By Lauretta Wright
The ‘Waterfront City’ of Toronto is home to some 5.6million souls, making it the fifth largest city in North America. Its diversity is reflected in the 80 or so cultural groups speaking 100 languages and helps make this a true cultural melting pot. Indeed Toronto’s mix of broadway-style shows, museums and galleries has earned it the accolade of being the fourth most culturally rewarding city in the world, only pipped by London, Paris and New York.
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Photo Credits: Tourism Toronto
Toronto is part of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and as well as being a microcosm of the global community, it is punctuated by scenic open spaces and green areas. The city is also a shopaholics delight as the centre is home to a variety of malls, charming boutiques and lively marketplaces. All this and the city’s numerous tourist attractions can be reached by the efficient TTC (Toronto’s metropolitan train network) or viewed from the impressive CN Tower, which is still one of the world’s tallest structures.
Being Canada’s largest city, Toronto is the seat of finance, telecommunication, arts, media, film, television and publishing and is in every sense of the word a global city. Thanks to its consistently low crime rates, good environment, decent standard of living and relaxed attitude to cultural diversity, Toronto features highly in the list of most livable cities in the world.
How To Get There
Toronto has four airports of which the busiest is Toronto Pearson International Airport which is on the city’s western border with the city of Mississauga. There is also a limited passenger service from the Toronto City Centre Airport on the Toronto Islands.
Where to stay
In keeping with its status as a global city, accommodation varies from luxurious through to the more affordable hostels and dorms. A city centre hotel may offer a room for as little as £18 a night whilst the familiar name luxury hotels are also on offer. Look out too for the trendy celeb-friendly boutique hotels which are often frequented by the stars during the annual Toronto film fes
Apartments or guesthouses might be the solution for those on a budget or those who want a more homely experience. Whether basic with self-catering or catered home from home there is a plethora of options to choose from.
Given the climatic extremes that characterise Ontario as a whole, it is wise to take into account the time of year before deciding to get back to nature. With a camping season that runs from early May to mid October, Glen Rouge Campground in Toronto is Canada’s largest urban park with 12,000 acres of forests and meadows.
Top things to see and do
The CN Tower
Take in the city from the top of this famous landmark. Still one of the tallest structures in the world after over 30 years, the 360 degree restaurant can be reached after a lightning fast 58 second lift journey.
As Canada’s pre-eminent zoo, Toronto zoo is famous for its interactive, educational approach. Over 5,000 animals made up of over 500 species attract nearly one and a half million people every year.
Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO)
Founded in 1900 as the Art Museum of Toronto and one of the largest galleries in the whole of North America, the AGO is well worth a visit. Whether it is to view Canada’s art heritage (of which it houses some 40%) or to see works from the European masters there is something for everyone.
Just outside Toronto in Mississauga is the Playdium which hosts individual and party guests and provides them with the latest in entertainment; be it outdoor fun or video games the choice is huge.
Toronto Harbour Cruises
One of the best ways to see the many points of interest of Toronto is a river cruise. These range from sailboats to yachts; can be seasonally themed like the Christmas cruises and will fit almost any budget.
Ontario Science Centre
After recently undergoing a large budget renovation, the Ontario Science Centre should be even more of a draw for those with a scientific leaning. After 40 years of existence and over 40million visitors, the centre is not only one of Canada’s most visited sites but is also one of the world’s first interactive science museums.
Constructed on a hill overlooking Toronto by financier and industrialist Sir Henry Mill Pellatt, Casa Loma is one man’s dream of a medieval castle. It took 300 men and three years to complete at an astonishing cost of $3.5million back in 1911. Financial misfortune meant that Sir Henry was only able to enjoy it for 10 years but the castle and the gardens are open for the public to enjoy year-round.
With its cultural diversity, eating out in Toronto provides the visitor with more than ample choice. Dishes from around the globe tempt the palate and they come in all forms; from high-end gourmet food to comforting home-cooked favourites and the destination has more than 7,000 restaurants.
