The Ultimate Travel Guide for the Cultural Mosaic Toronto
Sept. 3, 2021
Sept. 3, 2021
Toronto, one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, is the largest city in Canada and the fourth largest in North America. It is recognized as the international center of culture, business, arts, and finance, due to its energetic, creative, and easy-going atmosphere full of surprises and bustling culture. It is where Lokafy was founded, where we created our beginnings to first help travellers see the spirit we saw in Toronto and soon all over the world.
This city is the cultural mosaic of Canada, with the region being the most multicultural city in the world, having over 250 ethnic groups speaking 180 languages, and over half of its population being born elsewhere. This diversity is what makes Toronto a leading force in the world, especially its culinary scene that pulls in flavours from around the world and has been renowned globally. Taking pride in their motto “Diversity, Our Strength”
Toronto is a dynamic and vibrant city, full of local markets, museums, funky speakeasies and bars, a breath-taking arts scene, and of course, delicious food. Having four world-class sports teams, sports lovers will adore this city. Are you a technology enthusiast? Well, you will also come across its rapidly expanding technology hub, nicknaming the city as the “Silicon Valley of the North”, or it's television and film industry scene that has been named “Hollywood North” for those who have a passion for film. This city is truly for everyone, for every background, one that you will get engulfed by its amazing spirit. Keep reading this ultimate guide for Toronto to find out what makes it so special!
Welcome to Toronto Pearson International Airport, the main international airport of Toronto! The city awaits you with so much to do and see, but first, let’s get you to the city center so you can start exploring everything it has to offer. We have listed the best local options of transportation to make your first ever journey in Toronto easy and convenient.
One of the fastest ways to travel from the airport is to take the Union Pearson Express train, which will take you to Union Station located in Downtown Toronto. The train is equipped with large luggage storage, tray tables, power outlets, and high-speed WIFI to ensure all your needs are met, the seating is really comfortable as well!
A one-way ticket costs 12.35 CAD (9.81 USD), while children under the age of 12 can travel for free. You can purchase your tickets from the UP Express booths located in Terminal 1 and 3, or online via their UP Express app. The station is located in Terminal 1, where you can follow clear “Train to City” signs that will direct you on your path. If you arrive in Terminal 3, take the Terminal Link Train (free of charge) to arrive at Terminal 1, from which you can follow the same labelled signs to your destination.
The Union Express train runs from 5:27 to 00:57 every day with a total travel duration of around 25 minutes.
Taking a taxi from the airport to the city center of Toronto is one of the most convenient options. It eliminates the worry of potentially changing lines or navigating stations of public transport.
Licensed taxis are only located in Terminal 1 (arrivals level, door D) and Terminal 3 (arrivals level, doors D, E, and F). To ensure the taxis are licensed, make sure to double-check the GTAA number plate on the bumper as well as the certified decal on the windows. Personal taxis are known to surge prices for travellers while licensed taxis charge a flat rate based on travel zone.
The charge to get to the central Downtown ring is 60 CAD (47.64 USD), while other zones may have varying prices. The airport also offers luxurious taxis called Limos, although they have a higher cost. If you enjoyed your trip, it is customary to tip the driver 10-15 percent.
Taxis are available 24/7, saving the hassle of running early or late and have a travel duration of 30 minutes, depending on the route and traffic levels.
The bus is the cheapest option out of the three and also gives you a true local look at how the public travels. You can find the 900 Airport Express TTC bus stops on the ground level in Terminal 1 and the arrivals section of Terminal 3. It is easy to get by as you just have to follow "ground transportation/public transport/public transit" signs until you reach the bus stop.
When on the bus take the stop to Kipling subway station, where you can take the Subway Line 2 to reach Downtown Toronto. Tickets can be purchased through the TTC or GO Transit vending machines scattered throughout the airport, or directly from the driver, costing 3.25 CAD (0.79 USD). This ticket will cover your initial bus route as well as Subway Line 2.
The bus leaves every 10 minutes and runs from Monday to Saturday from 05:30 to 02:00, and from 08:15 to 02:15 on Sunday. The total travel time is roughly 75 minutes.
Now that you’re in the city, time to start your adventures! The possibilities are truly endless in Toronto, you will always find things to do and will always be entertained. We have listed the best activities you should try while here.
What would be a visit to Toronto without seeing the city’s most iconic landmark? One of the modern seven wonders, the CN Tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere, standing at an impressive 553 m (1,815 ft). You can go up to its observatory deck, called the LookOut Level, where you will see the beauty of Toronto from an aerial view. A part of the level also has a clear-glass floor making it a thrilling experience!
