The Perfect Day in Toronto

A day is not enough, but to find the essence of Toronto, you must eat (so much great food, so many cuisines!), walk (parks like Trinity Bellwoods and cool neighborhoods like the Distillery District), admire art (AGO, the Bata Shoe Museum), and visit a public market. Don’t forget cocktails and shopping.

Kensington Ave, Toronto, ON M5T 2K2, Canada
A trip to Toronto without a visit to Kensington Market doesn’t make any sense. Despite its diminutive size, this neighborhood packs plenty of activity within its boundaries. Arrive hungry: Restaurants and cafés dish out bites like tapas, poke, Salvadoran pupusas, Tibetan momos, and Ojibway-style fry-bread tacos. Secondhand shops are so plentiful that vintage fans will think they hit the jackpot, especially while browsing at standout shops Exile and Courage My Love. In warmer months, pedestrians crowd the streets, wandering from comic-book store to restaurant to art gallery all weekend long. The park at Bellevue Square is getting a much-needed makeover that will, when complete, add even more allure to this busy community.
301 Front St W, Toronto, ON M5V 2T6, Canada
Since it was built back in 1976, the CN Tower has topped the must-visit list of most Toronto tourists. Until recently, a visit was pretty standard; hop in elevator, shoot up to the observation deck, and ogle the city from a hawk’s vantage point. While this was certainly fine and enjoyable, the since-developed EdgeWalk experience has ramped up the Tower’s bucket-list potential. Thrill-seekers can now do a hands-free, breezy circumnavigation of the tower’s roof, up at 1,168 feet. And, yes, they do perform sky-high weddings complete with elasticized rings and special attire for the big day.
317 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M5T 1G4, Canada
Frank Gehry was born in Toronto, but his dramatic 2008 renovation and expansion of this Beaux-Arts museum was his first Canadian commission. He first discovered art on childhood visits to its vast collection, which spans the world. Now the museum features a restaurant, Frank, in his honor. —Charlene Rooke Art Gallery of Ontario. 317 Dundas St. W., (416) 979- 6648.
790 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1G3, Canada
The moment the snow melts, young Torontonians begin their annual spring migration to Trinity Bellwoods Park. The hippest park in town, Bellwoods stretches from the shopper’s paradise of Queen West up to central Dundas Street. On a summer’s day, sun-and-fun seekers spread out on beach blankets to watch the action: at the dog run, on the tennis courts, in the kiddie pool, and even closer, on the adjacent blankets. After dark, head to nearby Bellwoods Brewery for a pint.
327 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S 1W7, Canada
The Bata Shoe Museum is dedicated to the history of footwear through the ages. And what a spectacular history! After one visit, you’ll be able to distinguish Rajasthani mojaris from chopines, the platform shoes worn by 16th-century Spanish and Italian society ladies. Consider this training for trivia competitions. The museum’s impressive collection of more than 13,000 shoes and footwear-related objects is leveraged across four exhibits: fashion, practicality, shoemaking, and finally the footwear of Arctic dwellers. The museum also offers design workshops, family activities, movie nights, and more.
The Distillery District, Toronto, ON M5A, Canada
It doesn’t take long for a visitor to realize that most of Toronto‘s activities focus around eating and drinking. A visitor may also notice the stark architecture that competes for space in the sky. Many of Toronto‘s older buildings aren’t showcased like in Vancouver or Quebec City and are hidden in the towering shadows. It was a relief to discover Toronto’s Distillery District with the use of my app, which also helped me weave myself from my Westin Harbour Castle Hotel to unique Toronto spots highlighted on At the Distillery District within these reclaimed industrial buildings, you’ll find vintage shops, many patios serving beer and wine in the sun, and specialty stores featuring chocolate, coffee, housewares and even a leather-shaped rhino that can be used as a stool or makeshift desk. Each building also has the year it was built written on a plaque hung on the exterior and an explanation of what the building’s original purpose was. Wander around or go for a distillery tour. Be sure to walk in any door you’re unsure of; you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
505 College St, Toronto, ON M6J 2J3, Canada
Bar Raval looks ordinary from the outside, but inside, the sinuous lines of the floor-to-ceiling mahogany woodwork—bar, walls, window frames—instantly bring Gaudí to mind. Created to mimic the spirit of Barcelona’s pintxos bars (in addition to the Catalonian influence of the decor, platters of food are laid out on the bar, as is the Basque pintxos tradition), the space is often packed. In the mornings, patrons sip lattes and enjoy doughnuts finished with a lick of chocolate and spiced hazelnut.
1191 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1X3, Canada
In Portuguese, saudade is yearning for something that once was. And at Saudade, a lifestyle store smack in the center of Toronto’s Little Portugal neighborhood, the goal is to make the customer yearn for the old country (or wish a country as cool as Portugal were their old country). White walls provide the backdrop for a variety of handmade crafts and Portuguese products. Wrapped soaps from Porto, vividly colored ceramic pitchers, handbags basket-woven in rainbow hues, painted serving platters, and wooden racks displaying gorgeous textiles of cotton and wool fill the shop.
2959 Dundas St W, Toronto, ON M6P 1Z2, Canada
Design fans fond of minimalism and Marie Kondo can add another M to their repertoire: Mjölk. Swedish for “milk"—and pronounced mi-yelk—this lifestyle shop and gallery is all about simple beauty. Housed in a Victorian building in the Junction neighborhood, Mjölk brings Scandinavian and Japanese artists and artisans under one roof, offering everything from a Shaker-style peg rack to a silver sugar bowl to a rust-colored Arne Jacobson sofa. In addition to showcasing noted names, John and Juli Baker, the husband-and-wife team behind the business, have funneled their expertise into locally produced design collaborations.
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