A Guide to Toronto

Multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-fun: once the “Meeting Place” for Amerindians, now Canada’s largest metropolis, the country’s business and cultural engine, and a great place to visit–welcome to Toronto!

By the numbers

Population: 2,731,600 (city); 5,928,000 (metropolitan)

Elevation: 94.8 meters / 311 feet

Time Zone: GMT -5; Eastern Standard Time (EST)

Country Dialing Code: +1; Area Code: 416; 647;437

Weather

Average January Temperature: -2.8°C / 27°F

Average July Temperature: 21°C / 70°F

Average Annual Precipitation: 79 centimeters / 31 inches

Average Annual Snowfall: 122 centimeters / 42 inches

Did you know?

Toronto has a thriving automobile and auto parts industry, allowing for a lot of exchange between American car manufacturers across the border.

The laws of Toronto, Canada are based on British law and the English parliamentary government.

Toronto is the Capital of the Province of Ontario

District Guide

Gracing the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario, Toronto easily sets itself apart from other Canadian cities with its world-class cuisine, art, history, and architecture. People of numerous nationalities and races find their home in this dynamic city, and owing to its diverse immigrant population, the city is undeniably a melting pot of cultures.  Thanks to a world-class subway system, streetcars and buses, getting around Toronto is extraordinarily easy to do. Wherever you end up, there’s sure to be an easy way to get to your next destination. In order to fully appreciate all facets of the city, let’s get to know some of Toronto’s most interesting districts.

Downtown

Architecturally speaking, Toronto is an amalgam of different styles. In the early 19th Century, it took much of its architectural inspiration from the Georgian style. By the end of the 19th Century, the city opted for the heavier, bulkier lines of Richardsonian Romanesque. At the turn of the 20th Century, the Toronto City Council opted not to put a height restriction on downtown construction as many other cities had, thus giving rise to some of the tallest buildings in the British Commonwealth, most of which are found in Downtown, including the 34-storey Canadian Bank of Commerce, the Rogers Centre, the Royal Bank Plaza, and the TD Centre, to name a few. Of course, these buildings have been surpassed in recent years by the silhouettes that give Toronto its unique skyline: the CN Tower, the world’s highest free-standing structure, with its rotating restaurant, gives diners a breath-taking view of the city, day or night.

The more than 7000 fine dining establishments, bars, cafes, bistros, clubs and dance halls (a large number of which can be found Downtown) suit every taste from bohemian to business.

The downtown area of the city also houses a number of stadiums and arenas where some of Canada’s top-of-the-line professional sports teams—the Maple Leafs, the Raptors, the Blue Jays and the Argos—play. Race car fanatics will have no trouble picking up the roar of Molson Indy engines come summer during the Honda Indy Toronto.

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Running into Downtown is Yonge Street, the longest thoroughfare in the world and the main north-south route. The heart of Downtown also houses the Toronto Stock Exchange, second only in North America to the New York Stock Exchange.

The Entertainment District

Overlapping Downtown, the Entertainment District is home to numerous world-class museums, art galleries, theaters, dance companies, festivals and parades that add creativity and culture to an already vibrant city. Any of these could serve to define Toronto. While the city may once have had a reputation as Toronto The Good, a nondescript place which shut down and rolled up the sidewalks at sundown, nothing could be further from the truth today. The city is alive with some of the best theaters, museums and galleries anywhere. For example, Toronto is the third largest center of English-speaking theater productions in the world (next to London and New York), with more than 200 professional theater companies and 10,000 performances a year.

Ornate Theater Box Seats

One of the oldest theater spaces in the city, the Royal Alexandra dates back to the early 20th Century. Saved from demolition by bargain store king and impresario “Honest” Ed Mirvish, the theater was renovated at great expense and brought back to its original splendor, and is now home to some of Broadway and the West End’s finest productions, from Phantom of the Opera to Cats. The Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario present spectacular exhibits for the entire family, while the National Ballet is a world-class dance troupe.

There’s even a thriving film industry in the city. Often called “Hollywood North,” Toronto is sought after for its diversity, locations, excellent production centers and local talent. The Toronto International Film Festival, which takes place annually in September, draws countless film-goers.

