In Toronto, the journey begins around the corner. A metropolis with a remarkable quality of life, the capital of Ontario rightly claims the title of the most cosmopolitan city in the world. The figures are impressive: more than half of the inhabitants were born abroad and some 140 languages are spoken there.
Made up of multiple ethnic neighborhoods, Toronto has made diversity and co-education the very standard of its identity. At the foot of the CN Tower and the skyscrapers of Downtown, it is a city-world that invites travelers: a city rich in colors and accents from around the world, whose gastronomy is adorned with all flavors. of the world and where culture, from museums to festivals and performance halls to musical bars, is resolutely plural.
So go explore the mosaic streets of Toronto and don't be ashamed of your French accent: here, almost all the inhabitants speak English with an accent from elsewhere!
A successful melting pot
Toronto, for the traveler, is first and foremost an icon inseparable from the city: the CN Tower, a gigantic rocket-shaped tower crowned with a large ball that rises 553 meters (including antenna) high. . An unmissable visit, if only to take stock of the economic capital of Canada, through a most spectacular panorama.
In less than a minute, glass-walled elevators hoist you up to 346 m above sea level, at the belvedere, where there is notably an impressive glass floor. Even higher, the Sky Pod, located at 447 m, offers a breathtaking view of the skyscrapers, the Toronto Islands and Lake Ontario. So much for the show ...
But to discover Toronto's true treasure, you have to descend 350 meters below and walk the streets of this tremendously alive, human and endearing city. Because the first metropolis of Canada (6,1 million inhabitants) is also the most multicultural city in the world : half of Torontonians were born abroad and no less than 140 languages and dialects are spoken there. A multitude of cultural districts dot the city, from Little Italy to Chinatown, via Greektown or Koreatown.
In this city whose motto is "Diversity Our Strength", everyone mixes. The capital of Ontario is in fact an authentic “global village” where communities live in harmony. Thus, Little Italy, Little Portugal or Greektown are not reserved only for Italians, Portuguese or Greeks.
take Little Portugal, on Dundas Street, for example. Historical stronghold of Portuguese immigration in the 1950s, the district has opened up to all communities and is now experiencing a phenomenon of gentrification. Besides an Iberian product store, Dundas Street W also has art galleries, designer shops, and a few vegetarian restaurants. Toronto, an open city ...
Chinatown, teeming with life
At the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street, a forest of signs in Chinese proliferates on the facades. Thanks to the photos on the windows, we understand that they are acupuncture centers, massages or souvenir shops. The merchants take over the sidewalks to sell their trinkets, while chatting in Chinese with customers.
Ce Chinatown- it may not be as important as the one in San Francisco or Vancouver. But it is quite typical to disorient us: we still come across strange herbalists' stalls, authentic Chinese restaurants and… a synagogue.
Because this district has not always been a Chinatown. Between 1920 and 1945, 30 Jews from Central Europe to flee persecution gathered in this neighborhood. For them, the municipality makes an exception: it allows Jewish traders to open on Sundays, Saturday being a sacred day. When the flood of Hong Kongers landed in the 000s, it gathered in the Jewish quarter. Why ? Because it's the only one where they can open a boutique 1960 days a week… a great example of Toronto's multiculturalism!
Unlike other cultural districts, Chinatown still has a Chinese community of 200 souls. But it is far from being the only one: Vietnamese, Thai, Spanish… No less than 000 languages are spoken in the area alone!
Kensington Market, the meeting place for bohemians
Right next to Chinatown, Kensington Market It also gives off a great energy. Here, the superb Victorian red brick houses, typical of Toronto, reveal multicolored facades.
Most of them house thrift stores, bars and cafes. A haunt for hippies and rastas hanging out on the steps, Kensington Market maintains a punk and protest spirit. A strong identity that it too owes to immigrants. In the 1950s, the new Hungarian and Italian minorities settled in this working-class district, where they found a way of life in touch with the street. Then the first American "conscientious objectors" came to take refuge there during the Vietnam War.
Residents constantly ensure that their neighborhood does not get eaten up by international brands and large restaurant chains. A fight that pays off: despite the influx of tourists, the district retains food shops and independent shops. This local life gives it the crazy charm of a small village.
Kensington Market hosts a real market on the last Sunday of the month, from May to October. The rest of the time, you can find everything from fruit and vegetable vendors to Tibetan objects and tattoo artists. A few vintage furniture stores, such as Bungalow and Citizen, also offer very tasteful items at fair prices. You will understand, Kensington Market is one of our favorite neighborhoods.
Queen Street West, cool and arty
Who could have imagined, a few decades ago, that this working class neighborhood would become one of the trendiest in Toronto? It's certain Queen street west, in the heart of Art + Design district, brought together designers and creators. Don't be intimidated by these sleek (and often very expensive) boutiques: the owners are passionate about their creations, even if you leave empty-handed.
We advise you to start the walk at Gladstone Street to go up Queen Street West towards the city center. Few tourists venture there, while this part is full of art galleries where one would like to stay for hours.
Just for viewing pleasure, walk through the door of the Gladstone Hotel. Everything has remained in its original state: the brick facade from the end of the XNUMXth century, the wooden floors, the elevator. In addition to its few rooms, this boutique hotel has a reception hall, a bar, an exhibition room and a café-restaurant. The menu adapts to the current exhibition: if the artist is Jamaican, so will the dish.
