Where diversity meets and a wealth of arts, culture and nightlight, a mix of people from all cultures welcomes the visitor to Toronto, Canada's largest city. Toronto's multicultural mosaic never stops evolving.
Toronto is the largest city in Canada and the provincial capital of Ontario, located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. As Canada's economic capital, it is considered a global city and is one of the top financial centres. Leading economic sectors include finance, business services, telecommunications, aerospace, transportation, media, arts, film, television production, publishing, software production, medical research, education, tourism and sports industries.
Toronto's population is cosmopolitan and international, reflecting its role as an important destination for immigrants to Canada, one of the world's most diverse cities by percentage of non-native-born residents, as about 49% of the population were born outside of Canada. Because of the city's low crime rates, clean environment, high standard of living, and friendly attitude to diversity, Toronto is consistently rated as one of the world's most livable cities. Residents of Toronto are called Torontonians.
The production of domestic and foreign film and television is a major local industry. Many movie releases are screened in Toronto before wider release in North America. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the most important annual events for the international film industry. Toronto hosts more festivals than anywhere in the world! The Dragon Boat Race, Symphony of Fire and the CHIN International Picnic just to name a few. Toronto's Caribana festival takes place from mid-July to early August of every summer, and is one of North America's largest street festivals, based on the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival, the first Caribana took place in 1967 when the city's Caribbean community celebrated Canada's Centennial year, forty years later, it has grown to attract one million people to Toronto's Lake Shore Boulevard annually. Pride Week in Toronto takes place in late June, and is one of the largest LGBT festivals in the world. One of the largest events in the city, it attracts more than one million people from around the world, the gay village is located in the Church and Wellesley area of Downtown. The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is held annually at Exhibition Place, and it is the oldest annual fair in the world and the fifth largest in North America. Canada's Wonderland, a big theme park located 30 kilometers north of downtown Toronto is considered one of North America's premier amusement parks, with more than 200 attractions, open from May to October.
Its museums and galleries are among the best in the North America, this meeting place of diverse cultures ensures visitors will be spoiled with an international choice of food and restaurants. There is lots to do in Toronto depending on the time of year you visit. United from all over the world, communities celebrate their origins with festivals and traditions from many backgrounds, Portuguese and Italian being present almost all year round. Toronto is a vibrant city that can't be missed and am sure that anyone that visits will certainly leave delighted to see culture is celebrated by all that have made Toronto their home.
Toronto is an under-rated city of world class quality. Having traveled to many places every return visit to Toronto reminds me of the uniqueness of the city. This city is made for walking to explore its neighbourhood, outdoor patios in the summer just add to the 'outside living' lifestyle of Torontonians, after a long winter indoors there is no better place than the beach, park, back yard BBQ and beer.
The city celebrated its 175th birthday in 2009, I decided to look into the city's past and found archives that really show how it has grown so much. Even for me just seeing the development and growth over the last 8 years has been overwhelming and encouraging. If your a Torontonian, be sure to check the Toronto Archives for photos from 1856 of your neighbourhood and streets, a fascinating look into the cities past.
Being gone as long as I have, I can truly admit that this is a city I love.
Video of Toronto Canada 2010 © Joe Mendonca
The many residential communities of Toronto express a character distinct from that of the skyscrapers in the commercial core. Victorian and Edwardian-era residential buildings can be found in enclaves such as Rosedale, Cabbagetown, The Annex, and Yorkville. Wychwood Park is historically significant for the architecture of its homes, and for being one of Toronto's earliest planned communities, designated as an Ontario Heritage Conservation district in 1985. The Casa Loma neighbourhood is named after Casa Loma, a storybook castle built in 1911 complete with stunning gardens, multiple turrets, massive stables, an elevator, secret passages, and bowling alleys.
