by Rachel Cranshaw, The Daily Telegraph, September 19, 2017
Why go now?
As celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of confederation draw to a close, Toronto will be getting quieter. But this is still a city with a thriving restaurant scene, an aesthetically pleasing skyline and diverse neighbourhoods, all set on a manageable grid system and with a compact centre.
Queen Street West and West Queen West are hipster central, where you’ll find independent boutiques, cafés, bars and restaurants, all on one handy strip. Head to King Street West for innovative restaurants where it’s easy to get a table. For upmarket shopping Bloor-Yorkville is the place. The Kensington market area spills out into Chinatown and Little Italy. Downtown and the entertainment district are home to stellar attractions including the CN Tower.
Air Canada (0371 220 1111; aircanada.com ) operates a four-times-daily service from London Heathrow, from £837 return. Air Canada Rouge also runs a summer service via Gatwick, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. AirTransat flies from Manchester and Glasgow.
Where to stay
Shangri-La Hotel Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
9Telegraph expert rating
Toronto’s Asian influences are a real credit to it, and the Shangri-La is no exception. The lobby hosts live music, and it’s next to the renowned Momofuku noodle bar. Read expert review From £264per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
The Drake HotelToronto, Ontario, Canada
8Telegraph expert rating
The Drake Hotel brims with modern art, has a full- time curator, 19 boutique rooms and a roof terrace. Guests get a discount at the Drake General Store. Read expert review From £121per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
Chelsea Hotel, Toronto Toronto, Ontario, Canada
8Telegraph expert rating
The Chelsea offers excellent value and is perfect for families. It’s the largest hotel in Canada, with 1,590 rooms, and boasts Toronto’s only indoor water slide, and a children’s area with rabbits. Read expert review From £98per nightCheck availabilityRates provided byBooking.com
Blow away the cobwebs after your flight with a wander around the city’s waterfront area, on the shore of Lake Ontario. The regenerated 10-acre site of the Harbourfront Centre is home to two forest-inspired squares, Ontario and Canada, plus an outdoor exhibition space, and hosts concerts and other events year-round. You can also take a boat tour of the islands just opposite, or go out on a canoe .
Head to one of King West’s most popular restaurants, Lee by Susur Lee (001 416 504 7867; susur.com ; book ahead), for a truly inventive take on modern Asian cuisine, in stylish surroundings and with a small terrace. The signature Singaporean-style slaw (Can$25/£15) contains 19 ingredients, all of which complement each other perfectly and look charmingly colourful. The curry roasted chicken is not to be missed.
Don’t miss the CN Tower, best done first thing to beat the queues; it opens at 8.30am and is well worth the Can$48 (£29) entry fee to enjoy unparalleled views of the city, and sometimes as far as Buffalo in New York State. There’s a glass floor panel you can walk across – which is not for the faint-hearted. Even less so is the EdgeWalk experience, which sees harnessed thrill-seekers walk around the edge of the tower. If you’ve been an early bird, the city’s aquarium, which features a huge walk-through tank, is just next door, and joint-entry tickets are available.
Walk 20 minutes along the waterfront to St Lawrence Market for an early lunch. On Saturday the North building hosts a farmers’ market from 5am until 3pm (and has done since 1803) while the South building is home to more than 100 food stalls, open 5am-5pm Saturday, 8am-6pm Tuesday to Thursday and 8am-7pm on Friday.
Catch the TTC Subway from King Station to the Gardiner Museum, Canada’s national ceramics museum, housed in an eye-catching series of square buildings. This contemporary space is home to collections ranging from Tang Dynasty Chinese porcelain to contemporary pieces. The Royal Ontario Museum is just across the road, if you love natural history.
After taking in some culture, stroll to Bloor-Yorkville for some high-end retail therapy (or just window shopping). You’ll find chic boutiques, top-name designers, and maybe some celebrities. There are five shopping centres, and lots of beauty salons and spas.
Lavelle (001 647 347 9353; chezlavelle.com ; book ahead) is a hip new rooftop pool club, bar and restaurant, open year-round until late, with 360-degree views of the Toronto skyline. The atmosphere buzzes during the day, when people laze in cabanas around the pools; at night, a clubby vibe takes over. Chef Romain Avril serves locally influenced modern French cuisine, such as Fogo Island cod served with black barley risotto. The 10-course tasting menu costs Can$125/£77; the wine pairing, from Can$60/£37), is highly recommended.
For brunch with a difference, book a table at Leña (001 416 507 3378; lenarestaurante.com ), which offers an imaginative South American-influenced menu, including empanadas with poached eggs and chimichurri (Can$18/£11), in richly coloured, highly Instagrammable surroundings. If you’ve space, the churros with Mayan chocolate dipping sauce is delicious.
The Art Gallery of Ontario is a 20-minute walk from here, with more than 90,000 works from Canada and elsewhere. From the end of September 2017 until January 2018, an exhibition focuses on the work of the film director Guillermo del Toro.
Saving the best until last, head for Queen Street West to round off your trip. Depending on where you are staying, either walk and start from the east end, or get a bus/cab (about Can$8/£5) down west and walk back. On West Queen West is the Drake Hotel ; call in here for a Caesar on the roof (like a Bloody Mary but made with Clamato, a concoction of spiced tomato and clam juice).
There are countless eating, drinking and shopping spots, but especially recommended are the Coal Miner’s Daughter boutique for original jewellery, and the Cocktail Emporium for craft bitters. If you have time before making your way back, Trinity Bellwoods Park is pleasant for a sit-down.
Good to know
Find out more
There is a tourist information point in Union Station (001 416 392 9300; ontariotravel.net ) for any advice you need in situ.