If you’re hungry, try the 360 Restaurant inside the CN Tower. As the name suggests, as you wine and dine the most notable Canadian cuisine, the restaurant will spin a complete and continuous 360 degrees to give you the best views of the city, at every angle. For the thrill-seekers, try the tower’s EdgeWalk, a one-in-a-kind experience in the world where you can walk around the CN Tower ledge, in the open air (of course with safety suits and harnesses)! The world’s highest full circle hands-free walk is truly worth experiences.
On your wait out don’t forget to stop by the lavish gift shop with many Canadian goodies, such as miniature CN tower replicas, First Nations artwork and crafts, and other souvenirs. This 8,000 sq ft shopping lounge will be a great end to your journey.
The tower opens every day from 10:00 to 22:00, and tickets vary per activity and age, so make sure to check out the CN Tower’s official website for more information.
A short distance from the CN Tower you will find another iconic area, Nathan Phillips Square. This square houses the famous Toronto sign that glows up with vibrant colours at night. If you’re visiting in the winter, the water fountain turns into a blissful skating rink where you can skate your heart out, for free!
Feel free to take an Instagramable picture in front of the sign, and make sure to observe the area and people-watch the locals. You’ll find chess boards and local food truck vendors surrounding the area if you’re hungry too.
Even though the CN Tower and Nathan Phillips Square are heavily tourist spots, it's worth visiting for the experience. They are heavily congested during the afternoon, so if you want a more tranquil experience visit before or after those hours.
If you walk along Dundas avenue and turn right onto Kensington Avenue, you find a world completely contrasting the modern atmosphere of the rest of Toronto. This is one of the places in the city where you can see the culture in its authentic form, it is the most unique neighbourhood, the heart, and soul of Toronto. Interesting architecture, gritty houses, buildings covered with beautiful graffiti art, it is a magical bohemian haven where young hipsters, artists, and creative locals alike come together.
Here you will find the best vintage stores, where you can buy hidden gems for a good price. You will also come across amazing local food shops, where a variety of cultures and backgrounds impact its diverse culinary scene. To relax and lay back head to the many parks in the area, we recommend Bellevue Square Park. Looking to find more of the area’s culture? All you have to do is wander the streets and you’ll find street performers, artists, and even a skateboarding Spiderman named “Peter Parkour”! Kensington is all about the people, making it a great place to people-watch too.
Kensington Market will make you rethink Toronto, it is an experience you must try if you want to witness the true local life of the city.
One of the best ways of getting a slice of everyday Toronto is Bellwoods Park, where you will see many dogs, locals playing frisbee, and some even cracking a beer. Even though it is still considered illegal, this park is one of the few places where hipsters proudly call their personal playground, making it a common practice.
It is nestled between the hip Queen West, Dundas West, and Ossington Avenue. The midafternoon is the perfect time to enjoy the park and its scenery, a time where you can enjoy the sunshine and soak in the atmosphere while watching people relaxing during their lunch breaks, youngsters unpacking from school, and the elderly enjoying a nice and tranquil walk. Bellwoods Park is a great place to take a breather from the busy city.
Toronto and its people take pride in their beer, hanging out on a patio and sipping on a craft lager are some of the most authentic ways of enjoying Toronto’s culture.
We recommend stopping by Bellwoods Brewery after you relax in Bellwoods Park, as this place has an amazing and lively ambience, and of course tasty beer. It has become a hotspot among the locals because of these factors. If a hip neighbourhood is not your taste, head to Burdock on Bloor St. West, it is a bottle shop and restaurant duo where you can eat delicious food, crack a good beer, and listen to talented local performers while enjoying the atmosphere.
Of course, a talk about Microbreweries can’t be had without mentioning the famous Distillery district. It was created nearly 20 years ago when developers had the vision to create a space that would inspire all those who entered it, where new ways of living, eating, and ideas would flourish among creative minds. It resembles a 19th-century spirit with architecture being built out of planks, timber, stone, and brick, making you step back into an era of windmills and horse-drawn carts.
Now, it is considered as Canada’s premier arts, culture, and entertainment scene, where old meets new. The district houses many studios, galleries, shops, special and unique stores, theatres, and of course restaurants and bars. For a good beer, we recommend trying the Amsterdam BrewHouse, where they have a selection of fresh and local beer.
Built in 1803, St. Lawrence Market is a popular local market where you can buy anything from baked goods to artisan cheeses. It’s full of rich history and Canadian heritage, and was even named the best food market in the world by National Geographic in 2012!
The market is housed in three main buildings; the South Market, the North Market, and St. Lawrence Hall. The South Market, specifically its main and lower levels have over 120 vendors that sell every food you can imagine, meats and seafood, prepared foods, fruits and vegetables, and spices to name a few. The Market’s second floor is where the Market Gallery is located, here you will find exhibits honouring Toronto’s history, art, and culture. The South Market is open from Tuesday to Friday from 09:00 to 17:00 and Saturday from 05:00 to 16:00.