Further on, take a look at the Drake Hotel. With only 19 rooms, this magnificent boutique hotel sees more Torontonians than tourists. People come here to have a drink in its sublime bar and on its rooftop, to listen to concerts in the basement or to take a look at the current exhibition.
Towards the east, the gates of photographers' paradise open on Graffiti Alley, Real name Rush Lane, this long and narrow alley parallel to Queen Street West is "tattooed" from head to toe. We meet clusters of tourists and newlyweds in the middle of a photo shoot. The more we advance, the more monumental the works.
You have to have an eye to spot Banksy's, lost among the others. We recommend the guided tour (in English) by Tour Guys: you will learn a lot about the history of graffiti, the legislation in Canada and the language of street art. It's free, but a good tip is always welcome.
On Bloor Street, a multicultural corridor
To the delight of our legs, a good number of points of interest are concentrated in the same place. Conservatory, museums, cinema and cultural institutes all revolve around Bloor Street, in an upscale neighborhood north of the city.
In 2014, they had the good idea to come together in an association, the " Bloor Street Culture Corridor », A small Tower of Babel in itself. In a perimeter of 1,5 km, between Bathurst and Bay streets, are the Alliance Française, the Italian Cultural Institute, the center of the Jewish community, the center of the Aborigines, and a small Estonian museum in the interior of Tartu College, a student residence.
Far from being self-centered, each establishment often offers a very eclectic program, turned towards the cultures of the world. The Royal Conservatory, it welcomes both reggae and classical music. Go up to the fourth floor to admire the very surprising architecture of the building, nested on an already existing structure.
Rarely, three fascinating museums are stuck together at the corner of Bloor Street and Queens Park: the Royal Ontario Museum (the equivalent of the Louvre in Canada), the Bata Shoe museum (shoe museum) and the Gardiner Museum (museum of ceramics). This artery alone deserves two days of visit!
Continuing west, we slide gently towards Koreatown. Its old-fashioned storefronts are nothing spectacular, but this little-frequented area exudes a peaceful atmosphere. Interesting if you want to eat Korean and inexpensive.
Gastronomic world tour
In Toronto, multiculturalism is also simmering on a low heat on the plate. Its restaurants offer all the culinary diversity of the planet. Whatever the neighborhood, you can find good Italian, Indian, Thai, Argentinian, Chinese, Mexican addresses… The gargantuan offer is sure to make your head spin.
In the St Lawrence Market, in the heart of Old Town, the stalls display fresh and tempting products: bagels, cheeses, cold meats, wines, mediterranean specialties with a sweet scent of olive. Several tables allow you to stay for lunch on site. Opposite the vegan stand, observe the mural in honor of Toronto's multiculturalism. Very quiet on weekdays, the market gets crowded on Saturdays.
We also eat very well at Kensington Market. Belgian waffles at Italian-Jamaican restaurant (!), passing by the typical Chinese boui-boui, you are spoiled for choice. A few steps away, lovers of dumplings, shrimp wraps and peking duck will settle in at King's noodle, right in Chinatown. An institution where there is joyful chaos.
Very lively in the evening, Ossington Avenue is full of trendy restaurants and quality cafes, always well decorated. Finally, if Mexican cuisine tempts you, go for El Catrin, in the very bobo Distillery District. Inside, observe the monumental decoration and the back of the counter, filled with bottles of mezcal and tequila. The brand has 120 labels in all. The wait is worth it: the tacos and empanadas are delicious.
Toronto Tourist Board
Ontario Tourism Board
How to get there
Daily direct flights from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport with Air Canada and Air France. Regular direct flights from Paris Charles-de-Gaulle with Air Transat.
Where to eat ?
Saint Lawrence Market: 91 Front Street East. A good place for lunch, popular with Torontonians, with stalls offering all types of food. Stop by the Carousel Bakery for its pastries and its famous peamal bacon sandwich, a kind of smoked ham
El Catrin: 18 Tank House Lane. Mexican food. A la carte, large bowls of guacamole to share, ceviche, tacos and several house specialties. 18 Tank House Lane in the historic Distillery District. About $ 15 a dish (excluding tax, always).
Lena: 176 Yonge Street. Argentinian cuisine. We love the sublime, very chic and retro decor, as well as the really excellent cuisine. There are classic tapas (patatas bravas, ham croquettes, empenadas and Iberian ham), but also a wide choice of fish-based dishes. A bit expensive and stuffy, however (count between $ 10 and $ 19 for the entry, and between $ 24 and $ 46 for the dish).
Trattoria Nervosa: 75 Yorkville Ave. Italian food. One of the city's most famous transalpine restaurants. Impeccable service and excellent cuisine. Reservation strongly recommended in the evening.
Frings: 455 King Street West. This elegant bistro serves delicious East meets West fusion cuisine with thoughtful Asian touches.
King's Noodle: 331 Spadina Avenue. One of the sure values of Chinatown, where you can feast on hearty noodles, dumplings and other Chinese specialties.
Where to have a drink?
Fika Café: 28 Kensington Avenue. A cozy café as we like it, nestled in a blue house. You can sit in its adorable garden at the back, where there are hammocks and picnic tables. Perfect for enjoying delicious iced coffee and homemade pastries.
Rush Lane: 563 Queen Street West. This bar serves tasty cocktails, with sophisticated mixes, in a festive and subdued atmosphere.