Chinatown

A multi-ethnic ‘meeting place’ that Toronto is widely known as, has given the city an exciting and infectious energy. It has also created a place of wonderful neighborhoods, each with its defining character and local color. With a plethora of different cultures and neighborhoods bumping into one another like pieces of tectonic plates, the cuisine is as diverse as the population—and matching any taste and affordability, from the unlimited expense account to those counting their pennies. In fact, while there are plenty of upscale haute-cuisine restaurants where price is of no concern, some of the best food Toronto has to offer is tucked away in the small eateries of the city’s original Chinatown. Here you will find Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Indonesian and Japanese dishes to satisfy both the timid and the adventurous. You can also spend a day shopping at the Dragon City Shopping Mall at Dundas and along Spadina Avenue where East meets West.

West Suburbs

Aside from the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre housing the city’s pro sports teams, Toronto is also known for its Woodbine horse track, the largest racing property in North America and home to the Queen’s Plate thoroughbred race held each August. This racetrack in located in the West Suburbs, an area not often visited by tourists, but charming nonetheless.

While there is so much to see and do, to experience and taste, it’s the residents of Toronto who give the city its special cachet. More often than not, people are glad to stop and give you directions. And don’t be surprised if they try and chat a while, recommending places to go or filling you in on pieces of their city’s history. This is what Toronto is all about.

Dining and drinking

From Little Italy to bustling Chinatown, the Annex Yonge Street and Eglinton, the Danforth to the Beaches, Torontonians rejoice in the multi-cultural mosaic they call home. And nowhere is this more evident than in the vast smorgasbord of culinary delights offered by the Greater Toronto area’s more than 7000 restaurants, cafés, bistros, diners, pubs, resto-bars and other assorted eateries.

Little Italy

Lying west of Yonge, between College Street and Dundas, Little Italy is a natural place to start the gastronomic search. Host to countless classic Italian ristoranti Trattoria Giancarlo, this section of real estate is the piece of cannoli in a box of fudge. Although the days of the checkered tablecloth and candle in a Chianti bottle may be gone, the mouth-watering food and click-heel service remains. Ironically though, the best pizza does not reside here. We find it a couple of blocks east on Elm, where inside an old Victorian house sizzles Il Fornello. Lest we forget that most important meal of the day, the breakfast-brunch, Toronto offers a variety ranging from the simply solid, void-filling and all-day version at Mars Restaurant to sophisticated entrees, bubbly and jazz accompaniment at Sassafraz.

Chinatown

East of Spadina, from King up to College, sprawls one of Toronto’s Chinatowns – the original. It is here among the proliferation of shops, jewelry stores and banks that we’ll find some of the best Asian-influenced cuisine on the continent: the Thai Princess, with its eager-to-explain uniformed waiters; and the Pho Hung, a Vietnamese hot spot where people actually line up to get in—just like a night club!

Chinatown in downtown Toronto Ontario Canada

Davisville

Those looking for upscale cuisine and a night cap or two outside the downtown core have only to keep on heading up Yonge towards Eglinton. Clustered around this uptown intersection are some of the city’s very best wining and dining establishments—with a little star-gazing thrown in as icing on the cake. Among the group, North 44 and Grano stand out: North 44 for the inventive cookery of five-star chef Mark McEwan and Grano for the fresh bread, pick-your-own display-case antipasti and its feeling of old-style warmth and friendliness.

Downtown

Framed by Front to the South and Bloor to the North, Toronto’s downtown core is at its busiest and most expressive during the lunch hour. Sandwiched between Bay and Jarvis, this area encompasses the business and entertainment district of the city. The Shopsy’s Deli location at Front and Yonge is the place if you’re looking to ease your hunger pangs without too much of a pain in your wallet. There’s pastrami on rye, corned beef on a kaiser, roast beef on an onion roll or almost any other deli meat combination you can think of—all topped off with a kosher pickle.

Sports fans have little to complain about when searching for their favorite foods and ambience. There are plenty of places where you can put your foot on the rail, sip a cool lager and watch your team on a big-screen TV. There’s Wayne Gretzky’s itself at 99 Blue Jays Way. The Great One, who many argue is the best hockey player of all time, occasionally drops in to autograph a few sticks and napkins.