The Saturday Farmer’s Market, established in 1803, can be found in the North Market. Where local Canadian farmers bring their goods to share with the public. You will also find the Antique Market here, a great place to shop for vintage gems. The Farmer’s Market is open on Saturdays from 05:00 to 15:00 and the Antique Market is open on Sundays from 05:00 to 17:00.
Lastly, St. Lawrence Hall, built in 1850, is a hall with three major rooms designed to serve as venues. Concerts, exhibitions, and public gatherings all occur here, you might even see a wedding taking place here as well!
For updates and more information, head to their official website.
A great way to utilize the winter season like a Canadian local would be to go on the Bentway Skating Trail, an art and event space under the Gardiner Expressway that began to operate as a long skating rink in 2018! This free activity is open every year from mid-December to the end of January and is a fun journey perfect for everybody.
Due to the company graciously offering these pathways for free, it is appreciated to donate to a charitable cause on their behalf. They have voiced their support to help end homelessness in Toronto and hold many additional events such as the Polar bear Skate, where people dress in swimwear while skating in the Canadian cold for a clothing drive for the homeless, as a part of their campaign.
The site also offers many lounges, other activities, and events to enjoy, all you have to do is pre-register on their website and bring an ID!
The graffiti scene in Toronto is lively and ever-growing, it displays the spirit of the city and has become an integral part of its culture. Unique pieces by local artists are left all over Toronto, making the city not only more beautiful but richer in culture as well.
The crown jewel of the Toronto graffiti community is Graffiti Alley, a stunning kilometer strip of artistic excellence. The artwork created on the long stretch of brick is so dynamic it has been used for commercials, photoshoots, and even as a backdrop for numerous notable occasions.
Other notable graffiti alleys include The Junction, known for their art depicting stories and political messages, and in Kensington Market, where you will see vibrant artworks scattered all around the neighbourhood. We also can’t forget about the south side of 52 McCaul St., where a world-famous Brazilian street artist, NUNCA visited the city in 2009 to leave a beautiful mark. It was as part of the 3rd Annual Manifesto Festival and is a must-see.
Many don’t know, but Toronto actually has many beaches throughout its region. If you’re looking to sunbathe in the warm Canadian summer, or play volleyball with your pals and just relax, we got the best beaches for you!
Center Island Beach is located on the eastern shore of Toronto Island. It’s a Blue Flag beach with crystal waters and a perfect shore, the beach has many lockers, changing rooms, and is also home to a pier. Located around 15 minutes away from downtown Toronto, it is accessible by ferry or water taxi. Even though it’s not that far away, you’ll feel as if you entered a new world once you set foot on the sandy shore. If you’re looking for more fun, head to the Centerville Theme Park that is nearby.
Another beach worth visiting is Cherry Beach at the bottom of Cherry Street in the Portlands region. Here you will find surfers, kiteboarders, and dogs, a lot of adorable dogs. Many come here for picnics as the beach is surrounded by trees, creating a subtle shade perfect for those sunny days. There is a Fry food truck in the area as well, serving mouth-watering goodies. Make sure to water shoes as there are some rocks around.
There are so many special festivities in Toronto that only occur once a year, they bring people together of all backgrounds to celebrate a special event, forming the cultural mosaic that we are. We have listed some of the best seasonal events in Toronto that you should definitely experience!
From the summer to early fall, the TD Toronto Jazz Festival takes place every year, where the city’s musicians from different generations come together and sweep the city with their talented tunes. Pubs, clubs, bars, and the streets come alive with sweet jazz music. The roots of New Orleans, where jazz originated, come to Toronto, bringing joy to everyone.
It is one of North America’s premier jazz festivals, with over 500,000 loyal patrons and more than 1,500 musicians entertaining across the city. Every year it features some of the greatest jazz musicians in the world, holding its reputation as a leader in artistic excellence. You do not want to miss this event if you’re in the city!
Their website gives you the schedule of all the performances, who will be performing, and much more information.
Pride Toronto takes place every year during June, celebrating the accomplishments and spirit of the LGBTQIA+ community. Many activities take place, including a huge pride parade full of vibrant colours and a supportive community marching down the streets of Toronto with music, entertainment, parade floats, all in the name of love.
In 2019, over 1.7 million people attended Pride Toronto, showcasing the city’s love for being who you are. It is a dynamic and exciting month, one in which you will always find something to do and celebrate. Many parties are occurring at this time as well, including the Treehouse, known for its great selection of DJs and an exciting atmosphere.
Make sure to visit their website to get updates and more information about Pride Toronto and its events!
