Downtown West

The Toronto Islands
These three islands in Lake Ontario are a slice of cottage country with a cityscape backdrop. They’re home to some 600-odd residents and no cars. During the warmer months, the islands are a top recreation destination, where locals go to bike, swim, boat, and picnic. Centre Island, the most visited of the islands, holds the children’s theme park Centreville and a cedar maze confusing enough to trap Dedalus. Catch the ferry at the foot of Bay Street by Queen’s Quay. You can rent bicycles, canoes, kayaks, and SUPs on the island.

  • Best for: Outdoor activities, amusement park
  • What you won't find: Great dining, museums
  • Neighborhood parameters: Islands Ward’s, Algonquin, and Centre

The landfill where the railroad yards and dock facilities once stood is now a glorious playground opening onto the lake. The waterfront has been enlivened with pristine sand beaches (for sunbathing, not swimming—this is still a working port) and a multi-sport trail that tourists often accidentally stroll into only to meet oncoming bikes. The main draw is the Harbourfront Centre, one of the most vibrant literary, artistic, and cultural venues in Canada. The Harbourfront Centre is home to the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, seven stages (some outdoors) that feature an eclectic range of programming (from vegetarian food festivals to klezmer bands), and a skating rink that looks out over Lake Ontario.

  • Best for: Museums, skating, festivals, concerts, and accessing the Toronto Islands by ferry
  • What you won't find: Great dining, good bars
  • Neighborhood parameters: Queens Quay from Bathurst Street to Yonge Street

Toronto’s youngest neighborhood was born from underutilized railroad lands that began sprouting condos in the late aughts. The fast-growing hood is expected to reach a population of 130,000 by 2031 with most of the condos populated by locals in their 20s and 30s. Here, you’ll also find the Rogers Centre (home base for the Toronto Blue Jays) and the Scotiabank Arena (home to both the Maple Leafs and Raptors). Other top attractions include the CN Tower and Ripley's Aquarium of Canada.

  • Best for: Sports games, concerts, the CN Tower, access to Union Station
  • What you won't find: Good nightlife, shopping, culture
  • Neighborhood parameters: Front Street to the Gardiner, bookended by Reese and Yonge streets

Financial District 
The city’s first skyscrapers rose here. Today, Toronto’s major banks and insurance companies still have their headquarters here. Although the 19th-century office buildings have been dwarfed by glass towers, some of the older structures have been preserved. Ultramodern Brookfield Place incorporated the facade of a historic bank building into its design. The original Toronto Stock Exchange, similarly, is nested into the base of the Ernst & Young Tower. The ex-TSX is now home to the Design Exchange (DX), a museum dedicated to Canadian design. Thanks to generous expense accounts, this area boasts no shortage of luxe restaurants including fine-dining stalwart Canoe. Below the sidewalk are heaps of stores and restaurants along the subterranean avenues of the PATH system.

  • Best for: Fine dining, access to the PATH system (the underground networks connecting buildings and subways)
  • What you won't find: Nightlife, above-ground shopping
  • Neighborhood parameters: Front Street north to Queen Street, between Yonge and York streets

Entertainment District 
Also known as the Theatre District, this area is dense with big-name venues, including the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the Princess of Wales Theatre, Roy Thomson Hall, and Four Seasons Centre for the Performing ArtsThe stretch of King Street from Spadina to Bathurst has become the city’s party mecca. Avoided by locals, swarmed by suburbanites, the strip becomes one big bash come Saturday night. In September, the festive atmosphere is amplified by the Toronto International Film Festival. The TIFF Bell Lightbox transforms into red-carpet HQ for 2 weeks of celebrities, premieres, and epic fetes.

  • Best for: Nightlife, restaurants, shopping, celebrity spotting, live theater
  • What you won't find: Museums
  • Neighborhood parameters: Front Street north to Queen Street and from Bay Street west to Bathurst Street   

Toronto has a large Chinese population dispersed throughout the city, but this was home to the first great wave of Chinese immigrants. It’s changed since its early days, particularly because of the infusion of Hong Kong money. The strip’s eastern front is marked by the glass-and-blue-titanium-clad Art Gallery of Ontario.