Toronto's most prominent landmark is the CN Tower, which stood as the tallest free-standing land structure in the world at 553 metres (1,814 ft), and the tower held the world record for over 30 years. You can ride a glass elevator to the top. The view is incredible and there is a glass floor, which for some is very scary to walk on. There is also a revolving restaurant which offers spectacular views as the sun sets over the city. Other landmarks include Toronto City Hall, two buildings forming a semi-circle (from the sky it forms the shape of an eye looking upwards) overlooking Nathan Phillips square, which has a popular skating rink in the winter, and next door to Old City Hall (currently the court house) which has a more classical architecture. The Rogers Centre, formerly known as SkyDome, is a multi-purpose stadium, situated next to the CN Tower near the shores of Lake Ontario. Originally opened in 1989, it is home to the American League's Toronto Blue Jays, the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. While it is primarily a sports venue, it also hosts other large-scale events such as conventions, trade fairs, concerts, funfairs, and monster truck shows. The venue was noted for being the first stadium to have a fully-retractable motorized roof, as well as for the 348-room hotel attached to it, with 70 rooms overlooking the field. Soon after its opening, the stadium became a popular venue for large scale rock concerts and is the largest indoor concert venue in Toronto. The stadium will be the centrepiece of the 2015 Pan American Games as the site of the opening and closing ceremonies.
The Old City of Toronto covers the area generally known as downtown, the historic core of Toronto and remains the most densely populated part of the city. The Financial District contains the largest cluster of skyscrapers in Canada. Old Toronto is also home to many historically wealthy residential areas, such as Yorkville, one of Toronto's most elegant shopping and dining areas, celebrities from all over North America can be spotted in the area, especially during the Toronto International Film Festival, Rosedale, The Annex, Forest Hill, these neighbourhoods generally feature upscale homes, luxury condominiums and high-end retail. At the same time, the downtown core vicinity includes neighbourhoods with many recent immigrants and low-income families living in social housing and rental high-rises, such as St. James Town, Regent Park, Moss Park, Alexandra Park and Parkdale. East and west of Downtown, neighbourhoods such as Kensington Market, Leslieville, Cabbagetown and Riverdale are home to bustling commercial and cultural areas as well as vibrant communities of artists with studio lofts, with many middle and upper class professionals. Other neighbourhoods in the central city retain an ethnic identity, including two Chinatowns, the popular Greektown area on the Danforth, which boasts one of the highest concentrations of restaurants per kilometre in the world, home to the annual "Taste of the Danforth" festival. The trendy Little Italy/Portugal Village, centered at College and Grace, this is the spot to get a sense of the Western Mediterranean. Sit at one of the many coffee shops and watch the world go by on the weekends, a great time to visit is during the World Cup of Soccer as both communities face off and rivalries reach a fever pitch. Recently the rivalries have begun to infect adjacent communities and it is now getting to the point that the entire city is being draped in a mind numbing variety of flags once every four years. Others include The Beaches, the Toronto Islands, Kensington Market, and Fort York. Just walk, Toronto has so many eclectic neighborhoods that a random walk is fascinating in its own right.
Yonge Street is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest street in the world. It runs from the edge of the lake to about 1896 km north of the city. South of Queen St. to the lake is mostly the financial district, with very little for tourists, this is the financial heart of the country, Canada's equivalent to New York's Wall Street. From Queen St. to Bloor St. is the tourist stretch, locals will hang out and shop here, many of the stores are tourist-y, or lower budget, an exciting place to be, and most visitors find this part of the city an interesting experience.
Toronto has three main sections of beach along Lake Ontario. The most popular of these is in the aptly-named Beaches neighbourhood. A less popular alternative is the beaches in the western end of the city in the Parkdale neighbourhood, Lakeshore, once Toronto's Coney Island, with an amusement park and numerous beach-style attractions, in the 1950s the city built the Gardiner Expressway along the lakeshore, effectively separating the beaches from the city and causing the demolition of the amusement park, the beaches are largely empty most of the time, providing solitude for those who seek it. The third major beach area in the city runs along the south shore of the Toronto Islands, a short inexpensive ferry ride from the foot of Bay St. and you leave the bustle of the city behind, pleasantly secluded, with most of the islands covered with parkland and a small amusement park. The views of the skyline from the islands is stunning, and for cycling, walking, picnics or just relaxing. Hanlan's Point Beach on the western shore of the islands is the City of Toronto's only officially recognized clothing optional beach, and a popular gay hangout.
