Urban Explorations: Is Toronto sexy yet? A rediscovery day in Canada

To make a city the traveler’s new haunt on the map, there needs to be more adjectives to it than just “liveable”. Toronto, Canada’s largest city, is easy to like. The easiest adjective that comes to mind is “orderly”. 5.7 million of 200-plus ethnicities you would expect so extraordinary locales to speak of. While the locals can no doubt dish out a few “hidden-gems” often including the Chinatown, the city has for too long been off the radar of the discerning traveler.

We take a look at Canada’s largest metropolis to see if we can call it “sexy” yet.



Toronto, every once in a year, comes out of its apparent demur stupor. Sitting inside a hotel room in the Financial District, you are able to hear the crowd before you see it. Some call it the sound track of Toronto International Film Festival, where celebrity sightings and red- carpet mobs come to seem normal for ten days every September. Even then, you will find a good number of dog walkers stroll past the theatre not bothering to flash out the mobile phone for a quick snap of the stars rolling in. “There’ll be someone else tomorrow night”. This unfazed attitude is what greets you on most days and most places in the city.

Kensington Market street
Kensington Market street

At mygola, we helped plan over a million trips to over 200 destinations across the world. A decent number of those were to the Canadian shores. Speaking to the people who have actually been there and the folks who make the city they live in, we picked three new destinations which finally spell a different look to the metropolis. For a long time now, the city dweller’s favourite chime for their home was “Toronto the Good” – an euphemism for dull but it has now started to become a wildly cosmopolitan city. Toronto is known as a city of neighborhoods and all are vibrant reflections of a self-assured city that’s finally come into its own. Can we call Toronto “sexy” yet?

Walking Spandina
Walking Spandina

Kensington Market

One of the oldest neighborhoods in Toronto is the celebrated-enough Kensington – a protected heritage site spanning several blocks west of the Spadina Avenue which goes on to borrow right into Cbinatown. In Kensignton, if you choose to walk down the streets, it will help to keep your elbows out to steer through the crowd. People line up for empanadas; racks of vintage clothing huddle next to independent cafés where the pierced and tattooed get their caffeine hits. No Starbucks here though but you won’t miss that one bit with the local roasts at “I Deal Coffee” or the people-watching hotspot at Casa Acoreana.

I Deal Coffee

For a city like Toronto, quaint is a difficult adjective to use. Kensington changes that – there’s only one small chain grocery store. Take a trip down to Embassy Bar for a tipsy evening – it’s local reggae and come summer, the doors are left open so that the music can spill over into the square. Then, down to street to El Trompo for some taquito — serves well to get that headiness out.

Evergreen Brick Works

If you ever take time to know Toronto a little,  you will figure out that people hardly venture out of their own locales. Perhaps it’s a downside of being the “city of neighborhoods”. It’s easy to understand why change so easily goes unnoticed by the locals here. Wake up early on a weekend and catch the free shuttle bus to Evergreen Brick Works – the resurrected industrial backdrop has a new vibe to it now.

There was a time when you could spot rabbits by the side of the river here or even spot a lone fisherman trying to get the Don River to give up a carb. The recently revitalised site of the abandoned Don Valley Brick Works, has turned the valley into a cool new suburb. It’s now an area of “nonprofit urban sustainability”. As gullible as the term seems, the meaning of it only dawns when you see it for yourself. The jogging route ends at the farmers market, making up for burned calories with french fries and artisanal cheeses. Behind is the Children’s Garden. And now that it’s winter, there’s even a skating rig.

“The Brick Works isn’t some hippie-dippie experiment,” says Brad Long, the gravelly voiced chef who runs the Brick Works restaurant Café. “OK, it’s an experiment, but it’s not crazy.” Pause. “Well, crazy in a good way.”



Gerrard Bazaar

It’s nasal bombardment, in a good way: wafts of curry drift in the breeze, cinnamon sings on the sidewalk and many shop owners keep a stick of incense perpetually burning. With all those flirtatious aromas flitting about, a thorough feeding is both encouraged and inevitable. In addition to both North and South India, delicacies from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are handy, as are restaurants catering to halal diets and vegetarians. On the cheaper side, street vendors push two items: grilled corn rubbed with lime and spices, and Kashmiri tea, a creamy pink concoction sprinkled with crushed pistachios.

Window browsing may yield simultaneous shopping therapy and colour therapy, as sari-clad mannequins strike sassy poses and endless rows of brightly-hued bangles wink at buyers.”This Street was our umbilical cord to India in the eighties,” says Lisa Ray – the Academy Award nominee  who grew up in this sleepy suburb of the city.

Though still bustling, the strip has a slightly shabby mien beneath the superficial glitz, with more abandoned storefronts than there used to be. Also called “Little India”, for the discerning traveler, it provides for little competition to it’s Singaporean competition.

If you go: take it from the locals

The best possible guide to any place is a person who’s actually been to a place, experienced it like a local and came back to tell the tale. We have curated the world’s largest collection of such authentic trips. If you go, start by searching the hand picked trips to Las Vegas below. Customise them as much as you want and let the smart planner take care of the rest.

Create custom trips in 15 minutes | mygola 2013-11-20 12-13-30

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