  • Best for: Cantonese and Vietnamese food, made-in-China trinkets, bubble tea, the Art Gallery of Ontario
  • What you won't find: Evening entertainment
  • Neighborhood parameters: Dundas Street West from University Avenue to Spadina Avenue and north to College Street

Kensington Market 
This is one of Toronto’s most colorful neighborhoods. Successive waves of immigrants—Eastern European Jews, Latin Americans, Portuguese, West Indians, and more—have left their mark. Filled with tiny but wonderful food shops, restaurants, and vintage clothing stores, it’s easy to while away an afternoon here (especially on the car-free summer Sun, when the area becomes a pedestrian-only zone with impromptu parades and buskers on every corner).

  • Best for: Cheap eats, hip bars, gourmet groceries, vintage stores
  • What you won't find: Cars on the last Sunday of the summer months
  • Neighborhood parameters: Spadina Avenue to Bathurst Street, Dundas Street West to College Street West

Queen Street West
This stretch offers an eclectic mix of mainstream shops, funky boutiques, textile stores, and vintage-clothing emporiums. It’s also packed with eateries: Bistros, cafes, and gourmet food shops line the street. Despite the intrusion of mega-retailers, many independently owned boutiques still flourish. It’s also home to the city’s oldest still-operating music venue, the Horseshoe Tavern, which remains a great place to catch local bands on the upswing.

  • Best for: Shopping, casual dining, live music
  • What you won't find: Museums, parks
  • Neighborhood parameters: University Avenue to Bathurst Street
West Queen West
West Queen West is full of fine-art galleries, one-of-a-kind boutiques (selling everything from fair-trade spices to locally made jewelry), and some truly great restaurants. Come summer, Trinity Bellwoods park is packed with locals chatting under the maple trees.
  • Best for: Unique shopping, great coffee, park strolls, people-watching
  • What you won't find: Quiet—this area is populated by colorful characters
  • Neighborhood parameters: Queen Street from Bathurst to Roncesvalles

Originally a village outside the city limits, Parkdale was a posh burg popular with Toronto’s well-to-do, thanks to its proximity to Sunnyside Beach and the Canadian National Exhibition. Then in 1955 the city built the Gardiner Expressway, severing Parkdale from the lake. Property values plummeted, and mansions become rooming houses and fell into disrepair. Today, the neighborhood attracts artists and eccentrics and is home to the city’s largest Tibetan population.

  • Best for: Local designers, Tibetan and vegan food, bar scene
  • What you won't find: Museums, parks
  • Neighborhood parameters: Dufferin Street to Roncesvalles Avenue along Queen Street West

Once a predominantly Polish enclave, Roncy, as it’s called by locals, has become one of Toronto’s most coveted neighborhoods. You can still buy great pierogis and pączki here, and Sunday mornings the streets are crowded with Catholic worshipers, but most days the avenue is full of stroller-pushing young families. The retail strip is made up of enchanting independent shops selling everything from eco furniture to fresh-made pasta and locally designed clothes. Thankfully, there’s a cafe every few hundred feet to fuel the shopping spree. Flanked by High Park to the west and Sorauren Park to the east, this is a great area to while away a low-key afternoon.

  • Best for: Polish food, shopping, brunch, cafes, parks
  • What you won't find: Museums
  • Neighborhood parameters: Roncesvalles Avenue runs from Queen Street to Dundas Street

Dundas West/Little Portugal 
This neighborhood became Toronto’s hippest dining destination when Ossington Avenue, a once-downtrodden strip of mechanics, became the street to eat and drink. Dine at one of the excellent restaurants or people-watch from a patio—Bellwoods Brewery has great beer and the best view. The watering holes continue west down Dundas Street, with many of the cooler spots tucked into secret basements, with only a queue announcing their existence.

