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Overview to Toronto: Travel Guide and Tourist Information

The View from Lake Ontario

Much like the rest of Canada, Toronto is clean, pleasant and, compared to many big cities, overwhelmingly friendly. But it’s also a properly vibrant, cosmopolitan place: a metropolis of wonderfully varied neighborhoods and all manner of cultural life.

Running through the heart of the Downtown area, Queen Street West is one of the city’s most appealing thoroughfares. While it's not as bohemian as it once was, its eastern end still has some excellent secondhand shops and West Queen W retains some of its alternative edge.

Out to the east of the city center, the St Lawrence district is one of the parts least affected by the great fire that wracked the city in 1904. Here the St Lawrence Market (on Front St East) is a fabulous place to pick up fresh produce, or just wander among the stalls.

And St Lawrence isn’t the only market in the city. Toronto’s lifeblood is small independent shops and stalls: Kensington Market is a melting pot of cultures, whilst Little Portugal and Little Italy are bustling neighborhoods that have a unique and vital feel.

Beyond St Lawrence to the east lies the up-and-coming Distillery District. Still further to the east, the smart suburb of the Beaches is made up of a cluster of fashionable shops on Queen St East and pleasant urban beaches perfect for catching some rays in the summer.

Up Yonge St (one of the main arteries), Uptown Toronto spreads out from the university and Queen’s Park. And with Little Italy to the east, the Gay Village to the west and the swanky boutique and cafés of Yorkville to the north, it’s no less engaging than Downtown.

Subterranean shopping arcades (an insurance policy against the bitterly cold winters) lie under the ground from Dundas St to Union St. Above ground, the city’s large Chinatown quarter - a noisy, heaving mass of colorful stores and restaurants - stretches away.

Dotted throughout Toronto’s many appealing districts are a rash of fine galleries and museums, as well as the iconic CN Tower (until recently the world’s tallest free standing structure), the excellent Toronto Zoo and the Old York Fort (out to the west).

Of the many cultural attractions, the Royal Ontario Museum, adjacent Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art and the Art Gallery of Ontario (near Grange Park) stand out. Every September, meanwhile, the Toronto International Film Festival is a highlight of the city’s full events calendar.

To get away from the bustle of urban life, a short ferry trip out on Lake Ontario to the Toronto Islands is a must. Then, of course, there’s the nearby Niagara Falls and the rest of Canada’s ravishing wilderness stretching away interminably to the north...

Toronto’s great strength is that, although it’s the largest city in Canada, it never feels impersonal or faceless. It’s a city of small shops and markets, of galleries and genuine cultural impetus; in short, an independent city perfect for independent travelers.

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