For those who love the idea of downtown living, Toronto is truly an exceptional city. Downtown Toronto has dozens of options that offer both the amenities and energy of city living as well as the peace and comfort of residential neighbourhoods. Bordered by Bloor Street to the North, Lake Ontario to the south, the Don River to the east and Dufferin to the west downtown Toronto is a large area with many diverse neighbourhoods.
The city of Toronto officially began as the Town of York in 1793, as established by Governor John Graves Simcoe. It was renamed the City of Toronto in 1834 and went on to explosive growth through a massive stream of European immigration, starting with the Irish in the 1850's and encompassing most of the major Western and Eastern European countries over the 20th century. Immigration from around the globe followed, and today Toronto is one of the most multi-cultural cities on earth, hosting ethnic communities that create a rich range of cultural experiences within the borders of the downtown core. From Little Italy to Little India, from Chinatown to Greektown, from Kensington Market to the Gay Village, downtown Toronto's international cultural tapestry is unmatched by any other city in North America.
Unlike most major urban centres, Toronto has robust residential pockets throughout the downtown core, from detached homes on quiet, tree lined streets to high rise condos in the bustling financial district. In Toronto, downtown living does not mean giving up quality parks and schools. Here are some of Toronto's most popular places to live south of Bloor:
South Annex / Yorkville - University of Toronto student residences to Uber luxury condos to grand red brick mansions, learning to lounging this eclectic neighbourhood has shopping on a shoe string to $25.00 martinis.
Cabbagetown - The largest enclave of Victorian homes in North America. Steps from home are Riverdale Farm, transit, shops, restaurants and parks. Walk to and know the green grocers name, the publican, the butcher and dry cleaners. One of the cities best neighbourhood housing values.
Liberty Village - One of the city's newest neighbourhoods, located at Dufferin and King Street West, its proximity to the financial district and attractions such as Ontario Place has made it popular with young families looking for a trendy, safe alternative to the suburbs.
Kensington Market - Just south of College and Spadina, The Market is a historic, authentic piece of downtown culture featuring multi-ethnic food shops, vintage clothing and a lively music scene.
Little Italy - This historically Italian neighbourhood is now one of the downtown core's most desirable spots. Close to the shops and restaurants of College Street, Little Italy is filled with young families.
King West - Once a stretch of industrial warehouses, King West has become an epicenter of Toronto's art and club scene. The condos and lofts in this district are filled with young professionals and artists.
Queen West - One of the most famous shopping and dining strips in the city, Queen West is known for its young, hip vibe and sprawling Trinity-Bellwoods Park.
Distillery District - A former distillery, this collection of heritage buildings at King Street East and Parliament was opened to the public in 2003 as a cobblestone village of independent shops, galleries, theatres and restaurants.
Corktown - At Queen Street East and Parliament, Corktown is a historic neighbourhood in the midst of a major transition from an industry-focused neighbourhood to a more resident friendly development, including lake side condos along the West Donlands.
Queen's Quay - Located right on the harbour, Queens Quay is a collection of high-rise condos parks and shops featuring magnificent views of Lake Ontario, Centre Island and the city.
Esplanade - Steps from bustling Union Station, the Esplanade is close to world famous St Lawrence Market and is one of the downtown core's most established residential pockets.
There are dozens of accessible schools throughout the downtown area, the Toronto District School Board's website will tell you which public schools are available for your postal code. The biggest high school for downtown dwellers is Jarvis Collegiate and there are numerous independent high schools a short transit ride away. From the arts and community driven Alpha School in the Queen West area, to the rigorous academic focus of University of Toronto School on Bloor Street, there are a wide variety of educational options in downtown Toronto.
