Total Toronto

Posted on: 26 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Ian Sier explores Canada's largest city, Toronto.

Stroll down Toronto's Yonge Street and you will find some of the finest shops in the world. But don't try walking the whole length, at more than 1,000 miles Yonge Street is the world's longest, stretching from the edge of Lake Ontario and ending at Rainy River on the borders of Manitoba.

Everything about Canada's largest city is big, from the CN Tower, the world's largest freestanding structure, to the world's largest underground shopping complex. But with its 20,000 acres of green space there is also a feeling spaciousness in this exciting, vibrant and cosmopolitan state capital, which lies on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Toronto was given its name by the Huron Indians. It means meeting place but Toronto is also known as the city that never sleeps. If you wanted to take in all the sights it could indeed by a 24-hour task but the charm of Toronto is that the city can be just what you want it to be. Shop till you drop at the Eaton Centre shopping galleria which has more than 300 outlets or choose from a plethora of museums, art galleries and sporting venues. However don't miss Queen Street West where a lot of new designers start their careers and there are real bargains to be had.

As the third largest theatre centre in the English-speaking world, after New York and London, Toronto has stages, screen and sounds to suit every taste from Broadway hits to new Canadian plays, avant-garde productions, opera, ballet, comedy, cabaret and music. And living up to its cosmopolitan reputation - there are more than 160 different languages spoken in the city - there is also food to suit every taste.

Exploring the city on foot or by the metro is easy. Buy a Rover ticket and you can hop on and off whenever you want, and don't be surprised if you stumble across the odd film crew. Toronto is known as Hollywood North because of the volume of feature films and tv productions shot on location. King Street is the centre of Toronto's entertainment district and for foot- tapping jazz try N'awlins. Dinner and a couple of drinks cost around £12 a head.

In Greek Town bars spill out onto the pavements and people party until late as you can see from a walk down Darnforth Avenue where part of My Big Fat Greek Wedding was filmed. And don't leave Toronto without visiting Kensington market, once a Jewish quarter and now a sprawling Bohemian market place. Here you can buy anything from live fish to second-hand clothes.

The market is alongside Chinatown where you should make time for a foodie tour. - a look behind the scenes of Asian restaurants and grocery shops in the area. If that gets the taste buds going try a hot baguette stuffed with sweet and sour pork, a great bargain at around 50 pence. A new landmark attraction in Toronto is the Distillery District where chic restaurants and lively bars plus live music have revitalized an old distillery building. Its also worth visiting the bars along Toronto's waterfront, some of which date back to the days of prohibition. At that time Americans had to travel across the border to slake their thirst legally.

Top class hotels are in abundance in Toronto. Maybe the renowned Royal York Hotel in Front Street with its grand stature and elegant interiors is above the holiday budget but its well worth a visit. The hotel has been romancing guests since 1929. Kings, queens and three generations of British royals have stayed there. It has played a leading role in many films and Arthur Haley stayed there to research his novel Hotel.

On a more intimate scale is the Windsor Arms, in the Bloor-Bay area, favoured by movie stars and celebrities passing through the city. Strolling into the Windsor Arms is like walking into a stately manor house and is the ultimate in luxury with six members f staff to every guest. The Windsor Arms is a short distance from the most expensive shopping district in Canada and has prices to match. Staying overnight in one of the 21 luxury suites or seven oversized rooms can cost from $295 to $2,000!

Or why not try the Sheraton Centre which enjoys an enviable position in downtown Toronto next to City Hall and with excellent access to shops and the financial district - it also has direct access to the underground shopping malls. The hotel has 1392 air-conditioned rooms, but don't let that put you off - as the staff are friendly and rooms big. I recommend the massage clinic and a walk around the hotels waterfall gardens just before breakfast.

Every visit to Toronto should include an ear-popping trip to the top of the CN Tower, which houses, at 1,465 feet, the world's highest man-made observation gallery. The view over Toronto and Lake Ontario is breath-taking. You can dine in the rotating 360 restaurant or step out - if you dare - onto the glass floor with a dizzying sheer drop below of 1,136 feet.

For a more down-to-earth experience visit PATH, 16 miles of underground shopping which connects 50 buildings and office towers throughout the city. The weather in Toronto is amongst the mildest in Canada with hot summers and only a minimum of snow in the winter. Spring and Autumn are exceptionally pleasant with warm sunny days and crisp refreshing nights.

But it can get cold in the winter and temperatures of minus 20 degrees celsius are not unknown. The solution to ensuring life goes on as normal during such severe conditions was PATH, a truly amazing underground city but one in which it is, almost, impossible to get lost.

Each walkway is letter and colour-coded. The P sign denotes you are travelling south, A points west, T north and H east. You may not know exactly where you are under the city but at least you can retrace your steps. And no visit to Toronto is complete without a trip on the water. You can neatly combine city and water sight-seeing by catching a hippo - one of the amphibious buses run by Hippotours.

If you have time a visit to Niagara Falls is a must, its less than an hour and a half by road from Toronto. All the major car rental firms are in town but you might want to check out Rent-A-Wreck and don't be put off by the name. It is i

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