go on a bus of the same route southbound). If you board the wrong bus in error, be sure to ask the driver for a "wrong way transfer", specifically punched to permit an immediate U-turn without incurring a second fare.
The transfer is not valid for stop-overs, round trips or circular trips. Walking away from a transfer point instead of waiting for a bus or streetcar will invalidate your transfer from further use as your stroll will be considered to be a stop-over.
Subway & LRT
There are three subway lines and one "RT" line:
- Line 1 Yonge-University runs in a 'U' shape, travelling north-south along Yonge Street, bending at Union Station, then travelling north-south along University Avenue, Spadina Avenue, and Allen Road. It meets Line 4 Sheppard at Sheppard-Yonge station and Line 2 Bloor-Danforth at Bloor-Yonge, St. George, and Spadina stations.
- Line 2 Bloor-Danforth runs east-west along Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue. It meets Line 1 Yonge-University at Bloor-Yonge, St. George, and Spadina stations, and meets Line 3 Scarborough at Kennedy Station. This line runs through a large number of neighbourhoods, Kennedy Station is on Eglinton in working-class Scarborough and is surrounded by large apartment blocks, it is a major transit hub for TTC buses in Scarborough and also connects with GO Transit commuter trains. The line leaves Scarborough after Warden station and the next nine stations serve a number of densely packed, ethnic neighbourhoods along the Danforth. After Broadview Station, the line crosses the Don River and the following station, Castle Frank, serves the extremely exclusive neighbourhood of Rosedale. After this, the line crosses the Rosedale ravine and enters Downtown Toronto, the next four stations serve the expensive shopping district of Bloor-Yorkville. Following this, the line serves many small ethnic neighbourhoods centred around Bloor Street. Lansdowne and Dundas West stations serve working-class neighbourhoods and Dundas West connects with GO Transit commuter trains. The next two stations serve High Park, a large park on the west side of the city and Runnymede and Jane stations serve the pleasant and relatively affluent neighbourhood of Bloor West Village. The next three stations serve the mostly middle class suburb of Etobicoke.
- Line 3 Scarborough runs from the eastern end of the Bloor-Danforth line at Kennedy Station, through central Scarborough to McCowan Station. As its name suggests, this line serves the mainly working-class suburb of Scarborough. This line's main draw for visitors is that it serves Scarborough Town Centre, one of the city's enormous regional shopping centres, at its Scarborough Centre station; this station is also a major regional transit hub and is served by a large number of TTC buses, several GO Transit commuter buses, and is a stop on Greyhound coach routes to Peterborough, Ottawa, and Coach Canada routes to Montreal and Kingston.
- Line 4 Sheppard runs in an east-west direction along Sheppard Avenue. It meets the Line 1 Yonge-University at Sheppard-Yonge station and terminates at Don Mills Station in the east.
The subway system operates approximately from 6:00 am to 1:30 am Monday-Saturday, and 8:00 am to 1:30 am on Sundays. The TTC website gives more precise first and last train times by subway station.
Toronto is one of the few cities in North America (the only city in Canada, in fact) to have kept any of its streetcar routes and, while the original streetcar network was much larger, the Toronto Transit Commission is planning to replace several of its busiest bus lines with high capacity LRT lines.
- 501 Queen runs along Queen Street for most of its route, from the eastern end (Neville Park) in the Beach neighbourhood, through Leslieville, downtown Toronto at City Hall, the Queen West shopping district, Parkdale in the West End, then along the Queensway and Lake Shore Blvd through to Long Branch in Etobicoke. The 501 is an attraction in itself, receiving special recognition from National Geographicmagazine, as it is the longest streetcar route in North America (one of the longest in the world), and passes through a huge range of important ethnic and cultural neighbourhoods.
- Effective January 3, 2016, all passengers travelling to and from Long Branch must change streetcars at the Humber loop. This is a temporary arrangement that may last a couple years.
- 502 Downtowner and 503 Kingston Road run from Kingston Road in the Upper Beach district to downtown. 502 runs along Queen Street past City Hall to McCaul Street. 503 runs along King Street to York Street in the Financial District. These services operate on weekdays only (502 has rush-hour and midday service; 503 during rush hours only) - other times the 22 Coxwell bus provides coverage along Kingston Road.
- If you wish to go to the popular Beach district by the lake, take the 501 streetcar rather than 502/503.
- 504 King is a U-shaped route from Broadview Station to Dundas West Station both on subway line 2 Bloor-Danforth passing St Andrew and King subway stations both on Line 1 Yonge-University. The route passes through Chinatown East along Broadview Avenue in the East End, the Entertainment and Financial Districts along King Street, and Roncesvalles Village in the West End.