Downtown Toronto is home to a host of beautiful parks, scattered throughout the south end of the city. Allen Gardens, at Jarvis and Gerrard, offers both an off-leash dog area and the famous botanical gardens and greenhouse, exhibiting plants and flowers all year round. A little farther west Grange Park, which is directly behind the newly renovated Art Gallery of Ontario, has a playground, splash pad and dog area. And right at Bathurst and Dundas, Alexandra Park has a playground, outdoor swimming pool and community center. At the southernmost corner of downtown, Coronation Park is a wide expanse of treed green space lining Lake Ontario. A must see is the Farm in the city. Acres of park with play pools, farm animals, hiking trails, baseball diamonds & a farmer’s food market. Riverdale Farm in Cabbagetown at Carlton and Sumach Streets.
Downtown Toronto has thousands of restaurants, whether your taste is for 5 star gourmet or ready to go ethnic, there is no shortage of culinary destinations downtown. Here are a very small sample of the best on offer as recommended by Toronto Life magazine: www.torontolife.com
Canoe (66 Wellington Street West) Located on the 54th floor of one of the financial district's most prestigious skyscrapers, Canoe's combination of stunning views, elegant decor and high end food result in its frequent mention as one of the city's best restaurants.
Fifth Grill & Terrace (225 Richmond St. W. 416-979-3005) One of the most stylish dinner venues in the city, the candlelit loft is owner Libell Geddes’s vision of an old-school grill menu, and he does so with finesse, adding his own touches of spice. For example, peppery steak tartare and a delectably moist crab cake enisled by citrus-wasabi mayo. The rib-eye is excellent, exquisitely crusted and running with juices.
Splendido (88 Harbord St., 416-929-7788) Every city needs somewhere like this—a place for serious fine dining, starting with the champagne cart and a minaret of canapés before the menu is even presented.
Nota Bene (180 Queen St. W. 416-977-6400) Leave it to others to be cute or romantic—offers smart sophistication, effortless service and good food. Chef David Lee’s menu suits the suits who flock here for lunch but also gives gourmets their lobster Cobb salad before the ballet.
C5 (100 Queen’s Park, 416-586-7928) High-end, pricey and avant-garde; the ROM museum restaurant, Chef—Ted Corrado’s cooking shows all the local-seasonal loyalty, cosmopolitan freedom and technical finesse of the new Toronto cuisine, but it also has a stylish personality of its own: rabbit with nori paste and a foie gras bonbon is an unexpectedly triumphant amuse.
Le Select Bistro (432 Wellington St. W. 416-596-6405) The menu is dominated by classic French fare with daring twists: perhaps crispy sow’s ear served with lentils or cocks¬combs braised with mushrooms. Meat is mastered in the thick pavé de boeuf with pepper¬corn, brandy and cream sauce. Boasts some 16,000 bottle wine selection. Service is professional.
Atelier Thuet (171 East Liberty St., Unit 153, 416-603-2777) With blood pudding crêpe, pork belly pot au feu and poached egg, Marc Thuet’s gourmet store–cum–funky restaurant is no place for vege¬tarians. Liberty Village carnivores, however, delight in the expert charcuterie and Alsatian-inspired mains.
St Lawrence Market (92 Front Street East) With over 120 stalls and vendors, St Lawrence Market is considered one of the best food markets in the world. Regulars arrive by 6am as the crowds grow in one of the city's most charming and popular food shopping spots.
Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West) Newly renovated by celebrity architect Frank Gehry, the AGO is home to a vast art collection that spans multiple eras and styles. Particularly popular is its extensive Group of Seven holdings and its Henry Moore sculpture garden.
Theatre District (along King Street West & Queen Street West) From full-blown Broadway musicals to impeccably performed classics to fringe experiments, downtown Toronto is home to a renowned theater scene that attracts tourists and locals alike.
Eaton Centre Shopping (Yonge & Dundas opposite the Dundas Square) Hundreds of shops on three levels, on the Yonge subway line; always open and in season.
Bloor Yorkville Shopping (Bloor & Bay) All the designer shops, boutiques and café’s make this the place to see and be seen. Stop in at the Four Seasons Hotel for High Tea or the Hazelton for a Massage & Martinis.
Theatre District (Bloor & Bay)