I had been to Toronto at least four times before, mostly for work, but I hadn’t really had much of a chance to see the city other than going up the the CN Tower and gone to some rather nice restaurants. This changed when I got to spend some time there attending the TBEX Blogger conference and I got to spend a couple of days seeing much more of the city. I was absolutely blown away. I came to appreciate how beautiful, diverse, and interesting Toronto is. It changed my view of the city I had from my fleeting work visits. In this article I will share why.
Some of the things I observed:
- It seems to be affluent and booming. It is clear that Canada and Toronto specifically is going through huge development. It’s becoming a very modern city and wealthy city. The whole city is being developed. There are new buildings going up every where, investment in roads and new condos are being built.
- This modern city seemed to be a little bit light on history and in retaining its past. Once I started exploring it, I found that there were parts of the city which do have a long history and after neglect are being renovated and brought back into the mainstream. This was really good to see.
- When I interviewed someone from the Toronto Tourism Board for a podcast I did for my blogger podcast I learnt about the incredible diversity of nationalities living in the city. Half of the people in Toronto do not speak English as a first language. There is this massive melting pot of all different cultures and types of people. That really adds huge interest to Toronto.
It’s really really easy to get to Toronto!
They have a number of airports: Pearson which is the main international airport and Hamilton. Then there is the airport I wish I’d known before I went called the Billy Bishop Airport, which is right downtown on an island. Pearson is quite far out, like most big airports but Billy Bishop is a few minutes from downtown.
There is very good railway system called VIA to get in and out of Toronto to many regions.
Driving to Toronto is also easy. I drove from Niagara Falls on great motorways.
While getting there is easy, getting around is less so! Traffic in Toronto is terrible. Partly because it’s growing so fast and with a lot of development. Everyone comments on how bad it is traffic-wise.
So, use the underground to get around. It’s actually much more efficient to be on it than using taxis because of the whole traffic situation.
They also have, because it gets so cold in winter, the PATH system. I originally thought the PATH and the metro were the same thing. They are not. The PATH is an underground network of passageways that let you walk around the whole of downtown Toronto underground. It’s a really great system, particularly because it does get really cold and pretty miserable in winter.
Must Do Things to Do and See
Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour.
My number one tip, like it is in so many places, is to go on the hop on hop off bus tour. It gives you a really good overview for Toronto. It takes you into all the different districts of Toronto. It’s a bit like New York and Toronto really likes segmenting the town by different districts. You have the financial district, fashion district, China district, Gay district and so on.
It’s about an hour long, although you can actually get off on the islands and catch a later boat back. There is a stunning network of islands around Toronto. The harbour tour gives you an overview of them and gives you an incredibly beautiful view of the city.
The islands are 20 minutes from the harbour front. There’s also ferry that you can use instead of the harbour tour as well. The islands are a car free zone, and so people living on them and working in the city have to leave their car in the city. Dotted around the islands there are a number of yacht clubs.
These are very beautiful islands with lots of things to do. You can go walking, hiking and cycling. Some of them are protected wildlife areas where people cannot venture. The islands are also a focal point for things like, the world’s second largest dragon boat festival is held here.
A must do. The CN Tower is massive and you cannot miss it, in every sense of that expression. For about 30 years it was the tallest free-standing structure in the world and now it is third You get whisked up in very fast lifts. At the top there are two levels with a glass floor section on the lower level. Only one on three people who go up the tower are brave enough to actually walk on this glass floor. I didn’t go on it the very first time I went to the CN Tower. I decided this time I absolutely was going to go and was going to make a video of it.
Watch my video tour of the CN Tower and the glass floor:
While visiting the CN Tower, just across the road is a railway museum of old steam trains which in the open air to explore. Also nearby is the Rogers Center; it used to be called the SkyDome. This is the big stadium that holds concerts and where baseball and football is played.
One of the districts that is worth having a look at is the Distillery District. This used to be a key commercial centre on the water front. It’s a beautiful collection of Victorian buildings that have been converted into some very up-market boutiques, little artisan bakeries and the such like. It’s a very trendy spot on town where they sometimes hold festivals. It’s a very chic part of town.
St. Lawrence Market.
This is just fantastic. It used to be the city hall offices. Now it is a market on two levels where they sell produce, food, meat, confectionery and fish. I loved this market. Really worth a visit.
The Castle: Casa Loma.
It was originally built as a vanity project by a very rich man called Pellatt who eventually lost everything. It’s a great place to visit and very quirky.
The hop on hop off bus tour will takes you there. It’s set in six acres and has 99 rooms. It’s kind of a cross between a Gothic and Scottish castles.
Cathedral of St. James
It’s an old cathedral over 200 years old with striking massive big spire. It’s a very beautiful building. All the pews have doors on them. Apparently you used to have to pay in the olden days to reserve your pew, though now you actually don’t need to!
There’s a couple of other big churches nearby, like St. Michael’s Cathedral.
City Hall and Legislative Assembly
The new city hall is a modern a stylish centre with 2 curved buildings. A popular meeting point and well worth a visit.
The Legislative Centre is a beautiful old building with a stunning view down to the city. You can tour the buildings and the grounds.
Take a listen to the Tips for Travellers audio podcast about Toronto for more: click here for more. The podcast is sponsored by “DK Eyewitness Travel Guides”.
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