- Streetcars signed 504 Parliament or 504 Dufferin are really on route 514 Cherry. The TTC did not update the rollsigns on older streetcars when the 514 route opened.
- 505 Dundas runs along Dundas Street from Broadview Station to Dundas West Station both on subway line 2 Bloor-Danforth. It runs through Yonge-Dundas Square, Chinatown, Kensington Market and Little Portugal in the West End.
- 506 Carlton runs along Gerrard, Carlton and College Streets from Main Street Station (subway line 2 Bloor-Danforth) to High Park in the West End. It passes through Gerrard India Bazaar, Cabbagetown (also skirting the Church and Wellesley district), the University of Toronto, Kensington Market and Little Italy.
- 509 Harbourfront runs in special lanes separated from automobile traffic, with a short tunnel stretch, from Union Station (subway line 1 Yonge-University) along Queens Quay to Exhibition Place within the Harbourfront district.
- 510 Spadina runs in special lanes separated from automobile traffic, with some short tunnel stretches, from Spadina Station (subway line 2 Bloor-Danforth) to Union Station (subway line 1 Yonge-University). It passes the University of Toronto,Kensington Market, Queen West shopping district, and Harbourfront.
- From Spadina Station, only about a third of the 510 streetcars run to Union Station. About a third turn back at Queens Quay and Spadina and another third turn back north at King Street. Thus, southbound passengers going south of King Street should note the destination of the streetcar.
- 511 Bathurst runs along Bathurst Street for nearly all of its route, from Bathurst Station (subway line 2) to Exhibition Place.
- 512 St Clair runs in special lanes separated from automobile traffic along St. Clair Avenue from St Clair Station (Yonge section of subway line 1) through St Clair West Station (Spadina section of subway line 1) to Gunns Loop just west of Keele Street. This route serves the neighbourhoods of Deer Park and Corso Italia (Toronto's newer "Little Italy", separate from the older one on College Street).
- 514 Cherry is a U-shaped route from the Dufferin Gates Loop (at Exhibition Place) to Distillery Loop (at the Distillery District). The route passes through the Entertainment and Financial Districts along King Street passing St Andrew and King subway stations both on Line 1 Yonge-University. Between Sumach Street in the Downtown East and Dufferin Street in the West End, 514 overlaps the 504 route along King Street. Route 514 opened on June 19, 2016.
- Older streetcars signed 504 Parliament or 504 Dufferin are really on route 514 Cherry. The TTC did not update the rollsigns on older streetcars when the 514 route opened, but placed a small sign in the front windshield giving the "correct" route information. Thus, "504 Parliament" is really route 514 eastbound to the Distillery Loop and "504 Dufferin" is really route 514 westbound to the Dufferin Gate Loop.
If you have a transfer or Proof of Payment, you may enter the streetcar by any door; otherwise, enter an older, high-floor streetcar by the front door and a newer, low-floor streetcar by the second or third door to pay your fare and obtain a transfer.
Caution: When getting on and off streetcars, make sure that the traffic is stopped in the lane next to the streetcar. While drivers are required by law to stop behind open streetcar doors, some drivers don't do so, especially if they are not from Toronto; pay special attention to vehicles with non-Ontario licence plates, as this is often the first warning that they may be unfamiliar with local laws. This does not apply when there is a safety island between you and the traffic lanes. Also, be aware of pickpockets in crowded rush hour situations. Do not keep your belongings (especially phones and music players) in outside pockets.
A system of regional trains and buses, GO Transit, connects Toronto to its surrounding areas. The majority of these services, especially trains, are oriented to weekday commuters travelling to and from downtown Toronto. Trains are large and comfortable, but with the exception of the half-hourly Burlington–Toronto–Oshawa Lakeshore line, they run only at peak times. The GO bus network is much more extensive and fills in for trains in the off-peak hours. The vast majority of tourist destinations are reachable by TTC, although you might want to use the GO network to get to the Toronto Zoo, or to the homes of family members or friends in the Greater Toronto Area.
GO fares are the same on buses and trains, and are distance-based. The suburban bus services (but not the TTC) sometimes offer discounts on connections to or from a GO Transit rail station. The GTA Pass is not valid on GO Transit.
NOTE: in many cases, a GO bus will not stop unless the passengers-to-be indicate wanting to be picked up, even if they are standing at a designated stop. Users must flag the bus down, usually just by raising their hand or ticket in the air as the bus approaches. That is because GO stops often share stops with other municipal transit systems.
GO Trains operate on the Proof-of-Payment system; passengers must possess a valid ticket for the entire length of their journey before boarding a train. Tickets cannot be purchased on board, and there are no gates or staff before boarding to ensure you have a fare for a particular train. GO Transit enforcement officers conduct random inspections of tickets, issuing expensive fines to anyone without the correct fare. Enforcement officers have likely heard every possible excuse from passengers who regularly try to avoid paying a fare, and are often unforgiving of any (even legitimate) reason you might give.