  • Best for: Nightlife, indie concerts, snack bars, quirky shops, galleries, local beer
  • What you won't find: Mainstream retailers
  • Neighborhood parameters: Extending just north of Dundas West, this area stretches from Ossington Avenue to Lansdowne Avenue, bound on the south by the railroad tracks and Queen Street

Little Italy 
Charming sidewalk cafes and bodegas cater to the longstanding Italian and Portuguese communities that call these winding streets home. The trattorias along College are being slowly replaced by a new generation of restaurants serving upscale Chinese, elegant Spanish, esoteric beers, and fancy tacos. In the evenings, the Royal Cinema is a great place to catch an art-house flick. During the day, the Art Deco building operates as a production studio where you can sometimes spy famous Canadian directors like Atom Egoyan and Bruce McDonald.

  • Best for: Contemporary dining, Italian trattorias, cafes, upscale bars, live music at the Mod Club
  • What you won't find: Museums, galleries
  • Neighborhood parameters: College Street, between Bathurst and Ossington streets

The Junction & Junction Triangle
Although this neighborhood is now home to three breweries and dozens of chic-yet-affordable restaurants with interesting wine lists, prohibition was only lifted here in 2000. The Junction was long a rough area, a pocket of abattoirs, foundries, and factories that attracted unsavory characters and drink-fueled debauchery. Booze was banned here in 1904. With few restaurants and no bars, the retail strip went dormant until the 21st century, when people awoke to its heaps of yesteryear charm. Just east, in the Junction Triangle, is Sterling Road, an industrial street that has become a cultural destination for its Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada.

  • Best for: Antiquing, breweries, brunch, restaurants, galleries, independent shops
  • What you won't find: Easy transit accessibility, other tourists
  • Neighborhood parameters: Dundas West to Annette Street between Keele and Runnymede streets



Downtown East

Old Town/St. Lawrence Market 
During the 19th century, this area was the focal point of the community (it's the site of Toronto’s first city hall). Today, the St. Lawrence Market is still going strong, and attractions such as the glorious St. James Cathedral, Sony Centre for the Arts, and Hockey Hall of Fame continue to draw visitors. It’s also an area on the rise with fine restaurants and stellar furniture shops.

  • Best for: Antiquing, historical buildings (like the old City Hall and the Gooderham and Worts Distillery), galleries, live theater, the St. Lawrence Market
  • What you won't find: Free parking
  • Neighborhood parameters: East of Yonge Street, between the Esplanade and Adelaide Street


Once considered a slum, Cabbagetown is now filled with beautifully restored Victorian and Queen Anne–style houses. Even the first housing project in Canada, Spruce Court (at the intersection of Sumach and Spruce streets), looks like a charming collection of cottages.

  • Best for: Riverdale Farm, Parks, Lunch
  • What you won't find: Good nightlife, museums,
  • Neighborhood parameters: Wellesley Street East to Shuter Street, Parliament Street to Sherbourne Street

The Beaches 
Located just 35 minutes from downtown at the end of the Queen Street East streetcar line is a beach community with small-town pride and a bustling main strip animated by independent specialty shops. A popular summer resort in the mid-1800s, the Beaches is a top sunny-weather destination for swimming along the sandy beaches and strolling the boardwalk. Walk the leafy streets to see gorgeous Victorians with wraparound porches, but note that the prettiest building might just be the R. C. Harris Water Treatment Plant. This Art Deco water palace is free to walk around (the grounds boast amazing views), but the building only opens to the public during Doors Open Toronto, an annual springtime event.

  • Best for: Outdoor summer fun, the Beaches International Jazz Festival, beaches, parks
  • What you won't find: Good nightlife, bad ice cream
  • Neighborhood parameters: Victoria Park Avenue on the east to Kingston Road on the north, to Coxwell Avenue on the west, south to Lake Ontario

Once a down-on-its-luck nabe, this area has been entirely transformed. The Broadview Hotel, a breathtaking red-sandstone Romanesque Revival building that spent decades as a flophouse before being remade into a ultra-trendy boutique hotel in 2018, was the last of the grimy old guard to fall. From the hotel’s swanky rooftop patio you can see Toronto’s silhouette to the west. Leslieville fans out to the east with boutiques, vintage and antique stores, cafes, bars, and excellent bistros.