Halloween is one of Toronto’s most awaited times, where orange hues and spooky themes run through the city’s veins. There are a plethora of activities that occur to celebrate this mischievous holiday, but one of the most thrillings one’s is the Toronto Zombie Walk.
Just as the name suggests, it is a zombie walk organized and held by the community, where thousands of participants dress up as zombies and parade throughout the streets of Toronto. People get creative with their zombie costumes, from medieval zombies to Disney zombies, the city turns into an undead nightmare!
The event kicks off with a traditional tossing of a fake, severed head at Trinity Bellwoods Park, then the zombies are released into the streets, yelling “BRAAAAINS” at every local they see. It’s a fun parade to watch but even more, fun being involved! It has grown into a cultural staple, with the parade now having live entertainment, a whole marching band, and parade floats. Whether you are a full-blown Halloween fanatic or enjoy seeing a riveting event, the Toronto Zombie Walk is for you.
Due to the lack of funds and the COVID-19 crises, the Toronto Zombie walk has been cancelled for the past years, but there is still hope it will return and be stronger than ever!
Housed in the Distillery District, the Toronto Christmas Market is an annual event in December that runs for two weeks. The historic atmosphere of the Distillery District is transformed into a traditional European street market, where the magic and spirit of Christmas runs through the streets with entertainment, food, and drinks.
As you walk in you will be greeted by a huge white sign saying ‘Toronto Christmas Market’ to set the mood, and when you’re in you’ll feel as if you were transported back in time, a time full of celebration and cheer, welcoming the Christmas joy. There will be a massive 45 foot Christmas tree lighting up the night, traditional Christmas tunes singing through the speakers, entertainment such as a Ferris wheel and a carousel, and even a hedge maze with Santa at the end. The ambience is just unexplainable as if you are in a fairytale.
Along the cobbled streets, you will see wooden stalls, which serve delicious and irresistible treats such as grilled cheese sandwiches, rum balls, poutine, and even chocolate-dipped bacon to warm your heart during the chilly weather. For those looking to have a drink, come across the beer garden where you can drink up delicacies such as hot rum beverages, their special mulled wine, beer, and European Christmas cocktails.
If you’re in Toronto in December, it is worthwhile checking the Toronto Christmas Market. See the locals mingle, grab a drink and a bite, while enjoying the magic of Christmas. Check their website to get more information and get updates on their protocols.
Day trips are a perfect way to explore outside of Toronto and see what the region has to offer. It is also great for those who want a little breather from the bustling, dynamic city. We have compiled a list of some you should consider when here, they are truly worth it!
Niagara Falls is a city near Toronto, famous for its waterfalls that have the same name. Shared between Canada and the United States and located between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the majestic Niagara Falls are a must to see. These three waterfalls were created merely 12,000 years ago from glacier activity, creating a beautiful attraction with its largest waterfall, the Horseshoe waterfall being an impressive 188 feet (57 meters)! You can even take a boat trip near the falls to get a thrilling experience.
Besides the waterfalls, the city has so much to do and see, with casinos, haunted houses, unique museums, theme parks, and vibrant lights glowing up the city at night, this region was made to have fun! We recommend taking the SkyWheel to get the best views of the city.
Thriving since 1981, Canada’s Wonderland is an amusement park in Vaughan that spans over 330 acres. Including over 200 attractions, 70 rides, and a 20-acre water park, Splash Works; is where life memories are made! It is tied with Cedar Point for having the second-most roller coasters in an amusement park after Six Flags.
It has gotten many achievements in the past, having Canada’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, the Leviathan, as well as the tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster in the world, the Yukon Striker. The park also has fun seasonal themes such as during Halloween with an event called the Halloween Haunt, and during the winter, with it being transformed into a winter wonderland.
This trip is perfect for thrill-seekers or for families looking for an action-packed day of fun. More information about the park's varying opening hours, COVID-19 protocols, and other information can be found on their website.
The Toronto Islands are a small group of islands located around 15 minutes away from the city center and can be reached by ferry or water taxi. It is the largest car-free neighbourhood in North America, giving you a full breather from city life!
Here you can rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, or bikes to get around and explore, lay back on one of its three beaches, visit Centerville Amusement Park, or even have a picnic. There are many other attractions such as Franklin Children’s Garden, or the William Meany Maze. It’s perfect for families but also for those who want to spend the whole day relaxing in a tranquil atmosphere.
The most popular time to visit is during the summer, the Islands' website has more information about the ferry and island schedule, and general updates as well.
As you may know, Toronto is a cultural mosaic full of different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds, which all come together to build a supportive and innovative community that takes pride in their city. With so many traditions and heritages, Toronto was able to create diverse and unique communities for their diasporas and others to enjoy. We listed some of the best neighbourhoods you must visit!