Each GO train has a Customer Service Ambassador, who is responsible for passenger service (opening/closing doors, making station announcements, answering questions, dealing with emergencies, etc.) The CSA is stationed in the Accessibility car (the 5th car behind the locomotive). If you are unfamiliar with the system, it is recommended that you remain close to them.
Taxis are plentiful and safe, but not cheap. The base rate is $4.25, with an average 5 km trip costing $13. As with most big cities, driving a car downtown can be annoying; parking is often hard to find and expensive, and traffic along certain streets can make vehicle travel slower than mass transit. However, travelling longer distances, when not close to subway lines is often significantly faster by car or taxi.
Uber's UberX service is available via smartphone app throughout the city with fares running roughly half the price of a taxi. An average 5-km trip costs roughly $8.25.
Toronto is trying very hard to become a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes being added all the time. There are many casual cyclists out all the time. And it is fast: door to door, in all of downtown Toronto, a bike beats a car or transit nearly every time.
There is a lack of clear understanding about regulations regarding bicycles and as a result, there can be hostility between automobiles and cyclists. Generally speaking, if you are on the road, you are expected to obey the same laws as cars, and you are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. In reality, cyclists have all sorts of driving styles; expect the unexpected.
The city is predominantly flat, aside from a general climb away from Lake Ontario and the deeply indented, forested Don Valley and Humber River Valley, and post-and-ring locking posts are present throughout the city. There are many bike-only lanes on major roads and threading through various neighbourhoods and parks. The city publishes a cycling map, available on the city website [www].
Bike Share Toronto provides a public bike system with 1,000 bikes available at 80 stations throughout downtown. Subscriptions start at $5 for 24 hours and allow you to use a bike for 30 minutes or less, as much as you like (usage fees apply for trips longer than 30 minutes). It operates 24 hours a day, all year long (but see the warning below about winter biking). Several businesses also offer rentals [www].
It is a provincial law that cyclists under 18 must wear a helmet, and all riders must have a bike with reflectors and a bell. This tends to only be enforced when the police go on their annual "cycling blitz".
- Beware of parked cars - often accidents are not caused by moving cars, but rather by careless drivers or passengers who unexpectedly open their driver's side door. However, by and large Toronto is about as safe for bikers as most European cities, and certainly safer than most U.S. cities. Here, at least, cyclists are often expected and respected by drivers.
- Be cautious of street car tracks as bike wheels can be easily caught and cause a spill.
- Although you will certainly see large numbers of locals riding the streets year-round, be warned that biking in the winter months is enjoyable only with proper equipment and reasonable skills; winter weather does get cold, it can be quite windy, and snow removal is often imperfect.
Some recommended cycling routes:
- By far one of the most popular bike paths is the Martin Goodman Trail, the east-west route that hugs Lake Ontario, spanning the city from Etobicoke to the eastern ends of the city. This path is also often used by pedestrians and rollerbladers.
- The Don River trail system begins at the lake (near Queen and Broadview) and travels very far North and East. During or after heavy rains, avoid lower sections of the trails.
- A special treat for bikers of all levels is a tour out to the Leslie Spit lighthouse and bird sanctuaries (no cars!), which is open on weekends only. Start at Queen and Leslie and head south.
- A visit to Toronto Islands from the ferry docks at the southern end of Bay Street is a great way to spend a bike-friendly, relaxed afternoon by bike. There are no private cars on the Toronto Islands.
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Toronto has ample opportunities for shopping, and nearly any section of the city has unique places to shop:
- Toronto Eaton Centre at Yonge-Dundas Square. Over 285 shops and services, including most of North America's most popular brands, and two food courts catering for every taste.
- The 'PATH' System.Linking 1,200 stores and 50 buildings, The PATH is an underground shopping mall has been created for all the commuters to get from Union Station to their offices and back without ever going outside. In a city of Toronto's summer heat and winter cold, this is essential.
- Mink Mile. If you head west from the corner of Yonge and Bloor, you are in the most upscale of Toronto's shopping districts, easily accessible from the Bloor-Yonge or Bay subway station.
- Yorkville. This high-end shopping district just north of Bloor Street and west of Bay Street is home to many designer boutiques. It also has many galleries selling art.
- Kensington Market provides a bohemian shopping experience especially along the southern end of Kensington Avenue. There houses lining both sides of the street have been turned into shops with racks of clothes displayed in the front yard.