Still can’t decide? For the view, head up to the 360 Degrees at the CN Tower; for the sights, Crocodile Rock on Thursday; for a pint of Guinness or a stout ale Scotland Yard, and the Jump Café for contemporary American fare.

Yes, Toronto has come a long way from its reputation as a steak and kidney pie kind of town. In fact, the culinary school at George Brown College is producing five-star chefs for the rest of the continent, and a person could probably spend decades testing every restaurant in town. But, hey, if you’re really desperate to dig into that “eye,” try the Elephant and Castle, or Duke of Gloucester. The steak and kidney pie is still there. Only now it has a lot of culinary company.

Entertainment

Toronto’s vast dynamic sprawl is known to be a magnet for a wide berth of entertainment, so much so that there is an entire district dedicated to it. From riveting theater performances that attract mega crowds, to a pedestrian-only zone for every kind of entertainment under the sun, Toronto ensures that there isn’t a single dull moment in the city.

Museums & Galleries

Canada’s largest museum is the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), an all-round museum with adjoining planetarium, greeting you with four impressive Amerindian totem poles in the hall. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) boasts an extensive and well-presented collection of landscape paintings by Canada’s famous Group of Seven. Don’t miss the world’s largest exhibit of Henry Moore sculptures, beautifully arranged by the artist. The AGO is also known for the skillfully simple Inuit stone carvings, as is the Toronto Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art. On a lighter note, the Bata Shoe Museum is unique; among their 10,000 shoes are Elvis’ blue suede loafers. The Hockey Hall of Fame also has shoes, but only those with blades beneath them.

Canada, Toronto, Royal Ontario museum with Crystal extension at night, blurred motion

Theater & Performances

Busloads of Americans drive for ten hours to spend just three hours in Toronto. With over 500 theater productions every year, the city on Lake Ontario is the second largest stage center in North America. You can see Kiefer Sutherland in a Tennessee Williams play or the metamorphosis of Kiss’s hard-rocking lead singer to Phantom (of the Opera) in King Street’s Royal Alexandra and Princess of Wales theaters. It is also worth going a little off the beaten track to catch more adventurous offerings in places such as Front Street’s Sony Centre.

The grassroots of theater are just as fresh and strong in Toronto. Community-centered theaters such as Tarragon and the Factory master challenges like Beckett, as well as drama from new and upcoming playwrights. Modern dance has found a home in the Premiere Dance Theatre, a multicultural venue for music and movement at the Harbourfront Center. More classical but nevertheless innovative performances can be seen at the National Ballet Company, considered the top dance troupe in the country. The Yuk Yuk is still defending its position as the major comedy spots, but recently Rivoli’s backroom has established a reputation for edgy comedy.

Cinema

Not only is Toronto one of the most popular American film sets (watch out for huge white trucks and sealed-off streets) it is also a great movie theater city, especially at fringe and second-run cinemas like the Bloor or the Fox. The Toronto International Film Festival, considered among the top in the world, is held here annually.

Nightclubs

When in Toronto, you’re in hot nightclub country, the places where cool and hip crowds hang out. Most clubs don’t specialize in one style, but often change their playlist daily from retro to dub to techno in order to attract the most diverse dance crowd. Revelers can find pulsating haunts to party in several nooks in and around Downtown and the Entertainment District, from swish clubs with VIP seating, to casual dance clubs hosting youthful crowds. From Maison Mercer to the Velvet Underground, go party hopping along Toronto’s storied nightlife.

Live Music

For live music events, Horseshoe Tavern is the place to see a great young band before it fills the concert halls. Toronto is on the A-list for pretty much every major tour in North America, and gigs are hosted regularly in Toronto’s celebrated concert venues from Rogers Centre multi-purpose stadium and the old Massey Hall to the Air Canada Centre. The repertoire of classical music offerings is too long to list, but Roy Thomson Hall is a safe starting point for excellent acoustics, be it for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Mendelssohn Choir or the latest Philip Glass opera.

Sports

The Air Canada Centre is home to two of Toronto’s big sports teams. Cheer the Raptors as they slam dunk against their NBA competitors and the popular blue-and-white Maple Leafs playing for ice hockey’s Stanley Cup. They compete for spectators with the Blue Jays, who swing their baseball bats in the 53,000-seat Rogers Centre.