Established in the 1950s, Toronto’s oldest Chinatown is located at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West. It has been exponentially growing since the 1990s, becoming a key gem in Toronto where you can experience authentic Asian culture.
You will come across various locally-owned East Asian Restaurants, delicious food stands, glazed ducks advertised behind window shops with large gold and red signs, this bustling pocket in the city is definitely worth visiting. This Chinatown is always busy, as it is one of the biggest in North America. With so many people crowded in the streets during rush hour, you’ll think that you are in Hong Kong! Weekends are particularly lively, so make sure to get there before noon to avoid the incoming crowd.
It is also adjacent to the great Kensington Market, allowing you to discover more of the hip neighbourhood of Toronto.
If you look up and see Italian flag colours on the street signs, then welcome to Little Italy! One of the oldest ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto, Little Italy is situated west of the College and Bathurst intersection. It’s full of personality, soul, and you guessed it, really good food.
Warm summer nights with authentic gelato in your hands is the way to go. Craving pizza, pasta, or martini bars too? Well, you’re in the right place! The local food here is so delicious, straight from Italian chefs who love to share their culture. Some restaurants we recommend trying are Cafe Diplomatico, a budget-friendly taste of Italian cuisine, and Pancho's Churros, for the best churros in town.
There are also two summer street festivals hosted in this area, and it also houses the Royal Cinema, which hosts the EU Film Festival in November and showcases older films.
Vibrant hues of white and blue can all be seen in Greektown, located on Danforth Avenue. This cheerful and bright neighbourhood is home to Greek culture, where you will find Greek and Mediterranean restaurants, tea houses, clothing stores, health shops, and quaint family-run boutiques.
Throughout the neighbourhood you will see a small and charming reminiscence of an Angora, with tall Greek columns, and a statue of Alexander the Great. The residential area is great to have a stroll and admire the atmosphere. If you visit during the months of Halloween and Christmas, you will see residents trying to outdo each other on outdoor lawn decorations. The town also hosts a large food festival, Taste of Danforth, in the summer, it’s a must to witness.
Located in Gerrard St. E is the beautiful and colourful neighbourhood of Little India. Here you will hear traditional music and the smell of appetizing spices. This area has Toronto’s largest concentration of local Indian restaurants, grocers, clothing, and electronic stores.
If you’re hungry, the best and authentic Indian cuisine is found here, stretching from street food and buffets with fixed prices, to Indian fine dining. Want to explore the culture? Observe saris of all colours sold at clothing shops among other gems. You will see inviting live performances along the street during traditional holidays and a lively atmosphere, what’s not to love!
We have primarily listed ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto so far, but Unionville is a historic charm of Canadian heritage that is also worth visiting. It’s a quaint little pocket located in Markham, but locals still refer to it as Unionville. The historical village is located on Main Street, a tranquil road stretching around 500 m that has many things to do and see.
This area is so charming and full of history that it has been used in numerous television shows and films! Has anyone heard of John Stamos or the series, Suits? The architecture here dates back to the 1800s, untouched or rebuilt to preserve its authenticity.
Many exciting events happen throughout the season, such as the Unionville Festival in the first week of June, the Bandstand, or the Olde Tyme Christmas Parade. For the best food in the area we recommend heading to The Unionville Arms or Jakes, both have an amazing wing recipe. For shopping, we recommend Isla Home and Old Firehall Confectionery.
Don’t forget to visit Toogood Pond, a manmade pond showcasing the beautiful nature of Unionville. You’ll find locals strolling with their dogs or others fishing their hearts out. In the winter this oasis turns into a skating and hockey rink adored by the kids.
With such a diverse population, there is no surprise that Toronto is blossoming with delicious cuisine all over the world. Any dish, from any culture, can most likely be found here and that’s why the city’s food scene is so admired and highly regarded. From street food to vegan restaurants, we have all the best locations for you to eat your heart out.
The best way to experience Toronto’s multiculturalism is through local street food! Straight from authentic chefs whose passion is sharing their cultures with others, street food is made with soul and love. For the best, head to the Streets Eats Market, Canada’s largest series of food truck parks serving global cuisines. They have two official parks, one located in the Scarborough Town Center and the other in Richmond Hill.
Taste flavours all over the world like the Jamaican jerk chicken mac and cheese sandwich, or Korean kimchi fries, there is absolutely everything you ever dreamt of! They also hold various events throughout the years such as the Eats Night Market, the SmartVMC Movie Night, the Toronto Caribbean Carnival, or the Taste of the Middle East. It is truly a haven for all the foodies, you’ll desperately want to come back and try more.
Visit their official website for more information about their varying hours, locations, and protocols.
Whether you want something quick to eat on the go, or a hearty dish to satisfy your whole day, you can never go wrong with sandwiches or burritos! We have the best places for you to try the best of the best in Toronto.
