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Toronto’s Best Neighborhoods for Exploring on Foot

These pedestrian-friendly areas offer a colorful array of experiences.

RendezViews Toronto

RendezViews Toronto

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

Toronto may be Canada’s largest city, but thanks to ample public transportation and pedestrian-friendly areas, it’s wonderfully easy to explore all the vibrant neighborhoods, creative corners, and festivals that give Toronto its color by foot. The city’s districts are as diverse and culturally unique as its population, and you can discover food paradises, LGBTQ+-friendly hangouts, historic zones, and more. Here are seven of Toronto’s best, most walkable neighborhoods to check out.

See panoramic views in the South Core Business District

Tucked in the eastern edge of the Railway Lands in downtown Toronto, The South Core Business District is home to the iconic CN Tower, a 1,814-foot high observation tower, and the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto’s hub for contemporary arts, culture, and ideas. Taking in the 100-mile views at the Sky Pod on the CN Tower is a must—on clear days visitors can see as far as Niagara Falls and New York State.

South Core is easily accessed through the PATH underground pedestrian walkway network that connects Scotiabank Arena to other attractions like the Hockey Hall of Fame. If you’re spending the whole day downtown, fuel up with Pearl Harbourfront Chinese Cuisine’s popular dim sum lunch special before visiting the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, located along downtown Toronto’s Waterfront. Then, catch a show and a laugh at Toronto’s new Second City comedy theater, where the Afar team recently enjoyed an insightful workshop followed by dinner. South Core is also an easy walk to the downtown ferries if you’re looking to hop over to Toronto Island Park.

Shopping, eating, and more in the Distillery District

Toronto’s historic Distillery District, once home to the Gooderham & Worts Distillery, is a collection of 47 Victorian industrial buildings that in 2003 were restored to become a hub of shopping, dining, performance spaces, and festivals. Visitors can browse more than 40 one-of-a-kind boutiques, savor award-winning dishes and international cuisines, and experience world-renowned festivals and events. You can also wow the senses at the district’s new immersive art destination Illuminarium, giving the curious a visual, audio, and projection experience that transports them to the surface of the moon and down Alice in Wonderland’s magical rabbit hole, and shows what’s it’s like to go head to head with a lion.

During the holidays, the Distillery District gets into the spirit of the season with the Distillery Winter Village, formerly known as the Toronto Christmas Market. The cobblestone, pedestrian-only streets light up with thousands of twinkling lights and host local vendors, seven-foot-tall snow people, a Candy Cane Forest on Gristmill Lane, and a vintage Christmas card photo wall.

Support Church-Wellesley Village’s LGBTQ+ community

In the heart of Toronto, Church-Wellesley Village is one of the friendliest and most diverse neighborhoods in the city. The historic home of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ communities, the area features galleries, theaters, and events, including Pride Toronto in June. Church-Wellesley is also part of the city-wide Fringe Festival in July.

When visiting, check out the Glad Day Bookstore, Toronto’s historic and oldest queer-centric book dealer, before grabbing a freshly baked scone from the Whiskful Thinking Bakery. If you’re looking for a memorable experience with lots of laughs and talent, head to Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Wednesdays through Sundays when Tallulah’s Cabaret opens its doors for poetry readings, drag performances, and late-night dancing.

Check out art and relax in Bloor-Yorkville

The Royal Ontario Museum

The Royal Ontario Museum

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

Home to the Gardiner Museum and the Royal Ontario Museum, Bloor-Yorkville in midtown Toronto is also the place to delight in gourmet restaurants, designer boutiques, and art galleries. This stylish shopping area is known for its Victorian-era homes and architecture and dozens of beautiful restaurant patios, like the one at the New Zealand-focused Hemingway’s Restaurant.

You can also clear your mind and spirit through a sensory experience at Othership Sauna and Ice Bath, one of the newest ways to care for yourself and relax in the area, as members of the Afar team did earlier this year. The beautifully designed space is as soothing as the guidance offered by Othership’s staff.

Eat your way through the Danforth Greek Neighborhood

If it’s food from all corners of the globe you’re seeking, go to the Danforth Greek Neighborhood. Nicknamed “Greek Town,” it’s where you’ll find one of the largest Greek communities in North America, but its culinary choices range from Lebanese, Ethiopian, Turkish, Asian, and more.

Be sure to check out the Percy Waters Flower Market, which opened its doors in 1911 and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, businesses on The Danforth, and the East York Farmers Market every Tuesday, May through October for local, fresh produce and homemade treats. Speaking of treats, indulge your sweet tooth at Greek Town’s famous bakeries, like The North Pole Bakery and Serano Bakery.

Food isn’t the only draw of Greek Town. Entertainment and music are also at the heart of the neighborhood. The Comedy Bar is a brand new comedy venue in the east end with performances seven nights a week, and any month of the year, you can catch a top-billed show from the likes of Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Iggy Azalea, RuPaul’s Drag Race, and Lorde at The Danforth Music Hall.

Experience history in Chinatown

One of Toronto’s oldest areas is Chinatown with its numerous Asian restaurants, shops and food stalls, neon signs, and vibrant art. In addition to hundreds of different places to sample Chinese food and more, this neighborhood is easy to get to via Toronto’s expansive public streetcar network. The Gateway, towering red sculptures based on the ancient script form of the Chinese characters for “gateway,” marks the entrance to the neighborhood.

Children love the playgrounds and splash pads at Grange Park here and art lovers flock to the Art Gallery of Ontario and its seven permanent collections, including Indigenous and Canadian art collections. Across the street, the Bau-Xi Gallery highlights the best of international and Canadian art.

Of course, you can’t visit Chinatown without visiting one or more of its famous spots for food, like Chine Legendary Hot Pot & BBQ, Ding Dong Pastries & Cafe, or Mother’s Dumplings.

Get cultured in Kensington Market

Kensington 3.jpg

Kensington Market

Courtesy of Destination Toronto

Perhaps one of the best-known neighborhoods to visit in Toronto is Kensington Market with its street art and colorful Victorian homes. Although easily accessed by four different streetcar lines, the best way to explore this diverse and hopping district is by foot. If you’re visiting on the last Sunday of the month from May to October, it gets even more pedestrian-friendly with the Pedestrian Sunday Festivals’ artists, live music, performances, and local vendors.

If all that walking makes you parched, grab a cooling pint of craft beer or the famous watermelon ale made with hibiscus flowers at Kensington Brewing Company before feasting your eyes at all the street art via StreetARToronto.

For three days in the fall, Toronto’s jazz culture explodes in Kensington Market for the annual Kensington Jazz Festival, which brings in hundreds of musicians for a weekend of live performances and shows.

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