Taking in the city from the CN Tower
The last time I was in Toronto was two decades ago when my parents took us on a family holiday to Niagara Falls shortly after we moved to Canada. I remember being drenched in my raincoat under the falls and the thrill of knowing I was in a place where everything seemed new and exciting. It was wonderful to be back and experience the city as an adult, this time accompanied by my camera.
Toronto was fast-paced, it was cold, grey and diverse. I stayed in the heart of downtown where high rises loomed like giraffes and everyone seemed like they had a place to go. The city felt a little overwhelming for a newcomer but the temptation to explore was far too great to keep me at home. I loved the excitement of knowing there was so much to see and enjoyed discovering the pockets of peace and quiet in a bustling city.
Here are a few of my favorite places:
1. Baddies Cafe
The story behind Baddies is that Alex (the owner) found himself with the space after his dad passed away without realizing his dream of opening a cafe. Needless to say, that was exactly what Alex did. The words "You Beauty" written on the walls are favorite quotes from his dad, whom you can find in photographs on the cafe walls. The chia pudding tasted as delicious as it looked and the smashed avocado on polenta with chili jam reminded me of India and all that is well in the world.
2. The Drake Hotel
I have always been a fan of The Drake General Store and was extra excited to visit the hotel known for brunch and quirky interiors. The chicken and waffles were delicious and meant to be shared with at least two friends.
3. Art Gallery of Ontario
The AGO was by far my favorite place in the city with it's an abundance of exhibitions, the beautiful space designed by architect Frank Gehry with a little cafe to sit and watch the city go by. If you are an art nerd like me don't miss out on the AGO.
4. Aga Khan Museum
I could have spent an entire day at the Aga Khan marveling at the architecture and reading books on Persian folklore in the museum library. I am always amazed by the intricacy of middle eastern art and the space is beautiful with a great curation of artifacts and modern Islamic and Persian Art. The museum is a trip out of the city but definitely worth the trip.
5. Sugar Beach
I am in love with the water and look for it wherever I go. Here I found a peaceful corner of Toronto and stood here taking in the sunset, beautiful even in the cold of winter. I can imagine coming here often in the summer.
6. University of Toronto
The interiors of the Trinity Chapel was what drew me to this location. There is so much history about the campus grounds and the university felt like another city to explore in itself. The campus is best to walk around with a local friend.
7. CN Tower
If it's your first time visiting Toronto I recommend checking out the cityscape and nearby islands from 180 floors up in the sky. The view is breathtaking and the CN Tower is next to the Aquarium which makes it a great outing for families and children.
8. Ripley's Aquarium
If you love sea animals and fish Ripley's is your ideal place to visit. The stingray tank was like a giant lake and I loved the underwater tunnel and interactive areas where you get to pet sleeping sharks and hold tiny shrimp.
A minimalistic boutique shop and studio on College Street run by Danielle. An inspiring place for the creative. The area reminded me so much of New York and here I found familiar brands from Vancouver and a beautiful curation of gifts and souvenirs. Queen Street is also a lovely place with shops like Old Faithful, Warby Parker, and countless boutiques. My favorite concept lifestyle store Mjolk Shop is just a little further away.
10. The Hazelton Hotel
If you're looking for a restful night at boutique hotel in Toronto, this is it. I spent an evening at the Hazelton with my sister and had a restful time. The neighborhood is beautiful though I have to say nothing beat the blueberry pancakes that arrived in the morning. The staff was very personal which made it a great stay.
Other than that, Ossington, Koreatown, and The Distillery District were places I wish I had more time to explore. The diversity of Toronto is amazing and despite being fast-paced, everyone seems very willing to stop and point travelers in the right direction. I felt tiny in the city but found comfort in discovering areas that reminded me of home and connecting with an array of interesting people. I hope to be back again.
Till next time, Toronto.
Story and photography created in partnership with Tourism Toronto.