For a classic spin on a traditional Montreal-style bagel, head to Nu Bügel, offering traditional wood-fired bagels with house-made cream cheese and delicious sandwich combinations. Grab their salmon trout sandwich with horseradish jelly, mustard, and arugula if you’re feeling bold, it's so good! For a smoked meat sandwich, Caplansky’s Deli is for you. It’s a must-try spot that rivals those of New York City, serving kosher sandwiches since 2007. They also sometimes have food trucks around the city, so if you see one with a bright blue colour, don’t miss your chance. A classic grilled cheese must be mentioned when talking about sandwiches, and Maha’s does it justice. Once you try their delicious blend of Havarti, swiss, and gouda cheeses, you dream of coming back to this Egyptian local hotspot. Make sure to grab a grilled cheese sandwich with their famous lentil soup for the full experience.
Burritos are a staple in the city, especially on April 4th, the National Burrito Day. Loved by the locals, Wilbur Mexicana is the place where authentic burritos come to life. It’s a bustling shop located on the trendy King St. West, making it a great place for a quick lunch or light dinner if you’re in the area. On the opposite end on King St. East is another, yet underrated burrito spot you should try. Bolet’s Burrito always uses fresh ingredients, serves big portions at a good price. They love to incorporate a spin on the traditional burrito, we recommend trying their fried fish burrito if you really want to see the best of this place. For a unique experience combining both Mexican and Asian cuisine, head to Chino Locos, taking pride in creating the ‘next generation of burritos’. Here you can add Korean beef or General Tao chicken into your burrito, and even swap out rice for noodles! They serve one-of-a-kind burritos that will satisfy your tastebuds like never before.
When travelling as a vegan, there are many challenges in finding mouth-watering spots as not every country has a tailored menu for vegans. Thankfully, with Toronto’s diverse culture it is not difficult to find them! Restaurants use fresh ingredients from local farms to ensure their dishes are organic and tasty while continuing to innovate the vegan scene to create an amazing palette of vegan dishes.
Doomie’s Toronto is one of the hottest vegan restaurants in the city, who’s founder, Doomie decided to open up his own restaurant after getting tired of eating unappetizing vegan meals from other shops. They are known for transforming traditional fast-food dishes into every vegan’s fantasy, including their famous Big Mac, or Vegan Mac Daddy, served with vegan pulled pork, fried mac and cheese, and cheese balls. How delicious!
Located at Bloor and Dufferin is another favourite, The Hogtown Vegan, getting their name from Toronto’s abundance of hogs in the 1800s. It is a quaint little diner serving delicious dishes such as their famous Unchicken & Waffles or the Hot Roast “Beef” Sandwich. Their southern-style comfort cuisine is something not to miss.
If you’re looking for a trendy place with a hipster feel, Vegetarian Haven is your spot. Their cuisine is inspired by Asian flavours and dishes, combined with vegan ingredients, it's the best of both worlds. It is a staple for many locals due to their mouth-watering menu, including their Tofu Ice Cream that will surprise your tastebuds!
Brunch, known by many to be the best meal of the day, is a staple and an important part of a Canadian’s day. Between 10:00 to 14:00 opens a unique period where both breakfast and lunch items clash, creating beautiful and tasty dishes of two different worlds. It’s when sweet chicken and waffles come to life, or a juicy pulled pork sandwich is topped with an eggs benedict, with no judgement, just pride.
If you're looking for the place, Patria on King West is a must-visit. With a stylish courtyard and patio area and a Spanish-inspired menu, it is the best place for Tapas. Their menu will fulfil your brunch fantasies, including the ‘Patatas Bravas Con Huevo Frito’, crispy mouth-watering pieces of potato with a spicy tomato sauce, and a fresh fried egg.
Queen and Beaver Pub is considered one of the best British pubs in Toronto, serving British comfort food and, you guessed it, an amazing brunch! Here you can also try adventurous dishes, such as their Buck Rabbit, a poached egg with Welsh rabbit. If you want to try an authentic British brunch as if you were in the streets of London, it’s worth checking this place out.
Waffles and Espresso anyone? If so, try the Starving Artist, a chic spot that serves brunch all day. Try their well-known Waffle Benny, served with two mini waffles that are topped with poached eggs, caramelized bacon, and a creamy hollandaise sauce. Not only is their food delicious, but their space is aesthetically profound as well. They feature local artists in their venues, combining food and art for the best experience ever. Munch and observe the art pieces, what more can you need!
What is the best way to get a local experience of a city, with the help of locals themselves! We have gotten the pleasure to interview locals, Rae and Laura who are also Toronto Lokafyers, into the city and anything you should know.
What is the Best Part of Living in Toronto?