- There are many local, neighbourhood shopping districts in the inner city. These are mostly located along major throughfares lined on one or both sides with shops in low-rise buildings. A few examples are Queen Street West (especially east of Spadina Avenue and extending westward into the West End), Uptown Yonge north of Eglinton Avenue on Yonge Street, and Roncesvalles Village. There are many more areas with store-lined streets within the inner city but few in suburban districts such as Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough which tend to prefer malls.
- Yorkdale Shopping Centre. A shopping centre located in the north of the city, accessible from Yorkdale subway station. This is a full-service, upscale mall with hundreds of stores, but which is also rife with packs of roving teenagers who use the facilities as a social scene. Make use of the subway if possible on weekends, as locals pack the parking areas to capacity.
Surrounded by the extensive fertile farmlands of Southern Ontario, Toronto has an abundance of farmer's markets - one is happening, in season, almost every day. Several markets are year round, while others are seasonal, generally running from May to October.
- St. Lawrence Market. Has been bringing the freshest foods into the city for Torontonians and visitors alike since 1901. Located at Jarvis and Front, the St. Lawrence Market stretches over 2 buildings, a main building on the south side of Front St., and a temporary building to the south of the main building. The temporary building is home to a Farmer's Market, open Saturdays year round. It features fresh vegetables in season, preserves, spices and herbs, and direct from the source foods, such as honey direct from the beekeeper or maple syrup from the people who tapped and boiled it, as well as quality Ontario wines. The larger main building has over 50 specialty vendors, with a large seafood section, a dozen butchers, several bakeries, and three very extensive cheese shops. In the basement, there is also a specialty area for handcrafters, and an extensive foodcourt, with merchants often cooking food that they bought fresh that morning from upstairs. The main building is open year round, Tue-Thu 8AM-6PM, Fri 8AM-7PM, Sat 5AM-5PM.
- Riverdale Farm, 201 Winchester St (three blocks east of Parliament Street). A year-round producing farm owned by the City of Toronto as part of its extensive park system, open daily for tours, education, and more 9AM-5PM. The Friends of Riverdale Farm operate an onsite store and restaurant, Shop at the Farm and Farm Kitchen, in Simpson House (daily 10AM-4PM), and a weekly Farmer's Market (Tuesdays, May 10 - Oct. 25, 2005, 3:30PM-7PM. Riverdale farm is a working farm, with barns and outdoor paddocks, and animals of all types. In an attempt to provide education about farming, the staff is approachable, and will discuss chores as they go through the daily tasks of keeping a farm running. Tours are available, or you can wander the 7.5 acres freely.
Other farmer's markets in Toronto:
- City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, 100 Queen Street West. Wednesdays, 1 June-5 October, 10AM-2:30PM (except June 29 due to Jazz Festival).
- East York Civic Centre, 850 Coxwell Ave. Tuesdays, 24 May-25 October, 9AM-2PM.
- Etobicoke Civic Centre, 399 The West Mall. Saturdays, 4 June-29 October, 8AM-2PM.
- North York Civic Centre, Mel Lastman Square, 5100 Yonge St. Thursdays, 16 June-20 October, 8AM-2PM.
- Scarborough Civic Centre, Albert Campbell Square, 150 Borough Drive. Fridays, 3 June-14 October noon-5PM.
- The Dufferin Grove Farmer's Market, 875 Dufferin St (across from the Dufferin Mall). Thursdays, year round (outdoors around the rinkhouse in summer and in the rinkhouse in winter) 3:30PM-7PM.
- Green Barn Market, 601 Christie St. Saturdays 8AM-12:30PM (located within the restored Artscape Wychwood Barns).
Most Canadians don't carry large amounts of cash for everyday use, relying on their credit cards, ATMs and direct debit cards. Personal cheques are rarely accepted. Many places in Toronto accept US dollars for small transactions - with a rough 1:1 exchange rate - and it advised to obtain some Canadian dollars if you will use cash. US coins are often mixed in with Canadian coins at stores since they are similar in appearance.
- Interbank ATM exchange rates sometimes beat traveller's cheques or exchanging foreign currency, but expect to encounter multiple fees; Canadian ATM fees are at least $1.50 to $2 per transaction and your home bank will most likely charge another fee on top of that.
- Credit Cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express (and, less often, JCB) are widely accepted in Canada. Credit cards can get you cash advances at bank ATMs, generally for a 3% surcharge. Beware: many US-based credit cards now convert foreign charges using highly unfavourable exchange rates and fees.
- Changing Money at a recognized bank or financial institution is best; there are a few specialized bureaux de change in Toronto's financial district and in Mississauga in the airport terminals. Some hotels, souvenir shops and tourist offices exchange money, but their rates won't put a smile on your dial.
