Toronto is our hometown and as much as we like to travel the globe, there really isn’t any place like home. We’ve been watching it grow in the last little while and are so happy that the world is finally starting to pay attention to our little big city that could.
As of late, with the development of our downtown core, we have gone from one five star hotel to (almost) five! The restaurant scene is growing and getting more interesting by the month and we’re finally starting to see some interesting fashion wash up on our shores.
Here are some of our rotating favorites, some new some old classics but all worth the visit.
The Ritz Carlton:
Swank, sumptuous and welcoming all at the same time. The beds make you feel like you never want to leave and the view on most floors is out of this world. Plus the spa is beyond (see more in Spas)
Funky and fun with a pool bar on the roof and a nightclub in the basement – this King St West version of the popular boutique chain is the party crowd’s go to.
With two locations in Toronto, this Canadian brand of hotels is warm and sexy, with dark rooms and snuggle worthy beds.
No affiliation to Toronto’s favorite rapper (although some of their promo might have you thinking different) this epicenter of fun is good for a wild weekend. They have an excellent rooftop bar that’s open year round and host a number of fun themed events like Game night featuring Drake Trivia and Plingo.
Only the second of its kind in Canada, this hotel is so much more than a place to rest your head. Home to Momofuko, an outstanding spa, the rocking-est lobby bar (that also serves delectable High Tea) The Shangri-la is quickly becoming the most desirable address in Toronto.
It was this little boutique hotel that was the game changer in Toronto. The Hazelton brought 5 stars back to Hogtown and made all other hotels dust off those plans to renovate. Located in the heart of Yorkville, The Hazelton is known for it’s sumptuous rooms, celebrity clientele and decadent room service – provided by One restaurant (which is one of our Faves in the restaurant department)
Delta Chelsea (Near ACC)
In Toronto we’ve become pretty spoiled with great restaurants. Whether it’s ethnic, fancy or just fun, we’ve got you covered. As with all of our lists, this one is compiled of our faves, which may or may not end up being the hottest tickets in town, but they’re certainly our go-to’s.
Located in a 2-storey Victorian house in the heart of Yorkville with a beautiful back patio, Bar Reyna is a Mediterranean snack and cocktail bar where guests enjoy a comfortable, convivial atmosphere, small bites, shareable plates and great cocktails
Café Boulud is Chef Daniel Boulud’s French Brasserie located in the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, Toronto. The restaurant serves a seasonally changing menu rooted in French tradition, highlighting both bistro classics and contemporary dishes inspired by Chef Daniel’s family meals in Lyon
Lavelle is a rooftop destination where guests can stay, play, dine and celebrate. Sitting 16 stories above King West, Lavelle’s 16,000 square foot venue offers scenic cityscape views for guests to enjoy while dining in the restaurant, taking a dip in the pool or having a cocktail in the lounge. Lavelle is open seven days a week, serving French cuisine with global influences by chef Romain Avril for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch.
Both owned and operated by Mark McEwan, recently of Canada’s Top Chef Fame. One has an amazing Patio in the summer and sits smack dab in the center of Toronto’s tawny neighborhood of Yorkville. Bymark is more for the business crowd but we’ve never had a bad meal there and the service is always perfect.
Great room and an interesting twist on Italian food.
Pizza Libretto on Ossington:
This bustling pizza restaurant is almost always packed (and doesn’t take reservations at this location) but the pizza is delish and if you leave your number with the hostess they will call you when you’re table comes up – leaving you the freedom to grab a drink at one of the many spots on Ossington St
416 Snack Bar:
We’re totally obsessed. 416 is our go-to meet up spot. Although not the place to go looking for a four-course meal, but if you want a bite of some tasty treats (the pork bun and the mini-mac are TDF!) with a good vibe and great drinks, this is your spot.
So so so yummy! One of the four restaurants that make up the Momofuku group, Daisho is a go-to steak house located next to the Shangri-La. Incredibly delicious, perfectly scene-y with a beautiful view to boot!
One of the best vegetarian restaurants I have been to! The food and the atmosphere are great. Located at Bay and Bloor, you are minutes away from everything.
We’ve all travelled quite a bit, and we all agree that our Chinese food scene rivals most cities. There are too many to list but make sure to stop by Mother’s Dumplings, New Ho King and Rol San. Note: most are open late – late night, which somehow makes it taste even better…
BUCA: (ALL LOCATIONS)
It’s All Greek:
Pho Rua Vang Golden Turtle:
located on what some like to call The Mink Mile, this French bistro mostly sits on a perch just above Toronto’s most expensive retail street. The food is everything you expect at a bistro, but the beauty of the room makes it just that much more enjoyable.