Laura: The best part of living in Toronto? It’s definitely…well everyone says it because it’s true: "it’s the melting pot of cultures," it really is! It’s so special! Everywhere else you go, even if it’s not blatant, it doesn’t feel as peaceful.
Rae: There’s also lots of interesting things to do here. A lot of people think Canada is tiny, and there’s not much to do here, but Toronto is a very large city with a lot of things to do and see. We have a lot of really cute bars, clubs, and activities. There’s even an axe-throwing club where people get together, drink beer, and go axe-throwing. There’s all these really interesting things that a lot of people don’t even know about. If you really wanted to do something interesting there’s the Paint Lounge where you can rent a canvas, drink, and paint.
What are your Favourite Neighbourhoods?
Laura: I love Chinatown! Queen West has some amazing shops and whatnot if you’re into fashion. I also really like Cabbagetown - Parkdale is similar. I also really like the Annex, really beautiful as well: more of like a 'neighbourhood-y' feel, which I like.
Rae: I'm less familiar with Kensington market, but I hang out there a lot. My friends and I like to relax in the park late at night. Bellevue Square Park on a Saturday is just a bunch of people just hanging around, just chilling. It’s fun and you meet strange people.
What are your Favourite Events in Toronto?
Laura: Toronto Jazz Fest on the beaches is great, and so is Toronto Pride Week! It’s so nice that the two fall around the same few days. It's my favourite weekend of the year! Nothing compares to Toronto Pride, it's a city-wide event. It’s just amazing, the vibes are just so special, and people come from far and wide so you get to meet people from all over.
Rae: I love BuskerFest. The crowds are a bit insane, but it’s so much fun to check out the acts! It’s basically like a talent show for a weekend where you get to watch everyone’s wacky, weird talents. One of the things I always look forward to is Nerdy Burlesque. There’s this one troupe that picks nerd themes - they had a Josh Whedon theme once, and they did Game Of Thrones.
What Advice Would You Give to Travellers Wanting to Visit Toronto?
Laura: 1. Bring all sorts of clothes because our weather is so unpredictable! In the summer, bring sweaters. 2. Definitely eat and drink as much as you can. I would just say snack all day, there are so many different restaurants to try. 3. Toronto’s music scene in terms of every other genre as well is very, very strong. Just try live music, I’d say even if it’s hip hop, or whatever. 4. Do a little bit of research, don’t aimlessly walk around the downtown core. 5. Finally, I would say use Bixi and don’t take the TTC.
Rae: Call Lokafy! Make friends with the locals, and get them to take you out because you’re going to have a much better time than if all you do is hop on the Red Tour Bus. You want to try and get the experience that you’re not going to get anywhere else. My advice for anyone thinking of visiting Toronto: find a local through Lokafy, and get them to show you their favourite place. It’s going to be a lot more interesting, and a lot more of a cultural education than what you’d typically get on a franchised tour excursion.
There are over 140 neighbourhoods in Toronto, all with their special qualities and interests. When travelling to this city, we recommend staying in one of the central locations to be close to points of interest and be in the downtown atmosphere. Here are four neighbourhoods you should consider based on your interests!
From Front Street north to Queen and from University west to Spadina, the entertainment district is where all the action happens. This is where all the major attractions, amazing dining, and bustling nightlife comes to life. It is the urban center of Toronto, you will be in the center of it all.
Award-winning customer service, great amenities, and a luxurious ambience can all be found at One King West, an acclaimed boutique hotel located in the heart of Toronto. They have suites both at the historic Dominion Bank building and the famous “Silver” condo tower. They also offer their buildings to meeting and wedding venues, to give you a taste of how vibrant this hotel is.
Inside, they have the notable Teller’s Bistro & Bar, taking you back over 100 years of Canadian heritage. Featuring historical pieces into their design, but also serving mouth-watering dishes you’ll want to try again. Some amenities include a rooftop fitness center, concierge services, high-speed internet access, and direct access to Toronto’s P.A.T.H and TTC.
For those on a budget, the Clarence Park Hostel is for you. With a clean and chic interior design, surrounded by a variety of restaurants, shops, and tourist sites, it’s a perfect place to stay while spending the rest of your budget exploring the city.
There’s a fully appointed kitchen, a modern and cozy guest room where you can mingle with other fellow travellers, and a view that overlooks a newly-restored urban park. They have many sleeping options, from dorms to deluxe private suites, it’s your choice. With a really friendly staff, check-in and begin exploring what Toronto has to offer!
This is a fashionable district, one of the coolest in the world, where trendsetters and creative minds roam the streets effortlessly. It houses both Chinatown and Kensington Market, making it an extremely diverse neighbourhood with a great atmosphere, but even greater food.