Thomas Cook (www.thomascook.ca) branches include:
- Bloor-Yorkville (+1 416-975-9940, +1-800-267-8891; 1168 Bay St; 9AM-5:30PM Mon-Fri; Bloor-Yonge)
- Financial District (+1 416-366-1961; 10 King St E; 9AM-5PM Mon-Fri; King)
Travelex (www.travelex.com/ca) has branches in the Financial District (+1 416-304-6130; First Canadian Place, Bank of Montréal, 100 King St W; 8AM-5PM Mon-Fri) and at the airport in Mississauga.
Calforex Currency Services (290 Queen St West) give good rates for cash, buying and selling GBP, USD, EUR; on substantial sums can be as little as 1% from interbank rates.
American Express branches in Toronto only function as travel agencies and don't handle financial transactions. Sub-prime cheque cashing firms such as Money Mart (+1 416-920-4146, multiple locations) can usually exchange US to CAD, but the rates tend to be worse than at other financial institutions.
Toronto is generally considered to be one of North America's top food cities. It has the same variety as New York or San Francisco and the compact and safe downtown keeps them closer together. As one of the most (if not the most) multicultural cities in the world, Toronto has authentic ethnic cuisine like no other city in North America. It is easy to eat out in Toronto and have a superb meal for cheap.
Interesting food districts
- Cabbagetown is a designated Historic District in the eastern half of the downtown core.
- University District: small section of Baldwin Street (east of Spadina, north of Dundas) has many small outdoor cafes ideal for summer lunches.
- Chinatown also has many Vietnamese and Thai restaurants.
- Hakka Food is a style of Chinese food that originated in India with the migrant Chinese of Kolkata. Also known as India-Style Chinese food, outside of India and certain Southeast Asian countries, Toronto is the only city in the world to have such a variety of Hakka restaurants.
- King Street between University Avenue and Spadina Avenue has many restaurants appealing to theatre goers.
- Queen Street East between Empire and Leslie has a number of casual, trendy restaurants that match the vibe of Leslieville.
- College Street to the west of Bathurst has a cheaper set of eclectic restaurants popular with university students from nearby University of Toronto.
- Bayview Avenue south of Eglinton is the location of some of Toronto's best French pastry shops.
- Bloor Street to the west of Spadina in the Annex has a similar set of restaurants to College St, with a particularly heavy concentration of budget-friendly Japanese restaurants. Most restaurants tend to be very laid back.
- Yorkville: it's more about being seen than actually eating but there are a few hidden gems, and this area is famous for sightseeing celebrities. Restaurants often charges premium for otherwise mediocre meals.
- The city's largest newspaper, the Toronto Star, once chose the Downsview Park Flea Market food court as the best in the city. Although it is open only on weekends and rather remote, it offers a variety of authentic food from Afghan to Trinidadian and lacks the chain restaurants that dominate the city's food courts. It is located north of downtown, but is accessible from the Downsview subway station on the Spadina line and shares space with over 400 independent retailers.
Coffe & Drink
- Aroma Espresso Bar. This is a fairly new cafe chain which is becoming ubiquitous throughout the city. Aroma might be the best of the large coffee chains for espresso coffees and rivals the quality at many independent coffee shops. The coffee is served in a cup and saucer with a metal spoon (you might not get the spoon at some other places), and you get a piece of chocolate (a nice touch).
- Tim Hortons. This coffee and donut chain is popular throughout Canada. But stick with the regular and dark roast coffee. For espresso-based coffee, the Aroma chain and independent coffee and pastry shops are better. Also known for their steeped tea.
- Starbucks. In Toronto, Starbucks is perhaps as ubiquitous as Tim Hortons. The Starbucks dark roast coffee is distinctly different from Tim Hortons. Unless you like Starbucks sweetened confections, espresso-based coffees are better at the Aroma chain and independent coffee and pastry shops.
Sights & Landmarks
- CN Tower. At 533 metres tall, the CN Tower is the third tallest free-standing structure in the world, and the tallest in North America. The view is incredible and there is a glass floor, which for some is very scary to walk on. There is also a revolving restaurant, which offers spectacular views as the sun sets over the city.
- Rogers Centre (formerly Skydome) is a large multi-purpose stadium with a retractable roof. It is home to the Toronto Blue Jays of Major League Baseball.
- Toronto City Hall. Two buildings forming a semi-circle overlooking Nathan Phillips square, which has a very popular skating rink in the winter. Architecturally stunning, and next door to Old City Hall (now a court house) which has a more classical architecture.
- Toronto Zoo is Canada's premier zoo showcasing over 5,000 animals and 460 species.
Museums & Galleries
- Art Gallery of Ontario. The largest art gallery in Canada, recently redesigned by architect Frank Gehry. It has a great Canadian paintings exhibit and the world's largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures. The European paintings exhibit has a few excellent pieces and it has one of the world's most expensive paintings on view (Ruben's The Massacre of the Innocents).