Toronto is a major scene for theatre and other performing arts, notable performance venues include the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Roy Thomson Hall, the Princess of Wales Theatre, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, Massey Hall, the Toronto Centre for the Arts, the Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres and the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, originally the "O'Keefe Centre" and formerly the "Hummingbird Centre".
Ontario Place features the world's first permanent IMAX movie theatre, the Cinesphere, as well as the Molson Amphitheatre, an open-air venue for large-scale music concerts. Each summer, the Canadian Stage Company presents an outdoor Shakespeare production in Toronto's High Park called "Dream in High Park". Canada's Walk of Fame acknowledges the achievements of successful Canadians, with a series of stars on designated blocks of sidewalks along King Street and Simcoe Street. Small theaters in the Annex and elsewhere offer smaller productions that range from original Canadian works, avant-garde, experimental theater, small budget musicals to British murder mysteries. A variety of theatre festivals such as the Fringe Festival are the seed for many commercial success.
Its museums and galleries are among the best in the North America. The Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is a museum for world culture and natural history, one of the better and larger museums in North America. The original building was built in 1910. Thousands of artifacts, and specimens, are featured in over 20 exhibits; including Dinosaurs, Ancient China, Native Canadians, Canadian Furniture, Medieval Europe, Art Deco, Ancient Egypt, Textiles, Middle East, India, and Pacific Islanders. the world's largest totem pole, which is over 100 years old, is also housed in a place of honour. The Art Gallery of Ontario, the largest art gallery in Canada, contains a large collection of Canadian, European, African and contemporary artwork. It has a great Canadian paintings exhibit and the world's largest collection of Henry Moore sculptures. The Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art is the only museum in Canada entirely devoted to ceramics, and the museum's collection contains more than 2,900 ceramic works from Asia, the Americas, and Europe. The Bata Shoe Museum is devoted to shoes and footwear, and contains Napoleon Bonaparte's socks, and footwear from cultures all over the world. The building is designed to look like a shoe box with the lid resting on the top of an opened box. The Hockey Hall of Fame, dedicated to the history of ice hockey, it is both a museum and a hall of fame, housed in the historic Bank of Montreal building, dating from the 1880s.
For shopping, the Toronto Eaton Centre is one of North America's top shopping destinations, and Toronto's most popular tourist attraction, a massive shopping mall on the West side of Yonge between Queen and Dundas Streets. This place is generally packed with people, an exciting mix of locals and tourists. If you head West from the corner of Yonge and Bloor, you are in the most upscale of Toronto's shopping districts, Yorkville, the high-end shopping district of Toronto, once a haven for Toronto's hippie population, it is located just north of Bloor and Bay Streets and is now home to many designer boutiques.
Located a short walk West of the Eaton Centre is the city's fashion district along Queen Street West, an area usually bustling with local hipsters looking for the latest looks in a variety of trendy stores, the stretch between University Ave and Spadina tends to be much more mainstream with an ever increasing number of chain stores, but it is still well worth the look. Kensington Market, once a center of Jewish life but has morphed into the center of Toronto's bohemian scene, as narrow streets bustle with immigrants, punks, and yuppies alike. Stores include surplus shops, coffee houses, clothing vendors, and record stores. Fish and fruit markets are also present in great numbers, and the area is experiencing a boom of South American food stalls. Several weekends throughout the summer are designated "car-free" by the city, as pedestrians tend to wander as they please. Chinatown, centered at Dundas and Spadina, is a great way to sample a tiny bit of cities like Hong Kong, without spending the airfare. Crowds crush the sidewalks as vendors sell authentic Chinese and Vietnamese food, and not-so-authentic knock-offs. It is one of North America's largest Chinatowns, and with many stores geared towards tourists, it is a good place to pick up some unique and inexpensive souvenirs.