A modern and chic hotel that utilizes natural resources for its interior designs and green energy to power its kitchens and other amenities, it is an urban oasis that will make you feel at peace. From single rooms to large suites, all overlooking the beautiful skyline and lakes in Toronto, it is a sight to experience.
1 Hotel Toronto has one of the best rooftop bars in the city, coming with a pool and the luxury of viewing the city from one of the best locations. If you’re hungry, there is much to choose from, they have the 1 Kitchen, Flora Lounge, Casa Madera, and Harriet’s Rooftop. In addition, they have a state-of-the-art gym class that brings in top fitness instructors in Toronto.
A hostel that also utilizes green energy technology to ensure sustainable housing, how more hip can this region get? It is a perfect way to start your adventures, in a spacious, sleek, and green hostel with stunning rooftop views and a great location. The building is full of character and spirit, and the staff is super welcoming.
Here you will get accommodations such as free breakfast, internet, lockers, and storage. Making this journey much more convenient while you explore the 6ix. They also host fun activities such as bingo, pub crawl, karaoke, free barbeques, and even a movie night throughout the week!
One of the best neighbourhoods to stay in if it’s your first time, as it is very close to major attractions and overlaps with other districts such as the entertainment district. It is also near The Rogers Centre (locals refer to it by its old name, the SkyDome), and to the CN Tower. There are many things to do nearby, visit the Toronto Islands, visit the Distillery, or shop at St. Lawrence Market!
Located right on the waterfront, this is the place to be if you want to get the best views of this district. It’s a sophisticated hotel, near subway stations and bus stops, offering direct access to major attractions, and high-end shopping and food hubs.
Enjoy their amazing amenities such as wifi, a special fitness studio (that includes yoga classes and a concierge), many dining options, and even a 25,000 square-foot metropolitan ballroom. The views of Lake Ontario alone are a reason to experience this hotel.
Want a unique and interesting experience that you will tell all your friends at home about? Making Waves Boatel will do exactly that, with this bed and breakfast being located on a 65-foot yacht! This family-run experience is straight in the harbourfront and offers cruises as well.
They offer sleeping cabins that only add to the experience, where you can relax and enjoy the views of the harbourfront. The hosts, Diane and Ted are really friendly and will share with you some tips about the city and offer advice. An amazing concept at an amazing location!
This laid-back area feels like another city, a bohemian atmosphere where people go about their business and vibe. With it being close to the University of Toronto, you will find a group of diverse students, urban professionals, and cultures from all over the world. Cool hubs, trendy eateries, cute boutique shops are all found here
A world-renowned hotel for its excellence, Windsor Arms was originally built in 1927 and completely rebuilt in 1999, with its interior design combining the modern aspects of the 21st century and the luxury of the bygone era. This luxurious boutique hotel also houses the Courtyard Cafe, offering delicious cuisine including meat and vegan menus for variety.
With many dining options, health and wellness spa facilities, and a 20,000 bottle wine cellar, the ambience this place exerts is one out of this world. If you’re looking for a home away from home, this hotel is for you.
This cozy and charming bed and breakfast is located in the heart of Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. The house is registered on the City of Toronto’s historic register, with its roots dating back to 1906 when it was built. All rooms are equipped with high-speed internet, flat-screen televisions, and suite marble bathrooms.
With an aesthetically pleasing interior and a beautiful leafy-green exterior, this place is the definition of comfort. They have rooms ranging spacious from deluxe queen to extra large deluxe king with a fireplace, whatever your heart prefers. It is located five minutes away from Yorkville, filled with world-class shopping centers, the Gardiner Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the University of Toronto as a bonus!
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Lokafy is a company based on connecting travellers all over the world with personalized tour guides that we call 'Lokafyers'. Our mission is to make travel personal, as many times tourists do not feel connected to the cities they are visiting and we want to change that, to make individuals feel a part of the culture like a local. We will only see the interconnectedness of all people once we see the beauty of the world through their eyes, and we'll understand the world better by getting to know the planet through the diversity of people and their own personal experiences.
With Lokafy, individuals pick a city they are visiting and are given a list of Lokafyers that can give them a local tour of their city. Different Lokafyers have different specialties; some are interested in food and know the best places to dine, while others may be more knowledgeable about historic and interesting heritage sites. Individuals can choose a Lokafyer that best suits their interests and are given tours catered to their interests.
We currently operate in more than 300 countries and are continuously growing. So if you are planning on a trip to Toronto, or the next time you’re travelling, experience a personalized journey through Lokafy, making an unforgettable trip!
Originally Written: Nadim Kassymov, Gabrielle Goldson, Jess Watson, Jennie P, Shane H, Rebecca A, Sidney M, and Jonathan C
Edited: Vinita Malik
Sept. 3, 2021