- Bata Shoe Museum. This offbeat museum is devoted to shoes and footwear, and contains Napoleon Bonaparte's socks, and footwear from cultures all over the world.
- Black Creek Pioneer Village is a recreation of life in 19th-century Ontario and consists of over forty historic 19th century buildings, decorated in the style of the 1860s with period furnishings and actors portraying villagers. The village is populated with ducks, horses, sheep and other livestock and is self-explored, although many of the individual sites will have a guide inside to explain details of the structure.
- Casa Loma is a step back in time to a period of European elegance and splendour. The museum is the former home of Canadian financier Sir Henry Pellatt complete with decorated suites, secret passages, a 250-metre long tunnel, towers, stables and beautiful 5-acre estate gardens.
- Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art. Dedicated to ceramics in an exquisite contemporary building right across from the Royal Ontario Museum - from Ancient to Contemporary with an extraordinary European collection.
- Hockey Hall of Fame is both a museum and a hall of fame dedicated to the history of ice hockey.
- Ontario Science Centre. This child-friendly museum has several hundred exhibits, many of them hands-on. It also contains Ontario's only Omnimax (full wrap around) movie theatre.
- Royal Ontario Museum is a museum of art, world culture and natural history. It is one of the largest museums in North America, and the largest in Canada.
- Spadina House Museum is in a historic mansion dating from the 1860s. The grounds, located next to Casa Loma, contain a beautiful garden.
- Textile Museum of Canada. Shows drawn from a 13,000-piece collection of textiles from around the world and from other collections offers a rare chance to see the full range of human inventiveness in everything from clothes to rugs to shoes to textile art.
Things to do
- You will also find that Toronto is "the city within a park", with miles and miles of parkland following the streams and rivers that flow through the city. Edwards Gardens and the Toronto Botanical Gardens in the neighbourhood of North York might just be the place to start exploring this natural environment.
- The City of Toronto has designated various Discovery Walks which highlight both the natural and human history of the region. These can be found with brown circular signs along the route and highlight other regions such as the Belt Line, Garrison Creek and the Humber River as well as the downtown core.
- Beaches. Toronto has three main sections of beach along Lake Ontario. The most popular of these is in the aptly-named Beaches neighbourhood. A less popular alternative is the beaches in the western end of the city in the Parkdale neighbourhood; this was once Toronto's Coney Island, with an amusement park and numerous beach-style attractions; however in the 1950s the city built the Gardiner Expressway along the lakeshore, effectively separating the beaches from the city and causing the demolition of the amusement park; over the years attempts have been made to re-energize this area, but the Gardiner remains a major barrier, as well as a source of noise and pollution to keep away would-be beach-goers. On the plus side, the beaches are largely empty most of the time, providing solitude for those who seek it. The third major beach area in the city runs along the south shore of the Toronto Islands. This area is pleasantly secluded, with most of the islands covered with parkland and a small amusement park. Hanlan's Point Beach on the western shore of the islands is the City of Toronto's only officially recognized clothing optional beach, and a popular gay hangout. Despite these options, many Torontonians prefer to leave the city for beach trips; the most popular beaches are those in the Georgian Bay area north of Toronto, Wasaga Beach in particular is very popular during the summer.
Arts & entertainment
- Comedy. World renowned Second City comedy/improv theatre has a location in Toronto. See great improv and situation comedy performed live with audience participation over dinner and drinks in the heart of the club district of downtown Toronto.
- Theatre. Toronto has a great theatre scene for every taste and budget. Check out the big theatres on Yonge Street for the big splashy shows. Small theatres in the Annex and elsewhere offer smaller productions that range from original Canadian works, avant-garde, experimental theatre, small budget musicals to British murder mysteries. A variety of theatre festivals such as the New Ideas, Rhubarb and Fringe festivals are the seed for many commercial success such as The Drowsy Chaperone. Also try to check out the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the new home of the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada. The Toronto Symphony plays in the recently acoustically renovated Roy Thomson Hall. TO Tix, located in Yonge-Dundas Square, is the best place to get both full-price advance and day-of discounts on shows across Toronto. It also offers theatre and dining packages, partnering Toronto’s theatre, dance and opera companies with local downtown restaurants and cultural attractions.
Toronto has so many eclectic neighbourhoods that a random walk is fascinating in its own right. You might start in the Downtown area and then try other neighbourhoods around the city. Here are a few suggestions of neighbourhoods to visit.
- Distillery District. The former Gooderham & Worts distillery lands have been rejuvenated into a pedestrian-only village dedicated to the arts and entertainment. It has fantastic restaurants, festivals, and art galleries housed in its 19th-century distillery buildings.