Recommneded tours

There are endless possibilities for walking tours in Toronto, and with so many neighborhoods marked by their own history and presence; it’s hard to know where to start. However, the best approach is to plan your walk around a main attraction which will give you the opportunity not only to visit the monument itself but also to visit the district as a whole.

Royal Alexandra Theatre

To get a sense of Toronto’s entertainment district, start at the corner of King and John. This area (stretching to Simcoe) is known as Mirvish Walkway or Mirvish Village, named after Ed Mirvish and his son, who have spent awesome amounts refurbishing the area, turning many of the theaters and restaurants into first-class establishments. Their most famous project, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, was saved from certain destruction and has become one of the city’s entertainment jewels. Make a pit stop in the middle of your day at the Elephant and Castle. This traditional British pub located in the surrounding Entertainment district serves “pub grub” staples such as Chicken and Pineapple Curry and bangers and mash.

Just down and across the street from the Royal Alexandra Theatre, there’s no missing the grand exterior of Roy Thomson Hall, with its glass and upside-down mushroom shape. The interior of this performance hall, a favorite venue for the Toronto Symphony and Mendelssohn Choir, is just as spectacular: luminous and elaborate decor topped by impeccable acoustics. And to wrap up an exhausting day, treat yourself to an upscale meal at Houston’s on Adelaide. This place is known not only for its steak and seafood but also for its snazzy cigar lounge/piano bar ambiance.

Toronto Dominion Centre

Head east and on the corner of King and Simcoe, you’ll find St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. Constructed in 1876, the church was saved in the 1980’s when SunLife Tower paid over $4 million to build above and below it. The Scottish Romanesque Revival architecture stands in time-warp contrast to the skyscraping steel and glass around it.

Halfway between York and Bay you’ll pass the awesome Toronto Dominion Centre, consisting of five monolithic skyscrapers. The creation of famous modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the centerpiece building of the group—the Toronto Dominion Tower – was the first International Style skyscraper in the city when built in the late 1960’s. The finished product was a meticulously constructed work of art that, while perhaps not visually stunning, set the tone for the architecture that followed. For a unique dining experience stop by C’est What for lunch. This bar/restaurant has 28 locally brewed beers on tap as well as an eclectic menu featuring curries and lamb burgers.

Heading north on Bay you’ll come across the National Club Building, a Neo-Georgian structure built in 1874 to promote the Canada First movement—patriots who fought to prevent union with the United States. The Art Deco style along with the vaulted entrance and sculpted bronze elevator doors make the interior a must-see. Back up to King and further east stands the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. When it was built in 1931, the 34-story building was the tallest in the British Empire. Its Romanesque-Revival architecture, handsome wrought-iron detail and gilded moldings work well even in the contemporary backdrop of the city’s financial district. For the ultimate Downtown dining experience, make a reservation at 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower. The menu is distinctly Canadian featuring items such as Roast Rack of Lamb with Braised Leeks and Pork Chops, and the panoramic view is breathtaking.

Design Exchange

Further west and right on Wellington you will find the old Commercial Bank of Midland District, now called Number Fifteen. The oldest structure in the area, it was built in 1845 in classic Greek Revival style. Down Bay and south to Front brings you to the old Toronto Stock Exchange, now the Design Exchange, which exhibits work from some of the world’s finest fashion and graphic designers. If you’re getting hungry, this is good point in the day to grab a slice of pizza at Il Fornello. There are ten different locations around the city, and this gourmet pizza has been voted Toronto’s best several times.

On Front Street stands Union Station, completed in 1927 after 12 years of construction. The work of architects Ross and MacDonald, the building was modeled after the great American train stations and inspired by the basilicas of Ancient Rome. The massive, 250-meter (820-feet) long building sports magnificent columns, beautifully vaulted ceilings and ornate etchings in its stone walls.

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If you’ve got some energy left after visiting the entertainment and financial districts, continue with a tour of the Old Town of York, where you’ll get a sense of Toronto’s rich history. Start at the corner of Yonge and Wellington and walk east to the Gooderham Building, financed by distilleries mogul George Gooderham and also known as the Flatiron Building due to its triangular structure. For a dinner of traditional French-Canadian fare, dine at Le Papillon. This spacious restaurant can seat up to 225 people, but despite its capacity, make a reservation well in advance. After all, this establishment has been voted the most popular French restaurant five years in a row by readers of the Toronto Sun.

