The French know Montreal well, but much less the largest city in Canada. Long known to be boring and addicted to work, Toronto has established itself, with the contribution of its communities from all over the world, as one of the cultural capitals of North America. Festivals, shows, fashion designers, art galleries and streets with international flavors: the Queen City of Ontario has evolved in two decades into a vibrant and creative metropolis where we know how to have fun. On the occasion of the Toronto White Night, on October 4, discover Canada's other cultural capital!
The most cosmopolitan city in the world
Peter Ustinov, who was not lacking in wit, said of Toronto that it is "a kind of New York run by the Swiss". Today, he would no longer recognize the stuck city he knew in the 60s. Thanks to the contribution of the multiple waves of immigration that made it the most cosmopolitan city on the planet, Toronto is now much more. closer to New York than to Switzerland. We don't get bored there anymore!
Better, in many areas, the Queen City, as it is called in Canada, is a benchmark: its film festival, along with those of Cannes and Venice, is among the most important in the world; its Entertainment District, like Broadway, hosts the greatest musicals; and its Caribana Festival is one of North America's hottest street parties. And Toronto is also some of the most important galleries and museums in Canada, designer boutiques and a vibrant cultural mosaic.
Therein lies, in fact, the secret of the capital of Ontario. It is thanks to multiculturalism that the soporific business city has gradually turned into a metropolis that is both effervescent and cool, in a word: Canadian. Toronto's first cultural wealth: its ethnic neighborhoods. More than a hundred communities from all over the world make up the 4,6 million inhabitants of this city, like the great country of immigration that is Canada.
A mosaic of cultures
Strolling through the streets of Toronto (which means “meeting place” in Algonquin) is like taking a tour of the planet in miniature. In the city center, Chinatown, which is the third Chinatown in North America with 3 people, looks like Hong Kong. Further west on College street, Little Italy et Little Portugal, decorated in the colors of their respective origins, are full of cafes and typical grocery stores where you can enjoy cappuccino, canolli, pasteis de nata and, of course, cod. And so on…
In short, in Toronto, you can hunt Chinese in the afternoon, order a Campari in Italian as an aperitif, have a Greek dinner in a tavern reminiscent of the plaka and go wiggle in Latin clubs in the evening. Everyone here speaks English with an accent, so even the tourist can pass for a “purebred” Torontonian (that is, from elsewhere). Awesome, isn't it? Last little tip: take a look at the Kensington Market, popular market where all the communities meet. Love at first sight guaranteed.
Stars, carnival and music hall
Such crossbreeding has led to a certain cultural emulation which has propelled Toronto to the forefront of North America. Every year in September, stars (but also auteur films) flock to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) which increasingly serves as a media launch pad for films in North America. And, unlike Cannes, the sessions are open to the public here. The other two major cultural events are the Toronto Downtown Festival (in June), where many big names in jazz perform on stages and in cafes around Queen Street West for a giant picnic on the Toronto Islands, on Lake Ontario.
Toronto is not just festivals. Just after Broadway, the Queen City has come to the fore when it comes to offering shows and musicals. The rooms the Entertainment District, like the Royal Alexandra Theater, put on big shows like Chorus Line, Mamma Mia, Phantom of the Opera or Dirty Dancing. For those nostalgic for the language of Molière, meet at the French Theater, near Dundas & Bloor, which programs great classics or Quebec plays. Finally, since June 2006, Toronto has had an opera house (the only one in Canada) with 2 seats: the Four Seasons Center for the Performing Arts.
Fashion, design and art galleries
There is also a fashion made in Toronto. To discover the creations of local designers, you have to wander around Queen Street West, the "alternative" street, in the Art & Design District where fashion boutiques, designer furniture and art galleries follow one another. This is Toronto's SoHo, a bustling neighborhood with a young and friendly atmosphere. A talent nursery has been created, the Toronto Fashion Incubator, to support and help young fashion designers.
Finally, for culture enthusiasts with a capital C, Toronto offers two great museums: the Royal Ontario Museum, superbly renovated by the architect Daniel Libeskind (to whom we owe the Jewish Museum in Berlin) who nested a crystal structure in the central building of the institution. The Chinese collection, among the largest in the world, traces thousands of years of Far Eastern art. Do not miss the galleries dedicated to the Canadian First Nations. The other big museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario has also had a facelift: devoted to the fine arts and renowned for its collection of sculptures by Henry Moore, it will reopen on November 14, completely renovated by Frank Gehry, the architect of the Guggenheim in Bilbao, himself a native of Toronto.
Toronto White Night, October 4: same concept as in Paris, cultural institutions remain open all night and artistic performances take place all over the city. www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca
Go to Toronto : daily direct flights from Paris-CDG with Air France, Air Canada and Air Transat.
Where to sleep ? We recommend that you sleep in Bed & Breakfasts, which are cheaper than hotels and often located in nice houses in the city center. www.bedandbreakfast.com/toronto-ontario.html
Where to eat ? Choose “ethnic” restaurants in Little Italy (rather trendy), Danforth (Greek restaurants) or Little Portugal. Quite a few fast food restaurants in the center. Prefer those specializing in wraps.
Where to have a drink and go out? Queen, King and Bloor Streets in the center concentrate most of the nightlife spots. Queen Street West, our favorite neighborhood, is more alternative. The boxes are located in Clubland between Queen and King streets, at John Street. Located at Wellesley & Church, the Gay Village, not a ghetto at all, is one of the liveliest areas in town.
Toronto Tourism Board: www.torontotourism.com
Tourism Canada: http://www.tourisme-canada.com
Center of Performing Arts: www.coc.ca/house/house.html
Royal Alexandra Theater: www.toronto-theatre.com/theaters/royal-alexandra-theatre/theater.php
Toronto Fashion Incubator: www.fashionincubator.com
Royal Ontario Museum: www.rom.on.ca
Art Gallery of Ontario: www.ago.net