  • Best for: Sunday brunch, specialty shops, cafes, sundowners atop the Broadview Hotel
  • What you won't find: Museums, crowds
  • Neighborhood parameters: Bound by the railway track to the north, Eastern Avenue to the south and bookended by the Don River and Coxwell Avenue
Little India 
This strip is known for its festival-like atmosphere, partly because of the multicolored lights that light up the street at night. But the vibrant street life is visible at any time of day. The blocks are filled with Indian restaurants, grocers, and shops that specialize in saris, beautiful textiles, and treasure chests of trinkets.
  • Best for: Indian food, textiles
  • What you won't find: Museums, nightlife
  • Neighborhood parameters: Gerrard Street East, between Greenwood Avenue and Main Street


Downtown North


Queen's Park and the University 
This is home to the many of the colleges and buildings that make up the handsome campus of the University of Toronto and the Ontario Legislature. When the lush lawn of Queens Park isn’t the scene of a peaceful protest, you can often spy some of the province’s top politicians taking strolls between parliamentary sessions. The neighborhood’s main artery, Avenue Road, is flanked by two of the best museums in town. On the east is the Gardiner Museum, holding a trove of globe-spanning ceramics. On the west is the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada’s most-visited museum, which boasts a broad collection ranging from natural history to world culture.

  • Best for: Architecture, lectures at U of T, the Ontario Legislature, museums (the Gardiner and Royal Ontario)
  • What you won't find: Shopping, exciting dining options
  • Neighborhood parameters: From College Street to Bloor Street, between Spadina Avenue and Bay Street.

Yorkville was Toronto’s Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s (Neil Young and Joni Mitchell got their starts performing at the coffeehouses here). In the '80s, the vibe shifted from hippie to haute. Now, Hermes, Chanel, and Versace all have flagships along a stretch of Bloor nicknamed the Mink Mile for its high-end shops. Tucked north of Bloor are pretty streets with small boutiques and heaps of fancy restaurants, many worth their price tags.

  • Best for: People-watching, upscale shopping, luxe dining
  • What you won't find: Anything affordable
  • Neighborhood parameters: Bloor Street to the south, Davenport Road to the north, Yonge Street to the east and Avenue Road to the west

The Annex 
This largely residential neighborhood is a mix of small parks, handsome homes, and a strip along Bloor Street West that offers some good shopping for books and knickknacks, plus a few attractive restaurants and pubs and two unique attractions, the Bata Shoe Museum and Koerner Hall. Revered urban-planning guru the late Jane Jacobs called this area home.

  • Best for: Bookstores, youthful nightlife, lunch specials catering to student budgets, concerts at Koerner Hall
  • What you won't find: Honest Ed’s (the landmark discount store, with its giant marquee lit up with 23,000 light bulbs). It was demolished in 2018.
  • Neighborhood parameters: Bedford Road to Bathurst Street and from Harbord Street to Dupont Avenue

This bustling stretch of Bloor is filled with Korean restaurants, alternative-medicine practitioners (such as herbalists and acupuncturists), and shops filled with made-in-Korea merchandise.

  • Best for: Korean restaurants, Korean tchotchkes, movies screened under the stars at Christie Pits park
  • What you won't find: Museums, galleries
  • Neighborhood parameters: Bloor Street West, between Bathurst and Christie streets

Bloorcourt & Bloor Dale
This unpolished section of Bloor Street is Toronto in a nutshell. Ethiopian convenience stores, vegan bakeries, pho purveyors, Mexican hot tables, Jamaican patty shops, and red-sauce Italian joints do brisk business during the daytime. Come night, the unfussy watering holes attract stylish hipsters. The bars here tread the line between dive-y and cool, but stay firmly in the latter category thanks to excellent beer lists and well-curated soundtracks.