St. Lawrence Market

Turning onto Front, the Beardmore Building stands out. During the 19th century, the area was known as the warehouse district, and this building was one of the first structures built to accommodate the busy waterfront industries. Further east to Jarvis, the historic St. Lawrence Market bustles more than ever with its fresh fruit, vegetable, cheese and meat vendors. Built in 1844, Toronto’s city hall stood here until 1904 when the space was converted into a public market. Since then it has been expanded, though the old city hall facade is still recognizable. Once home to working-class Irish Protestant immigrants employed in the many factories and warehouses surrounding it, the St. Lawrence Market area today is a trendy neighborhood, with a nice blend of old and new.

Saint Lawrence Market during the daytime. A motioned blurred

St. James Cathedral

East on Front, you’ll find Trinity, a beautiful old street that features the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse, the oldest school building in the city and the first to offer free education. It was built in 1848 by Enoch Turner, a local brewer who employed many of the folks who lived in the area. A few steps south is Little Trinity Church, which was built for area Anglicans who couldn’t afford the steep pew rents at St. James Cathedral. While not as spectacular as the city’s other old churches, the simple Tudor Gothic styling gives it an almost magical appeal.

North to King, there’s no missing St. James Cathedral, Toronto’s first Anglican church, boasting the highest steeple in Canada and the second highest in North America. Built in 1819, the church was destroyed in a fire that devastated the entire city in 1849. It was rebuilt by architect Frederich Cumberland, who redid the exterior in Gothic Style.

Walk west and turn north on Toronto Street and you’ll notice a building with architecture resembling a Greek temple, complete with symmetrical Ionic columns. If by this point in your visit you’ve had your fill of pub fare, pop in Hiro Sushi Restaurant for lunch. Master chef Hiro Yoshida combines culinary innovation with tradition giving diners a memorable culinary experience.

Check out the original City Hall and Massey Hall for their beautiful architecture.

Perhaps you need a break from walking, but still don’t want to miss out on the sights. Well, make a break for Lakeshore Boulevard to Toronto Kayak & Canoe Adventures. It allows its patrons unprecedented access to some of the best views of natural wildlife in the city. Take a leisurely float along the waterways and stop off at one of the various café’s along the way.

To finish off your tour, return to St. James Cathedral, walk through the Toronto Sculpture Garden, and you’ll find yourself at Market Square. Here you can relax in one of the many cafés, enjoying the bustle of Toronto’s oldest neighborhood. And, after spending a day visiting the city, what better way to end it than with a romantic dinner at La Maquette. The French haut-cuisine is delicious, and the ambiance is lovely. After all, this restaurant has been named the most romantic restaurant in Toronto.

Queen Street West

If you see nothing else of downtown Toronto, you have to walk Queen Street West between University and Spadina avenues: restaurant next to patio bar next to pub next to pool place next to hip fashion store. Since this strip is becoming increasingly commercialized, the more alternative clubs, cafes and galleries have moved to “West Queen West” (Spadina to Bathurst). The uptown—and up-market—equivalent of this area is Yorkville, a handful of blocks of nouvelle cuisine temples like the Sassafraz, and over a dozen exquisite galleries for every collector’s taste, which lend Toronto a bit of Montmartre flavor.

With so much to see and do, one of the following friendly touring companies may help you not miss any of Toronto’s hidden gems.

Walking Tours

A Taste Of The World (+1 416 923 6813 / http://www.torontowalksbikes.com/index.html)

Genova Tours (+1 416 367 0380 / http://billgenova.tripod.com/genovatours/)

Bus Tours

Gray Line Sightseeing (+1 416 594 3310 / http://www.grayline.ca/tours/scripts/graylinelocations/locationsmain.asp?location=toronto)

Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour (+1 800 594 3310 / http://www.grayline.ca/tours/pages/graylineca/graylineca_545_HopOnHopOffCity.asp)

Olde Town Tours (+1 416 614 0999 / http://www.swiftrans.ca/)

Water Tours

Toronto Tours (+1 416 869 1372 / http://www.torontotours.com/) Mariposa Cruise Line (+1 416 203 0178 / http://www.mariposacruises.com/)

Toronto Kayak & Canoe Adventures (+1 416 536 2067 / http://www.paddlethehumber.com/)

History

If you think that Toronto, like so many other North American cities, is a relatively young center, think again. More than 8000 years ago, this spot on the northern shores of Lake Ontario was home to prehistoric humans hunting the dense woods for bears and elk. They were followed by a rich and diverse Iroquois culture spread across nearly 200 villages in the Toronto area alone.