After visiting the mind-boggling array of sights in Toronto, there is still plenty to see after dark. Being the cultural hub that it is, every night can be filled with live entertainment. For those who prefer to catch a game, Toronto is home to six professional sports teams including the Maple Leafs for hockey and the Blue Jays for baseball. For those with more energy there are hundreds of night clubs and late night bars to take you partying into the wee hours.
Shopping in Toronto is a feast for the senses as there are countless markets, boutiques, shopping malls and galleries. The Toronto Eaton Centre is one of the largest shopping malls in Canada and is in the downtown of the city itself. Getting off the beaten track may throw up some unique and quirky gems and there is always the Yorkville neighbourhood for the more well-heeled traveller.
Toronto Special Events
This is a specific full-service section of the Toronto Economic Development, Culture and Tourism division and they strive to ensure that there are plenty of shows, spectacles and festivals going on throughout the year. There are more than 30 festivals every year, which range from culinary delights to fireworks and music. Check before you go to see what is happening but the below list will give you an indication of regular calendar fixtures:
Doors Open Toronto – 150 buildings of special architectural, cultural or historic significance which are usually not accessible or that charge an admission fee open their doors to the public as part of a city-wide celebration.
Caribana Festival – this is the largest Caribbean inspired festival in North America and showcases fantastic music, eye-catching costumes and spicy Caribbean dishes.
Summerlicious – Many of Toronto’s top dining destinations offer a prix-fixe menu in July much to the appreciation of Toronto’s dining public.
Nuit Blanche – September is the time when Toronto keeps open its cultural hotspots for a celebration of the city’s artistic heritage and its continuing commitment to contemporary art.
WinterCity – Despite the freezing weather, Torontians enjoy outdoor spectacles and live music during the Winterlicious celebrations in January and February.
Other special events which may be familiar include the International Film Festival which takes place in September and Canada Day which takes place in July.
In keeping with its cultural diversity, Toronto is a cosmopolitan city. It is host to world famous festivals as well as highly respected galleries, museums and open spaces. Arts and theatre are high on the agenda and there is ample opportunity for those wishing to take in a show, with Toronto having the largest English language theatre outside of New York and London.
How to get around
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is Toronto’s public transport network. It includes not just subways but also streetcars and buses. It is efficient and convenient and links one end of the city to the other. Service times are typically from 6:00am to 1:30am on weekdays and Saturdays, with reduced service on Sundays.
Canadian social mores are by and large similar to ours. In a business setting then clothing and presentation are very important as is punctuality. In a social or casual situation then adherence to the latest fashion is not a must and clothing is best measured by its appropriacy to the prevailing weather conditions or season.
Location: Toronto lies on the shore of Lake Ontario, the easternmost of the Great Lakes.
Time: GMT -5 Hours
Language: English (both English and French are official languages)
Climate: Toronto has four distinct seasons: Spring (mid-April to June), Summer (June to September), Autumn (October and November) and Winter (November to mid-April). There is a great variation Summer and Winter, as temperatures on the hottest days may go as high as 35 C, and on the coldest days as low as -25 C.
Area: City 243.2sq.m; Urban 675.3sq.m; Metro 2,751sq.m
Population: City 2.5million
Religion: Catholic majority (31%) followed by Protestant (21%), Christian Orthodox (4.8%), Islam (6.7%), Hinduism (4.8%), Judaism (4.2%), Buddhism (2.7%). 18.7% of the country professes no religion.
Electricity: 120 volts
Country telephone code: 1 416 and 1 647
Currency: Canadian Dollar
Passport/visa requirements: Brits require a passport valid for at least six months. There are no visa requirements for stays of up to six months.
National airline: Air Canada (http://www.aircanada.com/)
Airports: Toronto Pearson International Airport and Toronto City Centre Airport.
Flight time: Approximately 8 hours
• New Year's Day – January 1
• Family Day – Third Monday of February
• Good Friday
• Victoria Day – Monday preceding May 25
• Canada Day – July 1
• Labour Day – First Monday of September
• Thanksgiving Day – Second Monday of October
• Christmas Day – December 25
• Boxing Day – December 26
UK Tourist Office details: Canadian Tourist Office, Visit Canada, PO Box 170, Ashford, TN240ZX. Tel: 0870-161 5151. Website: www.toronto.ca or www.torontotourism.com