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Exploring Toronto’s Neighbourhoods

Nathan Phillips Square at night

Toronto is the perfect city to explore on foot. Each neighbourhood or District has its own distinct feel and they are all easily accessible from each other. There is of course a metro with links to all parts of the city, but personally, I feel that you can get a better feel of a city on foot. Here’s a snapshot of some of Toronto’s popular areas:

Old Town

Old Town is made up of 6 areas; St Lawrence Market neighbourhood, Historic Queens East, Cork Town, Town of York, Distillery District and Kings East Design District and as the name suggests is the oldest district in Toronto. The whole area is full of old buildings and grand architecture, but the main spots in Old Town, I’ve listed below.

Named Corktown due to Irish settlers in the 1800’s, this area is full of cafes and quirky shops. Grab a coffee and take a stroll through the Victorian lanes.

The Distillery District is a pedestrian only village, dedicated to the arts, culture and entertainment. Founded in 1832, the distillery became the largest in the British empire, but today the cobbled streets that make up this village are full of galleries, shops and cafes.

The largest neighbourhood in Old Town, the St Lawrence Market Neighbourhood is home to the St Lawrence Market Complex – a large indoor market with over 120 vendors. This is a great place to grab some tasty street food! This neighbourhood is also full of beautiful architecture and is host to many outdoor events and festivals in the summer months.

Distillery District and St Lawrence Market

The Entertainment District & Waterfront

Positioned on the Harbour front, the entertainment district is home to the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, Canada’s walk of fame as well as two sporting complex’s – the Scotiabank Arena, home to the Toronto Maple Leaf’s Hockey team and the Rogers Centre, which is home to the Toronto Blue Jay’s baseball team. Both arena’s hold numerous events such as concerts, conventions and monster truck shows.

There’s an abundance of restaurants and hotels in this area, and along the waterfront, with plenty of places to sit outside, have a drink and watch the world go by. There’s also the Harbourfront square park and HTO park, which also has a small beach for those warm, sunny days.

Taking a break on the waterfront, overlooked by the CN Tower

Chinatown & Kensington Market

Kensington Market is a wonderfully diverse street market which celebrates Carribean, Latin American, European and Vietnamese culture, brought to the city by immigrants. The market and surrounding area is a lively mix of restaurants, cafes, vintage clothing shops and market stalls.

Just south of Kensington Market is Chinatown, the perfect place to immerse yourself in Asian Culture and cuisine.

Also in the neighbourhood is the Art Gallery of Ontario, which is one of the largest most popular art galleries in North America.

The vibrant streets of Kensington Market and Chinatown

Toronto Islands

The Toronto Islands are a collection of 13 small islands in Lake Ontario connected by bridges and pathways, but the primary islands for visitors are Centre Island, Wards Island and Hanlan Point, all of which can be easily reached from downtown Toronto by a quick ferry ride.

The islands are a great way to get out of the city for the day or a couple of hours, and are easy to explore on foot or by hiring bikes. There’s also several swimming beaches, and places to rent boats, canoes and kayaks as well as many restaurants and fast food outlets.

Looking across Lake Ontario at Toronto’s skyline from Centre Island

Centre island is the most popular island and there are more frequent boats here from the mainland. Centre Island is popular with families due to the Centreville amusement park and Franklin’s Childrens gardens. But big kids can have fun here too, with plenty of picnic spots, sandy beaches and a large pier.

Wards Island is the residential island and as there are no tourist attractions on this island, it is not very busy. But we enjoyed walking round this island, particularly along the Boardwalk on the South of the island, which has a great view onto Lake Ontario.

Hanlan’s Point is much quieter and greener than both the Centre and Wards Islands and boasts an outdoor baseball round, tennis courts and volleyball courts as well as numerous beaches and picnic spots, as well as the Gibraltar Point lighthouse

Enjoying the beaches and parks in Toronto Islands

Downtown Toronto

In the centre of Downtown Toronto is Yonge Street. Starting in Old Town at Front Street West by the Hockey Hall of Fame and travelling North towards Bloor Street in Yorkville, Yonge Street is the bustling hub of city life. Well known designer and high street shops line the street, as well as in the Eaton Centre mall. Across from the Eaton Centre Mall is the Yonge-Dundas square – here there is often outside events and entertainment such as concerts and markets.

Yonge Street and the Yonge-Dundas square

Another popular square in the downtown area is the Nathan Phillips square in front of the Toronto Public library. Nathan Phillips square is home to the 3D Toronto sign and fountain, so perfect for those instagram snaps! Aside from that, it is a nice place to sit and enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by. We often stopped here to have a rest after hours of walking around the city!

Another pit stop in Nathan Phillips square after hours of walking!

For my list of recommendations for things to do whilst in Toronto, click here.

My Two week Canadian road trip

Two weeks is not a lot of time to see Canada but I managed to squeeze in three main destinations in my two week road trip. See my itinerary for two weeks in Canada, travelling from Toronto to Banff and then onto Vancouver.

All links on this website are my own recommendations or sites I found useful when planning and are not affiliated. I do not receive any commission from including these links within this blog.


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