British and French fur traders and explorers arriving in the late 16th century changed the power balance in the region. At first, Toronto was interesting for them only as the end of the canoe route from Quebec City. Etienne Brulé, the first European known to visit the canoe “carrying place” the Hurons called Toronto, had no idea he was standing on the site of Canada’s largest city-to-be.

In 1751, the French erected Fort Rouillé where Toronto stands today, thus making the city’s earliest European roots French rather than British. Destroyed only eight years later in the Seven Years’ War, the fort lay burnt until hundreds of British loyalists, fleeing the newly formed United States following the War of Independence, populated the Lake Ontario area.

John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (now Ontario), set up a strategically well-positioned but swampy garrison town of 12 cottages on the lakeshore around the former French post and, in 1793, the town was named Fort York in honour of the Duke of York. Fort York (now an open-air museum) was soon made the capital of Upper Canada, and later of Ontario.

Ironically, Simcoe’s family decided to leave “Muddy York” in 1796, thinking that the stagnating settlement didn’t have much of a future. Nevertheless, by 1800, the rectangular grid-iron that still defines Toronto was laid out, largely ignoring the deep ravines, hills and small rivers that shaped the landscape.

The 700 inhabitants of York came under American occupation for a few days during the British-American War of 1812. But the Americans quickly retreated when the war started to go badly for them. In 1834, it took another influential politician to switch the city’s name back to Toronto. However, it wasn’t all clear sailing for William Lyon Mackenzie, the first mayor of the 9000-population city under its new (old) name. In 1837, the fiery Scot was forced to flee to the United States after leading a failed rebellion to achieve political reform against the so-called “Family Compact,” a group of British nobles who ran the city at their discretion without any checks or balances. The group was finally brought down thanks to public outcry, and Mackenzie returned to Canada 12 years later following a pardon.

Looking at a map of Toronto in the late 19th Century, you can see an urban area reflecting its puritanical roots in the conservative layout. It also lived up to its nickname of “The Big Smoke” with a New World version of industrial London: a busy, polluting harbour, factory chimneys spewing untreated soot into the air, coal-black railways chugging away and the obligatory slums as well as mansions, Victorian colleges and churches. The nickname took on a tragic significance in 1904 when a fire destroyed more than 100 buildings in the downtown core. Fifty years earlier, nature had actually helped create a part of Toronto: The Islands, a 15-minute ferry ride from the downtown Harbourfront, were formed by a heavy storm cutting off a spit of land from the mainland.

Toronto lost 10,000 lives when many of its British immigrant inhabitants volunteered to fight in World War I. Then came the Great Depression of the 1930s, bringing hunger, homelessness and an unemployment rate over 30 percent. World War II again meant Canadian men trooping off to fight in Europe, but also British children fleeing the bombings and European refugees coming to Canada, with many settling in Toronto.

Post-war Toronto, even though it claimed close to one million inhabitants, was nothing like the city of today: no skyscrapers, no large Chinese, Portuguese, Greek or Italian communities, no extensive subway system, no bars and closed and curtained shops on Sundays. The new council of Metro Toronto, joining the city and its suburbs in 1953, initiated an unparalleled construction boom in the 1960s.

Torontonians are proud of their superlatives and sometimes see life as an extension of the “Guinness Book of World Records,” an attitude that helps puff up the city’s collective chest but also lends some credence to its reputation for egocentricity (as in the long-standing joke in the newspaper headline, “Toronto Unscathed in World-Wide Nuclear Holocaust!”). The city lays claim to the tallest free-standing structure in the world (the CN Tower at 553 meters or 1814 feet), the first fully-retractable roofed stadium (Rogers Centre), the longest street (Yonge Street, more than 1,900 km), Canada’s biggest museum (Royal Ontario Museum) and university (University of Toronto), the biggest castle in North America (Casa Loma), North America’s second largest public transit system (the TTC), and an 11-kilometer (7-mile) maze of underground malls.

