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In the Neighborhood: Your ultimate guide to downtown Toronto

One of the most visited cities in Canada, Toronto is home to a vibrant downtown filled with world-class museums, restaurants and stunning green spaces for outdoor adventures.

By Jim Byers | July 26, 2023

Diverse and bustling, Toronto is often compared to its southern neighbor, New York. Over the years, skyscrapers have sprouted up like dandelions after a summer rain, but you’ll still find quiet enclaves, along with food from around the world, boutique shopping and restorative green spaces to explore downtown.


Downtown Toronto is home to one of the world’s best urban markets and the culinary scene ranges from affordable Asian cuisine to restaurants that make international headlines. Highlights include:

- Edulis Restaurant: Run by a husband and wife, this eatery is known for its welcoming service and multi-course menus with an emphasis on seasonal local vegetables, seafood and wild mushrooms. It’s a no-tipping restaurant, so no need to bring out your smartphone calculator.

- Queen Mother Café: This longstanding Queen Street West spot serves global comfort food, including a popular Laotian chicken dish called ping gai, pad Thai, sticky rice, cannelloni, burgers and more. This inexpensive but very good spot features a welcoming interior and a quiet back garden terrace.

- St. Lawrence Market: Dating back to 1803, this market is located in a two-level space a few blocks east of Yonge Street. Look for Montreal-style bagels, fresh produce and a basement spot called Carousel Bakery, which dishes out hundreds of salty, leaner-than-normal back bacon (also known as peameal bacon) sandwiches every day.


From sandy beaches to beautiful art galleries and century-old brick buildings, downtown Toronto offers a diverse range of things to see and do. Explore:

- The Distillery District: Made up of historic, red brick buildings from the former Gooderham and Worts Distillery, this cultural hub features pedestrian-only cobblestone streets, fine galleries, unique boutiques, restaurants and pubs. Reenergize for more neighborhood discovery with a restorative latte at Balzac’s Coffeehouse, which has a cool loft space.

- The Toronto Islands in Lake Ontario. Offering a welcome touch of nature in the city and reachable by handsome ferry boats next to the Harbourfront, the islands feature wide-open parks, sandy beaches, tree-lined canals and a children’s amusement park in summer.

- Mirvish: The best-known Canadian production company runs four theaters, including the Princess of Wales and the Royal Alexandra in downtown Toronto. Unsurprising given Toronto’s reputation as one of the top cities in North America for live theatre.


Downtown Toronto features everything from innovative men’s and women’s clothing stores to rare book shops. Visit:

The CF Toronto Eaton Centre, a multi-level, indoor shopping center that has been going strong for more than 50 years. Hundreds of stores draw shoppers all day long and the iconic art installation, named Flight Stop, of 60 life-sized Canada geese that hang from the glass roof is worth checking out in between your retail therapy.

- King Street East, for refined shopping, including design stores, art galleries, antique shops and a fine bookstore. Kiosk Design has award-winning interior design products, while D & E Lake Ltd. sells art and rare books. Specializing in Middle Eastern arts, Botté Gallery is a lively, bright venue in the Corktown neighborhood.

- Kit and Ace, a boutique clothing store on bustling Queen Street West where you can find comfortable fashion-forward clothing. It was started by the Canadians who brought Lululemon to the world, so there’s definitely a pedigree at work here.

As the center of Canada’s most populous city, downtown Toronto offers some of the best dining, cultural and shopping experiences in the country. Explore the city's diverse offerings and make your next Canadian stay a memorable one.

Jim Byers is a travel journalist who writes for publications around the world. He lives in Toronto.