Toronto is akin to a teenager: energetic, fickle and unwieldy at times. But while Canada’s largest city may suffer from the odd growing pain, it’s transforming in beguiling ways. Since its founding, waves of immigrants from around the world have flocked here; today more than half of its 2.7 million residents were born elsewhere. This diversity reveals itself in a thrilling mix of restaurants, hotels, cocktail bars, independent clothing shops and much more.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Village people: Toronto has 140 official neighbourhoods but in practice there are hundreds more. Torontonians often refer to streets as districts and have a penchant for colloquial names.
  2. Get your skates on: Few things bring Canadians together quite like ice hockey. Its players are national treasures and victories become part of the country’s psyche. The regular season runs from October to April.
  3. The party’s over: Torontonians often feel more engaged with the politics of their city than their nation. The city operates a “weak mayor/strong council” system, which means the gurehead cannot rule by decree.
  4. Service not included: Like US cities, Toronto is a town where tipping is essential. The minimum is usually 15 per cent of the total cost of a meal.
  5. Last orders: Bars and clubs are required to stop serving alcohol at 02.00. Most Torontonians are happy heading home after the call for last drinks; those who want to party on head to after-hours (but dry) clubs.

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Hotels

Hospitality at its finest

  1. The Drake Hotel, West Queen West

    Creative hub

    The Drake has been drawing visitors and residents to the city’s west end since it opened. It has a full programme of events, ranging from yoga workouts to trivia nights and gigs.

  2. Shangri-La, Entertainment District

    Glass-and-marble getaway

    The interior is thoughtfully designed, with accents of Italian white marble in the bathrooms and lithographic works by Wang Xu Yuan on the walls.

  3. The Hazelton, Yorkville

    Former folk focus

    This boutique hotel is located on the site of the Riverboat Coffee House, where Neil Young and other folk legends performed in the 1960s.

Vocabulary

Local lingo

  1. Eh: Most Canadians punctuate their questions with this clipped syllable
  2. T’rono: No native would be caught dead enunciating the second “t”
  3. Touque: A beanie (hat)
  4. Double-double: Coffee with two creams and two sugars

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. The Federal, Little Portugal

    This low-key venue is open for brunch and dinner but no matter the time, diners clamour for its famous burger: Four Guys. It’s all in the technique: a ball of freshly ground beef is flattened with a steak press, sealing in the juices and creating a rich brown crust.

  2. Union, Trinity Bellwoods

    French fare

    At Union, a rustic-chic take on a Parisian bistro, ingredients for favourites that include the Union Salad and steak tartare are sourced from nearby farmers.

  3. Sud Forno, Trinity Bellwoods

    Idyllic Italian

    Sud Forno features an Italian-style bakery on its groundfloor, offering takeaway options and fine imported produce; upstairs is a long table for communal dining. Try the Pizza Cosí with porcini mushrooms and prosciutto di parma.

  4. Kinka Izakaya, Church and Wellesley

    Share nicely

    Kinka Izakaya’s first location introduced Japanese tapas-style dining to Toronto in 2009. The innovative menu of sharing plates – including indulgent deep-fried brie – fuses modern and traditional cooking methods.

  5. Midfield Wine Bar & Tavern, Little Portugal

    Best cellar

    This pared-back bar is home to one of the city’s most extensive wine lists. Its cellars are fully stocked with a bias towards vintages from heritage vineyards and smaller boutique wineries around the world.

Retail

Shop talk

  1. Souvenir, Little Portugal

    Stripped-back showcase

    Now in a permanent location, Souvenir has a fervent following thanks to the pop-ups previously operated by owner Danielle Suppa. The whitewashed interior is a deliberately blank canvas on which to show products.

  2. Monocle Shop, Little Italy

    Drop in to our place

    Our Canadian home follows the same shopbureau format as our outposts in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore. Observe our team members as they busy themselves with stories for forthcoming issues ( do feel free to drop in with any tip-offs) and browse the full range of products and collaborations with our favourite partners.

  3. Type, Trinity Bellwoods

    Tome capsule

    Type Books is one of the city’s most beloved indie bookshops. It has a warm living-room feel and the shop’s friendly staff – many of them writers and artists – are accessible and helpful.

  4. Want Apothecary, Rosedale

    Form and function

    Want Apothecary was co-founded by twins Byron and Dexter Peart, the designers behind Montréal-based accessories brand Want Les Essentiels de la Vie. “Our products and solutions will always respond to the modern traveller’s needs,” says Byron.

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