Peter Ustinov once called modern-day Toronto a “New York run by the Swiss.” Now that New York seems itself to be run by the Swiss, that label might no longer be appropriate. Nevertheless, the city prides itself on its clean and safe streets and large, open green spaces. More importantly, it is the cultural and financial center of the country, an economic powerhouse with a budget bigger than that of the province of Saskatchewan, and home within a 160-km area to a full one-third of all Canadians.

The over 50 percent non-white population is shifting the city’s ethnic neighbourhoods around; old Victorian areas, once rundown or abandoned, are being gentrified; the skyline glitters from afar with bank towers and shopping skyscrapers like the 65-story Scotia Plaza; and urban development is about to radically change the lakeshore. Outdoor festivals, patios, a new openness and willingness to have fun and to partake in public life—this is the Toronto of today.

Getting there and getting around

Getting There

From the Airport

Rental Car Companies

Avis (+1 800 831 2847 / http://www.avis.com/)

Budget (+1 800 527 0700 / http://www.budget.com/)

Dollar (+1 800 4000 / http://www.dollar.com/)

Enterprise ( +1 800 325 8007 / http://www.enterprise.com/)

Hertz (+1 800 654 3131 / http://www.hertz.com/)

National (+1 800 227 7368 / http://www.nationalcar.com/)

Thrifty (+1 800 367 2277 / http://www.thrifty.com/)

Another attractive ground transportation option is Zipcar, which operates in certain cities in Canada and the United States. This new breed of rental car allows you to rent on an hourly basis rather than a daily basis. Be sure to register online before your trip. Zipcar (+1 866 404 7227 / http://www.zipcar.com/)

Airport Shuttles

Airlink Airport Service (+1 519 756 1944 / +1 877 405 8278) Air York Inc. (+1 888 795 2777 / +1 905 953 9980) Airways Transit (Hamilton Division) (+1 905 689 4460 / http://www.airwaystransit.com/) Coach Canada (http://www.coachcanada.com / +1 800 461 7661)

Pacific Western Airport Express This is a 24-hour service. Destinations include the downtown bus terminal as well as several major downtown hotels. Connecting service to other downtown locations is also available for an additional fee. For more information call +1 905 564 6333 or +1 800 387 6787 or visit their web site http://www.torontoairportexpress.com/.

By Train

Amtrak services Toronto daily (+1 800 872 7245 /http://www.amtrak.com/).

By Bus

Greyhound services Toronto from Nationwide locations (+1 800 231 2222 / +1 416 594 1010/ http://www.greyhound.ca/).

By Car

Toronto can be accessed by Routes 8, 25, 400, and 401.

Getting Around

Bus and Transit

The Westbound GO Bus takes passengers to central stops in Bramalea and Brampton. The Eastbound GO Bus takes passengers to north Toronto including the Yorkdale and York Mills subway stations. For more information call +1 416 869 3200 or +1 888 GET ON GO (438 6646) or visit their web site at http://www.gotransit.com.

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) runs seven days a week. For more information call +1 416 393 4636 or visit their web site http://www.ttc.ca/.

Mississauga Transit One-way cash adult fare is CAD2.75. For more information, contact Mississauga Transit Information Line at +1 905 615 4636 or visit their web site at http://www.city.mississauga.on.ca/transit/.

Taxi

Taxi companies providing service to the Toronto area include:

Royal Taxi (+1 416 777 9222 / http://www.royaltaxi.ca/)

Able Atlantic Taxi (+1 416 298 1111)

Beck Taxi (+1 416 751 5555 / http://www.becktaxi.com/)

Diamond Taxi (+1 416 366 6868)

Vamos a Canada (+1 905 326 2880 / http://www.vamosacanada.com/) offers services, information, and authorizations for transferring employees, students, immigrants, or visitors to Canada. Such authorizations include employment and student authorizations, visitors visa, permanent resident cards, passports, and much more.