Aunties & Uncles:
simple and quaint, this just-off-college staple has been satisfying the people of Toronto for years. Plus after you can take a stroll along our version of Little Italy
The Beast Restaurant:
Tucked away in the heart of Queen West on Tecumseth, The Beast restaurant is one of the those yummy brunch places that you’ll want to keep going to over and over and over again. The food is delicious and the coffee to die for. Make sure you get there early enough before they run out of their donuts, they are amazing!
Cafe le Gaffe:
Located on the quaint Baldwin St, Café le Gaffe is always a treat with a cool vibe and delicious brunch.
If you find yourself venturing to the east end of the city and are looking for brunch this is your spot. With a big focus on organic ingredients and a nice Mexican influence there’s tons to pick from to leave you full for hours.
Colette Grande Café
TOCA (Ritz Carlton)
What a bagel
Rose and Sons
Gilead Café & Wine Bar
In Toronto we make shopping pretty simple with intensified pockets of cool stores. Here are our go-to areas with some highlighted shops:
Want les essentiels de la vie http://www.wantessentiels.com/ca_en/
Paper Place http://www.thepaperplace.ca
Type Books http://www.typebooks.ca
Queen West and West-West:
You can start your walk at the main downtown mall, The Eaton Centre – where you should be sure to check out The Room at The Bay – and continue along Queen where you’ll find a continuation of all of the major big box stores (Zara, H&M etc.) But if you continue along west of Bathurst you’ll find a stretch of independent stores like Charlie, Guns & Glamour, Nomad and JacFlash which are all faves.
Guns N Glamour http://www.gunsnglamour.com
Which is really just an extension of the Queen West-West area, but not to be missed. There are a handful of vintage stores like I Miss You and a great shop called Jonathan + Olivia that aren’t to be missed. Plus you can take a shopping break and grab some yummy Pho while you’re there.
Jonathan and Olivia http://jonathanandolivia.com
As previously mentioned, this area was dubbed by we-aren’t-sure-whom, as the Mink Mile, which really just means that it’s expensive. With everything from Louis to Chanel this is your spot if you’re looking to shop in the big leagues. Holt Renfrew is our high-end department store and can be found on Bloor (check out the Café right off of the women’s shoe salon, they have the yummiest tartines). 119 Corbo, TNT, Intermix, Raq and Anthropology are all worth a visit.
Holt Renfrew http://www.holtrenfrew.com
Louis Vuitton http://ca.louisvuitton.com
119 Corbo http://119corbo.com
TNT Fashion http://tntfashion.ca
although stuff up here is a little more spread out I wouldn’t want you to miss two shops that I can’t live with out: Narwhal & 6.
The Narwhal http://www.narwhalboutique.com
If you’re into vintage shopping and exploring, Kensington is the place to be. Check out some army surplus, sniff some incense and grab a freshly fried Churro on your adventure. Sundays are the best day to visit.
St Lawrence Market:
Opened in 1803, this historic location is packed with interesting foods and gifts. Take a walking tour or explore on your own. And if you’re in town over a weekend you can check out the Farmers Market from 5am-3pm on Saturday and the Antique Market on Sunday.
you can see it from pretty much everywhere in Toronto, but if you really want to, take a ride up to the top. It sits right beside the Rogers Centre (previously the Sky Dome) home to the Blue Jays, so if you’re in town in the summer you can also catch a game.
or Royal Ontario Museum is our main museum that houses artifacts and many travelling exhibitions. Check out their website to see what they’re showing while you’re in town
The Art Gallery of Ontario was recently renovated – designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. The building alone is an interesting form to behold. Once inside you can view the masterworks of our Group of Seven and also check out whatever the gallery is showing at the time.
– Nathan Philips Square and Harborfront both offer skating in the winter with rental skates available.
in the summer, Harborfront also hosts a ton of performers, the International Food Pavilion and fun activities like dancing on the Pier and movies under the stars.
– rent Bixi bikes and ride along the waterfront to The Beach area where you can grab a bite, lounge or play a game of pick up volleyball.
We have quite a few pretty parks in the city perfect for picnics and lazy afternoons, here are some of my faves: Edwards Gardens, Allan Gardens and Trinity Bellwoods.
High Park http://www.highparktoronto.com
http://www.studiolagree.com (PLEASE ADD LINK)
Play Ping-Pong AND get a little boozy, I’m in. The perfect spot for those of us who want to go out for a night on the town but aren’t feeling like the dance club vibe.
if you like to sip your cocktail and enjoy great presentation, the mixologists at Barchef serve up some of the best. This is certainly not the spot to ask for a vodka cranberry.
Fun on the inside, gorgeous when you’re outside. Maison is a pretty big nightclub without the mega club vibe and the patio is breathtaking.
Dance the night away in this small hideaway atop Nyood restaurant.