The PATH System stretches from the Eaton Centre south to Union Station, an underground shopping mall created for all the commuters to get from Union Station to their offices and back without ever going outside, in a city of Toronto's summer heat and winter cold, this is essential.
When Europeans first arrived at the site of present-day Toronto, the vicinity was inhabited by the Huron tribes, who by then had displaced the Iroquois tribes that had occupied the region for centuries before 1500. The name Toronto is likely derived from the Iroquois word tkaronto, meaning "place where trees stand in the water". French traders founded Fort Rouillé on the current Exhibition grounds in 1750, but abandoned it in 1759.
During the American Revolutionary War, the region saw an influx of British settlers as United Empire Loyalists fled for the unsettled lands north of Lake Ontario. In 1787, the British negotiated the Toronto Purchase securing more than a quarter million acres of land. In 1793 the town of York was established on the existing settlement and replaced Newark as the capital of Upper Canada, believing the new site would be less vulnerable to attack by the Americans. Fort York was constructed at the entrance of the town's natural harbour, sheltered by a long sand-bar peninsula. The town's settlement formed at the eastern end of the harbour behind the peninsula, near the present-day intersection of Parliament Street and Front Street. In 1813 as part of the War of 1812, the Battle of York ended in the town's capture by American forces. American soldiers destroyed much of Fort York and set fire to the parliament buildings during their five-day occupation.
York was incorporated as the City of Toronto on March 6, 1834, reverting to its original native name. The population of only 9,000 included escaped African American slaves fleeing the United States, slavery was banned outright in Upper Canada in 1834. The city grew rapidly through the remainder of the 19th century, as a major destination for immigrants to Canada, the first significant population influx occurred with the Great Irish Famine brought a large number of Irish to the city. By 1851, the Irish-born population had become the largest single ethnic group in the city, welcomed by the Scottish and English population.
Toronto became the capital of the province of Ontario after its official creation in 1867, the seat of government located at the Ontario Legislature located at Queen's Park. In the 19th century an extensive sewage system was built, and streets became illuminated with gas lighting as a regular service. Long-distance railway lines were constructed, including a route completed in 1854 linking Toronto with the Upper Great Lakes. The Grand Trunk Railway and the Northern Railway of Canada joined in the building of the first Union Station in downtown. The railway dramatically increased the numbers of immigrants arriving, commerce and industry, as had the Lake Ontario steamers and schooners entering port which enabled Toronto to become a major gateway linking the world to the interior of the North American continent. Horse-drawn streetcars gave way to electric streetcars in 1891, when the city granted the operation of the transit franchise to the Toronto Railway Company, public transit system passed into public ownership in 1921 as the Toronto Transportation Commission, later renamed the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) . The system now has the third-highest ridership of any city public transportation system in North America.
The city received new immigrant groups beginning in the late 19th century into early 20th century, particularly Germans, French, Italians, and Jews from various parts of Eastern Europe, soon followed by Chinese, Russians, Poles and immigrants from other Eastern European nations. Despite its fast paced growth, by the 1920s Toronto's population and economic importance in Canada remained second to the much longer established Montreal, however, by 1934 the Toronto Stock Exchange had become the largest in the country. Following the Second World War refugees from war-torn Europe and Chinese job-seekers arrived, so too did construction labourers, particularly from Italy and Portugal. Following elimination of racially based immigration policies by the late 1960s, immigration began from all parts of the world. Toronto's population grew to more than one million in 1951 when large-scale suburbanization began, and doubled to two million by 1971. By the 1980s, Toronto had surpassed Montreal as Canada's most populous city and the chief economic hub. During this time, in part owing to the political uncertainty raised by the resurgence of the Quebec sovereignty movement, many national and multinational corporations moved their head offices from Montreal to Toronto and other western Canadian cities. The city celebrated its 175th anniversary on March 6, 2009, since its in inception as the City of Toronto in 1834.