- Harbourfront, Toronto's former industrial port, is today largely parkland with biking and walking trails and excellent views of the harbour. Harbourfront Centre is situated right by the lake, and is home to numerous cultural events of which most are free or relatively inexpensive. Take in some of the worlds most critically acclaimed performing arts productions, or enjoy one of the many world festivals that take place every weekend.
- Toronto Islands. A short inexpensive ferry ride from the foot of Bay Street and you leave the bustle of the city behind. Visually, the views of the skyline from the islands is stunning, and for cycling, walking, picnics or just relaxing, the Toronto Islands are hard to beat. There is even a small amusement park for kids, Centreville. On hot summer days, temperatures here will often be about 2-3C lower than the mainland providing relief. By mid-summer the water is warm enough to swim at Hanlan's Point or for the more adventurous, a nude beach is located nearby.
- Little Italy is the spot to get a sense of the Western Mediterranean. Sit at one of the many coffee shops and watch the world go by on the weekends. A great time to visit is during the men's FIFA World Cup competition (in football / soccer), regardless of where in the world it is actually being held as local communities face off and rivalries reach a fever pitch. Recently the rivalries have begun to infect adjacent communities and it is now getting to the point that the entire city is being draped in a mind numbing variety of flags once every four years.
- Toronto's Chinatown is a great way to sample a tiny bit of cities like Hong Kong, without spending the airfare. Vast crowds crush the sidewalks as vendors sell authentic Chinese and Vietnamese food, and not-so-authentic knock-offs. It is one of North America's largest Chinatowns, and with many shops aimed at tourists, it is a good place to pick up some unusual and inexpensive souvenirs. The area is also home to a growing number of Korean and Vietnamese shops and restaurants. Toronto's multicultural mosaic never stops evolving. For a complete tour, travel along Spadina (North/South) starting at College Street in the north or Queen Street in the south.
- Kensington Market was once a centre of Jewish life that has morphed into the centre of Toronto's bohemian scene. Visitors will be assaulted by sounds and smells unlike anywhere else in the city, as narrow streets bustle with immigrants, punks, and yuppies alike. Stores include surplus shops, coffee houses, small restaurants (including vegetarian), clothing vendors, and record stores. Fish and fruit markets are also present in great numbers, and the area is experiencing a boom of South American food stalls of late.
- Koreatown has many Korean retail businesses and restaurants where Korean is as prominent as English in the signage. (There is also another Koreatown in Toronto/North York.
- Gerrard India Bazaar (Little India) If you want to get a sense of Toronto's vibrant South Asian community, this is where you want to be; not only is Indian culture represented - visible Pakistani and Afghan communities are also alive along the street.
Festivals and events
- Canadian National Exhibition (The Ex, CNE), Exhibition Place. From mid-August to Labour Day. The Ex is a annual fair offering an amusement park (The Midway), a casino, live entertainment, an international market, agricultural exhibits including livestock and a variety of other exhibits. It is Canada's largest fair and the fifth largest in North America, with an average annual attendance of 1.3 million.
- Doors Open. This event, held the last weekend of May, offers residents and visitors an opportunity to take a peek behind the doors of more than 100 architecturally, historically, culturally and socially significant buildings across the city. Many of these buildings are normally not open to the public. A number of the city's museums offer free admission on the Doors Open weekend. Free admission.
- Pride Toronto. Held the last week of June. Pride Toronto is the annual LGBT festival which includes the very popular Pride Parade which draws crowds of straight people to discover how LGBT people have fun.
- Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF). Held in February. TBFF showcases the noteworthy black films and provides a forum to debate major cultural, social and socio-economic issues.
- Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Starts the Thursday night after Labour Day. This publicly attended festival of international film takes place in various theatres and draws many celebrities and celebrity spotters.
The majority of nightlife in Toronto is centred on the appropriately named Clubland and in the fashion district on Queen Street West. Nearly everywhere is packed to the brim with pubs and bars, but none so much as Adelaide and Queen Street in those districts. Clubs tend to operate on Richmond and Adelaide streets (both run east-west, 1 block apart); names change frequently, but the district keeps on going. Three other clubs of note outside this district: The mega club/ultra lounge Muzik Nightclub (by Exhibition Place), and The (long-lasting) Phoenix (on Sherbourne) and the Docks (literally operating on part of Toronto's commercial port, but this place has an outstanding view of the city on warm summer nights, and boasts an extensive entertainment complex).
Some of Toronto's newest and hottest nightclubs have opened up in the King Street West/Liberty Village area. This area tends to attract a more mature (25+ years old) crowd; however this comes at a cost as drinks and admission into the venues are typically a bit more expensive here than in Clubland.