Dim Sum stand, creative cocktails, back patio with Christmas lights – fantastic.
cozy with sumptuous cocktails. Sip on anything from pisco sours to traditional daiquiris and nibble on a delicious cheese plate why swaying to some sweet jazz. You might just feel like you’ve been transported back in time – and you won’t have to blame it all on the alcohol 😉
Bar hop on Ossington:
from Karaoke to a tequila emporium, you will certainly find a way to get yourself into quite a bit of good old fashion trouble on this street. The Communist’s Daughter and Dakota Tavern are both great spots that shouldn’t be missed!
not a pub or a bar, but something in between. Good spot to meet up with friends before checking out everything else Queen West has to offer.
if you’re in Toronto on a Saturday and would rather be in Vegas, head to Muzik and be transported. They also recently started a Sunday ‘beach party’ that goes from day to night and is the place to be!
416 Snack Bar
Lost & Found
Dog & Bear (Queen)
Escobar (at the back of Valdez)
Union (On Sundays)
[travelribbon]Late Night Places to Eat: [/travelribbon]
The Big Slice:
Chinatown – New Ho King:
Dim Sum – Royal
– great coffee and beautiful gifts and things for the home, this quaint little spot will draw you in and keep you coming back for more.
Advice From A Caterpillar:
one of the cutest baby stores ever. Inspired by the shops in Paris, this little gem outfits all of Toronto’s most fashionable babies and has the sweetest gifts for the little girls and boys in your life.
[travelribbon]Spas & Beauty Bars:[/travelribbon]
this mecca for the downtown-girl-about-town will have you coifed, fluffed, buffed and fuzz free quickly, professionally and without fuss. (Plus they have THE fastest Brazilian in town 😉 Ask for Heather.
the epitome of uptown style, Gee beauty is a breathtaking space that gives you a good energy hug the minute you walk through the doors. Stocking some of the most sought after beauty and lifestyle products (curated by the famed Gee girls) and providing the best eye brow thread in the city, I never leave their empty handed, but always feeling gorgeous. P.S. 6 is right next-door!
walking into the Ritz Spa, you have no choice but to leave your worries at the door and enter this world of Zen. Fantastic service, beautiful amenities and a facial that will leave you glowing, The Ritz is a perfect place to get centered and refreshed.
Get transported to another world and hand yourself over to the relaxation experts at this stunning spa. With an authentic Hammam and treatments that will leave you feeling brand spanking new, this spot is the perfect place to unwind.
Bad hair day and not enough time? Blo’s many locations in the city provide 30 minutes blow outs for just over $30!
[travelribbon]What to pack:[/travelribbon]
Depending on the time of year, Toronto can be hot or cold or anything in between. Check your local weather report before loading up your suitcase. Although Toronto isn’t world famous for it’s fashion scene, we certainly try. So depending what your plans are, feel free to wear what you would in your hometown. We might even ask you where you got it.
[travelribbon]A Day In Toronto:[/travelribbon]
If you’re here on a Saturday (and didn’t stay out too late the night before) head over to St Lawrence Market to check out the Farmers Market bright and early. Farmers come from all over Ontario to sell their goods and there’s always something exciting to see. Grab something to eat at the market or head to Origin or Le Petite Dejeuner for some breakfast/brunch.
Walk south and further east until you arrive at The Distillery District. A historical site that was reimagined 10 years ago. The Distillery is a collection of refurbished warehouse buildings that now play host to quaint shops, galleries and restaurants. Grab a coffee, stroll around and be sure to get a picture beside the amazing Koilos sculpture by Michael Christian.
Walking further south you’ll find yourself at Toronto’s Waterfront. While still being renovated, there are many cool spots to stop off at along the way like Sugar Beach and The Harborfront Center. The CN Tower is just a little bit North-East but if you continue walking you won’t miss it, being that it is the world’s second tallest free standing structure.
Hungry? Jump in a cab or hop on the TTC (the public transit) and head over to Kensington Market where you can not only shop, but revel in our city’s multiculturalism by sampling some of the many different types of food. Kensington also lies right in the heart of Chinatown – so Dim Sum or just some good old fashion noodles are always a great idea.
Still haven’t done enough shopping? Head south to Queen West/West where you can check out some cool independent stores and drink some great coffee at Dark Horse.
If by now you’re pooped, grab some fresh macaroons at Nadege and have a lie on the grass at Trinity Bellwoods.
Once you’ve refreshed and are ready for the night, grab a pre-drink at Cocktail. Head over to Pizza Libretto and leave your name with the host for a table and then dash across the street to Communist Daughter for a bevvie or 3.
Once you’ve eaten head to Barchef for a crazy cocktail and if you’re just about ready to party, shimmy on down to Maison or Muzik to dance until the wee hours.
If you’re hungry from all of that hard work on the dance floor head back to Chinatown or over to 7 West for a late night feast.