What to see
Looking somewhat like a gigantic needle, Toronto’s iconic CN Tower is widely regarded as a triumph of 1970s engineering. It was primarily designed to be a communications tower, and today stands at 553 meters and is currently one of the tallest buildings in the world. Not surprisingly, CN Tower is popular for the incredible views of the city it provides visitors, and you can reach the highest point of the building using a glass elevator. Going up there at night is particularly special as you get to see the whole of Toronto lit up, but check the weather before you do, because views are best on clear days. Another feature of the tower enjoyed by visitors is the restaurant at the top, which boasts 360-degree views of the city. Appropriately named 360 Degrees, the restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy a fantastic meal alongside incredible views of Toronto.
Lake Ontario, covering a total area of 332 hectares. These islands are closed to traffic, so you can get to them via ferry from Bathurst Street Terminal. Previously a sand spit extending from the mainland, these islands were created by alluvial deposits from the erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs. Their separation from the mainland began in 1858 with a heavy storm. In 1870, the islands covered around 145 hectares, but since then have more than doubled in size. The largest islands include Centre, Mugg’s, Donut, Forestry, Olympic, South, Snake and Algonquin. The islands are popular for their amusement parks, beaches and gardens, and welcome around a million visitors very year. This makes them one of the most popular destinations not just in Canada, but in all of North America.
Art Gallery of Ontario
The Art Gallery of Ontario was established in 1900 on an area covering 4,500 square meters, making it one of the largest in North America. The building was extended in 2008 according to the designs of world-famous Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Some of the museum’s 80,000-piece collection go as far back as 100 A.D., and you’ll also find masterpieces by European artists here too, including Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and René Magritte. The museum’s collection also includes a range of paintings, sculpture, photography, design and installation pieces dating from the 1960s to the present day, including work from Canadian artists like David Altmejd, Brian Jungen, Jeff Wall and Shirley Wiitasalo. The Art Gallery of Ontario also has a collection of sculptures by the famous British sculptor Henry Moore.
Bata Shoe Museum
The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto is one of the most interesting museums in North America. The museum is the design of acclaimed Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, and it houses thousands of shoes and items related to shoemaking. The museum is made up of four separate galleries, and in three of these, there are a regular rotation of different exhibitions. “All About Shoes: Footwear Through the Ages” is a collection of 1,300 pieces spanning 4,500 years of history, and constitutes the museum’s main exhibition. Here, you’ll find a whole host of intriguing footwear, like Ancient Chinese shoes, Egyptian sandals, clogs for crushing chestnuts and incredible platform shoes. You’ll even find pieces which once belonged to some of the most famous names of the 20th century
Ontario Science Center
The planning of the Ontario Science Centre began in 1961, during the boom the city of Toronto went through in the 50s and 60s. The architect Raymond Moriyama, a resident of Toronto, was included in the process in 1964. Made up of three main buildings connected by a series of bridges and elevators, the center descends down into the Don River ravine and follows the contours of the natural surroundings. Construction began in 1966 and was supposed to be completed for the Canadian Centennial celebrations of 1967. However, the building wasn’t completed until 1969. Back then, theOntario Science Centre was a pioneer in scientific exhibitions, along with the San Francisco Exploratorium and Michigan Science Center (previously known as the Detroit Science and Technology Center). Unlike many other museums, the exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre are interactive. Along with a giant domed cinema, there are also plenty of sections within the museum especially for children.
Hockey Hall of Fame
The Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum was first established in 1943 under the name “Kingston’s International Hockey Hall of Fame and Museum” by the National Hockey League and the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association. Captain James T. Sutherland of Kingston spearheaded the bid to bring the Hockey Hall of Fame to Kingston and was inducted into the hall in 1947. However, Sutherland died in 1955, never realizing his dream of building the hall in Kingston itself. It was then forgotten for a number of years, before the Hall of Fame was finally opened in 1965 in a brand new building on the Kingston Memorial Centre grounds at the corner of York and Alfred Streets. The Hall of Fame is spread over 5,600 square meters and consists of 15 different exhibition rooms. You’ll find trophies, team uniforms and other hockey memorabilia in the museum, as well as the portraits and biographies of some of the game’s most famous players.
Toronto’s history began in 1793 when the establishment of a military garrison on the site of Fort York was ordered by the British army officer John Graves Simcoe. After the bloody battle between the locals, the British and the Americans, Simcoe intended to build a naval base in order to control Lake Ontario. During the same period, the state’s capital moved to what is Toronto today, and the city was named York. The fort was restored between 1932 and 1934, and was opened in 1934 as a museum to celebrate the 100th Victoria Day. Today, Fort York hosts a range of exhibits, galleries and museums which document the area’s military history.
The museum inside Spadina House documents the dizzyingly fast development of the city which took place in the 1920s and 30s. Spadina House was built in 1818, and in 1866 it was acquired by the Austin family, who went on to own it for a hundred years. The house is one of the 10 buildings looked after by the city’s administration, and while it opened as a museum in 1984, it underwent major restoration work in 2010. This restoration left the building with an authentic 20th-century atmosphere. The handicrafts, furniture and decorations of the era inside the museum really take you back to a time gone by. Today the guided tours, school programs, conferences, changing exhibitions, special events and workshops taking place at Spadina House’s museum reinterpret and bring the period between the wars in the city to life.
Casa Loma is the only chateaux in Toronto, and even though it has never been home to royalty, it certainly gives the impression that it has. The impressive chateaux overlooks the Iroquois Glacier, and offers some spectacular views of the natural surroundings. The building is a marvel of architecture, with its 98 rooms, chimneys, flag poles, little towers and balconies, and it was built between 1911 and 1914 for wealthy businessman Sir Henry Pellat. When you walk into the building, it’s as if you’re being plucked from the modern day and put right into a fairytale. You can visit the chateaux at any time of the year and enjoy the themed tours which help you explore this beautiful building.
Royal Ontario Museum
The history of the Royal Ontario Museum goes back to the end of the 20th century. During this period, a small group of Toronto residents planned to establish a major international museum in the city, and along with the University of Toronto, they persuaded the Ontario government to provide funds for the museum. After the opening on March 19, 1914, this building designed by the Toronto architects Darling and Pearson became a point of pride for the city. The building’s elegant design combines beige and brick red, and in fact hosts five separate museums: The Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology, and the Palaeontology, Mineralogy, Zoology and Geology Museums. In 2007, an additional building was constructed according to Daniel Libeskind’s crystal-like design, which was chosen from 50 finalists. The museum’s extensive collection includes dinosaurs, meteors and fossils; ancient pieces from Africa, Asia and Europe; and a range of taxidermy.
What to eat
Toronto belongs to the Ontario region, which is one of Canada’s best places when it comes to seafood. While Toronto has a wide range of fish on offer, you’ll always find garfish served in the city’s restaurants. Garfish is one of the main ingredients in Toronto’s cuisine, and is served just as much in homes as it is in restaurants. Grilling is the preferred method of cooking garfish, and it’s served with plenty of lemon, salad and boiled potatoes or fries. If you’re a fan of seafood, be sure to try some garfish while you’re in Toronto.
Canadian cuisine takes influence from French and Scandinavian cooking culture, and seafood plays a leading role. Even though you’ll find food from all over the world in Toronto, the residents just can’t seem to get enough of the local dishes, and its seafood, lobster in particular, which features heavily. Generally Toronto serves its lobsters grilled or steamed, alongside sauces and other snacks which change from restaurant to restaurant.