  • Best for: Cafes, nightlife, multicultural pockets
  • What you won't find: Museums, parks
  • Neighborhood parameters: Bloor Street West from Christie Street to Lansdowne

Rosedale is named after the residence of Sheriff William Jarvis, who is largely credited with ending the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. Meandering these quiet, tree-lined avenues offers a tour of some of Toronto’s grandest old homes, many backing onto wildlife-filled ravines. GPS is helpful here; the snaking streets make it easy to get lost. Make sure to use it when braving 30-minute ravine walk to the Evergreen Brick Works—the signs aren’t particularly helpful. Straight as an arrow, though, is the Yonge retail strip, crowned by the Summerhill LCBO, an expansive liquor store housed in a restored train station (a great spot to pick up Canadian spirits, beers, and wines).

  • Best for: Access to the Evergreen Brick Works and Edwardian, Victorian, and neo-Georgian architecture
  • What you won't find: Nightlife
  • Neighborhood parameters: Bloor Street to the train tracks just south of St. Clair Avenue, spanning from Yonge Street to Rosedale Valley Road

Church and Wellesley/The Gay Village 
In the heart of Toronto’s LGBT community you’ll find the world’s oldest queer bookstore (Glad Day Bookshop), excellent nightlife (Crews & Tangos is known for epic drag performances that erupt into dance parties), and alternative theatre (Buddies in Bad Times Theatre produces edgy, contemporary plays that put queer voices front and center). Come June, the Village, as it’s called by locals, is a riot of color and bared bodies—this is the epicenter of Toronto’s Gay Pride festivities.

  • Best for: Gay bars, great nightlife, exhibitions at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, queer theater, rainbow paraphernalia
  • What you won't find: Lesbian bars (they’re scattered about the west end)
  • Neighborhood parameters: Between Gerrard Street and Bloor Street East, along Church Street

The East End

Writer Hugh Garner described this as the largest Anglo-Saxon slum in North America, long before it became a gentrified neighborhood of restored, often pretty and pricey, Victorian and Edwardian homes. The name is an historical reference: The original Irish immigrants who settled here in the late 1800s grew row upon row of cabbages on their front lawns. Riverdale, Toronto’s only inner-city farm, is at the eastern edge of the district.

  • Best for: Visiting the animals at Riverdale Farm, concerts at the Phoenix, design shops
  • What you won't find: Nightlife, museums
  • Neighborhood parameters: East of Parliament Street to the Don Valley and between Gerrard and Bloor streets

Across the Don Valley Viaduct, Bloor Street becomes the Danforth, which marks the beginning of Greektown. It’s lined with old-style Greek tavernas and hip Mediterranean bars and restaurants that are crowded from early evening into the night. The densest wining-and-dining area starts at Broadview Avenue and runs about eight blocks east.

  • Best for: Mediterranean restaurants, Greek pastries, Taste of the Danforth, concerts at the Danforth Music Hall
  • What you won't find: Museums, galleries
  • Neighborhood parameters: Danforth Avenue from Broadview Avenue to Greenwood Avenue


St. Clair West/Corso Italia 
Until not long ago, this was a modest residential neighborhood where Torontonians would venture for some great Italian gelato or for a street party during the World Cup. Now the area and beyond is proving popular for its good cafes, fine Jamaican fare, and the Artscape Whychwood Barns, a century-old streetcar facility transformed into a mixed-use space shared by artists’ studios, a farmer's market, community gardens, and an events space.

  • Best for: Italian food (hot tables, casual trats, upscale enotecas, cafes, and gelato shops), Artscape Whychwood barns
  • What you won't find: Nightlife
  • Neighborhood parameters: West from Christie Street to Dufferin Street

Jokingly known as the “Young and Eligible,” this bustling area is filled with restaurants—from neighborhood favorites to fine-dining destinations—as well as live-music pubs and nightclubs. To the east, it intersects with the 243-hectare (600-acre) Sunnybrook park system and the Ontario Science Centre.

  • Best for: Youthful, low-key nightlife and Sunnybrook Park
  • What you won't find: Arts or culture
  • Neighborhood parameters: A two-block radius around the intersection of Yonge and Eglinton

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.