Hip art and music oriented crowds tend to gravitate towards Parkdale (Queen West past Bellwoods Park). The hipsters hangout in the wide array of bars, galleries and clubs that dot the area - in particular Stones Place (mostly Indians and sometimes gay crowds), The Social (a mixed bag), and the Drake and its poor cousin Gladstone Hotels. The same folks also frequent the Annex and Kensington Market areas of the city at night for club nights, casual drinks and art and music events. One of the main "corsos" of the city is Little Italy: College Street, between Bathurst and Ossington flows over with music, sidewalk cafes and excellent food and a crowd that enjoys the summer heat and the offerings. College Street, east of Bathurst, is home to many student hangouts, including Sneaky Dee's which is famous among locals for its nachos. The legal minimum drinking age is 19.
Toronto has over a dozen microbreweries. One popular microbrewery is Steam Whistle Brewing (south of the CN Tower in the Entertainment District) which offers tours of its brewery located in a former locomotive roundhouse. Unlike Steam Whistle, most microbreweries in Toronto are brewpubs serving in-house brews with pub fare. About half of the brewpubs are in the West Enddistrict. Other districts having a brewpub are Harbourfront (Amsterdam BrewHouse), Distillery District (Mill St. Brew Pub), Midtown (Granite Brewery) and East End (Left Field Brewery).
Safety in Toronto
Toronto is remarkably safe and the streets are vibrant with pedestrians and bicyclists, even at night in most neighbourhoods. If you use common sense, you should have no trouble at all.
The overall violent crime rate in Canada, and particularly in Toronto, is much lower than that found in major cities in the United States. Petty crime is generally not a problem in Toronto, but as always is the case, keep vigilant with your possessions. Car and bike theft are comparable to other large North American cities.
There are neighbourhoods which are known in the media and on the street as being more dangerous, though police statistics are not commonly used to justify these beliefs. Nevertheless, while assaults and other crimes can happen anywhere, especially late at night when few people are around, it is reasonable to avoid certain areas (again, generally late at night). These areas include in the old city and inner bouroughs: Crescent Town, Regent Park, parts of Parkdale, parts of St. Jamestown, Moss Park, Alexandra Park, Flemingdon Park/Victoria Village and Weston-Mount Dennis. Outer areas: Jane and Finch ("Jane Corridor"), Lawrence Heights, the Peanut (i.e., Don Mills and Sheppard), Rexdale/Jamestown Crescent, Malvern, Kingston and Galloway, Steeles-L’Amoureaux, Dorset Park, Westminster-Branson and Eglinton East-Kennedy Park. Stay away from dodgy looking areas, where drugs, prostitution and violent crime such as armed robberies can occur. These neighbourhoods become noticeably worse from a visual standpoint, giving ample warning to turn around.
Toronto has a visible homeless population, many of whom will ask you for money. If you do not want to offer them money, look the beggar in the eye and say "No thank you" or ignore them. If you do give the person money, they usually leave you alone. There have been occasional occurrences of aggressive beggars, with one resulting in a fatality. If a beggar becomes aggressive, move away quickly and alert a police officer.
Beggars in Toronto have been known to ask for handouts on the pretext that they need TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) fare. When offered TTC tokens, they will accept them and then approach other passers-by in an attempt to resell these tokens for cash. If a street person offers to sell you a token they claim to have "found" in Toronto, sometimes at less than face value, odds are this fare media was given to them by some well-meaning passer-by who believed their false claim that they needed TTC fare to get home.
There have also been instances in the past with "squeegee kids" who would jump into intersections when traffic is stopped at lights and solicit money for cleaning windshields. This is becoming less common as this form of interference with vehicle traffic is expressly illegal under Ontario's Highway Traffic Act and may be reported to police.
Be careful when getting off the streetcars and look always to your right before leaving the car. Although vehicles are supposed to stop when the streetcar doors open, some motorists and cyclists will ignore this and keep going.
The proliferation of mobile data devices has led to "multitasking" in a large percentage of the pedestrian population of this city. If driving, cycling, or even walking, in Toronto do not forget to keep an eye open for a pedestrian who may be a little more focused on his or her device than is healthy.
Avoid river/creek banks or bridge underpasses during periods of excessive rain, during/after heavy thundershowers or melting snow. Recent flooding can soften soil and cause it to suddenly collapse into the water under any weight.
Occasionally, Toronto will be hit with a severe winter storm accompanied by significant snowfall (quite often mixed with freezing rain/ice/sleet). Avoid driving during and immediately after the storms if at all possible. This is especially true for those unfamiliar with winter driving and controlling a car in a skid. Take public transit, walk, or stay inside.